“Death of God” Theologian Has Died

William Hamilton, a theologian made (in)famous in the April 8, 1966 “Is God Dead?” Time Magazine cover story, has died at age 87. You can perhaps guess that Easter Sunday was on April 10 that year, and Time was looking to move copies off the newsstand with a sensationalized cover. Although Hamilton eventually landed on his feet, the story resulted in him being essentially forced out of his tenured job at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, a ‘liberal’ Baptist theological school in New York.

The following are some highlights from an Associated Press obituary (h/t: Christopher Rodkey):

Hamilton told The Oregonian newspaper in 2007 that he had questioned the existence of God since he was a teenager, when two friends — an Episcopalian and a Catholic — died from the explosion of a pipe bomb they were building, while a third — an atheist — escaped without a scratch….

He explained the concept as “not about the beyond. It’s about living a good life…. Pay attention to the Christian story. Reread the Sermon on the Mount.”

Born March 9, 1924, in Evanston, Ill, Hamilton was raised a Baptist and went to Oberlin College before joining the Navy during World War II. He was commissioned an ensign trained to identify enemy aircraft for the planned invasion of Japan, his family said. In his sea bag was a copy of a book by one of the most influential theologians of the era, Reinhold Niebuhr, who became Hamilton’s friend and teacher….

Besides his wife, Hamilton is survived by five children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Read the rest here.

For Further Study

The Rev. Carl Gregg is the pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/carlgregg) and Twitter (@carlgregg).

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  • http://theobilly.blogspot.com travis

    I interviewed Hamilton while at CRDS. I found his phone number using this former search engine called yahoo. We had a great conversation. I was always amazed how the school tried to include Hamilton in its hagiography – as a place of academic freedom, no one ever mentioned that he had to leave his job. The students from his time at CRDS adored him. One told me he was the most pastoral of all the professors during his time as a student there. I found him more compelling than Feuerbach.

    • Carl Gregg

      I’ve never read his work, but read many references to him. And the sense I got from the two articles I just read in the wake of his death was precisely his pastoral presence. Thanks for sharing a few more angles on his life and legacy.