God’s Not Dead. Declare it from the rooftops, the mountaintops, the podium.
The truth of this statement is undeniable, both in the religious and secular worlds. In Christianity, we know that God is very much alive—Jesus rose from the grave on the third day is seated at the right hand of the father in heaven. In addition, a plethora of biblical movies have been released this year, indicating that a multitude of people, religious or not, are thinking about and asking questions about God.
However, the questionable biblical accuracy of these movies (or lack thereof) is causing people to ask this question: Is it better to reach people initially and correct inaccuracies later, or is it better to not share this watered-down version of the Bible at all?
“God’s Not Dead” primarily follows the trial of college freshman Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper). Josh, a Christian, enrolls in an Intro to Philosophy class taught by the arrogant Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), a devout atheist whose primary goal in life is to make his students despise God as much as he does personally. Radisson requires all his students to basically forfeit their souls, as they sign a document stating, “God is dead.”
To begin, this is an unrealistic, extreme depiction of something happening in reality all across America. There is religious discrimination in colleges across the U.S., and numerous court cases dealing with this issue are listed during the end credits of “God’s Not Dead.” However, it’s highly unlikely that no one besides Josh would hesitate when signing the document, after hearing the professor’s blatant statements (calling God a “primitive superstition”), or witnessing the demand that Josh must “put God on trial” in front of the entire classroom, potentially producing imminent failure.
Josh decides to take on the professor’s challenge, despite a lack of support from the people he cares most about, and fights for God in a compelling and convicting argument about his existence and relevance. He uses both scripture and reason to intelligently combat the professor’s condescension, and both the students and the audience are consistently convinced that God is not dead.
There are only two complaints I have about the debate portion of the movie. First, more time should have been spent within the four walls of the classroom. Josh’s argument is convincing and could be useful for Christians watching the film, providing intelligent evidence of the Creator. Instead, the majority of the screen time is spent on more dramatic, “Hollywood-ized” stories outside of the classroom, and the audience misses out on a good portion of solid dialogue pointing to God.
Secondly, in all but the last five minutes of the film, God is talked about but never talked to. God is discussed, but not present. Josh consults pastors, reads evangelical books, talks to people in the classroom, and researches immensely, all of which is shown on screen. Not once is Josh shown praying. Not once does Josh ask God for wisdom and discernment as he embarks on this treacherous journey, which is the most important part of doing anything in the name of the Lord.
“God’s Not Dead” follows additional storylines, in which the several different protagonists are dealing with trials of many kinds, from cancer, to discontentment, to exile. We discover throughout the film that all of these storylines intertwine, and all of the characters are connected in some way.
Prayer is all but nonexistent in these rabbit trails as well, up until the end of the movie when the Newsboys (who make an appearance along with Willie Robertson from “Duck Dynasty”) pray over one of the characters facing cancer. Another final scene includes a pastor praying with one of the characters for salvation.
These additional characters are also depicted as extremely black-and-white in morality—in general, the Christians are the “good people,” and the non-Christians are selfish, conceited, demanding, haughty, and abusive.
Yes, the film was motivational. Yes, the film probably ignited conversations about Christianity. Yes, the film was a tearjerker.
No, the film doesn’t get a five star rating.
God’s not dead. But, “God’s Not Dead” loses some of the message in the drama and the misinterpretation of the Bible. My recommendation is to go into the experience with your guard up, your thinking caps on, and, most importantly, prayer for discernment.