Friday, September 5, 2014

What God's Not Dead Gets Right (And Wrong)

I finally got around to seeing the surprise hit movie God's Not Dead. Contrary to my friend Alan Noble, who wrote a scathing review before he had even seen the movie, I think the movie has gotten a bad rap. While there were certainly some implausible scenes, I found that there were also multiple plausible scenes. And since the film currently has a 17% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, I think it's time that someone give the film a fair shake, recognizing what it gets right (along with what it gets wrong). To that end, in what follows I list the Most Plausible and Least Plausible scenes in the movie.

*SPOILERS BELOW* Before we get there, a quick summary of the film:


Josh Wheaton is an evangelical Christian and a college freshman at a state school in Louisiana. He enrolls in an introductory philosophy class with Professor Radisson, a notorious atheist who demands that his students sign a statement that "God is Dead." Radisson does this (so he says) because he wants to move past silly debates about God's existence and focus on the important philosophical questions. Wheaton cannot in good conscience sign the statement. So Radisson demands that Wheaton hold a three-part mini-lecture series defending the claim that God is NOT dead. For some reason, Radisson agrees to let the class of freshman vote to decide if Wheaton is successful. (Spoiler alert: Wheaton is successful)

Oh, and while all of this is happening: an African missionary has come back home to stay with evangelical Pastor Dave. A Muslim college student is converting to Christianity. An atheist blogger is getting cancer and then getting dumped by her atheist boyfriend. Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty is getting ambush-interviewed by aforementioned atheist blogger. Professor Radisson's current girlfriend (naturally, he started dating her when she was still his student) is returning to the evangelical faith. A Chinese student is increasingly intrigued with Josh Wheaton's faith. Josh Wheaton's girlfriend is threatening to dump him because his little foray into apologetics just might cost him a shot at law school. And the Newsboys. Yes, the Newsboys are coming to town. But I digress: onto the scenes.

Most Plausible
Josh met his girlfriend as a twelve-year-old when his youth group ran into her youth group at a Newsboys concert. Grade-A evangelical realism here.

Least Plausible
Josh was still excited to attend a Newsboys concert at age 18. By age 18, he would have graduated into the harder/edgier Christian rock stuff, like Kutless.

Most Plausible
The only identifiable books shown on-screen that Josh used in preparation for his defense of God: Reading Scripture as the Word of God and a random World Religions textbook. Those are exactly the sorts of mismatched resources I would expect a freshman to turn to when given his first college assignment.

Least Plausible
Josh told Pastor Dave that of the eighty students in his philosophy class, he was the only one who would “set foot in any church.” THIS IS LOUISIANA, JOSH!

Most Plausible
Then again, that sort of "embattled minority" sentiment is exactly the sort of thing an evangelical like Josh might say.

Least Plausible
Instead of collecting and immediately throwing away the "God is Dead" signed statements, Professor Radisson kept all his students' “God is Dead” statements, pensively flipping through them at his desk.

Most Plausible
There was an incredibly awkward dinner involving faculty from the philosophy department.

Least Plausible
The front page of a newspaper advertised that “Christian Rockers the Newsboys" were holding a concert.

Most Plausible?
Then again, this is Louisiana. The Newsboys just might make the front page.

Least Plausible
The eighteen-year-old Muslim girl who converted to Christianity secretly listened to Franklin Graham podcasts. Has any eighteen-year-old even heard of Billy Graham, much less Franklin Graham? And as an added implausible bonus, her ten-year-old brother apparently KNEW WHO FRANKLIN GRAHAM WAS! (he ratted on her to the father, who then beat her and kicked her out of the house)

Most Plausible
A girl in class raised her hand to ask a question, then launched into an extended word-for-word quotation of Richard Dawkins. There's always at least one person like this in a philosophy class.

Least Plausible
A “New Left” atheist blogger had a penchant for ambush interviews with conservative Christians like the Newsboys and Willie Robertson, yet NOT ONCE did she ask them about same sex marriage.

Most Plausible
During one of his mini-lectures, Josh approvingly quoted evangelical pop-apologist Lee Strobel.

Least Plausible
Pastor Dave reached into the pocket of the dead professor Radisson (a man he'd never previously met), grabbed Radisson's phone and read an incoming text. Who does that? (Whoops, spoiler alert: Professor Radisson died in a car crash)

Most Plausible
A Christian morality tale about atheism ended with an atheist deathbed conversion scene

Least Plausible
That anyone ever had their life transformed after receiving a "God's Not Dead" text from a zealous moviegoer.

Most Plausible
Then again, if you're from Louisiana...