Is God's Not Dead a movie worth seeing?
The acting wasn't that great. I mean, there were one or two who could make it as Hallmark movie actors; but other than that it was pretty terrible. The characters were mostly absurd caricatures. From the "feel-good" aspect, there were various sub-stories within the film that they tried to bring together for a big "Awe..." moment. But the characters were so flat that it doesn't really make you feel anything, other than the wonderment of why you watched this film in the first place.
The film was way over dramatic at points (many points), appealed drastically more to feelings than to reason (pretty annoying given that the thrust of the movie was supposed to be rational debate in a philosophy class), and very weak even in its evangelistic moments.
My prediction (and observations so far from the internet stream), is that the movie will be greatly welcomed from people who are already Christians and are excited to see another "Christian film" hit the big screen (regardless of how valuable it really is). But I doubt many (really if any at all) non-Christians will be converted from this film - either from an apologetic standpoint or an evangelical standpoint.
Let me explain...
When talking to his girlfriend about why he should go through with the "debate"(1) about God's existence, the main character Josh Wheaton quotes C.S. Lewis as saying something about faith and fear (I couldn't really catch it). But then in his first presentation to the class, he emphatically states that God is on trial, the atheist professor is the prosecutor, he (Josh) is the defending attorney, and the class of students [pays no regard to the fact that it's a rebellious, sinful, fallen class] is the jury.
So...Josh is familiar enough with C.S. Lewis to give some obscure quote about faith and fear, but has no idea about one of Lewis' most famous statements concerning Christian apologetics:
The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. ... The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.(2)
This statement of Lewis wasn't an approval of the situation. In his essay he showed various ways he could think of to put man back in the dock - but apparently Josh had not read that part of Lewis' work.(3) And he actually considers himself called by God to "defend God" (apparently because God can't defend Himself..?)
Let me just make this clear: the Scriptures call us to be ready to give a defense for a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15). It does not call us to "defend" God as if he needed an attorney. The Bible always assumes His existence (Prv. 1:7; Ps. 14:1) and always proclaims not that He is defendant, but that He is Judge (Ps. 50:6, 75:7; Isa. 33:22).
As for what Josh goes on to say, he basically assents to big-bang cosmology (only that God created the big bang) and theistic evolution. While I realize these are debated among Christians themselves, I personally think neither have a leg to stand on when basing our beliefs on the authority of God's Word.
Josh Wheaton, however, does not base his arguments on God's Word but on "neutral" reason (as if there is such a thing - Rom. 1:18-22, 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 1:20, 2:14; Eph. 4:17-19; cf. Mt. 12:30). So it's no wonder that his professor (and any thinking atheist in the movie audience) are not convinced by his arguments.
His third and final presentation that gets vamped up to a debate touches a little on the problem of evil but is not nearly as convincing as it could have been. His main argument is that God gave us free-will. Of course, the fact that apart from the work of the Spirit we're free in a fallen, sinful state, meaning we're free to sin but not free by our own will to choose God (Eph. 2:1) is completely left out. But even leaving that out, free-will doesn't answer the problem of an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God who allows evil.
A better argument is eventually raised - well, kind of but not really.
The intellectual argument not really stated is that without presupposing God, the atheist himself cannot bring the charge of evil. In the movie, Josh gets the professor to admit he "hates God" for taking away his mom at such an early age, to which Josh replies, "you can't hate what doesn't exist."
Yeah, it's an attempt - but again - high on the emotional side and low on the rational side.(4)
The apologetics just aren't that impressive. Sure they might be somewhat encouraging to those who are already Christians and haven't really thought through the ramification of these types of arguments. But they're not going to be convincing in the slightest to a tough-minded non-Christian thinker. And despite what many are saying about how good this movie will be for Christian high school graduates about to enter college, if they think this movie is really going to give them a solid foundation for defending the faith,they will most unfortunately be in for a very rude awakening.
I highly suggest the Basic Training Series: Defending the Faith by Greg Bahnsen instead! Those movies will actually (and definitely) prepare the high school graduate with credible, Biblical foundations for defending the faith in an anti-Christian environment.
But back to the movie review...
You get a lot of slogans. (ex. "God is good, all the time; All the time, God is good). But sin is not really mentioned that much in the film. Accepting Jesus Christ as one's personal Savior and Lord is mentioned, but nothing really meaty like - repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Mk. 1:15 - i.e. what it actually means to accept Jesus Christ as one's personal Savior and Lord).
Following in the lines of the problem C.S. Lewis described with modern man, you will not seek a doctor if you don't know that you're sick.
Sin is the major problem for all of us (not someone we love being taken away, physical illness, family discord or persecution, which are all legitimate problems to be sure, but our own personal sin is far greater). But sin is never really acknowledged as the main problem in people's lives. So in that regard, I'm just not sure how the good news of what Christ has done on behalf of sinners who put their trust in Him is really proclaimed in this movie. And so it's really not that evangelistic...
There are certainly better and lengthier reviews out there:
Creation Ministries International
Answers in Genesis
But this was my two-cents worth...
(1) It's referred to as a "debate" loosely here. In the original challenge of the professor, the main character Josh Wheaton was given permission to abstain from signing his name to a confession of "God is dead" by being given three 20-minute lectures to the class to try to prove that God is not dead.
Only by the third presentation does the professor actually change it up and have a somewhat open "debate" about the existence of God.
(2) See, Lewis, C.S., God in the Dock, 1970: Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 244.
(3) Speaking of what Josh did read. Based on the number of books he was checking out of the library (and I'm sure a state university would really have such a vast selection on Christian apologetics), and the number of books he was always seen reading, it is truly unbelievable that he would be able to get through even a third of those books in the amount of time he supposedly had.
The "debate" was to take place over the "next three classes" from the beginning class of the semester. So even if the class only met once a week (which isn't very likely), that was still just way too much reading for him to be able to get through, let alone summarize what he had learned from it, formulate a presentation, and on top of all that use all those fancy special effects in whatever presentation software he was using...
(4) Of course, this is true. And it's true of all atheists and all non-Christians. In their heart of hearts they know God exists but they do hate Him and rebel against him because of their sinful natures and desires (Rom. 1:18ff).
I'm a sinner saved by God's amazing grace through the the precious blood of Jesus Christ and the glorious quickening of the Holy Spirit.
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