The premise is interesting—the screenwriting, and overall artistic conception is subpar (that’s being generous) and the acting is, well, atrocious (think One Night with the King). Still, we enjoyed watching it last night.
The premise is that a Bible professor from the 1890’s has just written a book that he wants his seminary to endorse. The members of the board all heartily approve, except for one. A Dr. Anderson takes issue with a line in the book that says that Christians should seek to educate people on the morals of the Bible even when we can’t tell them of Christ. Dr. Carlisle agrees it is best to tell people of Christ but there is nothing wrong with morals alone; they even lead people to Christ. But Dr. Anderson insists this is a dangerous belief with many dire implications. Dr. Carlisle is then enabled to time travel to the year 2000 to see the outcome of his belief.
The movie may seem a little overdone to us, being used to this culture that we live in. For instance, at one point Dr. Carlisle comes running out of a movie yelling, “Stop the movie!” to employees standing around, “The actor on the screen just took the name of our Lord in vain.” Another time, he pulls the manager of a clothing store aside to tell him how appalled he is at one of the outfits on a dummy. “Certainly you don’t actually want to encourage women to dress that way.” When a high school teacher from the church he visits finds out he teaches science at a seminary, she invites him to come in and talk to her class. He begins to tell the class that every good scientist tests his hypothesis and findings against the Bible. If anything contradicts the Bible in anyway, a scientist knows he’s made a mistake. The teacher quickly pulls him out in the hall and says, “Don’t you understand this is a public school?” He simply can’t get his mind around the idea of a school, government or not, where children are not taught to fear the Lord.
Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about the beliefs of people living 100 years ago to judge what they would have thought could they see us today. It seems ridiculous to me, screaming because someone used Jesus as a swear word, but maybe it’s more accurate than I think.
At the end of the movie, when he has returned to the 1890’s, he runs into a neighbor boy. A week ago, before his travel to the future, he had scolded the boy after catching him stealing marbles. He had sternly told the boy that stealing is wrong. This time, he apologized for what he had said the week before, confessing he should not have told him stealing was wrong, without telling him who said it’s wrong. “Has anyone told you about Jesus, son?” The boy answers no. “He is the one who created you and this whole world and who loves you. He has told us that stealing is wrong. But he knew we wouldn’t be able to obey it, which is why he offers us forgiveness. I hope that we can talk about his again.” You’ve probably guessed that he rewrites his book.
I wish that every movie with such a message could have a descent budget, a well-written script, actors with at least some talent. Nonetheless, I would choose it over of one of Hollywood’s blasphemous masterpieces any day.