I figured I can justify squeezing a post about this movie into this section of my blog because it features a lone Christian student taking on secular academia. Also, the first philosopher in his professor’s parade of atheist champions is Michel Foucault, a dear friend of the English departments since the 1970’s.
Anyway, you will probably read many correct and excellent critiques on other sites of the shortcomings of God’s Not Dead, such as the film’s tendency to demonize atheists and over-dramatize acting. Such critiques are necessary and good, and will hopefully serve to improve the quality of Christian filmmaking for the future. But I’d like to take a minute to point out some of the merits of the film and why Christians should consider supporting it by watching it in theaters.
1. Professor Radisson’s class represents a microcosm of the university as a whole.
Some viewers might think it’s a little extreme to portray an atheist professor so dogmatic in his beliefs that he basically forces all his students to sign a contract agreeing to begin the course with the intellectual premise that God does not exist. But this is actually not that far from what the university is like on a larger scale and in a more implicit manner. At least Dr. Radisson has the honesty to inform his students directly that belief in God will not be tolerated in the classroom; on a real campus, the contractual avowal of the non-existence of God manifests itself in a much more subtle and gradual way. This indoctrination culminates in fourth year (when humanities courses study mostly philosophy, no matter their branch), at which point students are expected to finish the religious and conservative beliefs and values decontamination process.
2. The film gives the viewer a glimpse of the world through the lens of divine order.
Events, including tragedies, have meaning in the Christian worldview. It doesn’t follow that we always understand them (or ever will in this life), especially while they are happening (as the struggles of characters in the film illustrate), but we believe God is sovereign and loves justice and order, and is therefore worthy of our trust. God’s Not Dead portrays the hand of God intertwining and intersecting the lives of characters for the sole purpose of adding to his kingdom those who accept his grace.
3. The script authentically confronts the viewer with the problem of sin.
A truthful portrayal of Christianity cannot shy away from addressing the sinful nature of humans. There is no grace without repentance. However, our society has heard about sin so many times they tend to tune it out like a teacher announcing a grammar lesson. Both may be tiresome to hear about, but that doesn’t negate their truthfulness. Sometimes a teacher needs to shake things up and explain a dry concept in a new light, and I feel this is what God’s Not Dead achieves with the thought-provoking “Sin is like a comfortable jail cell” conversation. Nobody said sin didn’t feel or look good – but Christianity is about digging deeper than appearances and feelings.
4. Christians need to support Christian filmmaking.
Want to see better Christian movies in the future? Support this movie by buying a movie ticket and sending the message that there IS a market for Christian films. Show Hollywood and secular culture in general that they got it wrong about the non-existence of this, too.
5. Christians need to support Christian filmmakers.
Put your money toward Christian directors, rather than Darren Aronofsky. We want films about Christianity and the Bible in the hands of Christian filmmakers – not non-believers – who we can trust to accurately portray the message of Christianity. If we want to see more films in the future true to the gospel message and the Scriptures in general, then we need to encourage up-and-coming Christian filmmakers that the financial risk of making a Christian film will see its reward.