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God's Not Dead (2014)

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Andrew   

I couldn't help thinking of the cheesy 1990s Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson film, blending both resurrection theology and Nietzsche:  God's Not Dead Again.

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we had some good fun coming up with god's not dead sequel titles based on Newsboys songs. I think my wife won.

God's Not Dead: Woohoo

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“... Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) is supposed to be an intellectual giant of sorts, yet his heckling rebuttals of Josh’s carefully considered arguments involve cherry picking pull quotes from Stephen Hawking and listing famous atheists ... It is, of course, not enough that our professor be an academic bully. There is a side story about him pursuing and eventually marrying one of his former students, to show he’s unprofessional and a hypocrite to boot. He’s also a misogynist control freak, humiliating her in front of colleagues and dinner guests and directing her about what topics she is and isn’t allowed to speak about in his presence ... Late in the film it is revealed that Professor Radisson’s atheism was born more out of personal suffering than intellectual reasoning. I’ve certainly met an atheist or two who was more angry at God than generally dubious of His existence, but in a film about arguments, this seemed like card stacking of the worst kind ...

“... The atheist must not just be answered, he must be annihilated. This suggests to me that the film is doing the cultural work of promoting tribalism more so than bolstering the faith ...”

Kenneth's review, along with that trailer, seals this film for me. I fail to see how portraying the atheist professor in this way is anything but intellectually dishonest.  It cheapens real dialogue, using tactics that according to even elementary classical rhetoric standards is ... morally abhorrent.

 

Knowing that this film was made by Christians, wouldn't any of us be embarrassed to have any nonbeliever see this?  In my opinion, this film is receiving far too much attention.  Any attention it receives should be only be serving as Exhibit A for precisely the sort of dishonesty and hypocrisy that we ought at least to try to rid ourselves of.

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My church ended up buying 500 tickets to this, so that our local theater would bring it to town, and the church could use it as a witnessing opportunity.

The day after seeing it my pastor stood in front of the congregation and said "it might seem like the atheists were not very well portrayed, but the film is accurate, most atheists are like that."

My wife also has been dealing with some "peer pressure" about seeing it, and not knowing how to respond because she agrees with me that it's not a good story.

 

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‘God’s Not Dead’s’ David A.R. White: From Mennonite to the movies

How did the son a of Mennonite pastor and small town Kansas boy grow up to star in successful movies and TV shows and run his own production company? By “following the Lord in obedience in whatever [he] does.”

“God’s Not Dead” star and producer David A.R. White was raised Mennonite, a sect of Christianity that he says, “makes Mormons look like a pack of Hell’s Angels.” . . .

Fox News, March 26

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A former colleague and pastor of mine who was overall much higher on the film than I was, did have one problem:
 

Another point along the same line.  I've been teaching college freshmen for thirty years, and I've been teaching apologetics for many of those years.  I simply do not believe that even a senior who was not an apologetics nerd beforehand and who is thrust into the arena suddenly and unexpectedly by an impulsive act of integrity (all true of this character) could have given such high quality presentations.  And if there is a freshman capable of doing it, I've never met him or her yet.  Not even close.  In order to make the apologetics itself believable to an audience not already disposed to agree with it, you have to make the background story that presents it believable.  And here the writers allowed themselves to cheat a little in my opinion.

 

 

It's interesting that this particular aspect didn't bother me I've known some sharp, capable students, and his arguments here are all summary/synthesis here, not critical thinking of his own. There's even a part of me that says there is Biblical precedent for the notion of someone being supernaturally helped in their choice of words in a tight situation. But it's interesting to me that both me and my former colleague, one down on the film, one up on it, both see it as "cheat[ing]" (his word) or card stacking (mine). 

I also think that David/Goliath quality, that the atheist must not only be defeated but done so by a novice/amateur speaks to the fantasy/wish-fulfillment aspects that are one quality of evangelical pornography. (I know a lot of people don't like that term, but I find it useful as a phrase that synthesizes many qualities that I discuss here).  I did not think God's Not Dead evangelically pornographic, though I thought it flirted with it at times. But I'm rethinking that in part because a discussion I had not too long ago about Left Behind made me wonder if the EP label ultimately has more to do with the uses the target audience makes of a work rather than that which the author/participants intend. 

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Ken, take a look at your review in a Chrome browser. Maybe it's just me, but the text of the review doesn't show up.

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Ken, take a look at your review in a Chrome browser. Maybe it's just me, but the text of the review doesn't show up.

Chrome/phone has been being buggy for me, particularly with that review. May be a wordpress issue. May have to clear cache or load in different browser. I was having that issue last night and am looking into it.

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By the way, I linked to your review on FB, and it has triggered an impassioned defense of the film from some fellow I don't know. I'm not qualified to respond, as I haven't seen it. But it'd be great if you did!

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I mentioned to Jeff that I prefer not to engage people at other people's sites because I think it's kind of bad manners in a way. Plus I think it's healthy for people to have pockets of space away from the other to vet their ideas/responses without the author interjecting. 

 

That's one reason my relationship to this site has always been so...difficult. It blurs the compartmentalization between public/private, personal/professional that I strive hard to maintain. But that's the Internet, isn't it? Anyway, thanks for linking to and promoting my work. 

I'll also add that while responses to this film have been more passionate than I anticipated (I think because of the subject rather than the art object), I don't think I've seen anything directed at me personally for this, Son of God Review or even Grace Unplugged that crossed over from characterizing the REVIEW to characterizing me in the same manner that some of the Noah discussion has gone. For that I'm grateful.

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one of the sites I write reviews for published a positive one. I don't think I can see it myself personally, cause I know I won't like it, and I don't think it's fair to review a movie you went into with preconceived negative bias.

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As of today, this film is only a couple million bucks away from passing Courageous to be the top grossing film made by and for evangelicals ever. And it's only been out for 17 days.

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Andrew   

This film is drumming up a fair bit of discussion in my part of the country, where it's being widely touted as a terrific movie.  And when I took my kids to see Grand Budapest Hotel yesterday afternoon, there was at least one church bus in the cinema parking lot.  Sometimes I hate living in East Tennessee.

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Ken, take a look at your review in a Chrome browser. Maybe it's just me, but the text of the review doesn't show up.

 

Wordpress issue. It may be the Google Fonts plug in which I took out. May be something else. I don't know. I did some research and apparently this is an ongoing issue with Chrome that many experience.

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bloop   

Realistically, they could have been there to see "Noah". I doubt it, but the possibility is there. Our church youth group took a trip to see "Noah" after service last Sunday.

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So is A MATTER OF FAITH one of the so-called sequels/franchisees? Summary from a Christian review site is pretty up front about the cultural work being done:
 

A Matter of Faith
Tagline: When worldviews collide, sometimes it becomes… a matter of faith.
 
Open: September 26, 2014
Five and Two Pictures—Produced by Rich Christiano
 
more »
This film deals with the vital subject of Creation versus Evolution. Briefly, our movie is about a Christian girl named Rachel (Jordan Trovillion) who goes off to college for her freshman year and begins to be influenced by her popular Biology Professor Kaman (Harry Anderson) who teaches that evolution is the answer to the origins of life. When Rachel's father (Jay Pickett) suspects something happening with his daughter as she returns home for a visit from college, he begins to examine the situation. What he discovers completely catches him off guard, and becoming very concerned about his daughter drifting away from the faith, he tries to do something about it!
 
One of a parent's greatest fear is their child, being raised in a Christian home, straying from the foundation of their faith once they enter college, especially a secular university. This movie deals with that subject, plus other important issues regarding the Christian life. We believe this can be the most far reaching film we have ever produced. The story will set the table for the viewer to make a choice between evolution and creation, and more importantly, presents a heartfelt appeal to receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Andrew   

Because nothing draws an audience like a combative false dichotomy, such as science vs. religion.  In truth, the best U.S. studies show that approx. 42% of Americans are creationists, 42% are theistic evolutionists, and the rest are atheistic evolutionists or undecided. 

 

Probably the best response I can muster actually comes from Kenneth Miller, author of a widely used college biology text and a Christian believer (Roman Catholic, to be specific), who was one of the key plaintiffs' witnesses in Kitzmiller vs. Dover.  During the court hearing, he stated, "As a person of faith who was blessed with two daughters, who raised both of my daughters in the church...had they been given an education in which they were explicitly or implicitly forced to choose between God and science, I would have been furious, because I want my children to keep their religious faith."

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SDG   

Probably the best response I can muster actually comes from Kenneth Miller, author of a widely used college biology text and a Christian believer (Roman Catholic, to be specific), who was one of the key plaintiffs' witnesses in Kitzmiller vs. Dover.  During the court hearing, he stated, "As a person of faith who was blessed with two daughters, who raised both of my daughters in the church...had they been given an education in which they were explicitly or implicitly forced to choose between God and science, I would have been furious, because I want my children to keep their religious faith."

Yeah, pretty much.

A close relative recently upbraided me for teaching my older children to read Genesis 1–11 as divinely inspired myth, implying that I was setting them up to lose their faith. I replied that I was giving them the pedagogy I thought most likely to keep their faith strong, i.e., a pedagogy that corresponds to the world as I understand it to be. Teaching children to insist on taking the six days of creation literally was, I said, the likeliest way to set them up to lose their faith, certainly children as scientifically literate as, say, my 15-year-old David. 

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You know, as someone who found faith outside the home and for whom college groups were instrumental in my faith development (a college group adopted me and nurtured me while I was in high school and going through some personal trials; another gave me opportunities to explore and develop my faith while I attended), I find the cultural narrative being espoused.......so alien to anything I experienced. 

 

I spent 3 of the first four years I was a Christian indifferently trying to plug into a church (we moved from the place where I was saved). I don't think it is an overstatement to say that youth groups, composed primarily of young adults who were "raised in a Christian home" and attended socially, because it was expected, were the biggest detriment to my spiritual development. It wasn't until I got to college--a secular, state college--that I found other thoughtful believers, ones who chose their beliefs and were exploring what it meant to live them out. Some were faculty, most were other students. (Secular) college helped preserve my soul. I had professors at both undergraduate and graduate level that supported me in my research--projects on Christian fiction and a dissertation on Christian authors of fiction. To this day I get more support, encouragement, challenge, and love from colleagues in college than I do from any church community, many of which care more about insulating their members (esp. young adults) in a Christian bubble than they do about being salt and light. But I keep searching, because there is a part of me that does long for Christian community. The closest thing I've found to it has been in college environments.

Edited by kenmorefield

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