It was very controversial.
The red border set off even more boldly the bold red type.
As did the plain black background.
The magazine had never produced a cover with no image. Ever, in its long illustrative history.
The large letters spelled three single-syllable words – all that appeared on this cover, except for the name:
Is God Dead?
Time magazine took a lot heat for its provocative April 8, 1966 issue, not only for the inside story posited by the question, but for the stark cover itself.
The Los Angeles Times, in a 2008 story, named the Is God Dead? cover one of “10 magazine covers that shook the world”.
The wording was taken from renowned German atheist Friedrich Nietzsche’s oft – quoted assertion that “God is dead” (German: ‘Gott ist tot’).
Given the cultural and moral disintegration of the 1960s, Time dared to ask the question.
Since 1966, we’ve come to see in America – and throughout the globe – that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of God’s death are “greatly exaggerated.”
Despite all that may assail it in the modern era, faith in God persists.
God’s not only alive and well; he’s active, loving, guiding and in full control of the universe, moral and otherwise. Nothing God has purposed is diminished by the declining belief in him, nor has he yet chosen to curtail humankind’s freedom to mock and minimize him – and to dismiss his worshipers as dangerous and superstitious threats to progress.
God remains patient and longsuffering – a Creator of infinite mercy and unfathomable grace.
There is, however, a price to be paid for man’s desire to be free of God.
Exactly 51 years after its infamous cover, on April 3, 2017, Time magazine produced another cover story. It was identical in every way to the one that asked Is God Dead?
There was the same red bold type and black background.
Is Truth Dead?
It makes tragic sense that a half century of redefining, debating and readjusting our relationship to God – of distancing ourselves from him in our national life – would lead us to this place. As society has marginalized the supernatural, we’ve lost our belief in – and appeal to – moral absolutes; inviolate principles rooted in transcendent truth.
Perhaps we like being on our own.
Last year, American voters, in what might be described as moral poetic justice, made a choice between two deeply flawed candidates.
Today in our nation’s capital confusion reigns. We are besieged by “alternative facts” and “fake news.” Dueling cable networks report opposing realities. Everybody shouts, nobody listens. Political daggers are permanently unsheathed amidst a torrent of angry recriminations.
Seldom has our nation seemed so unmoored from a unifying belief.
Departing from our Guide, who is all truth, we wander in a thickening dark forest of contradictory subjective truths, driven not by purpose but pettiness and passion.
We’re sitting in a crowded, rambunctious classroom and the Teacher’s just walked out.
Of ancient Israel, the prophet Isaiah drew a depressing and eerily familiar picture of national life:
“No one cares about being fair and honest … so there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.
Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead … we look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us” (Isaiah 59: 4, 9-11, NLT).
The “next election” ends up being a mirage – the ultimate collective self-deception.
What is the source of this national malaise? This anger, hatred, and deep division?
“We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord. We have turned our backs on our God” (Isaiah 59: 13, NLT).
In the wake of the proud and willful defiance of our once cherished values, what becomes of our integrity?
“Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. Yes, truth is gone and anyone who renounces evil is attacked” (verse 14-15, NLT).
The history of western civilization has made the pattern clear and unmistakable.
What of Christians in our current culture?
Understanding the times must leave us neither helpless nor despaired. While we may mourn change we must also joyfully embrace the change we can be as followers of the risen Christ.
We have been placed in this generation not to conform or dismay but to hold forth the bright light of his countenance; to “shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).
We are the voice, the hands and the feet of him who proclaimed himself “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6, KJV).
We answer Time for all time:
Is God Dead?
No, he lives and reigns forever.
Is Truth Dead?
No, through Jesus Christ we can and will know the truth – and that is a very liberating experience.
What an exciting opportunity!
“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15, KJV).