Don’t misread the title. I did not like God’s Not Dead. Actually, I thought it was awful for a variety of reasons: the terrible theology, the low view of God, the man-centeredness of it, and don’t even get me started on the atrocious acting. One thing you can always count on in Christian movies is that the acting is of the lowest possible caliber, as if there is some law of the universe that Christian movies can’t have actors who can, you know, act.
But there was one thing I liked about the movie. From here I’m going to mercilessly spoil it, so if you haven’t watched it, read on so you don’t have to. John Piper didn’t name the eleventh chapter of Don’t Waste Your Life “Don’t Watch Christian Movies” for no reason.
Our hero Josh, a Christian, who finds himself in a philosophy class taught by an atheist, professor Hercules…I mean, Radisson, played by Kevin Sorbo.
Radisson requires all of his students to sign a statement that God is dead. Josh, of course, says he can’t sign. Radisson responds that Josh then needs to defend the thesis that God’s Not Dead™. Because Ph.Ds in philosophy staging semi-formal debates with freshman college students makes perfect sense. Josh, the gallant young man that he is, takes up the challenge. Hilarity…I mean, logic(?) ensues.
Josh begins his presentation with the blunderingly stupid statement that, while you can’t prove that God exists, you can’t prove that he doesn’t. I’ll leave that to stand by itself.
Josh then makes the equally stupid statement that he is going to act as God’s defense attorney, Radisson will be the prosecutor, and the class will be the jury.
Immediately my “Crummy Apologetics Ahead” warning bell went off. I had just barely become convinced of covenantal apologetics for this very reason: human beings cannot be the judge of God. We often accuse those who engage in the kind of apologetic we see in this movie (known as “classical” or “evidential apologetics”) as putting God on trial and letting the atheist decide if God exists. Those apologists vehemently deny that’s what they’re doing. But here, it’s bluntly stated that that is the entire premise of what follows. Do you, reader, really judge God? Doesn’t he judge you?
Anyway, back to the story. Josh gives the standard arguments for God’s existence. Radisson deftly defeats them with logically dubious arguments that do absolutely nothing to refute them (I’m not joking). Josh, of course, is stumped as to how to answer because the script says he is, and so everything looks bleak. Throughout the movie, it becomes very apparent that Radisson is actually hostile to God; he is not neutral here.
During the final argument, Josh abandons typical debate and demands to know why Radisson hates God. Radisson initially laughs this question off, but Josh pushes the issue until Radisson furiously answers:
“Because he took everything from me!”
Josh asks, “How can you hate someone who doesn’t exist?”
This is the one thing I like about the movie: after his attempts to persuade Radisson that God exists fail, Josh realizes that Radisson already knows God exists and exposes it. He also realizes that Radisson doesn’t just know God exists; he actively hates him. That’s what Paul said in Romans 1: God has made himself known to everyone, and apart from God’s grace, we suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. We all already know God exists; the question is whether we’ll listen to him or reject him. Radisson argues that God doesn’t exist not because he actually believes he doesn’t, but because he doesn’t want him to. And that’s the same for all unbelievers.
Does the movie suddenly take a turn into good theology? Of course not; this is Christian cinema after all. The jury — I mean, class — renders the predictably unified verdict: “God’s Not Dead™!” Radisson, angry, storms out. Despite the one good moment, we’re still presented with the idea that we get to judge God. Wonderful.
Josh is then celebrated as a hero when Willie Robertson shows up on a giant screen at a Newsboys concert and commends him.