God’s Not Dead

God’s Not Dead

(M) Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper

American college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Sorbo) in the Christian film released in cinemas today — God’s Not Dead.

When Radission decides, rather poorly, that rather than entertain the nature of a God, that students sign a piece of paper stating “God is Dead” or fail his class, Josh finds himself at a crossroads and choosing between what he believes in and his future as a law student.

Josh refuses to sign the paper, so Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that “God Is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class.

Perhaps the most alarming part of this film is that while the set up may seem totally incredulous, it is based on actual legal cases (some 100 or so listed in the credits) whereby university students were condemned for their faith and took institutions to court to defend their rights. The film even promotes a service to students called Alliance Defending Freedom that supports and acts for students in these cases.

It is also possibly the only film you will ever see to list an Apologetics Researcher in the opening credits, which was obviously seen as essential in the debate that ensues throughout the film between student and professor.

Having said this, the film is very heavy handed in its approach and lacking in grace for many of its characters. Professor Radisson is a good example of the one-note characters in the film. He is portrayed as a hateful bully, both in his personal life and to those in his classes. All he seems to lack are the horns and glowing red eyes.

While the arguments for and against throughout the film are interesting, some of its other characters – the pastor who questions his calling, the Muslim woman who has become a Christian, the unevenly yoked young woman, the blogger who discovers she has Cancer and her mysoginist boyfriend  – seem designed more as plot devices, rather than actual people.  All the characters storylines intersect rather clumsily at different stages throughout the film.

The less said about some of the stereotypes portrayed in the film the better, along with its glib denuement.

Intellectual thought would suggest that debating whether or not one believes in God is healthy thing to be doing as it helps one grow in faith understanding and worldview, however demonising atheists is perhaps not the best way to examine this subject.

There is plenty of other material at the moment that is saying more interesting things about the nature of God and our place in the universe. The HBO program The Leftovers is a prime example.

I found this film both troubling and interesting. Interesting because it did very well when it was released over the Easter period in the US, and some of the apologetics in the film I would hope move Christians to discuss further the arguments put forward. Troubling, because of what it says about the treatment of those who have differing opinions from our own.

Adrian Drayton

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