If God exists, he suffers fools. And if he’s dead, then our ability to reason killed him. God’s Not Dead is no doubt one of many movies released by Pure Flix in a year, but this particular entry seems to be making its rounds, with many outing themselves by publicly expressing hope this movie comes to mainstream theatres.
To be intelligent is to be serpentine. To employ the fundamentals of argumentation and debate is to be deceptive. And philosophy is antithetical to Christianity. This is what is to be gleaned from the following video.
Those who respect rational thought and its history should be angry. And those who consider themselves less religious than spiritual should be equally so.
This trailer should not have the power to frustrate, or elicit any response. If it can be summarized as a battle between Christianity and philosophy, it doesn’t represent either.
But it claims otherwise and this should be offensive. It claims to represent both. Kevin Sorbo, of Hercules and Kull the Conquerer fame, represents part of the problem. And Dean Cain doesn’t come out squeaky clean, either, though his role in all this is unclear.
A Christian, white, oozing innocence and quarterback potential, is told by his college professor, Sorbo, to write down the words “God is dead.”
“This is Philosophy 150. I would like to bypass senseless debate and jump to the conclusion every sophomore is already aware of: There is no God,” Sorbo said. “All I require of each of you is that you fill in the papers I have just given you with three little words: God. Is. Dead.”
To which the freshman, who looks like the future star of a dorm-room video scandal, says: “I can’t do what you want; I’m a Christian.”
The scene is set: He’s now being persecuted for his beliefs, left alone in a sea of spineless, secular sheep. And he’s standing up for what he believes.
This writer asks the question: Name one Christian in North America who is persecuted for his/her beliefs? It should reverberate as insulting to conflate persecution with encountering doubt or disbelief.
“If you can’t bring yourself to admit that God is dead, then you’ll need to defend the antithesis,” Sorbo said.
This is now the student’s mission. His raison d’etre is to give his large class of selfish, self-loving, self-worshippers meaningful exposure to God and Jesus.
At one point, Sorbo confirms what this movie’s guaranteed audience already believes it knows of philosophy professors and atheists and says, “In that classroom there is a God; I am him.”
Friedrich Nietzsche: born Oct. 15, 1844, deceased Aug. 25, 1900. He was a German philosopher. He wrote about religion, morality, culture, and Science. And he wrote using mostly aphorisms. He was smart, timeless, worth studying, and the author of the God is dead declaration.
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
Nietzsche is not killing God in this excerpt from Die fröhliche Wissenschaft. He’s not arguing that the reader recant his/her belief in God. He is instead describing the consequences of a once religious culture turning to atheism. Religion gave order to society, and without it all that’s left is chaos, and that, he argues, is frightening.
Nietzsche is not referring here to a creator God. He’s referring to God as harbinger of rules; a police chief; a moral authority.
And this notion of God or religion as a rulebook for life is not new, and is adhered to more often than it is given credit. We need order. Without it our lives would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” wrote Thomas Hobbes. Religion does important work, for Nietzsche.
Authority is obeyed because the Bible says. Rules are observed because the Bible says. We are all sinners, continually seeking forgiveness from God in a broken world.
Is there a better way to stifle greatness in large groups and preserver order? Is there a better way to ensure individual lives find all the fulfillment they require in safe, non-dissenting, law-abiding ways? To denounce the self, its ability to reason, its ability to achieve, is one of Christianity’s great curses and accomplishments.
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions,” wrote economist and philosopher Karl Marx. “It is the opium of the people.”
Rousseau’s social contract also works, if opiates are not your thing. His is a secular iteration of the golden rule (apologies for the oversimplification, philosophy majors).
This is the God of Nietzsche, who many believe was a theologian and many believe was a nihilist. His work was misused in the trailer. But real, honest God-fearing people have also been wronged by Pure Flix.
Without getting into the specifics of what it would actually mean to pronounce God dead, thinking about this should yield more questions than anything, presumably surrounding the uncontroversial fact that if God died, he once lived.
But this article is an attack on religion, not spirituality. And religion, in general, isn’t concerned with such interesting questions.
The now troubled, challenged squeaky-clean Caucasian told his Asian friend, “Jesus is my friend,” and it’s implied he wants his whole class to learn they, too, could become friends with the carpenter.
The Jesus of the Bible is not a friend. He’s not shooting hoops with your troubled teenager. He’s not at the skate park, grinding with the youth. He’s more annoying than any of that; that pesky man who doesn’t like the rich and those who scheme to become so; that idealist who chased opportunities to dissent; that do-gooder who hung out with prostitutes.
Christian thinkers appreciate Nietzsche, dissent, doubt, and important questions. They know the history of thought, and don’t divorce it from a history of Christianity.
The God of God’s Not Dead is not worth believing in. And the philosophy of God’s Not Dead is not worth studying.
But this is all from a trailer.
Toban Dyck loves to write about religious issues. He also loves to talk about them over pints. He studied philosophy, didn’t get most of it, but likes to pretend.
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