By Joel Hess –
Well I did it. I paid good money to sit with strangers, eat overpriced junk food and watch an after school special film on a screen not much bigger than some self-indulgent American’s home theater. I saw the movie ‘God is not dead.’ Ooops, I’m sorry. ‘God’s not dead.’
Just like Noah, the movie’s subject matter is definitely worthy fodder for a fantastic film. The notes at the end of the film document the sundry cases of Christians being bullied by many almost fascist closed minded mid-level intellectuals populating our far too many colleges and universities. If you were a fan of the inquisition (see Monty Python) then you will love its latest evolution taking place on a campus near you.
As expected the characters were not given much depth, perhaps because there were so many subplots. The bad guys were too drastic and unbelievable; though I am sure you could find a few examples of such extreme behavior. For example the evil businessman after learning over dinner that his girlfriend has cancer coldly retorts something like, ‘how could you ruin our good thing. It’s over.’ Seriously, that was the length of the conversation. The evil professor tells all his freshmen students to write, ‘God is dead’ at the beginning of the term or he will fail them. All the students write it and sign their name without thinking, except for one. Hmmm the plot thickens. The girlfriend of the hero for some inexplicable reason tells her boyfriend of 6 years she does not want him to argue with his professor or it’s over. Who does that? Also, If my daughter dated a guy for 6 years I would make him write ‘I’m dead’ on his forehead. And of course there is the hip (well, hip in 1993) pastor who counsels the hero and his trusty tonto missionary friend who keeps saying ‘God is good all the time.’
Certainly the general spirit of these evil characters is evident in our everyday world, but not so acutely. By presenting the enemies of Christianity in this black and white manner, they are rendered unbelievable. Therefore if you are one of these characters in real life, you would not see yourself in them. I suppose the producer’s goal was to get a rise out of a crowd happy to throw stones at effigies and pat each other on the back.
The main evil dude, professor of philosophy, makes his case that God is dead, by telling the class that all major philosophers and scientists have concluded the same, therefore why talk about it. At first I thought this seemed ridiculous, but on second thought I would suggest that is in fact the basis of many average individual’s belief in no god.
The audience enjoys a little debate between student and sensei that calls in to question the certainty of science which has regularly changed its position over the years. This conversation deserves a lot more time that what was allotted, but you would lose the tweeners. I was actually amazed that the professor quoted a very recent proposition by Stephen Hawking who just a couple years ago suggested that the big bang could have begun for no apparent reason.
For those who are not deeply familiar with the debate of God’s existence or even His requirement to exist, these arguments may work. But for those who truly study the arguments neither side presented a concluding case.
Probably the best argument of the hero was when he called in to question the professor’s use of morality; good and evil. If there is no God who cares about cheating on tests, etc.
Yet with all the proofs of God, the resurrection was never mentioned! An event that is proven historically more than many historical events we take for granted.
I for one listen to people who were dead for three days.
Of course our hero wins in the end by getting the professor to admit that he hates God and he all too smugly concludes before the class – you can’t hate something you don’t believe exists. Cue mega church nerds applauding. I was eating peanut m&m’s which I snuck in my hoodie pocket and texting on my phone. Sorry, but if there is in fact no God, I sure the hell am not going to abide by a small town theaters oppressive fiats!
There was one character conspicuously absent from the film. God!
Well, Jesus! And there was one main ingredient to the plot that didn’t survive editing – the Gospel.
When the cornered student asked his pastor for help, the pastor basically told him, if you don’t confess Jesus before men, than He won’t confess you before His father. Hey thanks for the pressure. Also, the hero dude repeatedly told his girlfriend that he was defending God because someone had to. Really! God needs someone to defend Him? Was that the goal of the apostles? Is that what Jesus said after He rose from the dead – Go and defend me, prove I exist and get people to believe in me!
Sounds more like Islam.
The God painted in this motion picture was the typical mega church protestant God of power, might, creation and the big plan for everyone. The good news of God was that he has a plan! Or … He gave everyone the free will to choose Him. Where is that in the bible? Ughhhhhh
There was NO talk of forgiveness and mercy. There was no GIVING at all. You got to ask for it. You know just like Christmas! Remember how your parents didn’t give you your presents unless you asked them into your heart?
During one crucial moment of conversion in the film – a moment that could have been so beautiful! it was more like a CIA torture scene. Do you believe in Jesus! Do you believe in Jesus! If you believe in Jesus you will go to heaven or else….. yeah, that’s the Good News! Give praise to Allah or I’ll smack you. Ok, I know I am probably really making some people mad now.
The makers of this film wanted the audience to glorify God because he is creator, because he is the guy with the big plan, because he is simply God. Bow down before him and then he won’t hit you.
Jesus says in John, chapter 12 – “now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He isn’t talking about creation, miracles, or a big cool plan for everyone. He speaks of His gruesome, ridiculous, humiliating and stupid death on the cross. That is the glory of God! That’s what God brags about!
Jesus further says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
The glory of God is the cross of Christ, where He died for people, like the atheist professor, whether they want it, deserve it, choose it, or not. And we don’t on all accounts.
“When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself!” This is the centerpiece of God – it is his shining engagement ring! The cross, the inexplicable ridiculous unfathomable love of God for wacked out, jacked up, cursing spitting sinners.
And God doesn’t hold it over our head waiting for us to ask for it like some sadomasochistic parent. He gives it! Freely, gently, repeatedly.
I meet the day each morning not because God made everything and He has a plan for me – but because God died for me and rose again!
I believe in God not because I have been awed by his majesty and convinced by his arguments, but because He has drawn me, a poor miserable sinner, to Him through the act of His Son at Calvary.