Transcendence (religion)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In religion, transcendence is a condition or state of being that surpasses physical existence, and in one form is also independent of it. It is affirmed in the concept of the divine in the major religious traditions, and contrasts with the notion of God, or the Absolute existing exclusively in the physical order (immanentism), or indistinguishable from it (pantheism). Transcendence can be attributed to the divine not only in its being, but also in its knowability. Thus, God transcends the universe, but also transcends knowledge (is beyond the grasp of the human mind). Although transcendence is defined as the opposite of immanence, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some theologians and metaphysicians of the great religious traditions affirm that God, or Brahman, is both within and beyond the universe (panentheism); in it, but not of it; simultaneously pervading it and surpassing it.

The "Death of God" and the end of Transcendence in secular culture

In 1961, Christian theologian Gabriel Vahanian's book The Death of God was published. Vahanian argued that modern secular culture had lost all sense of the sacred, lacking any sacramental meaning, no transcendental purpose or sense of providence. He concluded that for the modern secular mind "God is dead", but he did not mean that God did not exist. In Vahanian's vision a transformed post-Christian and post-modern culture was needed to create a renewed experience of deity.

Paul Van Buren and William Hamilton both agreed that the concept of transcendence had lost any meaningful place in modern secular thought. According to the norms of contemporary modern secular thought, God is dead. In responding to this denial of transcendence Van Buren and Hamilton offered secular people the option of Jesus as the model human who acted in love. The encounter with the Christ of faith would be open in a church-community.

Thomas J. J. Altizer offered a radical theology of the death of God that drew upon William Blake, Hegelian thought and Nietzschean ideas. He conceived of theology as a form of poetry in which the immanence (presence) of God could be encountered in faith communities. However, he no longer accepted the possibility of affirming his belief in a transcendent God. Altizer concluded that God had incarnated in Christ and imparted his immanent spirit which remained in the world even though Jesus was dead. It is important that such ideas are understood as socio-cultural developments and not as ontological realities. As Vahanian expressed it in his book, the issue of the denial of God lies in the mind of secular man, not in reality.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Transcendence (religion)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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