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William Hamilton, who said `God is Dead, dies at 87
RNS ^ | March 1, 2012 | Nancy Haught

Posted on 03/02/2012 9:13:07 AM PST by NYer

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) William Hamilton, the retired theologian who declared in the 1960s that God was dead, died Tuesday (Feb. 28) in his downtown Portland apartment. He was 87.

Hamilton said he'd been haunted by questions about God since he was a teenager. Years later, when his conclusion was published in the April 8, 1966, edition of Time Magazine, he found himself at the center of a theological storm.

Time christened the new movement "radical theology," and Hamilton, one of its key figures, received death threats and inspired angry letters to the editor. He lost his endowed chair as a professor of theology at what was then Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1967.

Hamilton moved on to teach religion at New College in Sarasota, Fla., and then joined the faculty at Portland State University in 1970. He taught classes in religion, literary criticism and death and dying for the next 14 years.

"He was a gifted and inspiring teacher, a person of vibrant and wide-ranging intellect," says Ronald Carson, who met Hamilton in 1962 and has been his friend for 50 years.

Carson recalled hearing Hamilton speak for about 10 minutes and being "mesmerized."

"I have no idea what he said," he said, "but I remember going away from that session and thinking, 'I would love to be like him.'"

Hamilton was Carson's teacher at Colgate and recruited the younger man to teach at New College.

"He was curious, questioning, skeptical and sort of caused his students to take up that attitude toward what they were learning," said Carson, who now teaches in the honors college at the University of Texas at Austin. "I am missing him today."

In addition to teaching, Hamilton often spoke at churches, where Christians were struggling with the same questions that had spurred his studies. The image of God as all-knowing and all-powerful couldn't be reconciled with human suffering, especially after the Holocaust, Hamilton said in a 2007 profile in The Oregonian.

"I wrote out my two choices: 'God is not behind such radical evil, therefore he cannot be what we have traditionally meant by God' or 'God is behind everything, including the death camps -and therefore he is a killer.'"

He discovered that he no longer believed in an active God.

"The death of God is a metaphor," he said. "We needed to redefine Christianity as a possibility without the presence of God."

While Hamilton may have paved the way for the most recent wave of strident atheism, he wasn't a fan of best-selling writers who attacked religion in general or Christianity in particular.

"There is a self-righteousness, a glibness in their writing," he said. "They are too sure of themselves. They've backed themselves into a fundamentalist mode."

For his part, Hamilton saw himself as a Christian who no longer went to church.

"The death of God enabled me to understand the world. Looking back, I wouldn't have gone any other direction. I faced all my worries and questions about death long ago."

Hamilton is survived by his wife of 62 years and five children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. No funeral services are planned.

(Nancy Haught writes for The Oregonian.)


TOPICS: Current Events; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: christian; colgate; hamilton; religiousleft; theology

1 posted on 03/02/2012 9:13:16 AM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

Rest in peace, ping!


2 posted on 03/02/2012 9:15:53 AM PST by NYer ("Be kind to every person you meet. For every person is fighting a great battle." St. Ephraim)
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To: NYer

“William Hamilton is dead”. God


3 posted on 03/02/2012 9:16:31 AM PST by SMARTY ("The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. "Henri Frederic Amiel)
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To: NYer

Didn’t Nietzsche say it about 100 years before this guy?

“...I also note that both Nietzche and Hamilton are dead...”
Sincerely,
God


4 posted on 03/02/2012 9:17:23 AM PST by PGR88
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To: NYer
"We needed to redefine Christianity as a possibility without the presence of God."

He will stand in the presence of God to explain that one.
5 posted on 03/02/2012 9:18:13 AM PST by righttackle44 (I may not be much, but I raised a United States Marine.)
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To: NYer

Surprise, surprise


6 posted on 03/02/2012 9:19:31 AM PST by bmwcyle (I am ready to serve Jesus on Earth because the GOP failed again)
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To: NYer

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’

But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Matthew 7:22-23 NLT


7 posted on 03/02/2012 9:23:59 AM PST by Kartographer ("We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.")
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To: Kartographer
lots of death this week. I just heard a rummer that Arnold Schwarzenegger died in a skiing accident????
8 posted on 03/02/2012 9:29:24 AM PST by cotton
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To: NYer

It is written; “Before a man tries to outlive God, he must first outlive Castro.”


9 posted on 03/02/2012 9:36:47 AM PST by Dixie Yooper (Ephesians 6:11)
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To: NYer
"The death of God is a metaphor," he said. "We needed to redefine Christianity as a possibility without the presence of God."

Sounds like the old joke about Unitarians; Athiests who haven't kicked the church habit.

Well, I guess Mr. Hamilton now has his questions answered. I pray for God's Mercy for him.

10 posted on 03/02/2012 9:40:58 AM PST by SuziQ
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To: NYer

“Radical theologian”??? The more accurate term should be “collectivist/Leftist theologian” which makes it a an oxymoron unless you want to consider Marxism a type of theology.


11 posted on 03/02/2012 9:41:34 AM PST by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: righttackle44

And, what does he say when standing at the judgment seat of Christ?


12 posted on 03/02/2012 9:44:28 AM PST by Son-Joshua (son-joshua)
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To: SMARTY

He was born dead.


13 posted on 03/02/2012 9:47:56 AM PST by Gamecock (Celebrating 17,133 replies of dubious quality!)
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To: NYer
The guy's #1 claim to fame is lifting a quote from Nietzsche?

Wow, talk about not being impressed!

“God is Dead” Nietzsche 1890.

“Nietzsche is Dead” God 1900.

14 posted on 03/02/2012 9:48:27 AM PST by allmendream (Tea Party did not send the GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism.)
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To: NYer

I thought that was Nietzche


15 posted on 03/02/2012 9:52:16 AM PST by therightliveswithus
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To: NYer

Best-use-of-a-magazine-cover-in-a-movie belongs to Time Magazine’s, “Is God Dead?” cover, in the movie, “Rosemary’s Baby.”

During the 1968 cultural revolution, one could be forgiven for thinking so.
Rosemary’s Baby and Altamont define the era for me.


16 posted on 03/02/2012 9:55:48 AM PST by St_Thomas_Aquinas (Viva Christo Rey!)
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To: NYer
I thought that God was alive and well and living in the White House in Washington this 2012 year?

Or is that another God?

17 posted on 03/02/2012 10:01:13 AM PST by john mirse
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To: NYer

While he claimed to be a theologian, I think he’s learning a bit about karma right now.


18 posted on 03/02/2012 10:01:51 AM PST by KosmicKitty (WARNING: Hormonally crazed woman ahead!!)
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To: NYer
Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Puny minds of men think the can figure out God. Just enjoy praising, trusting and believing Him and reap the rewards of an awesome, blessed eternal life forever. Bless you Jesus!

19 posted on 03/02/2012 10:18:40 AM PST by tflabo (Truth or tyranny)
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To: NYer

Cue Powers Boothe from “Tombstone”: “Well . . . Bye!”


20 posted on 03/02/2012 10:20:33 AM PST by LS ("Castles Made of Sand, Fall in the Sea . . . Eventually (Hendrix))
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To: zot; Interesting Times

I guess he will be going into earth orbit.


21 posted on 03/02/2012 10:22:56 AM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: NYer

I’m sure God had the last laugh.


22 posted on 03/02/2012 10:26:05 AM PST by The Great RJ ("The problem with socialism is that pretty soon you run out of other people's money" M. Thatcher)
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To: allmendream

It takes a helluva whole lot more ‘faith’ to state that God is dead when all His very creations encompass us all around. On a lesser scale its like observing the artwork painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and then declaring that Michaelangelo never existed. DUH!!!


23 posted on 03/02/2012 10:27:00 AM PST by tflabo (Truth or tyranny)
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To: righttackle44

I am pretty certain that he is not anywhere that GOD can be seen... and it smells of brimstone where this guy now resides.

LLS


24 posted on 03/02/2012 10:28:57 AM PST by LibLieSlayer (WOLVERINES!)
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To: SMARTY

LOL


25 posted on 03/02/2012 10:33:11 AM PST by chicken head
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To: PGR88

You are correct about Nietsche.

Doesn’t anyone do research any more?


26 posted on 03/02/2012 10:38:29 AM PST by Nabber
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To: NYer

Crazy intellectual triangulations of foolish thoughts...I be scared sheetless of going to hades forever... yikes.. no thanks. I’ll take the free ticket paid by Jesus for the eternal vacation in heaven.


27 posted on 03/02/2012 10:38:37 AM PST by tflabo (Truth or tyranny)
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To: NYer
For a guy supposedly such a brilliant theologian, he sure is dumb.

There's a huge logical disconnect in his supposed reason for disbelief -- that God "allows" evil to happen.

In all of his extensive theological studies, he never ran across the concept of free will?

28 posted on 03/02/2012 11:19:48 AM PST by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGS Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: NYer

To continue making his living as a “Theologian” and “Teacher of Religion” when he believes that “God id Dead” is the height of hubris and hypocrisy.


29 posted on 03/02/2012 12:40:52 PM PST by left that other site
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To: NYer
"...the retired theologian who declared in the 1960s that God was dead, died Tuesday (Feb. 28) in his downtown Portland apartment."

*Portlandia ping*

30 posted on 03/02/2012 12:50:21 PM PST by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
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To: GreyFriar

May he rest in peace. Judging a soul is above my pay grade, but I think he may be surprised to learn that the mental image of God he rebelled against is man-made and false.


31 posted on 03/02/2012 6:54:32 PM PST by zot
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To: LibLieSlayer

Yup.


32 posted on 03/04/2012 1:49:37 PM PST by righttackle44 (I may not be much, but I raised a United States Marine.)
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