It seems that the 1968 “God is Dead” headline in The New York Times is not the child of philosophers gone amuck but of theology gone awry.
Blaise Pascal spoke of nature which hints that there is a ‘lost’ and ‘hidden God.’ ‘Nature is such that it [can do no more than] point out the loss of God everywhere – both within the human being and outside the human being – and it points to a corrupted nature’ (Pascal’s Pensees, 124).
Hegel took this fragment from the Pensees and changed the diagnosis from man being unable to find God any longer in nature to the ‘death’ of God. Nietzsche, among others, also took up this mantra. But really rather than speaking knowledgably about the death of God “they articulated their own historical location” (Martin Luther’s Theology, Oswald Bayer, 112).
Some thirty years ago I heard a sermon in the Ft. Wayne seminary chapel by Professor William Hauser in which he told of a man having a recurring nightmare that he was dead and in hell. He would awake with the welcome relief that it was “only a dream, only a dream.” Then one night he headed for the door intending to go out of the dream as he had many times before. Then he felt a sharp pain in his side and turned to see the devil poking him saying, “Wake up; you’re dead.”
When people confidently assert that God is dead based on the foulness, the evilness, the fallenness of the world, they are mistaking the desolation as proof of God’s death when it should testify to them of the desolation in them and their consequent inability to find God in the world. When they come to the realization that God is dead they have really awaken to the reality that they are.
Just as a point of clarification, the NY Times never ran “God is Dead” as a headline. The closest thing to this headline is actually the April 8, 1966, Time magazine headline “Is God Dead?”