I’m trying to remember how I came across this. I probably saw the book in Amazon’s Kindle offerings, and that led me to the movie, available on Amazon Prime Video. It’s God’s Not Dead from 2014, released by Pure Flix Entertainment. Up front you’re going to know this is a religious (Christian) recruitment piece, so a lot of what follows will now make sense. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.
Shane Harper stars as Josh Wheaton, a religious and naive freshman student enrolling at (apparently) a Florida college. Josh meets trouble immediately when the student reviewing his class schedule spots Josh’s Christian cross pendant. Is Josh sure he wants to take Professor Jeffery Radisson’s (Kevin Sorbo) Philosophy 150 class? Josh says he’s sure, else there would not be much of a movie.
We have all had Professor Radisson at least once in our academic career. An opinionated prick. Of course he has to be an opinionated prick, because he’s an atheist, and he and Josh are going to clash.
This movie has multiple, parallel plots. About the same time, Amy Ryan (Trisha LaFache) goes out on assignment to do an ambush interview with Willie Robertson, played by the real Willie Robertson. That’s Willie’s stunning wife, Korie Robertson, also portraying herself. It is not specified that Amy is an atheist, but she definitely is a liberal, which to many translates to being an atheist. Anyhow, Amy plunges into asking Willie stereotypically challenging liberal questions. How does Willie feel about being complicit in the murder of all those poor ducks? This plot line has a definite problem with a low level of sophistication.
Another character, possibly a student, possibly not—she works in the student cafeteria—is Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu), obviously Muslim. Her father, Misrab (Marco Khan) forces her to keep her face covered while in public. When her father is not around, Ayisha removes her head covering. She’s a closet Christian.
Josh runs afoul of Professor Radisson when Radisson requires all students to renounce God in writing before continuing his class. Else they will lose 30% of the total course grade. Instead, Josh accepts Radisson’s challenge to prove the existence of God. Here we see Josh at the second class period, showing material from reputable scientists to make his argument.
All this runs Josh into a load of trouble with his comely girlfriend, Kara (Cassidy Gifford). Her priority is advancing Josh toward an ultimate law degree, and forget about holding to his convictions. They go their separate ways.
Oops! Self-absorbed Amy is told she has cancer. Then she’s told it’s incurable. She’s going to die.
Josh defeats Professor Radisson in the clash of wills. Amy finds comfort from Christian musicians performing at a Christian confab at an arena called The Hastings Center. Professor Radisson’s girlfriend, Mina (Cory Oliver), dumps him, because he’s such a jerk. Ayisha’s father throws Ayisha (literally) out of the house when he discovers she’s a Christian. Ayisha hooks up with the newly liberated Josh at the confab. Professor Radisson sees the light, and rushes to the confab to make amends with Mina, but on the way he is struck by a hit and run driver. As he lies dying in the street (Hemingway-esque in the rain) he is blessed by an out of town preacher and dies in peace.
And I have passed by various parallel plot lines. What earns this its place as Bad Movie of the Week is that it’s not really a story, but a two-hour commercial. It’s a propaganda piece. Other than that, it has some stuff going for it:
- Front tier acting
- Realistic dialog
- Excellent direction and cinematography (digital video I’m guessing)
The movie is an argument for the existence of God. It fails in that respect; however a true Christian will be convinced. It’s worth while to pick apart some of the arguments presented, particularly by Josh.
Josh has 20 minutes in each of three class periods to convince classmates—the jury—that God exists. He goes about it step-wise. He puts up the scientific findings of modern cosmology—the so-called Big Bang theory. Without dicing his pitch too finely, he compares this to the story in Genesis. Then, to many it would seem, he waves his hands and assures his audience that the creation story in Genesis matches modern scientific findings regarding the origin of the Universe. There are a number of things wrong with this approach, and I will unravel two of them.
First, the creation story in Genesis does not jibe with modern cosmology. Genesis has the Universe being created about 6000 years ago. Science puts the origins at two million times that. Further, Genesis is self-contradictory. Please read the creation story in Genesis. In fact, read both of them. They are decidedly divergent.
Second, Josh wants to prove God exists, and he thinks that by validating Genesis he has accomplished this. In fact, what Josh wants to prove is not that God—the god of Abraham—exists, but that Jesus exists (existed). It’s not the same. Validating the Genesis creation story only gets you up to the level of the Jews. And the Muslims. Nowhere in all of this is Jesus validated.
I’m not a philosophy student, but I spotted the moment when Josh won his case before the jury. He got Professor Radisson to admit he hates God. That’s it. Game over. The point was the existence of God, and by admitting he hates God, Radisson admitted the existence of God. Everything after that is fluff.
Professor Jeffry Radisson is the caricature of the evil, atheist, college philosophy professor. We’ve seen him before in the story about a Marine veteran in his class who stomps his ass when he insults God and country. The obscene use of caricatures is a part of what sinks this production. I know a crowd of atheists, and none resemble the ones portrayed in this movie.
Additionally, the movie depicts a Muslim father disowning his beloved daughter when he discovers she is an apostate. This is realistic. In some regions of the world children and siblings are killed when they attempt to leave the faith. In the United States, as in much of the Muslim world, this not allowed. The truth is that in the United States it is typical that an evangelistic family will disown an apostate child and will shun atheistic friends and relatives. Writers Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon seem to think that Muslims worship a different god. Sadly, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the God of Abraham. Christians add an extra layer and worship Jesus. Muslims hold special reverence for Mohamed. I once talked to some Mormon missionaries, and reminded them they have added yet another layer, making their sell even more problematic.
Coming up on Christmas day this year is a review of Saving Christmas, featuring Kirk Cameron and yet another feature length commercial for Christianity. It makes me wonder. If God is all powerful, why is it necessary to advertise? We may never know.
I wrote this a few weeks ago. Now I’m reviewing it right before it gets posted. It is beyond my powers of expression to relate how ridiculous this movie is compared to the real world. There’s a sequel, and I promise to post a review unless $100 million in unmarked bills shows up on my doorstep by Friday next week.