Not long ago, I spent an evening watching this “Christian” drama flick (directed by Harold Cronk, starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A. R. White and Dean Cain).
At first glance, I thought that perhaps it might have been a film that dealt with Nietzsche’s philosophical challenge to absolute moralism, and the film’s premise, at least as I inferred from its title, might have had some intellectual capital behind it.
The movie opens with a challenge by a tyrannical and belligerent college professor to his philosophy students, one of whom accepts and must persuade his class by way of a series of twenty minute debates that in fact, “God’s Not Dead,” or fail the grade. The scene begins to unfold under the classroom’s blackboard, on which appear the names of several renowned atheists, scientists, and philosophers, such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, The Selfish Gene, etc.), Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky, Ayn Rand, and others.
The student proceeds to argue, among other things, that the Bible “got it right” when comparing cosmological inflation theory to creationism as described in Genesis, using references to Steven Weinberg, a world renowned physicist, Nobel laureate, and a strong supporter of Israel in order to persuade his audience that science seems to support scripture, at least in this instance (the Big Bang). Despite the obvious discrepancies between the two theories, I found it fascinating that this method of “reasoning” continued to pervade throughout the rest of the film. The clincher argument employed by the student comes near the film’s climax, when he confronts his professor with his contempt and hatred for a God that he does not believe in. After all, how can you hate something, or someone, that doesn’t exist? Or so the premise goes. (Personally, I hate dragons and unicorns, albeit in the complete absence of any evidence of their existence – the mere fact that I do so, does not necessitate their reality).
After winning over his classmates, the student’s professor meets his unfortunate end by being hit by a car, ministered to by two “pastors” who, by the miracle of their rental car finally starting, have arrived on scene just in time to bring him to Jesus as he bleeds out on the pavement in front of them. The film also includes dramatizations of a young Muslim runaway girl, who is banished from her family home for reading the New Testament and declaring her faith, who is then subsequently consoled with a box of kleenex while seeking refuge at church. She’s joined by the professor’s estranged parter who leaves him, unable to tolerate his atheistic non-belief and demeaning attitude toward her implied ignorance. As though that wasn’t enough, a heartless “atheist” employer fires his young female apprentice after learning that she has terminal cancer – what a cruel and evil bunch they must be! He gets his due however, when his aging mother, who suffers from dementia, reminds him in a prophetic trance, that his “success” is due to his benefactor, Satan.
Happily however, all the Christians are reunited, newly “saved” and old alike, (with the exception of the deceased professor of course,) at a Christian rock concert hosted by the NewsBoys, who of course, play their latest hit, “God’s Not Dead.” For good measure, the student is rewarded for his victory with a personal greeting from Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. *quack*
The film was produced on a $2 million budget and grossed $62 million as of late summer of this year, which is astounding considering that when it was critically panned, the film ranked a mere 16 out of 100. Proof perhaps, that consumers are still quite willing to pay for propaganda, even when it’s done poorly.
In my humble opinion, the film does nothing to add to theological understanding, towards any faith, promotes stereotypical views and interpretations, blatantly misrepresents science (while attempting to use same to bolster some pretty ridiculous claims), and really never addresses the fundamental statement from which it takes its title. As a “feel good” rallying cry for the growing evangelical revivalist movement, it doubtless has been an outstanding success, but apart from preaching to the choir, I sincerely doubt that it’s a message that adds anything to an already volatile debate between reason and religion.