There's an old joke in Christian circles that goes like this: Someone had written in graffiti the famous quote from the 19th century atheist philosopher: "God is dead. Signed, Nietzsche." Underneath it, someone else wrote: "Nietzsche is dead. Signed, God."
There's a new movie out called, God's Not Dead. I hadn't heard about it, except for a word of praise from Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide, who provides a biblical critique of films.
My wife and I enjoyed the movie very much. What I found fascinating was the spontaneous applause from the audience. It was unusual. This wasn't in the Bible belt. It was in cosmopolitan Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
The movie stars Kevin Sorbo, who played Hercules on TV. He plays the antagonist as an atheist college professor who teaches philosophy. He has his 80 students write "God is dead" on a piece of paper which they are to sign and pass in. But one Christian student can't do this.
So the professor decides to force the student to present his case for God convincingly before him and the class in later presentations or suffer a bad grade.
The protagonist is a student named "Josh Wheaton." I couldn't help but feel that the name was a cross between Josh McDowell, a Christian apologist who's worked in campus ministry for years, and Wheaton College (my alma mater, for grad school).
The plot may sound far-fetched. But not far from where I write this, about a year ago, a professor told his students to write the name Jesus on a sheet of paper; then to stand up, put the paper on the ground, and stomp on it. One brave student refused to do it and was threatened with a bad grade. Thankfully, as word got out, the university apologized for the whole assignment.
At the end of God's Not Dead, during the credits, there is a scroll with brief names of legal case after case, where Christian students stood up to the prevailing indoctrination toward atheism or toward a politically correct view on traditional morality and fought back.
The legal group representing these courageous students was the ADF, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Phoenix-based group that was founded in the early 1990s by a handful of Christian leaders, including the late D. James Kennedy, my long-time pastor.
It's not foreordained that the university has to belittle faith. After all, it was Christianity that gave birth to the phenomenon of the university in the first place. And virtually all the great universities were founded by Christians for Christian purposes. Just ask Rev. John Harvard.
As we pointed out a decade ago in a documentary, "What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" hosted by Dr. Kennedy, the university system began c. 1200 in Christian Europe, essentially to reconcile Christian teaching with the newly rediscovered writings of Aristotle.
The University of Paris became the prototype for the university system, as various tutors and lecturers would meet with students. Even the name "university" was coined because of the ad hoc school that was forming in Paris.
Dr. Alexander Murray, retired Oxford history professor, told our viewers, "Paris was like a market where different people were setting up. And, bit-by-bit, the city authorities, they said, 'Let's treat them not just as this or that school, but as an altogetherness.' 'Universitas' in Latin."
Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University added, "You had students from England, studying in Paris who decided to go to a place where the oxen crossed the river, Oxenford, otherwise known as 'Oxford.' And that gave birth to Cambridge. Cambridge gave birth to John Harvard, coming over to the United States, Harvard University in 1636. That was the background of our state university system, as well as our private university system, and so on to the universities we have today. Direct Christian origin."
But you would never know that today, in most university settings, where the Christian church is viewed as if it has only produced ignorance and superstition.
The movie, God's Not Dead is a breath of fresh air in light of the prevailing secular, politically correct atmosphere that seems to dominate the campuses today. My wife Kristi said that every church youth group in America should show this movie before people go off to college.
Despite its limited screening, the movie ranked 4th for its opening weekend.
After enjoying the movie, I emailed the actor, Kevin Sorbo; and he wrote me back: "Jerry, thanks for the support of GND! The response around the country has been amazing." Deservedly so.