How far would you go…to defend your belief in God? This powerful question is the premise of the movie “God’s Not Dead,” a Christian-based film that has earned the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for ages twelve and up.
Now playing in local theaters, it is set in present day America and explores the plight of a college freshman whose faith is put to the test — literally. Spoiler alert! We share insights and highlights below.
On the first day of philosophy class, a notoriously opinionated professor lectures his students about the superiority of atheism. The professor’s character, Radisson, is superbly portrayed by Kevin Sorbo (formerly of the Hercules TV series and Soul Surfer). Like a narcissistic dictator, Radisson instructs his students to deny the existence of God — in writing and with a signature. They write “God is dead” on their papers, as instructed… with the exception of one student.
Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper) is a devout Christian who finds himself at a defining moment. He needs to pass the class in order to pursue a degree in law… but he refuses the professor’s demand. He simply can’t deny his beliefs and upbringing. Radisson retaliates by giving an alternate assignment to Josh: prove God’s existence with intellectually sound and evidence-based presentations during the next three classes.
It will be up to Josh’s classmates to decide if God is dead… or not. The pressure is on as Josh faces the most difficult challenge of his young life. It would be so much easier just to agree that “God is dead” and dodge the dilemma… but instead, he opts to risk his future as well as his relationship with his girlfriend Kara (played by Cassidy Gifford, daughter of Kathy Lee Gifford), while seeking a way to convince his peers that God’s not dead.
Amidst the opinions of talking heads and film critics, you’ll find many “thumbs up” on this movie. As an indie Christian-centered film, it shocked Hollywood by coming in at #3 its opening weekend and has remained strong through subsequent weekends. But with over one million Facebook fans, the movie has been overwhelmingly embraced by the faith-based community, and even some mainstream media.
Why? The answer has a lot to do with backlash against the war on traditional values. Christians welcome refreshing family-friendly projects with open arms — especially those that defend and articulate their beliefs. Moviegoers know that every ticket sale is a poke in the eye at entertainment elitists who demean the faith-based community. Believers are happy to flock to a feel-good movie that is worth seeing twice, and some adults are returning to theaters with their kids in tow.
Proving an Intangible
Audiences are reminded that the protagonist is a teenager (not a Bible scholar or mature intellect) who does his best to change hearts and minds. He pours many hours into his research. Views from renowned atheists such as Stephen Hawking are countered, and theories such as Big Bang and evolution are dissected. The elusive “problem of evil” and concept of “free will” are also referenced.
But perhaps the most compelling element is Josh’s perseverance, even after the professor threatens him. After all, what would we do if we were in his shoes? Josh’s task is to prove an intangible that can’t be defined easily by science or mathematical equations. Belief isn’t measurable, nor is it rational… it’s something felt in the inner core. Josh must explain faith in God to those who haven’t had the experience and can’t quite understand it. But as believers know, planting a seed can make all the difference, and Josh successfully blends reason and apologetics to define an abstract… and make it real.
A Good God Wouldn’t Allow “Bad”
The movie helps counter the atheistic argument that a “good” God wouldn’t allow suffering in the world. Believers are unique in that they don’t perceive hardships as the world does, because we believe God is in control regardless of the suffering or circumstances. In other words, we are in the world but not of the world, and our treasure lies in heaven (not on earth) — a concept that nonbelievers find easy to mock… until they experience faith.
The truth is, Christians believe the journey of the immortal soul trumps the challenges we face on earth. Many Christians view suffering through the lens of 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” Our faith gives us precisely that — hope — in the face of life’s crises, unlike those who face struggles without such comfort.
A Famous Cast
The film challenges moviegoers to explore what they truly believe about God. The mission is to ignite important conversations and change lives. David A.R. White (the film’s producer) plays a pastor who helps and counsels many of the characters as various subplots intertwine in surprising ways.
Willie and Korie Robertson (of Duck Dynasty) appear as themselves and are rudely interviewed by a cancer-stricken journalist (portrayed by Trisha LaFache). The journalist is bent on dishing out the same treatment to Christian music group The News Boys (playing themselves).
Dean Cain (formerly Superman in the Lois and Clark television series) plays Mark, a completely self-centered businessman who is cruelly insensitive to those around him, including his girlfriend and mother. Cory Oliver (as the character Mina), portrays an unequally yoked Christian at a crossroads in her relationship. A Muslim girl, Ayisha (played by Hadeel Sittu), is ostracized by her father for believing in Jesus.
Don’t be surprised if the audience erupts in hand clapping, because much of the plot and dialogue is utterly inspiring, including the verbal and intellectual sparring between Josh and the professor.
In a Theater Near You
This film will remain on screens throughout Easter and beyond, so consider treating mom to “God’s Not Dead” on Mother’s Day. Check local listings for showtimes and visit www.godsnotdeadthemovie.com to learn more.