I just got back from seeing the new movie “God’s Not Dead” and I was pretty impressed with the movie as a whole. I will preface this by saying that the style of the movie is very clichéd in places and some people may view the set up as unbelievable. Please understand that this is a movie and that I believe that the message is what is important here, and there are quite a few messages to be had. Before I get there I should back up and start from the beginning.
The movie opens up at the beginning of every main character’s day. The characters involved are Josh Wheaton, a Christian freshman starting at university (I can’t recall if they ever name what university this is set at, but I do recall LSU apparel in the background so maybe it is in Louisiana), Philosophy Professor Jeffery Radisson, Mina, a Chinese student named Martin, a news investigator/blogger Amy, and Reverend Dave. Each character is going about their morning routine, and the scene finally settles on Josh going to register for his classes. As he picks out his humanities elective, and introduction to philosophy course, the student registering Josh recommends that he pick a different instructor for the course. Josh insists that he take the course because he doesn’t want to rearrange his whole schedule. Now there are several side stories that will all come together at the end of the movie, but for this review I will cover them sequentially so that I am not bouncing back and forth.
Josh attends his first lecture of the semester and Professor Radisson makes his entrance. He gives a speech about a host of intellectuals who are/were leaders in their field and are/were atheists. Radisson then gives a speech over how belief in God is foolish in this day and age and gives his students slips of paper. He tells the students to write “God is Dead” and sign the paper so they may skip the section over debating whether or not God existed. Everyone but Josh signs and turns in the paper. Josh explains that he is a Christian and that he cannot do what Radisson wants him to do. Radisson instead assigns Josh to give 3 lectures over the topic “God is not dead”. Josh then speaks with his girlfriend about the issue and she tells him that he should drop the class or simply tell Radisson that God is dead. She launches into a speech over how she is at her third choice school because she wants to be with him and that failing this class would ruin Josh’s chances of law school. Josh refuses to give in after speaking with Reverend Dave and prepares his lectures without her knowing. The first of Josh’s lectures comes and he chooses to start with the evidence for the Big Bang. Toward the end of the lecture, Radisson interjects with a quote from Stephen Hawking “because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.” This quote stumps Josh for the time being and the lecture ends there. Josh’s girlfriend discovers that he went ahead against her wishes and she breaks up with him. Afterwards, Josh is in the library researching for his second lecture and runs into Martin. Martin asks Josh why he is doing this and Josh explains that to him, God is very much alive and Josh does not want to disappoint him. The second lecture comes around and Josh provides an answer to Hawking’s quote by quoting my personal favorite apologist, John Lennox. He explains that Hawking’s quote contains circular logic and that nonsense is still nonsense, even when spoken by a famous scientist. The rest of the lecture contains some arguments against evolution as a blind, unguided process, but this lecture is relatively short. After the class leaves Josh asks Professor Radisson what happened to him that made him so angry at God. Professor Radisson asks Josh what kind of God would allow a 12 year old boy to watch his mother die of cancer and not answer his prayers to Him to heal her. This question will set the stage for the third lecture, the problem of evil. The movie takes a step back and focuses on the other characters, as well as Radisson’s wife Mina choosing to leave him. This event enrages Radisson and causes him to change the framework of the last lecture into one of a debate. They have a quick exchange over the previously mentioned problem of evil. Josh brings up that evil is allowed due to the gift of free will that God gives to all humans, for us to be able to freely choose God and to love Him and one another. Radisson scoffs at this and the conversation turns to the students observing and why each party is defending their point. Radisson wants to “free” his students from the burden of ancient superstition, and Josh wants to give the students the ability to choose whatever worldview that makes the most sense. Josh then turns on Radisson and confronts him again with the question of why he hates God. After being pressed, Radisson admits to him having nothing but hate for God and Josh adds the stinger of why Radisson hates someone that supposedly doesn’t exist. After this, both Josh and Radisson turn to the students to see their decisions. A few moments of silence and Martin starts an avalanche of the entirety of the class declaring that God is not dead. Josh, Martin, Mina, and others attend a Newsboys concert. During the concert, Radisson has a change of heart and goes to the concert to try and reconcile with Mina. On his way to the concert, Radisson is hit by a driver who immediately flees the scene. Reverend Dave is at the scene with Jude, an African missionary. They rush to Radisson’s aid and find him dying. Dave speaks with Radisson about Jesus and if Radisson would accept him. Radisson decides to accept Jesus and passes away minutes after. The movie then concludes with multiple cuts to the other character involved and then the credits roll.
That being done, I can give synopses for the multiple side stories that are occurring throughout the movie. The first that I will cover is Ayisha, a Middle Eastern student who is a recent convert from Islam. She is hiding her faith while in the presence of her family, but is discovered when her brother tells her father that she was listening to a sermon by Franklin Graham. Her father is outraged and kicks her out of the house. She goes to see Dave about whether or not she made the right choice. Dave explains that following Christ sometimes means laying down everything that one has to follow him. Ayisha overheard Josh talking about defending his faith at the beginning of the movie and congratulates him during the concert when she sees him in the crowd.
Dave’s story begins when he picks up Jude from the airport. They discuss their ministries and Dave expresses his view that he feels like he isn’t doing anything important. Jude lets him know that any small part helps to advance the kingdom of God. Throughout the movie Dave is ministering to Josh, Mina, and Ayisha. He encouraged Mina when she came to him after being verbally abused by Radisson at a dinner party for speaking up about her belief in God. Dave tells Mina that she is seeking to affirm herself through her relationship with Radisson and that her self-worth should be coming through herself and God. This talk is what motivates Mina to leave Radisson. There is a running gag within the movie where Dave and Jude are trying to leave on a vacation to Disney World and Dave cannot get his car, or his rental car, to start. Finally Jude talks to Dave about the importance of faith in every situation of life and convinces Dave to try one more time to start the car and leave toward the end of the movie. Dave follows the advice and the car starts, and Dave and Jude start on the trip that will lead to the two of them to the accident that claimed Radisson’s life.
Martin is present for all of Josh’s lectures, and Martin is moved toward belief in God by them. When he tries to share is faith with his father in China, his father cuts him off continually because he is afraid that they are being monitored. He is convinced that God exists by the end of the lectures and decides to become a Christian because of Josh’s courage and faith.
Mina starts of the movie by visiting her mother in a care facility. She has dementia and is in declining health. Mina calls her brother Mark, a powerful businessman, and begs him to go visit her because she may not have much time. MArk finally goes and vists her toward the end of the movie, and his mother had a moment of clarity and informs him that his lifestyle of sin and looking out for number one is going to trap him when his time on this earth is over. Mina makes a mistake buying a wine bottle for Radisson’s dinner party and speaks out about the existence of God during said party, which causes the majority of the attendees, including Radisson, to verbally berate Mina. She speaks to Dave, and leaves Radisson following Dave’s advice.
Amy is Mark’s girlfriend, a tough reporter who likes the ambush interview tactic. She starts the movie finding out that her car has been burglarized and her GPS has been stolen. After a phone call with her Mark, she makes it to her first appointment of the day, an interview with Willie and Korie Robertson. She tries to get the couple to trip on her questions or contradict each other, but they do not. After a while in the movie, we come back to Amy at the doctor’s office saying that she has cancer. After further testing, she discovers that the cancer is untreatable, and she becomes depressed and angry. After consulting Mark for support, he breaks up with her because it is inconvenient for him to take care of her. She attends to concert to try the same tactics on the Newsboys. They turn the questions on Amy and say that she is there because she is hoping that Christianity will turn out to be true. They pray with Amy and she accepts Jesus as her savior.
I believe that is the majority of the movie covered; now I can give my thoughts. I think this movie as a movie is what the Christian music scene was when it was getting started. It is a very good movie for those who are already believers, but those who do not share our view may not be as avid fans of it as we are. I think the philosophy and apologetics presented here are pretty solid, if not a little basic in places. There are definite character archetypes, but that is just a part of the writing. Some people have probably drawn the parallel between an old story where a student presented an infallible argument to a philosophy professor and that student turned out to be Einstein. I would agree with the majority of this, but there is uniqueness to the movie. The setting could just as easily be the discussion between a believing and non-believing student, but Hollywood must scale up the setting for the sake of appeal. Naturally the conclusions drawn are in the favor of the existence of God, I mean it’s in the title of the movie, but the arguments are presented in a reasonable manner in my opinion. In all of the stories presented here, I think many of us can relate to one or more of these stories, in my case I was moved by the main story as I am a college student and I have seen something like this story, although it was not a professor but simply the sheer number of atheist students that I have met and talked with. If you get a chance to see this movie before it is out of theaters, I would highly recommend it, Christian or not. This movie is unlike any other out there currently, except Son of God, because it is bringing the big questions of life to the big screen and the main stream media. I would hope to see many more movies like this from all sides so that people who are not versed with advanced philosophy may at least see the basics of the schools of thought represented. May God bless you and have a good rest of your day.
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