“Burns Plays God”
I guess the element of shock has disappeared. One can expect anything and everything within Reformed circles. There are few, it seems, who blush anymore (Jer. 6:15). Yet one can not help but be disappointed and disgusted at the extent of departure from the truths of Scripture and of the confessions of the Reformed churches.
Movie reviews appear regularly and extensively in Calvin College Chimes. Not too long ago that was an unheard of thing. But since the C.R.C. has approved the viewing of the “good” movies, the church and religious magazines in those circles increasingly review the movies. One review of a movie was presented in the Nov. 2, 1979 issues of the Chimes. The movie was scheduled for showing that same evening in Calvin’s Fine Arts Center. The movie? “Oh, God!” Chimes explains the contents:
Oh, God! deals with the question: “Does it make any sense to believe that God exists in the kind of world in which we live and of which we are a part?” or “What would society’s response be to God’s contemporary appearance among them?”
This film’s use of comedy is perhaps offensive to many viewers, especially among evangelical Christians. However, if the film had used the dramatic medium of tragedy—or any other dramatic medium for that matter—the film would have been a failure.
God (George Burns) makes himself known visibly to Jerry Landers (John Denver), who is a grocery store manager in Tarzana, California. Jerry, at best, is agnostic and, perhaps, atheistic. God is upset about the way things are going on earth. Environmental pollution, war and hate result from people’s failure to work together. God brings a message to Jerry and commissions him to share it with the world: if everyone will play his part to remedy the problems with which we people on earth must cope, finally, everything will turn out alright. . . .
In a comedy one can easily miss the important point: the one who, in obedience to God, transmits God’s message does not get an enthusiastic hearing among men. Jerry is treated in a way reminiscent of the treatment given to Old Testament prophets and New Testament evangelists.
The point of the film is that it makes as much sense to believe in God’s existence in our world as to disbelieve in God’s existence. But the kind of God who is pictured in the film is a. far cry from. an authentic reflection of that which the Bible portrays. Jesus’ identity and role do not differ, according to the film, from the identity and role of Mohammed or Gautama or Moses, or, even, from the identity and role of Jerry Landers. What God thinks is the purpose of life “doesn’t count at all.” God has no real knowledge of the future. God, in fact, is “only for the big picture” and “doesn’t guide our destiny.” Our “destiny” is just a matter of luck. The only help we are to get is from each other. The question which must be raised is this: What difference does it make to man if he believes or disbelieves in the existence of the kind of God who is pictured in this film?
The film was to be preceded by an introduction and presumably an evaluation and commentary presented by Rev. John Vriend, the pastor of The Church of the Servant Christian Reformed Church. President Diekema of Calvin College, so we read in the sameChimes,
. . . commended FAC (Film Arts Committee) on its recent handling of the Oh God! issue. He pointed out that FAC’s mandate is to show educational, not merely popular films, and that FAC is successfully doing so by putting Oh God! in a seminar context. . . .
One is struck by the fact that this film is presented in the largest auditorium on Calvin’s campus. Other (presumably better) films are regularly presented in smaller auditoriums. Is this a comment, perhaps, on the spiritual sensitivity of the students?
One wonders, too, about the comments of Vriend before the movie. One would expect of a minister who has signed the “Formula of Subscription” before God and His church (“We declare, moreover, that we not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine . . . but that we are disposed to refute and contradict these, and to exert ourselves in keeping the Church free from such errors. . . .”) to be outspoken in his condemnation of the godlessness evident. If nothing else, he could be expected to read from the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 35 (to which he firmly expressed agreement in the “Formula”):
Q. 96 What doth God require in the second commandment?
A. That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word.
Q. 97. Are images then not at all to be made?
A. God neither can, nor may be represented by any means. . . .
The message is clear. If nothing else, there was a terrible violation of the second commandment. This is none other than the sin of the golden calf into which Israel fell at Mt. Sinai—and we all know the consequences of that. Did Vriend point that out? Did he command repentance and return to a proper worship of Jehovah? Did he warn of the sad consequences if such image-worship continues without repentance? Surely that was his calling.
Evils of Gambling Multiply
The Church has been warned often concerning the evils of gambling. That same Church has warned the state generally with respect to these evils. There is the evil of trying to “get something for nothing”; and there is the evil of playing with the Providence of God—Who directs even the casting of the lot—for our financial or material enhancement. The evils of gambling included too the fact that those who can least afford to gamble are the very ones who do so—in hope of a large return. And much of the tremendous profit from gambling has been channeled into the pockets of criminals.
The State of Michigan, a number of years ago, legalized gambling as a state enterprise. That served a double purpose: supposedly the profits of gambling went to the state (presumably reducing taxes), and kept gambling out of the hands of criminals. However, though gambling is more popular than ever in Michigan, it has hardly served its avowed purpose. Those who can least afford to gamble, many on state aid, are the very ones who gamble the most. And illegal gambling has not been stopped through the sponsorship of official state-controlled gambling. On the contrary, racketeers have taken advantage of the legal gambling to promote their own illegal activities. The Grand Rapids Press states:
Racketeers are using the Michigan lottery “daily” game to reap huge profits from an illegal $2.50-million-a-year numbers operation, according to a Michigan State Police expert.
The system began shortly after legal “daily” game began in June, 1977, and has nearly as big a “take” as the daily lottery, according to Det. Sgt. Leroy F. Soeltner, a State Police criminal investigator.
It appears that the illegal lottery makes use of the winning numbers of the state legal lottery. These numbers of the legal game are announced daily on radio, t.v., and the papers.
Rather than putting gambling only in the hands of “legal” operators, Michigan has discovered that it is developing in its citizens a growing taste for gambling—and that illegal and criminal gambling is not eliminated—but rather is increasing. Well, so much for the theory that legalizing sin removes many of the consequences of that sin.
Oops! A Nine-Billion Year Mistake!
The Grand Rapids Press, Nov. 29, 1979, reports:
Math Flaw Halves Age of Universe, Experts Say.
An apparent mistake in a mathematical yardstick means that the universe is only half as old as previously thought and could upset many theories about the evolution of the cosmos, astronomers say.
The three scientists who discovered the discrepancy say the heavens are only 9 billion years old, not 15 billion to 18 billion years, the usually accepted belief.
The rule in question is Hubble’s Constant, the number astronomers use to figure the distance between objects in space.
One astronomer at Harvard and two in Arizona found that the constant, which is the ratio of speed to distance, should be almost twice as large as previously thought.
“If the Hubble Constant is about twice as big as it was thought to be in the past, that means that the age of the universe has dropped down to 9 billion years,” said John P. Huchra, a staff member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Furthermore, he said, “The distance to the furthest point in the universe is the velocity of light times the age of the universe. Since we have now scaled down the age of the universe by a factor of two, that means that everything is half as distant.”
Amazing! The evolutionists were so firm in their insistence that the universe was 15-18 billion years old. Their theories, their measurements, all presumably were so convincing. The Biblical account could never be considered as accurate. Yet now, all at once, nine billion years can be chopped off the announced age of the universe. Suddenly, it is only half as old as earlier taught. How must one regard a theory that can so quickly and radically change its opinion about the age of the universe? Ought not such scientists begin to question other of their scientific theories as well—even the basic one of evolution? If nine billion years can be dropped, is it possible that there is no real basis for believing that the remaining nine billion years are not either a scientific nor accurate measurement of the universe? Could it not be said that just possibly the Biblical account of creation is true after all? But, of course, man regards the Bible as unreliable—certainly as far as scientific statements and theories are concerned.