In every generation Christologists have sought to keep the Christ of the Gospels from being displaced by philosophically generated substitutes. One such alien Christ has arisen out of existentialist fiction, in a form that the four Evangelists would not have recognized. Since the vastly influential symbolism of the existential imagination is “anti-Christ,” Christian apologetics must offer a persuasive refutation. Let us seek to counter that existential symbolism by using three of its favorite terms: freedom, being, and reason.
Freedom And The Existentialist Christ
The disturbing thing about one prominent existentialist view of the freedom of man is its insistence that freedom can be realized only in the “death of God.” The “death of God” as a theological event in the teachings of the Christian atheists has been short-lived and only vaguely influential. But in philosophy since Nietzsche, the death of God has been considered a valid philosophical position and, oddly enough, one whose acceptance grants man freedom. Thomas Altizer may not have spoken for very many theologians but he did speak for a host of existentialists when he wrote: “Yet the ‘good news’ of the death of God can liberate us from our dread of an alien beyond” (The Gospel of Christian Atheism, p. 145).
The creators of existentialist fiction have tended to see man as free only when he is free from the necessity of God. Consider the dialogue between Zeus and Orestes, who (as the redeemer of Argos) approximates a Christ figure himself, in Sartre’s The Flies:
ZEUS: Impudent spawn! So I am not your king. Who then made you?
ORESTES: YOU. But you blundered; you should not have made me free.
ZEUS: I gave you freedom that you might serve me.
ORESTES: Perhaps. But now it has ...1
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