Post Mortem Dei

What happens after the death of God?

Don’t misunderstand. I am not deconstructing or losing my faith. I haven’t gone off the theological deep end. I know God cannot die and I believe He is quite alive and well. But what happens to an individual and a culture when their God dies, when their conscious awareness of Him is purged? What happens when worship is privatized and hidden, when the public square is sanitized of God’s presence and secularized? What happens when there is no more King nor desire for His kingdom? What happens when there is no more moral law or moral law Giver?

What happens “post mortem Dei?”

The Old Testament book of Judges is a fascinating piece of ancient literature. The book recounts the history of the tribes of Israel following the death of Joshua, who led them in the conquest of the Land of Canaan.

At the beginning of Judges, some among those who ahd crossed the Jordan River were still alive. They had heard Moses and eaten manna in the wilderness. But soon, “another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). During the time of the Judges, “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). In effect, God was dead. “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 2:11).

In such a context, it is no wonder that insane evils might be done. Perhaps none is more insane than that recorded in chapter nineteen of the book. The chapter is so distasteful and offensive that commentator F.B. Meyer wrote, “It will be sufficient to ponder these words [“There was no king in Israel”], which occur four times in the book, without reading further in this terrible chapter, which shows the depths of the depravity to which may sink apart from the grace of God.” Be that as it may, there in the nineteenth chapter we find the strange tale of a priest’s paramour, or as most translations render it, “The Levite’s Concubine.”

In the story, a man from the priestly line of the Jewish tribe of Levi passes through the Jewish town of Gibeah with his female concubine. The unnamed woman did not have the status of wife, but she was, in a sense, the Levite’s legal partner. Early in the chapter, she reveals why (perhaps) he did not take her to be his actual wife, as she adulterously “played the harlot against him” (v. 2). But as the chapter progresses, we find the Levite and his lady staying for a night as strangers in the town of Gibeah.

That night, as they stayed with a local hospitable man, other “perverted men” from the city surrounded the home in which they lodged and demanded that the host bring the Levite out to them that they might “know him carnally” (v. 22). The perverted men of Gibeah wanted to rape the Levite. At this point, one might hope the story would get no worse. Unfortunately, this does not begin to scratch the surface of the depths of the depravity of the men of Gibeah. The story is so twisted it is better to simply read the text than to try to describe it.

But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.

Judges 19:23-25

When all was said and done, the Levite’s concubine was dead. A horrible crime had been committed in Israel among the “people of God.” But remember, this was a generation that “did not know the LORD.” There was no moral law ruler in Israel, and everyone did whatever they wanted. If all of this was not bad enough, the Levite, to call attention to the crime, dismembered the woman’s lifeless body, sending portions of it to each of the tribes of Israel, “And so it was that all who saw it said, ‘No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!’” (Judges 19:30).

In Judges 19, we are confronted with the disturbing reality of the moral anarchy that results when divine authority and transcendent values are removed. What happens in a society when God is dead? Everyone does what is right in their own eyes. There is no moral authority. All is subjective. Nothing is off-limits. The pattern is evident not only in the ancient texts of the Old Testament but also in the history of more modern times, like those of Lenin and Stalin’s Soviet State or Mao’s China. Now, in an increasingly post-Christian West, as secularism rises to the church’s decline, a remembrance of what can and does happen when God is dead feels urgent. Because the data seems clear: Sans God = Sans Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. How long until we call evil good and good evil? Or are we well past that point?

1 thought on “Post Mortem Dei”

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly, and pray daily for my own children to see their need for God! The world is not God’s anymore. It belongs to each individual to do what they please. What a sad affair this is. I pray it is not too late for those without God to see their need for Him in their lives, through Jesus Christ.

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