God's Not Dead was one of the "Christian" movies this year. It's about a young man whose atheist professor begins every freshman philosophy class by having the students sign a declaration that God is Dead. Josh (Shane Harper) refuses to sign the paper, and finds himself having to argue before his classmates that God's not dead. The consequences change his own life and the lives of others. Given the name of the movie, it will come as no surprise who wins the debate. After considerable reflection, I give this movie a thumbs down.
- For a Christian who doesn’t see the need to reject evolution in order to ague for God's existence.
- For the portrayal that faith can withstand college-level scrutiny.
- For the idea that Christians have to be willing to stand up, take risks, and defend our belief in God.
- For portraying Christianity as something cool. We forget how many consistently negative images of Christianity are presented to us through the media. People learn at an early age that being Christian is the sort of thing you don't talk about; it's just "not cool." False.
- All the non-Christians in this movie are basically terrible people.
- Josh never doubts his own belief in God. The portrayal is that once you become a Christian, you're content and happy in your beliefs. This isn't like any Christianity I've experienced.
- Josh never struggles to explain himself and makes defending Christianity look easy.
- There are no atheists in the movie. It turns out the professor really just hates God.
The professor is convinced that belief in God is irrational. Like fairies and a flat earth, it was a useful idea once but has now been disproved. In fact, God's existence is such an unreasonable concept that you can't start doing philosophy until you've rejected it. This position is too extreme to defend. Lots of reasonable people believe in God, including many famous scientists and philosophers. Josh has an easy time proving him wrong. But the movie goes too far. The movie actually makes the case that NOT being a Christian is unreasonable. The atheist is unreasonable and so is a Muslim family (who accept God but are not Christians). The only reasonable position, according to our director, is to be Christian. This is too strong to defend; it only works in a made-up movie world. It also opens the director up to all kinds of reasonable criticism from reasonable people.
I'd like to see more movies with the same "Thumbs Up" as this one, but I can't recommend this particular movie. The Christian worldview gives us a unique insight into the human condition. Christian movies should be more creative, artistic, and compelling than other movies. This one is not.
I once visited visited an abandoned church where vandals had spray painted in bright red on the sanctuary wall: GOD IS DEAD. Someone else had come along and spray painted over the last word. The resulting two words left you wondering how to finish the sentence; they were also a profound theological statement. Good art is less about adding a NOT, and more about leaving the audience to ponder.