God’s Not Dead is supposed to be every Christian’s new favorite movie; depicting the classic scene in which a Christian college freshmen encounters an atheist philosophy professor who wants his students to realize God is dead, to which the freshmen cannot, and then is forced to choose between failing the class or trying to convince the professor and the class that God is not dead.
Needless to say, this movie follows the tradition of many other Christian movies in that the acting is poor, the script is sloppy, and Bible verses are taken out of context. However, 3 weeks since its release, it is still drawing sizeable audiences; our theater was over half full on a cold Sunday afternoon.
So what does this movie have to say? And does it achieve its stated goal?
To answer those questions, I am going to have to issue a ‘spoiler alert’ right now. If you wish to see the movie without knowing what happens, please come back and read the following later.
As I said, the plot is the atheist professor and the Christian freshman, Josh. The freshman is given the last 20 minutes of 2 class periods, and then debates the professor head on in a third class period over the question of whether or not God is dead, i.e. there is no God. The jury is the rest of the class, of about 80 students, all of whom signed a paper on the first day of class, at the professor’s request, that God is dead.
Josh spends most of his time in Genesis 1, arguing from a point of view that many philosophers have argued, in contradiction, to many other philosophers that God created the world. For a freshman, who based on a previous conversation with his girlfriend, is not a super genius; it is surprising that he is able to put together such a presentation and poke holes in arguments so quickly, although the point is made that the professor easily pokes holes in his case.
At the end of the debate in the third class, the entire class, a.k.a. the jury, stand up and say that God is not dead. Josh has won them all to saving faith correct?
Not hardly. This comes after a tense encounter between Josh and the professor, in which the professor declares that he is angry with God because of a childhood experience; hence revealing that even an atheist professor acknowledges God.
On the first day of class the professor makes a distinction between atheists (there is no God) and agnostics (there is a God, but I do not believe in Him). So after the debate, the best one can say is that Josh has taken the class from atheism to agnosticism. There is one exception of a Chinese student, who does come to faith, and for that one may rejoice; but it is important to note, that the rest of the class is still blinded by darkness.
The highlight of the movie actually occurs in a death scene, in which the same professor, agonized by a series of events that has brought him back to thoughts of God is rushing to see a Christian concert in town, and is hit by a car. His chest cavity is crushed and his lungs are filling with blood. He dies shortly after.
By chance, the local pastor is in a different car, gets out, and through a series of questions and Bible verses, lead the professor to a confession of faith. This scene brought to my mind at least the thief on the cross, who in his own dying hour confessed Jesus as Lord and was welcomed into Paradise. The professor to receives eternal life upon making a last minute confession.
The other thing about the death scene is that it is raining; perhaps a reason put forth by the director for the accident, but for the keen eye, a reminder of baptism. Before the awkward scene of the pastor beating Bible verses into the man, there is the reminder that all of our sins are washed away in Baptism, so right before the professor unknowingly dies, there is that reminder of the water of Baptism washing him, cleansing him, making him holy.