The 1987 film, Test of Faith, tells the story of Taylor Mitchell (Wayne Gray) and Prof. Heinlien (David Robey).
Taylor is a religious farm kid who wants to be a scientist. He’s received a scholarship to a prominent university! The only catch is that Taylor has to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA or he’ll lose his scholarship. That shouldn’t be too hard for Taylor. He’s a smart kid and serious student. Who could possibly give him a failing grade?
Prof. Heinlien is a Physics professor who is notorious for failing students who disagree with his views on religion, the Big Bang Theory, and evolution. If a student wants to pass Heinlien’s class, they better be willing to set aside their backwards beliefs and just agree with everything that Heinlien says. Every student on campus is terrified of Prof Heinlien. Maybe it’s because Prof. Heinlien has a beard and a goat-tee that makes him look like Satan.
Taylor takes the professor’s class and together….
THEY FIGHT CRIME!
No, actually, they don’t. Instead, Prof. Heinlien tries to teach about things like the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution and Taylor keeps interrupting him to argue that there is a scientific basis to the theory of Creationism as well. Heinlien gets kind of annoyed with him and, if Taylor’s college is anything like my college, I imagine that the other students in the class got pretty annoyed as well. Most students just want to take the notes, study the right chapters, pass their tests, and move on from the class. There’s nothing more annoying than when there’s one person in the class who always wants to have a conversation with the teacher. As I watched Test of Faith, I was reminded of how, in every English class I ever took, there was always one student who had to make a big deal about how “no one would read this book if it wasn’t required!” Everyone would groan when he started talking but he never seemed to notice.
When it comes to faith-based films, the dilemma of religious students being mocked by atheistic professors has always been a popular subject. The people behind God’s Not Dead has built an entire franchise out of the idea of Christian students challenging their professors. Compared to the more recent examples of the genre, Test of Faith is actually rather low key. Prof. Heinlien, for instance, may disagree with Taylor but, at the same time, he doesn’t bully him. He doesn’t demand that the students sign a paper declaring that there is no God. Unlike a typical professor in a film like this, he doesn’t rant and rave about how God didn’t save the life of his wife or mother. Compared to the way that professors are usually portrayed in films like this, Prof. Heinlien actually comes across as being fairly reasonable. For that matter, Taylor is not quite as self-righteous as viewers might initially expect. In fact, Taylor and Heinlien are so reasonable that they’re actually a bit dull. This is a film that could have used a little melodrama.
I have to admit that films like this, where a student has to stand up to a professor, are always a bit strange to me. I always assumed that none of my professors knew what they were talking about so I never really worried about whether or not I agreed with them. I’ve always assumed that most people were the same way. When did people start respecting their professors enough to debate them?