“God is dead.” That is what college freshman, Josh Wheaton, refused to write down on a piece of paper in the new movie God’s Not Dead. The movie is the story of his struggle to stand firm in his faith as he faced a failing grade and taunts from his atheist philosophy professor.
The statement, “God is dead,” however, did not originate with the movie. Do you know where it comes from?
The phrase was made famous by the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche didn’t actually believe God had died, however. He believed the idea of God had died. Nietzsche never really believed God existed. He believed man invented God to fill his need to explain life and its meaning.
With the rise of the Theory of Evolution, modern science and the increasing secularization of Europe, Nietzsche boldly declared God to be dead. Society – the world – no longer needed the crutch of faith.
As Christians, we stand with Josh Wheaton and refuse to say or write or affirm such a lie. God is not dead.
There was a time, though, when that statement was true. God did die.
It is hard for us to wrap our minds around such a thought. God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. God cannot die, and yet God died.
Our simple human minds cannot fully understand how. Doctors of science, philosophy and theology cannot explain it. The Bible nevertheless clearly proclaims it.
God became a man. That man died. Therefore, God died. Though we cannot fully explain or understand it, we cling to that truth.
The almighty, eternal God who fills all things became a human being in time and space in order to take your place. He became a man in order to die the death you deserve for all the mistakes of your youth, for the dark and dirty secrets hidden in the closets of your life, for every bad word and ugly thought you have ever had. You deserve to suffer the death of hell, but God loved you so much he came to take your place.
On a dark hill two thousand years ago God died. On that day, the sun stopped shining, the earth shook and God breathed no more.
Yet God is not dead.
On the third day, Jesus’ spirit once again entered his body. Air once again entered his lungs. His heart began to beat. God would not stay dead. Death could never win.
That is what we celebrate this Holy Week. We stare in awestruck gratitude watching our God die on the cross in our place. Then we peek with giddy joy into the empty tomb. God is not dead! He is alive and he promises us that because he lives, we too will live (John 14:19).
Can I prove any of this? No. It is a truth we accept by faith. I am reminded, however, of a t-shirt a friend of mine had in college. On the front it said, “God is dead – Nietzsche.” On the back it said, “Nietzsche is dead – God.”
Nietzsche died, and when he did, he stood before the almighty God whose existence he denied in life.
You will die one day. I will die one day. Then we will see with our physical eyes what we can only see now by faith. Then we will enjoy the life our God won for us with his death. Until then, there will be those who doubt – those who refuse to believe. Through faith, however, we know and believe the truth: God is not dead.