Movie Review: God’s Not Dead
This movie came out almost a year ago. I did not watch it then, and really had no intention of watching it at all. Christian movies, generally speaking, are poorly made and/or are too preachy. There is one film in particular that many have lauded, but I have yet to be Courageous enough to watch.
When my church said that it was going to show God’s Not Dead at the evening service a couple of weeks ago, I wrestled with whether I should go along to watch it or not. I was somewhat disturbed that the pastor would ‘allow’ this. After the morning service, I went up to him and asked him if he had seen it. He said that he had not (!) but that he’s heard good things about it. (For one thing, a fellow parishioner had gone up to the pulpit some time last year to encourage everyone to go see it.) I told the pastor that the movie has had mixed reviews.
“Well, I don’t expect non-Christians to give positive feedback,” he replied.
“Actually, the negative reviews came from Christians.”
So, to go or not to go? On the plus side, it wasn’t going to cost anything money-wise. On the other hand, the movie is nearly two hours long, and that is two hours I would never get back. In the end, the plus side won and, armed with notebook and pen, oldest son and I went.
First off, I will say that since I had zero expectations of the film being any good at all, it is better than I expected.
The film is about Josh Wheaton, a freshman at a university who signs up for a Philosophy class to fulfill his degree requirement. The class is taught by Professor Radisson who requires the students to write and sign a statement, “God is dead.” Josh refuses to sign and the professor says Josh has to defend his beliefs over three 20-minute sessions. After the three sessions, the class will decide if Josh has made his case.
First off, the professor is behaving in a totally unrealistic, unprofessional and unethical manner. Then again, Answers in Genesis requires its staff to sign a Statement of Belief, so maybe that’s where the filmmakers got the idea from (one can hope).
Josh’s girlfriend of six years (which means they’ve been dating since they were 12 or so!), Kara, breaks up with him when he takes the professor’s challenge way too seriously and won’t drop the class like she wants him to. This happens fairly early on in the movie — within the first half — and we don’t see her again. Not sure what her role is, except to, perhaps, depict the lukewarm ‘compromising’ Christian. Josh nonchalantly accepts the breakup. No heartache there. At all.
Professor Radisson’s girlfriend, Mina (a Christian) is having second thoughts about her relationship with him, being ‘unequally yoked’ and all that. It is strongly implied that they are living together, or at least, that’s what I got out of it. He has a dinner party; she buys the food and wine, prepares it in his kitchen and serves it to the guests. He belittles her in front of others and when she confronts him on campus, calling him “Jeffery”, he reminds her that on campus he wants to be addressed as “Professor Radisson”! Pompous jerk. She leaves him.
Mark (Mina’s brother) is a selfish, ambitious, professional-type person who finds his girlfriend’s cancer diagnosis ‘inconvenient’ and breaks up with her. Mark is an atheist; therefore, you know straight away that he is a bad guy.
Amy (Mark’s girlfriend) is a left-wing blogger who likes to target Christians for her articles. She is an atheist, therefore, she is a ‘baddie’. She approaches Duck Dynasty stars Willie Robertson and his wife, Korie, with unprofessional and offensive questions, such as “Why aren’t you barefoot and pregnant?” Later, she is diagnosed with cancer, her boyfriend (Mark) breaks up with her, and life has no more meaning. Towards the end, she interviews the Newsboys and they lead her to Christ.
Mark and Mina’s mother is in a nursing home with dementia. Mina visits regularly, but Mark does not see the point since the mother isn’t aware of her visitors anyway. He does finally pay her a visit and wonders aloud how come he, who has no need for God, is so successful, while she, a god-fearing woman, is in the state that she is. In a moment of clarity, the mom says that sometimes Satan allows people to succeed so they don’t see the need for God. One day, the door may close and then it will be too late. Of course, this falls on deaf ears.
Ayisha, a girl from a strict Muslim family, works at the university cafeteria. Her father forces her to wear a scarf to cover her head and lower part of her face, but she takes this off when he is out of sight. Inexplicably, she wears short-sleeved shirts, baring her arms for all to see. Ayisha has secretly been a Christian for about a year. When her father finds out, he literally throws her out onto the street. This subplot is particularly offensive in its stereotypical portrayal of Muslims.
Reverend Dave is taking visiting pastor Reverend Jude to Disney World but their efforts keep being thwarted by their cars breaking down. Even the rental car that comes does not start when Dave gets behind the wheel. I’m not sure what Jude is supposed to do except to spout Christian clichés and quote Bible verses. Dave has brief contacts with Josh and Ayisha.
Martin is an international student from PRC. When he approaches the Registration Officer at the start of the film, the officer looks at his form and says, ‘PRC? What’s that?’ and Martin has to explain that he is from the People’s Republic of China. (I am flabbergasted at the officer’s ignorance, but maybe the writers couldn’t think of any other way to make sure viewers know where this character is from, and so they wrote this lame bit in.) Martin is in Josh’s philosophy class and has the opportunity to listen to Josh’s arguments for a God. He has long-distance phone conversations with his father, where he speaks Cantonese and his father speaks in Mandarin! This is not impossible, for I myself have witnessed a parent speaking to her child in Mandarin and the child replying in a hodge-podge of Cantonese and English. However, it is not common and some viewers will pick up on this and find it distracting. Since Martin is from PRC, he should be speaking Mandarin. By the end of the film, Martin tells Josh that he has decided to follow Jesus and Josh takes Martin to the Newsboys concert — after all, he has a spare ticket since Kara broke up with him.
Are you confused yet? Yep, this is what it was like watching the film and trying to work out who is who.
I found the arguments put forth by Josh in the lecture hall to be the best parts of the film. This is not to be taken as a ‘glowing recommendation’ for the film!
Josh says that the Big Bang Theory, an old universe, and evolution are not incompatible with the Christian faith. This gets a tick in my book. Not surprisingly, YEC organisations disagree and have condemned the film because of this point (among other things). He tackles the question of ‘Who created God?’ by turning the question around to ‘Well, if the universe is supposedly self-creating, like Stephen Hawking claims, why can’t God also be like that?’ (I don’t remember the exact wording.) Finally, Josh tackles the question of the existence of evil by saying that it is the consequence of free will.
The professor is revealed to be not an atheist, but an anti-theist. He is angry with God for not healing his mom and letting her die of cancer when he was 12. Josh asks him, ‘How can you be angry with something that doesn’t exist?’ Game, set, match.
In the end, the class takes a vote (actually, they take stand — literally) and the whole class declares that God’s not dead.
The young Christians all go to the Newsboys concert. Prof Radisson, in his office, pulls out a letter from his late mother and has a change of heart. He tries to contact Mina but she is at the concert and does not respond. He makes his way to the concert and is struck by a hit-and-run driver. Dave and Jude just happen to be nearby. They stop to help him, but his injuries are too serious and they urge him to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Radisson dies (cue the rain) and the two pastors rejoice. Talk about tacky!
At the concert, Willie Robertson (from Duck Dynasty) appears on the big screen to congratulate Josh on a job well done in his philosophy class. Then he instructs the whole audience to text all their contacts in their phone list with the message, “God’s not dead.” Since there are about 10,000 people at the concert, and people have about 100 contacts, that means the message will reach 1,000,000 people! (This is assuming everybody’s contact list is unique.)
In the movie, all the concert attendees whip out their phones and start texting. Martin’s father gets the message and frowns. Mark gets the message while driving, scoffs, and tosses the phone to the back seat. Prof Radisson is unable to read his message as he is already dead; however, Rev Dave and Rev Jude see the message and share a happy laugh together.
The end, right? Wrong! As the credits start, the theatre audience is asked to text friends with the message “God’s not dead.” As far as I know, no one in the church who was watching it with me did.
God’s Not Dead was bad
Now there’s talk of a sequel?
No, no, no, no, no!
Posted on Monday, January 19th, 2015, in Atheism, Christian Living, Church, Creation vs Evolution, FAIL!, Faith and Culture, Films, Movies, Religion and tagged God's Not Dead. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.