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God's not dead. What else is new?

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One of the first opinion papers I ever wrote was at the end of my first year of high school. The assignment was to write a paper based on a major personal notion without utilizing research. It had to be something that came from the gut. Attending a public high school, as I did, I doubt that the teacher had any inkling that my paper would be on Proofs from Everyday Life on the Existence of God, or some title of that sort.

That paper was written during the same time that the God is Dead phenomenon began to appear on American university campuses. I disagreed then with the notion, and as an adult man decades older, I disagree with the notion even more vehemently.

This last weekend God is Not Dead had a limited theatrical opening with far greater ticket sales than any anticipated. Apparently I am not the only person to believe that God continues to live and manifest power and greatness.

So before trying to find proof of God’s existence, one must first wonder why so many are convinced that God is dead. People need to understand what it means to posit that God is dead. The assertion that God is dead is very ambiguous. I am unsure what is even being asserted. If one argues that God does not exist, one might think that the speaker is either a committed atheist or an agnostic who cannot see beyond what senses perceive. To argue that God is dead, however, suggests that God lived sometime in the past; but not today. If the latter, what power could be so great as to bring God’s demise?

Yes there are those who believe that there never was a being called God. There are streams of Judaism that identify God as a power within, and that God exists because people recognize God’s existence. With the absence of that recognition God disappears. There are many who do not agree with this approach. But even if there was only one, there is an inherent flaw. If every Jew stopped believing in a Supreme Being, there would remain millions of others from a myriad of religious approaches that continue to hold that God manifests a divine presence in the world.

So why would anyone suggest that God no longer lives? Is it because for many God is a puppet master who controls the actions of the world. Perhaps Calvinists see things that way, as they firmly believe in predestination. Judaism from its earliest biblical roots was based on a world view in which every human being was given free will. Predestination and free will cannot coexist without major tweaking of what either term means. Moreover, the Bible claims that humans were built in the divine image, with the capacity to strive for perfection, and to emulate God. In that world view good and bad are not traits assigned by persons but that are defined by God. Morality, ethics and justice are standards set from above. If some values are attained by common sense and human cooperation, so much the better; but how does that negate God?

Perhaps some doubt that God exists because there are so few supernatural events in the world. But are supernatural events truly rare? Yes, a long time has passed since either the Sea of Reeds or the Jordan River was split in two so that Israelites could pass through on dry land. However, it is not so long since an army of Jews was able to beat back enemies, many their number and with sophisticated weaponry. Such was the case when the fledgling army of a newly established state trounced enemies hell-bent on destruction with a Davidka, a noisemaker whose roar was great but which caused no damage. It is not so long since millions of Arabs massed on Israel to annihilate her in 1967, only to be trounced in under a week. It is not so long since enemies attacked Israel on the holiest day of the year, only to be surrounded and defeated again. Those victories, at least to some, seem supernatural on some level.

But leaving Israel aside and forgetting its victories, there are stories that regularly appear in the news. Drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel and lived to tell about it. Cancer victims have gone into spontaneous full remission after being written off by doctors and caregivers. Women who were told they were infertile have borne children.

To me, and to the people with whom I associate, God is alive and well and manifest. The college Profs who argue otherwise and demand that their students reject God do more than set themselves as false prophets; they overstep their roles as educators.

Throughout my adult life I have counted my profession foremost as educator, even when I may have earned a livelihood through other pursuits. The late, Lawrence Cremin, former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College taught that the educator’s primary mission is to cause change. It is to lead learners to think and act differently than they would have. However, that change was never by fiat or compulsion, but by carefully grooming the thought process. What the antagonist attempts in the film, from what has been heard and seen in trailers, is excessive and doomed to failure. He does not coerce, he demands, and such demands do not come to fruition.

I have yet to see “God is Not Dead,” but I hope to. I want to discover how the movie’s writers came to the conclusions that seem so vital and apparent to so many without their cinematic skill.

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