God Is Not Dead
November 1, 2002
The April 8, 1966, issue of Time magazine (scheduled to coincide with Easter) created a hubbub with the stark cover line, "Is God Dead?" Inside, there were references to Emory University's Thomas J.J. Altizer and the "current death-of-God" group, already featured in Time the previous year, "a small band of radical theologians" arguing that "the churches must accept the fact of God's death and get along without him," but also to "less radical Christian thinkers." (How indispensable radical became in the Sixties!) "If nothing else," Time solemnly opined, "the Christian atheists are waking the churches to the brutal reality that the basic premise of faith—the existence of a personal God, who created the world and sustains it with his love—is now subject to profound attack."
Even before the Sixties, Time suggested, a few particularly perceptive Christians had a sense of the impending crisis. "During World War II, the anti-Nazi Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote prophetically to a friend from his Berlin prison cell: 'We are proceeding toward a time of no religion at all.'"
Are we? Bonhoeffer was a great theologian and a brave man, but his credentials as a prophet are open to question. What seemed self-evident to a man imprisoned and sentenced to death in Germany in 1945 doesn't seem so obvious today in Afghanistan or Nigeria or Brazil—or Chicago. In this issue we continue our series of reports on world Christianity.