Share on mail A theologian who stirred up a storm of controversy with his theories about "the death of God" has died. This led to a job and then a series of professorships in religion at Syracuse University , where Professor Vahanian remained for 26 years. In , he decided to return to his native France to take up the prestigious theological chair at the Universite des Sciences Humaines, Strasbourg, eventually retiring as emeritus professor of cultural theology from what became the University of Strasbourg. Although a bold and radical thinker, Professor Vahanian was a committed Presbyterian who was recently described by his son-in-law as "a lifelong, practising, disgruntled Protestant Christian". His celebrated first book, The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era , initially attracted the admiring attention of fellow theologians, yet it was brought into the limelight in when Time magazine published a major article on "the God is dead movement".

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At Syracuse he held the Eliphalet Remington chair in Religion from to , and then the Jeanette Kittredge Watson chair in Religion from , and founded in and was the first director of the graduate studies program in religion. He was very distinguished in his interests in the relationship between literature and theology, and between culture and religion. One French Protestant contemporary of his was the lay theologian and social critic Jacques Ellul. Vahanian was a founding member of the first board of directors of the American Academy of Religion in Altizer , and Richard Rubenstein came to be regarded by many observers as a new Christian and Jewish movement advocating the death of God.

Vahanian expressed his understanding of the "death of God" as happening when God is turned into a cultural artifact. God is not necessary; that is to say, he cannot be taken for granted.

God is not necessary, but he is inevitable. He is wholly other and wholly present. Faith in him, the conversion of our human reality, both culturally and existentially, is the demand he still makes upon us.

Wait Without Idols, p. His personal papers from the period — are held in the archives of Syracuse University.


Theopoetics of the Word

By the middle of the decade, however, a massive upheaval was underway in American society and Vahanian, a little-known Syracuse University professor of religion, found himself at the center of a furious national debate. The story appeared in He was Altizer, another prominent death-of-God theologian, said of Vahanian during an interview last week. Vahanian often joined his like-minded colleagues in public forums, but he was not in lock step with them theologically.


Gabriel Vahanian dies at 85; key figure in ‘God Is Dead’ movement

Fasching I first found out that my teacher, mentor and friend, Gabriel Vahanian, had died when David Gill, President of the International Jacques Ellul Society, emailed me a few days ago. I want to share a few thoughts on this great scholar and dear friend. Gabriel Vahanian was born and educated in France and received his baccalaureate from the Lycee de Valence. In that year he joined the religion faculty at Syracuse University.


Gabriel Vahanian

Part of the Radical Theologies book series RADT Abstract To understand and engage with the theology of Gabriel Vahanian we should begin by considering the four quotes that sit as signposts at the start of The Death of God, the book that brought him to international acclaim. This is because in using such quotes Vahanian is locating himself in a particular legacy, a particular European legacy that came, paradoxically, to be most fully expressed in America. This old saint in the forest hath not heard of it, that God is dead! The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus The god that can be pointed out is an idol, and the religiosity that makes an outward show is an imperfect form of religiosity.

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