Altizer on God the Creator and the Crucified God


I came across this really interesting quote that I think clarifies what exactly Altizer is intending to do with the death of God. Enjoy:

“Sacrifice had long been a primal motif of my religious or theological thinking. I had long believed that sacrifice is the deepest and the purest movement of religion, and I had known that there are profound religious traditions which center upon sacrifice as the original moment or movement of creation. And if the sacrifice of God is the center of Christian redemption, could not the sacrifice of the Godhead be the center of the creation or of genesis itself? Creation is commonly known by the theologian as an act of absolute power, but there are deep traditions which know creation as a purely kenotic act of absolute self-emptying, and this does make possible for the theologian an understanding of how God the Creator could be the Crucified God, and of how the absolute sovereignty of God could be inseparable from the absolute sacrifice of God in Christ. Thereby God the Creator and God the Redeemer could truly be known as one God, and the death of God could truly be known as the death of God. Insofar as the Creator is known as an absolutely transcendent and absolutely sovereign Creator there can be no possibility of the Creator being known as the Crucified God, nor an actual possibility of knowing God the Creator as God the Redeemer, or not insofar as redemption occurs through the Crucifixion, or through the sacrifice of God. But insofar as creation itself can be known as sacrifice, and as an absolute sacrifice, then God the Redeemer can be known as God the Creator, and the Godhead of Christ be known as Godhead itself.
This has always been extraordinarily difficult in Christian theology, hence Arianism has long been the deepest Christian heresy, and the mother of all heresies, but Christian orthodoxy itself can be identified as Arian insofar as it refuses the Crucified God as God, or insofar as it refuses the sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice of God. While it is true that neither the image nor the idea of the Crucified God are born until the full advent of modernity, modern theologians beginning with Luther can know the Crucified God, and know the Crucified God as deeply Pauline theologians. For if God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and doing so solely through the death of Christ, then how could the crucified Lord not be God Himself? True, this could only be an absolute offense, but the Crucifixion itself is an absolute offense, and is called forth as such by Paul himself, and an offense not only to reason but also to faith, or to every faith not deeply and ultimately grounded in the Crucifixion. Genuine offense is an offense to theological thinking itself, so to think theologically in this sense is to think so as to assault oneself, and this could only be a deep assault upon every interior depth to which one is open, and therefore an assault upon everything which we can apprehend as God. Only such an assault can make possible the depths of offense, so that here theological thinking is inevitably a purely negative thinking, and finally it can think only by assaulting Godhead itself” (Living the Death of God: A Theological Memoir, 135-6, italics are my own).

I also found it interesting re-reading parts of his memoir to happen across a comment he makes about theologians, age, and conservatism. According to Altizer, the greatest systematic theologians of our day, namely Tillich and Barth (although Altizer does confess that Barth is the only modern theologian he profoundly respects) become more conservative over time. Altizer claims that Tillich’s third volume of his ST is highly uncreative and conservative. Furthermore, he believes CD IV also reverses the original and powerful work laid in out in the first three volumes of Barth’s CD. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind as I begin CD IV in the fall and hopefully Tillich’s ST in the winter. Altizer mentions that he is grateful that his theology did not become more conservative over time. In fact, I believe his later works in the 90s like Genesis and Apocalypse and The Genesis of God are in fact his most radical theological works.


2 Responses to “Altizer on God the Creator and the Crucified God”

  1. jfrederickp Says:

    Would this memoir be a good introduction to Altizer’s thought?

  2. Jeremy Says:

    I would say so. It’s really nice because it shows the evolution of his thought. It’s also very theologically rich. He doesn’t dwell much on the controversy or the media attention his radical theology got in the 60s. Most summaries of Altizer’s though only profile his work in the 60s, and needless to say I think his work was much more mature in the 80s and 90s.

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