Is God Dead for Evangelicals?
I came of age when academics were officially pronouncing (again) the death of God—as a viable and energizing concept in the modern world—and people in the churches I went to knew that was hogwash. But I have since come to believe that many in those churches actually, in their own way, believed the same thing. They don’t believe God is dead, but they do want him to know his place and to avoid unpleasant surprises. They want him to act dead.
One of my favorite writers–the very, very Welsh poet R.S. Thomas—has God say the following in a poem entitled “Ann Griffith”:
These people know me
only in the thin hymns of
the mind, in the arid sermons
and prayers. I am the live God . . . .
How much easier to follow a safely dead or dormant God. Most everything that God is going to do has already happened. He has made everything, published the operating instructions, set down the rules, separated (given his foreknowledge) the sheep from the goats, and now, at most, monitors the creation—answering a prayer here and there, counting the days until the buzzer goes off and it’s all over.
A “live God,” on the other hand, is quite disconcerting, even frightening. You never know what a live God is going to do. He may even change (our perception of him at least)—in ways wildly unpredictable, and yet consistent, in our hindsight, with his nature. It is not possible to be an expert in this kind of God, to sing the “thin hymns of/ the mind,” nor to rest placidly in one’s presumed salvation.
The Israelites begged Moses to have God not speak to them, lest they die. We are mostly good Israelites ourselves.