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God's Not Dead (2014)

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Andrew   

And all of this is so alien to my college experience.  I went to a secular college (Ursinus, outside of Philly), and at the time, I was a young earth creationist and a biology major, with minors in French and religion.  My freshman bio prof gave a two minute spiel about the difference between religion and science, but displayed no hostility towards faith (I scored an A+ and an A in my 2 semesters with him, despite my being a very out in the open Christian, so I obviously wasn't persecuted).  Another bio prof took time to listen to my (now embarrassing) young earth arguments, without trying to persuade me otherwise.  The worst I experienced was a German prof who co-chaired our pre-med committee being a bit of a dick towards me once, but his committee still wrote a nice cover letter for my med school application.  The rest of my profs - far left of center, Jewish, or beliefs unknown - were unfailingly good to me and provided a great learning environment that I remember fondly.  (It was only in 'real world' exposure, after completing med school and residency, that my faith began to gradually erode.)

 

I hate to think that films such as the two under discussion here will foster a guardedness or paranoia that simply doesn't need to be there.  Inevitably, a child's views and beliefs will, um, evolve to some degree as he or she readies to leave the parental nest (I see this already happening with my 8th-11th grade kids and rejoice in it).  This is a natural development; to expect or demand otherwise indicates an unrealistic, if not, pathological desire for control. 

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SDG   

Working on my review. (Spoilers ahoy, because if you really care you've probably seen it by now.)

Looking back, it seems to me that the movie basically divides the world into two kinds of people: true believers with no moral faults, and nonbelievers with no redeeming qualities. Am I wrong about this? The only middle cases I recall are the Muslim father, a believer but not a true one, who has some redeeming qualities (he really cares about his daughter, in his own misguided way), and the Chinese student, who may not be a true believer, but is a true seeker who eagerly and unresistingly accepts the faith as soon as it's offered. I'm not sure Josh's fiancee counts as an exception; presumably she has a nominal faith (since obviously a Christian as pure as Josh wouldn't be engaged to a non-Christian), but nothing we see establishes her as a "true believer," so far as I recall. Certainly she has no redeeming qualities that I recall.

Also, nonbelievers can have redemptive character arcs, but believers don't need character arcs. Here I can think of one exception, the believing wife of bullying Professor Radisson, who has to get over her "Cinderella complex" and break the spell of the charm we're told Radisson has, even though we never see it. Can't think of any other complications. No Christians struggle with sin, temptation or selfishness, let alone anything like doubt or disappointment with God. Nonbelievers also are generally unconflicted about their selfish, rotten behavior, until touched by grace.

I'm also put off by the shallow yet thoroughgoing triumphalism: Josh takes risks, but his faith ultimately costs him nothing of value (obviously his engagement was a trap and had to go); neither he nor any other believer (except the Muslim convert girl, who does get kicked out of her house) are asked to sacrifice in any way for their faith.

Josh wins all the things: Not only does he a) win the debates (with just a single, small setback early in the process), b.) repeatedly humiliating the professor and c) ultimately winning over the entire class with zero holdouts, he also d) converts the Asian student and e) gets a public shout-out from the Newsboys onstage. (On the theory that this climatic concert is an immanentization of Heaven, the Newsboys' shout-out is a this-worldly stand-in for "Well done, thou good and faithful servant.") Oh, and f) I'm pretty sure Josh has a new girlfriend in the end, the Muslim convert girl who reconnects with him at the concert, remembering what he said in the cafeteria in the beginning. I knew she was his true love the minute he smiled at her in the cafeteria.

And of course Radisson is defeated and crushed in every conceivable way. After catching Josh off-guard only once, he a) loses control entirely of the "debate" process, b.) effectively admits privately to Josh that he's really just an atheist because he's angry at God, c) loses his wife (!), d) breaks in front of the class under "Did you order the Code Red?" cross-examination, and then, e) at his lowest moment — did I misread this scene, or does he see the item in the paper about the Newsboys concert and decide to head out to, what, rededicate his life to Christ, or at least give the Holy Spirit a chance to convert him at the concert? Or could he be planning on jumping on stage bawling "God is dead!" and getting hauled off to prison?

And then f) God plays his best trick, clobbering Raddison with a car and h) killing him, but not before g) the ultimate defeat (of his worldview) of a dying sinner's prayer. The only humiliation I can think of that the movie doesn't impose on Radisson is that we aren't told he wasn't making department chair after all. Unless that did happen and I missed it.

Random question: Do we ever see angry liberal blogger actually publishing her angry blog pieces, or any fallout thereof? Or is it all about the ambush interview tactics? I'm sure there are other dangling plot threads. The movie is all over the place. 
 
At least cancer girl finds peace at the end without actually being cured of her cancer, so far as we know. Every bit of nuance in a film like this is like one of those little flowers in Noah, precious in so barren a wasteland. 

Little things that annoyed me:

  • Josh uses "begging the question" to mean "raises the question." (I know there are huge holes in his arguments, but it's the little things.)
  • Stephen Hawking is an eminent scientist, but is better known as a popularizer of science than one of the most distinguished scientific minds today. Radisson thinks he's the single greatest scientific mind in all of history. Yes, ahead of Newton and Einstein.  (This website of the 50 greatest scientists alive today more plausibly ranks Hawking #20. Today, not of all time.)
  • Did anyone notice how much wine was on the table at dinner at Radisson's, all apparently from a single cooked bottle? There's like eight glasses, some more than half full. Say, isn't that a miracle right there?
Edited by SDG

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SDG, can you make it a priority to review every faith-based movie its opening weekend?  Please?  I would gladly pay to read these reviews.

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SDG   
Steven, why do you hate those who hate atheists so much?

 

Clearly, because I'm a self-loathing, sold-out-to-Hollywood hipster Christian. But since I liked Noah, we already knew that.

 

SDG, can you make it a priority to review every faith-based movie its opening weekend? Please? I would gladly pay to read these reviews.

  

So would the Register, so obviously pay isn't the issue. (P.S. Thanks, I appreciate the compliment.)

Seriously, any cross-examination? Did I get anything wrong?

Edited by SDG

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Seriously, any cross-examination? Did I get anything wrong?

I'm gonna say no, with something close to certainty, although I haven't seen a minute of this film.

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SDG   

 

Seriously, any cross-examination? Did I get anything wrong?

I'm gonna say no, with something close to certainty, although I haven't seen a minute of this film.

 

 

laugh.png

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You need to work really hard to make sure the headline is right.

 

"Catholic Critic Declares 'God's Not Dead' As Inaccurate And Ultimately False"

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And then f) God plays his best trick, clobbering Raddison with a car and h) killing him, but not before g) the ultimate defeat (of his worldview) of a dying sinner's prayer. The only humiliation I can think of that the movie doesn't impose on Radisson is that we aren't told he wasn't making department chair after all. Unless that did happen and I missed it.

 

 

I want someone to write an essay comparing the end of this film to the forced conversion at the end of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

But then in wondering who could write such an essay and how small must be the intersection of those who have seen GND and read TMoV (not just the Cliffs Notes), I got very sad. 

Still, free bag of Tootsie Pops to anyone who wants to give it a shot. 

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SDG   

What is Radisson's first name? I know his wife calls him by his name, but it's not at IMDb or Wikipedia. 

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Tucker   

What is Radisson's first name? I know his wife calls him by his name, but it's not at IMDb or Wikipedia.

 

According to the film's website, his first name is Professor, which fits given his job.

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SDG   

OH I ALMOST FORGOT one of the most striking little things about the film that irritated me: It's so epistemically locked into its Evangelical worldview that Josh actually describes the pioneer of the Big Bang theory, Georges Lemaitre, simply as a "theist" — neglecting to mention that he was a Catholic priest

 

I'm also pretty sure he's misquoting Lemaitre on that bit about the Big Bang being what he would expect from "Let there be light" in Genesis 1:1. In reality, although Lemaitre was suspected by skeptical physicists of proposing the theory based more on its convergence with his beliefs as a Catholic than on the scientific merits, he resisted overlapping his scientific theories and his religious faith. When Pope Pius XII highlighted Lemaitre's theory and actually did connect it to Genesis 1, Lemaitre was chagrined, and privately shared his concerns with the Holy Father, who never again repeated this point. 

 

Of course I don't know for sure that Lemaitre never made that connection himself — though the idea that he would ever make the connection so direct as to say he would expect the Big Bang based simply on Genesis 1 seems implausible. 

Edited by SDG

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Andrew   

Your comments brightened my day, SDG.  Lemaitre's pioneering of the Big Bang Theory is a delightful piece of science history, only enhanced by the fact that Einstein had to apologize to Lemaitre for initially dissing his theory.

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Fans of “God’s Not Dead” will likely have the chance to enjoy other similar films in the future, as Pure Flix is planning another feature that will likely be part of a new branded “God’s Not Dead” movie series.

 

 

God's Not Dead II: God's Not DeaderGod's Still Not DeadGod's Not Dead with a VengeanceA Good Day for God not to be Dead?

 

You know, I like how The Transformers sequel titles work with this...

 

God's Not Dead: Revenge of the Fallen? God's Not Dead: Dark of the Moon? God's Not Dead: Age of Extinction?

 

Or... God's Not Dead into Darkness?

 

And just because it's required, God's Not Dead 2: Electric Boogaloo?

 

 

No, no...

God's Not Dead The Last Temptation Of Kirk Cameron.

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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.

 

 

Hmmmm... movie about a college guy who becomes a christian and his faith perseveres in spite of "young adults who were 'raised in a Christian home' and attended socially, because it was expected."  That has the potential for a bit of fun in a film.

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Evan C   

 

 

Fans of “God’s Not Dead” will likely have the chance to enjoy other similar films in the future, as Pure Flix is planning another feature that will likely be part of a new branded “God’s Not Dead” movie series.

 

God's Not Dead II: God's Not DeaderGod's Still Not DeadGod's Not Dead with a VengeanceA Good Day for God not to be Dead?

 

You know, I like how The Transformers sequel titles work with this...

 

God's Not Dead: Revenge of the Fallen? God's Not Dead: Dark of the Moon? God's Not Dead: Age of Extinction?

 

Or... God's Not Dead into Darkness?

 

And just because it's required, God's Not Dead 2: Electric Boogaloo?

No, no...

God's Not Dead The Last Temptation Of Kirk Cameron.

Thom wins Arts and Faith for the day.

Edited by Evan C

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I find the cultural narrative being espoused.......so alien to anything I experienced.

And all of this is so alien to my college experience.

Here's what's alien for me. I knew quite a few Shane Harpers in college.  They really existed.  But, in real life, no one ever listened to what they had to say.

It wasn't because everyone else wasn't interested in the truth. It wasn't because no one else could stand to be around these guys (sometimes other loners had very interesting things to say). And it wasn't really because of their dead earnestness about how every little problem was always a spiritual crisis sent directly by God to test them. No one listened to what the Shane Harpers I knew in college had to say because (1) if you were raised evangelical, they only spoke (somehow smugly) in the same cliches you had already heard a thousand times, and (2) if you were not raised evangelical, they might as well have been speaking in a different language.  Or, if you were interested in learning, listening to the Shane Harper character speak was intellectual death.  If you were not particularly interested in learning, then it was social death.

 

Oh ... on second thought, a few of the Shane Harpers I knew became youth pastors.  And, theoretically, that means that a number of evangelical kids would have had to listen to (and probably absorb) what they had to say.  They must be the ones going to see this movie.

 

Has anyone here seen Ryan Bell's summary yet?:

"... So, Christians went to see a movie that claims, without an ounce of subtlety and nuance, that Christians are being persecuted by atheist professors in universities. The net effect:

  • certain fundamentalist, culture-warrior Christians are confirmed in their persecution complex;
  • the rest of the Christian world either hangs their head in embarrassment or yawns;
  • the various non-theist groups are confirmed in their view that Christians are anti-intellectual and, consequently, not very smart (and bad writers and actors, as a group)."

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SDG wrote:
: Seriously, any cross-examination? Did I get anything wrong?

 

Well, it doesn't open in Canada until tomorrow, so I won't have a chance to see it until then...

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SDG   

My "Reel Faith" review (2 minutes). 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4olUVpKtAg&index=4&list=PLPu38Ui5dTDINmv5o5eF6Y0GAlkTBqoeP

Edited by SDG

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And of course Radisson is defeated and crushed in every conceivable way. After catching Josh off-guard only once, he a) loses control entirely of the "debate" process, b.) effectively admits privately to Josh that he's really just an atheist because he's angry at God, c) loses his wife (!), d) breaks in front of the class under "Did you order the Code Red?" cross-examination, and then, e) at his lowest moment — did I misread this scene, or does he see the item in the paper about the Newsboys concert and decide to head out to, what, rededicate his life to Christ, or at least give the Holy Spirit a chance to convert him at the concert? Or could he be planning on jumping on stage bawling "God is dead!" and getting hauled off to prison?

And then f) God plays his best trick, clobbering Raddison with a car and h) killing him, but not before g) the ultimate defeat (of his worldview) of a dying sinner's prayer. The only humiliation I can think of that the movie doesn't impose on Radisson is that we aren't told he wasn't making department chair after all. Unless that did happen and I missed it.

 

Oh... Ick. Ick. Ick. Ick. Really?!

 

Here's what's alien for me. I knew quite a few Shane Harpers in college.  They really existed.  But, in real life, no one ever listened to what they had to say.

It wasn't because everyone else wasn't interested in the truth. It wasn't because no one else could stand to be around these guys (sometimes other loners had very interesting things to say). And it wasn't really because of their dead earnestness about how every little problem was always a spiritual crisis sent directly by God to test them. No one listened to what the Shane Harpers I knew in college had to say because (1) if you were raised evangelical, they only spoke (somehow smugly) in the same cliches you had already heard a thousand times, and (2) if you were not raised evangelical, they might as well have been speaking in a different language.  Or, if you were interested in learning, listening to the Shane Harper character speak was intellectual death.  If you were not particularly interested in learning, then it was social death.

 

Oh ... on second thought, a few of the Shane Harpers I knew became youth pastors.  And, theoretically, that means that a number of evangelical kids would have had to listen to (and probably absorb) what they had to say.  They must be the ones going to see this movie.

 

Spot on. Reading this, my thought was, "Yep, I know a few of these youth pastors I grew up with too." Of course, most of them went to evangelical colleges, so there's also that as well.

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Wait!!! SDG said "God is Dead" instead of "God's Not Dead" near the end! What a revealing slip! He's secretly an atheist!! I knew it!

Edited by Overstreet

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Oh ... on second thought, a few of the Shane Harpers I knew became youth pastors.  And, theoretically, that means that a number of evangelical kids would have had to listen to (and probably absorb) what they had to say.  They must be the ones going to see this movie.

 

Spot on. Reading this, my thought was, "Yep, I know a few of these youth pastors I grew up with too." Of course, most of them went to evangelical colleges, so there's also that as well.

 

 

 

FWIW, this reminds me of the end of a piece I wrote several years ago.

 

Also apropos of absolutely nothing, I've been thinking a bit about a duo of filmmakers I interviewed last month. One self-described as a Christian, the other as an agnostic. They actually seemed to work well together.I really wanted to talk about their relationship but it didn't fit anywhere in an obvious story. I have it filed for a later day.

 

 

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SDG   

 

And of course Radisson is defeated and crushed in every conceivable way. After catching Josh off-guard only once, he a) loses control entirely of the "debate" process, b.) effectively admits privately to Josh that he's really just an atheist because he's angry at God, c) loses his wife (!), d) breaks in front of the class under "Did you order the Code Red?" cross-examination, and then, e) at his lowest moment — did I misread this scene, or does he see the item in the paper about the Newsboys concert and decide to head out to, what, rededicate his life to Christ, or at least give the Holy Spirit a chance to convert him at the concert? Or could he be planning on jumping on stage bawling "God is dead!" and getting hauled off to prison?

And then f) God plays his best trick, clobbering Raddison with a car and h) killing him, but not before g) the ultimate defeat (of his worldview) of a dying sinner's prayer. The only humiliation I can think of that the movie doesn't impose on Radisson is that we aren't told he wasn't making department chair after all. Unless that did happen and I missed it.

 

Oh... Ick. Ick. Ick. Ick. Really?!

 

Really. At least, I don't remember Radisson being told that he wasn't making department chair, but I guess I could have missed it. 

 

Wait!!! SDG said "God is Dead" instead of "God's Not Dead" near the end! What a revealing slip! He's secretly an atheist!! I knew it!

 

Yeah, I noticed that too after the fact. Hopefully we can get that patched on Monday. 

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Oh ... on second thought, a few of the Shane Harpers I knew became youth pastors.  And, theoretically, that means that a number of evangelical kids would have had to listen to (and probably absorb) what they had to say.  They must be the ones going to see this movie.

 

Spot on. Reading this, my thought was, "Yep, I know a few of these youth pastors I grew up with too." Of course, most of them went to evangelical colleges, so there's also that as well.

 

 

 

FWIW, this reminds me of the end of a piece I wrote several years ago.

 

Great piece Ken. Not to delve into politics here, but just as a point of reference: I wound up on my state's Democratic party email list and whoo-boy - the level of vitriol that comes across just in the email headlines is astonishing (it's fun to watch Fox news and purge my email at the same time).

 

But back to the point - and I know this is hardly a new subject or debate - the attitude you saw from colleagues who mistrust a secular education and a film like this that appears to do nothing but reinforce preexisting views continually frustrates me on a political level, yes, but much more so on a faith level. I very much appreciate SDG's response and review of this film. And I think the verse you quoted is an excellent challenge to any of us writing about film from a Christian perspective, but should also be top-of-mind for Christians creating art: "'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect' (1 Peter 3:15)."

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