Death of God Theology and the Methodist Church

I have an article in the new issue of Methodist History (October, 2010) titled “Methodist Heretic: Thomas Altizer and the Death of God at Emory University.”  The article tries to historically contextalize what went on at Emory, from my hindsight view, through the lens of the Methodist Church, who ran Emory University.

To make my argument I make refernce to the Altzier archive at Syracuse University, which holds boxes and boxes of letters, resolutions, and and snarky letters from Methodists to Altizer.  I don’t mean to offer a complete history but one told from inside of the church, and attempt to make sense of it from a theological perspective. 

The most important discourse brought to light, in my opinion, in my article is the genealogy of Methodists’ response to Altzier, which culminated in the Methodist Bishops making a doctrinal statement condemning the theology, clearly having no idea what he was saying and likely not caring.  The statement clearly demonstrates the lack of seriousness the American church takes its own theology.  In terms of research, I had found several historical references to the Bishops’ statements but with the help of some Methodist historians I was able to locate the actual statement pronounced by the bishops.  It represents one of the few examples of a large Protestant denomination officially declaring a school of thought to be heresy.

(The archive at Syracuse also has several other items of interest, including a letter or two from Eliade and Cobb, and some early unpublished essays–one in particular was of interest on the concept of the Nothing that dates into the late 1950s, a topic Altizer took up more fully later.)

Consequently I was reading the book Clergy and the Craft by Forrest Haggard this past week, which in the end offers a Masonic interpretation (and rejection) of  the death of God theology.  I have before found theosophists from the late 1960s and early 1970s responding to the death of God movement, but this is the first I have encountered within Freemasonry.

The contents for the whole issue of Methodist History (vol. 49.1) are as follows:

Cynthia Rogers:  “The Child’s Anti-Slavery Book and Other Sunday School Books of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1827-1880″

Darin Tuck, “Hearlding the Call of Populism:  Kansas Methodists and the 1896 Presidential Election.”

Christopher Rodkey, “Methodist Heretic: Thomas Altizer and the Death of God at Emory University”

Helmut Nausner, “Mission in the Methodist Perspective: Some Personal Deliberations.”

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