“Let us declare that God is dead…”

… and then we ourselves will be God. (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p.257)

No, I don’t think he is actually suggesting this as a good idea. He is suggesting that this is “the logic of the modern age, of our age”.

It comes as a part of his reflection on the parable of the vineyard (Mk 12:1-12), in which the “tenants” of “the vineyard” who rejected and killed each messenger the King sent them.

The King had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

“If we open our eyes”, writes Pope Ratzinger, “isn’t what is said in the parable actually a description of our present world?”

How true. Papa Benny, of course, had to endure the great “God is dead” debates in the 1960’s. But today, it’s less of a declaration than a plan of action: “Let’s kill God, and then we will be free.”

We saw this in Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, where a rather pathetic angel-like “god” is put out of his misery so that the Kingdom of Heaven can be replaced by something Pullman styles “The Republic of Heaven”.

I saw it again during my recent break when I borrowed from the library the English TV mini-series The Second Coming.

The blurb on the back says:

What if there was a Second Coming and the Son of God arrived on earth? What would he say? What would you do? Are you ready for Judgement Day?…

Christopher Eccleston [Yep, the same bloke who played the penultimate Dr Who in the new series] plays Steve Baxter, a video shop worker, who is found wandering the Yorkshire Moors after 40 days and nights, mumbling that he is the Son of God.

Steve isn’t mad—he is the Second Coming. He…performs a miracle that brings northern England to a complete standstill. The world’s media kicks into a frenzy. Steve has a simple purpose—mankind must produce a 3rd Testament, or face Judgement Day in five days time.

So. That’s the basic plot. The “Final Solution” (so to speak) is reached by one of his (more reluctant) believers—she offers him a plate of pasta cooked up with a generous helping of rat poison and tells him that it is his destiny—as God incarnate—to kill himself off so that the human race can finally be free from God, take responsibility for itself, and find a peaceful existence without religion. He accepts this, eats the pasta, and dies. Hurrah! Everyone lives more or less happily ever after.

I doubt that Papa Benny has watched this drivel. But his conclusion is fitting:

At last we can do what we please. We get rid of God; there is no measuring rod above us; we ourselves are our only measure. The “vineyard” belongs to us. What happens to man and the world next? We are already beginning to see it…

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