"God is Dead" Controversy
1965 and the Radical Professor
As the Sesquicentennial issue of Emory Magazine reported the story, it goes like this:
On October 22, 1965, while the Emory Board of Trustees met to approve the announcement of a $25 million fund drive, readers across the country were discovering far more surprising news about the University in Time magazine's religion section: a handful of young theologians calling themselves Christian atheists claimed God was dead, and their leader was Thomas J. J. Altizer, an associate professor of Bible and religion at Emory.... The resultant controversy catapulted both Emory and Altizer into the news. Altizer's name became a household word: for many it was synonymous with God-killer. Emory, the conservative, Southern, Methodist university that employed him, was the unlikely scene of the crime.
President Sanford Atwood, to his undying credit, stood by Altizer during the fracas. At the same time, Board Chair Henry Bowden stood behind Atwood with the confidence that any president needs in a board chair at such times, though Altizer's scholarly conclusions were views that Bowden disagreed with. William Cannon, then dean of the Candler School of Theology and later a bishop of The United Methodist Church, went on record in the Atlanta newspapers defending academic freedom--though also quietly pointing out that Altizer was a member of the College faculty, not the theology faculty, and, as a lay member of the Episcopal Church, was not subject to clerical discipline. But the statement of principles that governed the University's relationships with the faculty held firm against a strong tide of public opinion battering the wall of the "radical" university.
Source: A Legacy of Heart and Mind: Emory University Since 1836. Gary S. Hauk, Ph.D.
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