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Altizer, Thomas J. J. (b. 1927)

  1. Christopher D. Rodkey

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0032

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Rodkey, C. D. 2011. Altizer, Thomas J. J. (b. 1927). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


North American, born September 28, 1927. Altizer is arguably the most important figure to emerge from the “Death of God theology” movement of the 1960s, and also one of the most prolific Christian theologians of the latter half of the 20th century. Altizer's theological project centers itself around Friedrich Nietzsche's trope of the “death of God” as a metaphor for the primordial Godhead's debasing creative act, culminating in incarnation of Christ, and later, an actual “death of God” on the cross. The divine movement in history is to be understood as perpetually “forward and downward,” descending and incarnating, rather than “backward and upward”; Altizer understands the ascension as a regressive movement of God, whereas God must be forward-moving. History, for Altizer, is apocalypse: the death of God on the cross enacts a final pouring out (kenosis) of Spirit into flesh; therefore, ultimate importance is in the present moment, in the Kingdom of God as an Eternal Now. His primary contributions to modern theology include reclaiming the biblical notion of kenosis (Phil. 2:7) as a primary method for Christology and being the first — and perhaps final — academic theologian to effectively utilize modern technology as a means for Christian theology to find new audiences and popular exigency.


  • Altizer, Thomas J. J. (b. 1927);
  • “Death of God theology”;
  • divine movement, “forward and downward”;
  • ascension, regressive movement of God;
  • history, for Altizer, apocalypse;
  • The Gospel of christian Atheism