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4 Reasons I won’t be going to see “God’s Not Dead”

Let me set the record straight before I go any further. I am (obviously given the content of this blog) a Christian. I also used to be a huge fan of the Newsboys, and, when I was in High School, I likely would have gone to a movie liked this and encouraged others to do the same. That being said, I simply cannot advocate that anyone goes to see this movie for the following reasons:

1. It’s just a bad movie.

Unfortunately, as many reviewers have noted, the “Christian movie industry,” if there is such a thing, is doing poorly. They keep turning out mediocre or just bad movies. Stop! you might say, those reviews are from the secular media. Well here’s one from Crosswalk,  a site dedicated to providing Christian resources, news and devotional material for free. That review notes that there have been some good movies (like the animated “Prince of Egypt” and Terrence Malik’s “Tree of Life”), but most of them are just bad.

But don’t we need to support the making of Christian movies so that studies see them as a good investment and will spend more money on them? No. When evangelicals support mediocre movies, the only message it sends is that the quality of a movie doesn’t matter, evangelicals we go to see it no matter what. By supporting sub-par movies we are actually encouraging more subpar movies. If you want quality Christian movies, either get involved in making them, or only see those movies that are genuinely good.

2. It presents a caricature of philosophy

I am a philosopher and a theologian. My current dissertation (aka the reason I rarely update this blog) forces me to study, engage with, dispute, and agree with a wide range of philosophers. I am not, however, an atheist. When I first studied philosophy as an undergraduate student, many people from various churches told me to either “watch out” for it, or else that they were “praying for” me. In case you don’t know, my undergraduate degree was from the very conservative Oklahoma Baptist University. I did not become an atheist, and in many ways actually grew stronger in my faith as I studied these philosophers. Philosophy does not equal Atheism.

The movie would also have you believe that Richard Dawkins is the apex of philosophy. Richard Dawkins: Not being a PhilosopherThis may sound a bit insulting to Prof. Dawkins, but he barely understands what constitutes professional or academic philosophy. Dawkins is, or at least was at one time, an eminent biologist. Unfortunately he has devoted an obscene amount of his time recently to being a pop-philosopher. The vast majority of pop-philosophers could not handle anything beyond what most freshman learn in a first year philosophy course. Now, there is nothing wrong with not knowing anything about philosophy beyond Introduction to Philosophy (although I personally think everyone should take one or two philosophy courses beyond intro.), but to consider him a philosopher of any order beyond a college sophomore is just a mistake. It would be the equivalent of me taking one or two biology classes and then declaring myself to be a preeminent physician.

Additionally, it is a bit insulting to those who are philosophers. This includes Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga and Dean Zimmerman who are leaders in their fields, and also members of the Society of Christian Philosophers, which is a completely legitimate group whose members are also part of the American Philosophical Association (of which Dawkins is not a member). It also ignores the fact that no philosopher would want to “avoid the debate and jump straight to the conclusion” as the atheistic professor wants to do. Philosophy is the debate. This, of course, includes the fact that the phrase “God is dead” is not used by any legitimate philosopher today as a declaration of atheism. When Nietzsche used the phrase he was operating under the presumption of atheism, not arguing toward a point. For Nietzsche it was a lament that became a triumph for those who recognize it. It was not, however, his attack of Christianity (that can be found elsewhere).

3. The Non-Christian Characters are One Dimensional

Maybe this is a take off from points one and two, but I think it deserves its own mention. The reason for this is that many Christians have a very simplistic, uncomplicated view of those who are outside of the faith. As long as the religious “other” is viewed as a caricature kept at more than an arms length, there will be no radical transformation of those individuals. Christianity is not about conversion divorced from all else. It is about relationship, family, and citizenship. It is an invitation to a family, a marriage proposal of sorts, not a declaration of war or a debate to be won. The bible declares that “our battle is not against flesh and blood” and that instead we are invited into “the new covenant” in Christ’s blood. This is not the language of putting myself first or being comfortable for my own sake, but of sacrifice for the sake of others. We need, then, to acknowledge those who are not within the Kingdom of God as individuals in their own right.

This may mean that we admit that some atheists (perhaps even most atheists) are actually pretty moral people (or at least as moral as we profess to be). This may mean that we accept that not all who have turned away from the Christian faith have done so for traumatic reasons. This may mean that we note that fundamentalist Muslims are not the only ones who are intolerant of others and who would abuse children who deviate from their perception of the norm (spoiler alert: that happens in the movie). Christian families have kicked out children who have renounced their faith, or who have identified themselves as gay. What’s the difference between that and the girl who comes out to her Muslim father as an evangelical Christian? You can’t have a true and genuine conversation with someone about matters of eternal significance until you recognize them as a person and not an idea, a concept, an adversary, a talking point, or as in any way not created in God’s image just as much as you.

4. They made the wrong movie

If you have Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo together in one movie, there should only be one reason: A Marvel/DC crossover movie:

Superman versus Hercules

For those of you who don’t know. Dean Cain used to play Superman/Clark Kent on the TV show Louis and Clark. Kevin Sorbo is perhaps best known as Hercules on a different TV show. I used to watch both of them. You may also not know that Hercules is a Marvel superhero and Superman is one for DC. Every now and then Marvel and DC do a crossover battle between their heroes/villains. Really, if you have Hercules and Superman in the same movie, this should be the only logical outcome. It would be Epic!

Man of Steel

Son of Zeus

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34 thoughts on “4 Reasons I won’t be going to see “God’s Not Dead”

  1. Amen to all of it, especially number 4, lets use actors for their talents…ps Saved is a REALLY good Christian Movie, so is The Velveteen Rabbit, that is all

    • There is a slight chance I am thinking of a different movie than you are intending, but “Saved” is not even a Christian movie. It is a secular movie that satirizes Christians and proliferates secular themes. It could be super meaningful and helpful for a Christian audience to better understand how tragically flawed their perspectives and actions appear to someone “outside” Christian circles, but it is DEFINITELY not a Christian movie. It just isn’t…

  2. Jon Anderson on said:

    Reblogged this on The Mystical Axis and commented:
    “But don’t we need to support the making of Christian movies so that studies see them as a good investment and will spend more money on them? No. When evangelicals support mediocre movies, the only message it sends is that the quality of a movie doesn’t matter, evangelicals we go to see it no matter what. By supporting sub-par movies we are actually encouraging more subpar movies. If you want quality Christian movies, either get involved in making them, or only see those movies that are genuinely good.”

  3. How can you critique a movie you haven’t seen? What if your criticism keeps someone who may have been moved toward faith in Christ from seeing it? Is there a “dislike” button for this article?

    • It’s a myth to believe you can’t properly evaluate popculture unless you’ve seen/read it. I’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey. I have no intention to do so. Yet I know exactly what it’s about, know it’s poorly written, and know I never need to ever read it to make those judgements. I have seen previews for this movie and read three reviews from different sources. Why would I then go support a movie I know is going to turn out terribly?

      No one is going to be saved by going to this movie. The biggest advances for the Kingdom are made by individuals fostering relationships with other individuals *as* individuals. Movies can’t make those advances without a genuine relationship behind them. However, I do believe that someone might be pushed further away from the faith by something like this. Why? Because it presents a caricature of disbelief. Do I think this was intentional? no. But the lack of intentionality about the non-believe is what really strikes me as somehow damaging (or at least potentially so).

      • Comparing this movie to 50 Shades of Grey is a bit harsh. I won’t be going to see the new Noah movie and I was disappointed in the Bible movie series. Some good Christian movies that may have been better if they had more money to spend on production are movies like The Jesus Film, Courageous, Fire Proof, Unconditional, HardFlip, What If, Marriage Retreat, Soul Surfer, A Vow to Cherish, The Encounter, The Grace Card, To Save a Life, What Would Jesus Do, What Would Jesus Do II – The Woodcarver, and The Hope. So what if this movie inspires some students to take a stronger stand for their faith? I purchase and share many Christian movies and I agree that the acting and movie quality isn’t as good as more expensive blockbuster hits, but I also know people who have been inspired to walk closer to the Lord because of movie like this. Christian movies can lead to questions and discussions that can lead to faith in Jesus – especially since most people today do not read books. I surely do not want to get in the way of what God could do through an article, a poem, a song or a movie by unduly criticizing it and therefore becoming a stumbling block. Anyway, thanks for entertaining my comments.

        • I don’t think “God’s not dead” is very similar to “50 Shades of Grey” in any respect other than the fact that they are both pop culture (or pop-culture-like). I believe they are, in fact, very different works. However, I do believe I am able to evaluate both of them without viewing/reading all of them. I can state that the majority of self-published books are not really worth the time to read. To be sure, there are very likely some outstanding exceptions, but they are exceptions. In the same way I’ve had substantially more exposure to “God’s not Dead” through previews, and detailed reviews (many from Christian reviewers), than I do to most things I dismiss as being not worth my time. So I don’t need to see it. Also, I would disagree about “The Jesus Film.” While I am not very familiar with all of those works, and so unfamiliar with many that I won’t evaluate them, I am very familiar with The Jesus Film. I do not think that added production value would make the movie substantially better. It is great as is. It’s not always about production value. Some movies are just stinkers no matter how much money is poured into them, and some are fantastic on very limited budgets.

  4. I have seen Flywheel and Facing the Giants and understand what you are saying about supporting the Christian movie industry. My take away from those films was that if you pray hard enough and have faith you will sell lots of cars and win all your football games, even if you have had losing seasons for several years in a row. And when you start winning all your games your wife won’t leave you. The problem not addressed in those films is what happens when you place your faith in God, pray to win football games, and still lose? What if you repent, attend church faithful, and your wife takes the kids and leaves anyway?

    I have seen God’s Not Dead and it IS a good Christian movie. In this movie all the cars don’t sell and not every game is won. I think it’s shoddy journalism to write how bad a movie is that you didn’t watch. The movie doesn’t portray every philosopher an an atheist; the college student is told at enrollment to pick a different professor. The one portrayed by Kevin Sorbo provides a long list of philosophers, physicists and astronomers that are atheists but it is made clear in the film that other philosophers disagree.

    I did find it odd that both Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo were cast as “bad guys.” Even so, that might only mean the film was cast wrong not made wrong. The movie is very good. I carried a bus load of my fellow church members but would like to see it again with my wife. Be honest with people: you don’t like the movie because you think it makes philosophers look bad. In my humble opinion, your opinion is wrong.

    • I take a certain amount of offense at your claim that I am being somehow dishonest. Whether this or that philosopher is made to look bad is irrelevant to my opinion. The fact is, it presents a caricature, a straw man, of philosophy. You can’t talk with someone if you are only concerned with talking at them. We, as Christians especially, need to actually see people as the complex, messy and complicated people they are. We also need to recognize that some of the best philosophers are, in fact, Christians. Having been raised within evangelicalism, I can say that the character played by Sorbo is how the overwhelming majority of Christians view philosophy. I don’t dislike the movie because it makes philosophers look bad. I dislike the movie because what it presents as philosophy is not philosophy; it’s just what most evangelicals imagine college philosophy is like. Rather than shore up and foster our false presuppositions, as this movie does, we should try to strip them away and realize how little we actually know.

      • I saw the movie and thought it was good. You did not see the movie but know that its bad. Come on philosopher, really?

        • That’s not how arguments work. I’m trying to get an objective truth. The Script was an appalling afront to those outside the evangelical camp. That makes it a bad movie (unless you just don’t care about lot people). I am less concerned with individual personal opinion on this matter and more with what the impact will be. They are very different things, and there is a lot more to what makes a movie good than simply “liking it.”

        • Also you seem to be using “philosopher” as a derogatory term, which just further drives home the point I had already made. This is a systemic problem in evangelicalism.

  5. Although I really respect the opinion of my Brother in most of his theological thinking, I would tend to disagree with him on his beliefs about this particular movie. Having seen the movie myself this weekend, I found it stimulating because of the situations presented by the director and writing staff and portrayed by the actors onscreen. The arguments for a belief in God presented by the student were very much in line with current apologetics thinking, but presented in a way as not to “lose” the average Christian who might attend the movie. Is it a “perfect Christian movie-no, of course not. But the quality of Christian films continues to evolve as we believers support the work of artists like this who strive to make better films for audiences today. So I tend to side more with what Clark said also. Blessings to you and your family, Brandon.

  6. Nice thoughts. For too long the Christian community has encouraged bad art as a solution to a perceived cultural war. News flash, believers: If that was the goal, we lost. If the sum total of “Christian filmmaking” is moralistic parables like “Facing the Giants” or “Fireproof” than we are in trouble. My big problem with those films, like most Christian media, is that there is no Gospel, with most of their message based on poor biblical interpretation. My other problem with them is that they are poorly done when compared to mainstream film. Also, loved the reference to a DC/Marvel crossover. Nice to know I’m not the only comic book fan in evangelicalism.
    For some of the best filmmaking about Jesus check out my friend Peter’s ministry Moving Works. movingworks.org

  7. A bit of a novel, albeit perhaps naive, thought…if we (Christians) put in the amount of energy to sacrificially giving ourselves (comfort, opinions, resources) away on behalf of those who have yet to come to Christ. We just might find we don’t need sub-par acting to share our faith.

  8. I think it’s presumptuous to judge a movie you’ve never seen. It begs me to wonder what possible good you could hope to accomplish through this post. Consider the words of James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

    • 1) It’s really not. I guarantee that with the overwhelming majority of movies I can tell whether it’s good, what it’s plot will be, the major points of dialogue and the direction of the movie from the trailer. I also read some *very* detailed reviews full of “spoilers.” (that turned out to be pretty predictable based on the trailer alone). 2) I’m not angry. I am passionate. There is a difference. 3) If we’re going to prooftext: “test everything; hold fast to what is good.” 1Thessalonians 5:21

  9. Reblogged this on THE ORTHODOX NERD and commented:
    I thought about seeing this (despite the fact that the trailer looked cloyingly evangelical), and I still might, if only to pick it apart.

    ‘Noah’ is another one I was thinking of seeing. It looks very well made, but I’m afraid it’s designed to be just another blockbuster action movie starring a bunch of big name, money-magnet celebrities. I’ve also heard that the film promotes the environmentalist agenda, which is worrisome. But, while I think the movie will probably fall flat, I am open to being proved wrong.

    And if I’m not….at least I love to pick things apart. :P

  10. Sheesh…all this defense and up in arms over another plastic cultural threat to the faith that frankly does not exists in the grand scheme of things…could not agree more with the author here…Chrisitan movies are terrible in terms of creativity, but a lot of sedate thinkers enjoy them so there ya go…when believers start pumping out stuff like LOTR again or some of Dorothy Sayers stuff gets turned into movies then maybe I’ll fork over the $14 to sit in the dark and watch while comsuming a $5 small soda…until then I plan on giving my change to World Vision…

  11. Another thought to the conversation, is it not a bit presumptuous to exploit the entertainment industry for the sake of “implied” critical thinking (which the author here makes a very astute point about our tendency to straw man argument our invisible foes) ?

    Last time I checked it was love that would change the worlds perception of us, if this is what love looks like in a movie then Fred Phelps has won…and no I do not need to see it to make that critique, when we caricature the ones who perhaps have legitimate questions for us that we are to afraid to face ourselves then our fear has won and love will not be perfected where fear reigns…to make a movie broadcasting this is probably the opposite of what we should be doing…why not just make a movie on intolerance or the Inquisition as told by the Cardinals?

  12. Simply saying “I won’t see the movie” is enough. I don’t see a point in writing an article on a movie because of bad actor choices, is insulting, has one dimentional characters, and is a bad movie. There is more then an abudance of that in cinima.

    • It’s really not enough. We as Christians need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we need to understand *why* that standard is so important. I really don’t understand this comment (like, lengthy responses, reasoned arguments, jokes…these are what blogs *are*)

  13. Anonymous on said:

    I am a film major and would like to ask for elaboration on “It’s just a bad movie”. I’ve learned not to qualify movies like that because it could mean you simply didn’t like it and the hundreds of people in the theater around you loved it. Was it cinematography? acting? the script? white balance?

    If your going to tell people NOT to see a movie at all rather than warn them about it and have them see it and judge for themselves, then you ought to be able to spell out for them why you found it to be “bad”.

    • Script, direction and production (not production value, I can enjoy poor production value with a good story told well). Those three things are so foundational to what makes a movie or film what it is that yes, I can say that it makes the whole thing a bad movie.

  14. Malissia on said:

    It has nothing to do with quality of the film or how much money was spent on it. This movie has a really Great message . Plus it makes you ask yourself questions about how strong your faith is . And are you ready if you had seconds to think about it before you die. Too many people are caught up in how a movie is filmed and how the actors act….I say as long as they get the message out that they were shooting for, who cares what their budget was? The Actors in this Movie did a Beautiful job. And I am so thankful there are talented people like this out there who are so Faithful to God. And to Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain…Keep the Christian movies coming…Love You Guys!!

    • I did not criticize the actors nor the production value. From what I understand all the actors were pretty good. I do, however, have issue with the script, direction, and producer choices (very different from production value). Good actors with a bad script still makes for a bad movie. The Gospel is better than it is presented in this movie.

  15. BPatmann on said:

    (1) You are not going to see it, but you already proclaim it a bad movie. That knee jerk reaction is typical of the atheist approach to Christianity. (2) You say that it “presents a caricature of philosophy.” However, it presents a pretty accurate caricature of how philosophy is taught in college campuses today — which is unlike the incredibly distorted caricature of Christianity that is being pushed on students at our universities. (3) You say that “Non-Christian Characters are One Dimensional.” However, one dimensionality is typical in Hollywood movies — especially when they attack Christians (which is pervasive). How do you like the tables being turned? (4) You say that “They made the wrong movie.” However, it finished fourth in box office receipts in its first weekend, even though it played to less than one third of the number of theaters that competing films opened at. Given that, I imagine that the producers are glad that they didn’t make the “right” movie. The fact is that it is exciting, thought provoking and entertaining – a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

    • 1) You seem to be operating under the assumption that I’m not a Christian. If so, that would make yours the knee-jerk reaction. (look around the blog, you’ll notice that not only am I a Christian, I’m a pretty moderate to conservative Evangelical. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture for goodness sake) 2) Philosophy is not anti-thought, nor anti-examination. No reputable philosopher would be angry at disagreement nor ask anyone to “skip” the discussion. That is farce. 3) Hollywood movies with 1-dimensional characters are also bad movies. This fact does not invalidate my argument (maybe you should take a logic class, even though it’s philosophy). 4) This was obviously a joke. Besides, money made does not make something good. It’s not a direct comparison, but 50 shades of Grey is a bestseller; does that make it a good book?

  16. It’s just silly or arrogant to posture oneself as an expert on a movie you haven’t seen.

    • It’s silly and foolish to assume you have to read or view something to evaluate it properly. As I’ve noted many times, most would not dispute that “50 Shades of Grey” is terrible in every sense without reading it, even in the face of people who had read it and swore it was amazing.

  17. Again I need to sport up an opinion…the elephant in the room no one seems to want to talk about (except perhaps Trey) is the lack-luster-sub-par-lees-than excellent attempt of our Christian “sub-culture” (and that is indeed what it is) to engage our society with really bad art and expect it to be appreciated.

    When the folks here defend it by saying “It’s a really good movie” are they suggesting it should be considered for an Academy Award? Perhaps hand out an Oscar?

    Oh wait. no you didn’t mean it met any “artistic quality” of good you just meant it satisfied basic Western Christianity propaganda “good”…because thats what it is…it’s Christian propaganda…as is “facing the Giants” and that ridiculous movie in the works (based on incredibly BAD fictional eschatology) “Left Behind”…

    I think we are not making movies as much as preaching to the faithful…

    If you want to see propaganda go see Noah…much more drama, better actors and special affects…

    Besides the entire “Gods not dead” argument left the building about 30 years ago…philosophically there are better windmills to tilt at…

  18. Pingback: Why “Noah” may actually do more good than we admit | whytheology

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