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“Is God Dead?” With a black background and bright red lettering, Time magazine’s April 8, 1966 cover dared to question the existence of God in a nation where “In God We Trust” is its motto. Screenwriter Edward Anhalt, quoted in the Time issue, sums up the worldview of the God-is-dead worldview: “God is an infantile fantasy, which was necessary when men did not understand what lightning was. God is a cop-out.” The materialists tell us that God is dead because we no longer need Him to explain our world and the way it works. The God-is-dead theologians claim that “God is Man. Or God is the Universe.” The results are the same: With the death of God, man becomes God. As James Herrick argues in The Making of the New Spirituality,“The fall of one god is often the precondition for the rise of another” (75). There is nothing new under the sun (Gen. 3:5).
These weren’t the first to question the existence of God. The “death of God” movement has a long history. According to the naturalists and materialists, God died a long time ago. Those who want to hold onto theistic notions are only in denial. For example, when Napoleon asked French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827) why his multi-volume Celestial Mechanics made no mention of “the author of the universe,” he answered: “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis.”
Taking their lead from the work of Isaac Newton, scientists like Laplace proposed that the workings of the cosmos could be explained with the cold precision of mathematics without the need of the “God hypothesis.” Of course, almost no one dared to ask the origin of the mathematical principles that were used to rid us of God. Anyway, mathematics can only explain so much.
But for all of its power, mathematics, even armed with the power of calculus, has failed to fully answer the problem of complexity. The universe is far messier and more unpredictable than any equation can capture. Mathematics, as the language of physics, enables science to describe the movement of bodies in space, but what it cannot do is describe the full complexity of those bodies in anything but equations as complex as the subject itself. No equation can capture the essence of a fly, much less explain how the whole universe was created from a point of singularity.
The Bible comes to the point when it attacks the absurdity of the no-God hypothesis: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no god’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). Without an omniscient and omnipotent God, nothing makes sense. Joseph-Louis Lagrange, who worked with Laplace on Celestial Mechanics, when he heard of Laplace’s remark to Napoleon, “is said to have shaken his head at his colleague’s skepticism, commenting, ‘But it is a beautiful hypothesis just the same. It explains so many things.’” Newton began with a belief in God and from that starting point assumed the reliability of mathematics and the order and predictability of the universe.
Within three years of asking “Is God Dead?,” a new question was put forth in appropriate psychedelic colors, this one appearing on the cover of the December 26, 1969 issue of Time: “Is God Coming Back to Life?” The answer was a resounding yes! But in what form? God was about to be resurrected in numerous incarnations in hope of restoring meaning to an impersonal cosmos. That pursuit continues even today by parents who “still want to make sure their kids grow up with God.” Rabbi David Wolpe writes that “People want to feel they’re more than DNA-decided robots and that life is more than a roulette wheel of genes.” Well said, but in many cases the new deities are an amalgamation, a multi-faceted set of gods and goddesses created in man’s own image to fit current needs. The revival of “spirituality” comes by way of “religious shortcuts”:
Millions turned to personal reflection, seeking awareness and growth in the human potential movement, employing a smorgasbord of approaches: Arica training, astral projection, biofeedback, EST, Gestalt, Hare Krishna, humanistic psychology, massage, psycho-cybernetics, primal therapy, rolfing, Scientology, sensitivity training, Sufism, T’ai Chi, transcendental meditation, yoga, Zen. Sufi saying: “The one who knows his self knows God.” And many found their God, as the decade eventually became a time of religious awakening, when individuals en masse were “born again.”
The new gods of the new religions were radically different from the personal and redemptive God of biblical Christianity. Sin and the need for reconciliation are dismissed as man’s ultimate cosmic problems. Raising one’s consciousness to embrace god-like principles make up the creeds of the new religions. In every new religious substitute, man is at the center. Man is god!