War Of The Worldviews

The film Independence Day was one of Hollywood’s biggest hits in recent years, full of state-of-the-art special effects. Yet many viewers left the theater with the odd feeling that somewhere, somehow, they’d seen this film before. In effect, they had. In many respects, Independence Day was a remake of the 1954 science-fiction classic, War of the Worlds—but with one significant difference. And in that difference we can trace a radical shift in our culture’s dominant worldview. In both Independence Day and War of the Worlds alien space ships arrive on Earth. In both films, the world’s leaders watch helplessly as cities are destroyed, millions are killed, and the human race reaches the brink of annihilation. Both films show the president desperately ordering a nuclear strike. When that fails, the film’s characters begin wondering if anything can possibly save them. The only thing left seems to be prayer and faith in God. But it’s at this point the films diverge dramatically. In Independence Day, characters engage in "God talk," but God Himself plays no role in solving the dilemma. Despite a scene showing characters in prayer, there’s no doubt that human effort will ultimately save the day. And sure enough, deliverance finally comes through advanced military technology. By contrast, in War of the Worlds the weapon that scientists come up with is destroyed, forcing people to rely upon God alone. Churches across the nation are jammed with people. At the hour of mankind’s greatest need, as the Martian death rays beam down through stained-glass windows, people gather together to pray for God’s intervention. The result is a deliverance so sudden, so unrelated to any human effort, that the survivors are shocked. One character points out that, after all, they had been praying for a miracle, hadn’t they? In case viewers still don’t get the point, the final voice-over explains that "all that men could do had failed," and that humanity had been saved by God. Just as the movie ends, we see people standing on a hillside, singing praises to God. The difference between the two films is a profound illustration of the rapid rise of secularism during the past 40 years. Today, most film producers are so thoroughly secularized that they wouldn’t dream of coming up with a cinematic solution that gives God the glory. They’re convinced modern moviegoers would not find such a solution plausible. But, ironically, in coming up with a purely human solution, the makers of Independence Day have been criticized for tacking on a climax to the film that is utterly implausible—a human deus ex machina. You and I have to help our children and grandchildren understand how the entire culture influences our worldview. Even movies that don’t directly attack our faith may ultimately denigrate the power of God. If your kids are among the millions who have seen Independence Day, why not rent War of the Worlds and watch it with them? And then, while you’re finishing off the pizza, you can discuss how the worldview of each producer influenced the outcome of the film—and how each film influences the way people think. It’s what might be called the "war of the worldviews."


Chuck Colson


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