...shining light on the media, one review at a time
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem that inspired the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Yet, to a growing number of modern people, the pain of life, the prevalence of belief in Evolutionary Theory, and other factors combine to lead them to the conclusion that God is indeed dead or, rather, that He never existed at all.
Instead of running from this debate as many might expect, the Christian film company Pure Flix takes this argument head-on in the film, God’s Not Dead. The result is an inspiring, uplifting film that will transform minds and embolden hearts with the Gospel.
On his first day of classes, college freshman Josh Wheaten is about to discover what many Christian students encounter when they attend college—academic opposition to their faith. Josh has no idea what he’s in for until his Philosophy 150 instructor, Professor Radisson, requires all his students to sign a written statement that proclaims, “God is dead.”
As a Christian, Josh cannot abide signing such a statement, even though Radisson threatens him with repercussions during the class if Josh refuses. When Josh doesn’t budge, Radisson informs Josh that he will be required to prove the existence of God in presentations to the entire class. Josh negotiates to ensure that his classmates, and not Radisson, will be the final judges of Josh’s success in his arguments.
Thus, Josh launches into his college experience on dangerous ground. Radisson is not a professor to be trifled with, as Josh soon finds out, nor is his task to prove the existence of God to a disbelieving audience an easy one. The job in front of Josh is made all the harder when his family and his steady girlfriend oppose his conviction that he needs to stand for Christ in the classroom.
With Scripture guiding him to forge ahead, Josh tries his best to defend his faith despite worsening, long-term consequences. His efforts, however, bring him into contact with other students—an unbeliever searching for the truth, a Christian who has fallen away, and a Muslim convert who must hide her faith. In the end, Josh’s effort to declare the truth about God to his class will have far greater importance and impact than he could ever imagine.
While Josh’s story of proving the existence of God to his classmates is the central one of the film, this well-written screenplay follows the thread of its core theme through several other compelling stories that feature the lives of other characters. In each of these supporting tales, the characters are round and developed, each a realistic representation of vastly different people and circumstances. The interconnectedness of these authentic individuals adds a high degree of complexity and reality not always seen in productions that attempt to tell so many stories at once.
The key to success in this case is the overarching theme that ties these tales and characters together. The idea that God is not dead, but rather alive, active, and in control becomes the thesis for the entire film, seeping into every nuance of the compelling stories that eventually intertwine to be revealed as one larger tale—that of a loving God Who lives and “is good all the time.”
Equally saturated with Scripture and intelligent Christian thought, God’s Not Dead makes a convincing case for the existence of God, but also accurately depicts the world of believers and nonbelievers in which He works. In this film, Christians are not perfect just as nonbelievers are not all antagonists.
In fact, the most problematic element in the remarkably clean picture comes in the case of a Christian woman who is apparently intimate with her boyfriend. She wonders eventually if she is “unequally yoked” to her atheist boyfriend, but, while her sexual sin is not condoned, nor is it appropriately addressed and condemned.
The rest of the film, however, does a better job of clearly showing the difference between Christians and non-Christians, right and wrong according to Scripture, and the truth that confident Christians are ready and willing to express when put on the spot. There are a couple of theological missteps, but these mistakes ultimately do not outweigh the accurate spiritual messages of the film.
Because these messages include a focus on persecution, with a small amount of physical, domestic violence shown, this movie is best for older audiences of teens and adults. Christian teens, in particular, should absolutely see this film in order to become equipped and inspired to face the disbelieving world, especially as they go off to college and adult life. God’s Not Dead would also work well as an evangelistic tool for nonbelieving teens and college students.
Duck Dynasty fans will be thrilled to see Willie Robertson make more than one appearance in the film, while Christian music lovers will be equally excited over the Newsboys' inclusion in the picture.
Whatever your age or situation, God’s Not Dead will make you think, touch your heart, and give you hope. As Longfellow wrote, “The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,” because God is indeed not dead.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 3:14-16