Theology, Ethics, and The Death of God

Third Annual Notre Dame / University of Chicago Graduate Conference

Chicago, Illinois | October 17-18, 2016

Keynote Speakers:

  • Rémi Brague (Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Religious Philosophy at the Sorbonne and Romano Guardini Chair of Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich)
    • 6pm, Monday, Swift Lecture Hall
  • William Cavanaugh (Professor of Catholic Studies and Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University) 
    • 5PM, Tuesday, Swift Lecture Hall

Time Magazine asks: Is God Dead? In 1966, TIME Magazine printed a now-iconic cover that provocatively asked, “Is God Dead?” The cover and the corresponding story were instantly infamous, and TIME received a record 3,500 letters to the editor in response. Fifty years later, the question “Is God Dead?” is as meaningful as ever.

Religion is discussed in politics and popular culture as much now as ever before, but talk of God seems strangely absent. Is religion more a matter of cultural association than theological conviction? Do we miss anything when we treat religion as another kind of diversity to be tolerated in the multicultural West? What role does theological belief play in the ethical lives of believers? Does contemporary ethical thought reflect or repudiate Ivan Karamazov's suggestion that in a world without God everything is permitted? What do religious ethics take as their center and orientation, if not the God of traditional metaphysics? How should we respond to the New York Daily News’s recent cover, “God Isn’t Fixing This,” indicting politicians for offering prayers instead of pushing legislation? How has the relationship between theologians and the media changed in the last fifty years?

Topics for papers include but are not limited to: atheistic spirituality; public theology and economics; religion and the media; philosophical and religious mysticism; secularization and fundamentalisms; apophatic theology and the hiddenness of God; post-humanism and transhumanism; premodern and modern parallels to the contemporary theological situation; theories of representation; the “death of man” in literature and art; literary depictions of secular life and theological conviction.




Monday, October 17 
6pm-7:30pm – Remi Brague
"On the Births of 'God's Death'"

Tuesday, October 18 
5pm-6:30pm – William Cavanaugh
“’Old Gods Ascend from their Graves’: On Disenchantment and Enchantment in a Secular Age.”

Monday, October 17

Theme: Personhood and the Self after the Death of God
Faculty Chair: Kevin Hector

  • Dylan Belton, University of Notre Dame, “The Self After the Death of God: Metz’s Account of the Technological, Consumer, and Adaptive Self”
  • Brendan Case, Duke University, “The Death of God and the Death of the Person”
  • Julius Crump, University of Chicago,  “The Public Value of Dark Sayings and Dissidence”

6pm, Keynote Address

Tuesday, October 18

Theme: Ethnocentrism and the Indispensability of God
Faculty Chair: John Howell

  • Raúl Zegarra, University of Chicago, “Is God Dead? Clarifying a Theoretical and Empirical Misunderstanding”
  • Danielle DeLano, University of Chicago, “Did God Ever Live? Engaging Buddhist Ethics without God”
  • Scott Hefelfinger, University of Notre Dame, “God Isn’t Fixing This… Alone: Pius XII’s Theocentric Pattern for Peace”

Theme: Perishable God, Divine Weakness
Faculty Chair: Neil Arner

  • Caleb Hendrickson, University of Virginia, “Theology of the Cross: The Past and Present of God’s Death”
  • Daniel Owings, University of Chicago, “Idolatry and Historiography: The Difficulty of Listening to the Divine and the Dead”
  • Lisa Landoe Hedrick, University of Chicago, “Pragmatic Hope and the Postmodern Reality of God”

12:30-1:20 Lunch Break

Theme: Christian Atheism and Faith in the Finite
Faculty Chair: Ryan Coyne

  • Chris Haw, University Notre Dame, “Beyond Vattimo’s Christian Atheism and Girard’s Christianity-as-Religion-Destroyer: Considering the Axial Age and a Broader Theoclasm”
  • Jay Martin, Notre Dame, “God is Unconscious: Lacan, the Death of God, and the True Formula of Atheism”
  • Carlton Chase, Fordham University, “The Metabolic Confession of Faith in Response to the Impossible Question: ‘Is God Dead?’” 

Theme: Spirtual Practices and Embodied Responses 
Faculty Chair: Sarah Fredericks 

  • Sarah Johnson, University of Notre Dame, “Trusted Structures, Shared Stories, Embodied Symbols: Interaction Ritual Fosters Solidarity in a Theologically Diverse Unitarian Universalist Church” 
  • Nathan Pederson, University of Chicago, “Body, Hermeneutics, and Divine Death in Luke 24: Toward a Theological Foundation for Ethical Reflection on the Death of God after James Cone”

5:00 PM Keynote Address 

Reception to follow 

Conference Organizers: Russell Johnson (University of Chicago), Sara-Jo Swiatek (University of Chicago), Elisabeth Kincaid (University of Notre Dame), Carl Friesen (University of Notre Dame), Jimmy Haring (University of Notre Dame). Email  for more information.

This conference is made possible by support from The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School, the Lumen Christi Institute,  the Divinity Students Association, the Philosophy of Religions Workshop and the Theology and Religous Ethics Workshop, and the Graduate Council at the University of Chicago.