Thursday, October 9, 2014

God's Not Dead

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans in chapter 10 he speaks of Israel as having zeal without knowledge. It wasn’t to say that the Jews were stupid, but that their zeal for the Lord ran in conflict to what Scripture actually says. It was not the effort of the Jews that was in question but rather their understanding.

While I have my criticisms and concerns with God’s Not Dead, I also do not think it was awful or as erroneous as what made elect Israel guilty of zeal without knowledge. First I would like to write about the good parts of the movie. And I was pleasantly surprised at the good parts.

The spirit of the movie was excellent. When I say spirit I’m speaking more about what the movie set out to accomplish as opposed to how the entire thing was carried out. Lyndon Unger wrote a review that's worth looking at. The overall movie is not blasphemous. It’s analogous to being happy that someone set out to help rebuild a house even though there were some flaws in the construction.

The theme of the movie was primarily about standing up for faith. The passage used repeatedly throughout the movie was Matthew 10:32 & 33:
32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven..

The simple fact that John 3:16 wasn’t the thematic verse was a breath of fresh air. Not that there’s anything wrong with that verse, it’s just that Christianity has, if possible, overused it. I’m glad it’s not the only verse we know anymore.

Here’s the plot: a college freshman is faced with an ultimatum: 1-Sign a paper saying “God is dead,” thus denying his faith but maintaining good standing in his class. You can always ask for forgiveness, right? 2- Don’t sign the paper and thus be forced to debate the atheist professor about the existence of God, risk getting an ‘F’ and also risk losing his girlfriend of 6 years. This wouldn’t be much of a movie if the protagonist elected the path of least resistance would it?

I like that he refused to sign a piece of paper out of principle. The professor wasn’t asking students to deny their faith but to put it aside for the sake of the class (a nuanced and intentionally iniquitous exchange). This seemingly scholarly solicitation was tantamount to a flat out denial of his Christian faith (as it would be for me), so I truly appreciate that level of conviction. We all should.

I also like that him refusing to sign the paper did indeed cost him his girlfriend. She didn’t come around and see that his decision was courageous. She broke up with him. I like that standing on principle cost him something.  Because standing on principle always costs us something, especially in the name of Christ (Luke 14:25-27).

I like that it cost some of the other characters some relationships, too. One girl was dating the professor and, because of her faith, ended the relationship (more on that later). Another girl was being raised Islamic while secretly hiding her Christian faith and when she was found out she got kicked out of her house. I don’t like when those things happen as if to say I think it’s cool. I like that the movie didn’t act like being a Christian brings you nothing but good vibes.

This movie was not a deep apologetic for the existence of God and the efficacy of Christianity. I don’t want to review it as if it were. The main character’s arguments for the existence of God were mostly cut short and not given a lot of screen time. That’s perfectly fine since I don’t think the point of the movie was to present an argument for the existence of God, but to encourage people to stand up for what they know is true.

There was also a funny line when the car rental guy dropped off the car and the priest/pastor/reverend/bishop guy asked if he had to sign anything and the rental guy quipped, “of course, I’m giving you a car.” I laughed out loud. I like sarcasm.

The movie went by quick, it didn’t drag, the acting was decent, the production quality was good. It was not our typical “Christian” movie, which was nice.

Now, on to the parts I didn’t like so much. 
WARNING: if you loved this movie and didn’t cringe at any point, stop reading. I think and process and think and analyze and, by nature, compare anything said in the name of God to the word of God and will now do that to this movie.

This is your last chance. 

Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” makes a cameo appearance with his wife towards the beginning of the movie. He’s being interviewed by the humanist animal lover reporter and at one point he says, “and those letters are in red, so you know they’re important.”

Agggghhhhh. That’s shambolic language. Most of the problems in this movie aren’t heresies or blatant false teaching but rather sloppy or imprecise language. The letters in red are NOT any more important than the other letters. If we think the red letter error theology through, we’ll understand the problem. I actually wrote about this a few months ago.

The main guy, when talking to his soon to be ex about doing an apologetic presentation for the existence of God says, “I feel like God wants someone to defend Him.”

That’s not the worst line ever uttered. It’s not that bad. The God I read about in the Bible doesn’t come across as needing protection. This is another unkempt line. I get what he’s saying. It’s probably even something I’d have said as a college freshman...11 years ago.

At a later point he says “we’re going to put God on trial.”
Now that’s a bad line. We don’t put God on trial. That’s an unintentionally arrogant statement hopefully made out of ignorance. Just think for a minute about putting God on trial. It should make you shudder. Actually, don’t even think about it. We are the ones on trial.

Presuppositional apologetics is the manner in which I approach apologetics. I go in presupposing everyone knows God exists (because they do, because God’s word says they do) and then go from there. I don’t like traversing down the road of evidences and philosophical musings. This movie goes that route. We cannot ever convince an atheist that God exists via evidence. That will never work.

I like using evidences when talking to other Christians. I’ve given a copy of “More than a Carpenter” to everyone in my bible study. That’s a great supplement and fortifier of the Christian faith. I don’t think that book would do anything to change the mind of an atheist even though it presents fantastic arguments. The main guy’s last argument entered into the realm of moral absolutes. While it’s true that atheists cannot believe in moral absolutes in the same way we do, I don’t think they deny them entirely. Some might. Their argument for the origins of morality has changed a few times since I started keeping up with the debate about 10 years ago. Knowledge of right and wrong is a good proof but it’s also not one that will ever convince an atheist God exists. Don’t believe me? Go try it.

A Gospel presentation can convince an atheist God exists. We don’t see Paul, Peter or Stephen arguing from a neutral point. They argue from the presupposition that God exists, Jesus was His Son and that the Bible is true. Admittedly, I’m getting sidetracked. Ken Ham’s debate with Bill Nye was done presuppositionally. He presupposes that the Bible is true (it is) and argues from that standpoint and fits all the evidences into the Bible (and they do). There are some hyper-presuppositionalists who don’t like Ham but I think his approach is solid and consistent with Cornelius Van Til, but that’s just me. Ham doesn't begin on neutral ground so to speak. He starts with God's word.

The last line that bothered me came towards the end when Newsboys were talking to the humanist reporter with cancer and the drummer claimed that God told him to say something. I’m not sure if this was sloppy language or not. He definitely claimed to receive direct revelation but I can’t be certain he knew what he was saying so I’m not sure if he just poorly worded it or if he truly believes God spoke to him. I’m being charitable and assuming he just doesn’t understand the difference between obedience to that which God has, through providence, made clear and direct revelation. If he understood the former he wouldn’t claim the latter. I’ve written ad nauseum about people claiming to hear from God so I won’t belabor this point any more. Just know that  you nor anyone you know alive today has ever received direct revelation from God. Making a claim to the contrary is so so so promisingly perilous.

Some general concerns I have are the lack of a clear Gospel presentation. Assenting to theism does not mean someone is saved from hell. Do we all agree there? Just because someone used to be an atheist but now believes God exists and Jesus exists does not make them a Christian. It makes them a theist. Lots of people believe God exists and that Jesus was the Son of God and died for our sins but they aren’t necessarily Christians either. There’s a cliche deathbed conversion at the end of the movie where the professor vaguely professes Christ. It’s not clear he’s repented over his sins. It’s not as bad as I expected but it’s still not very clear. Clarity and perspicuity are of chief importance. I even wrote about that once.

The professor’s girlfriend makes a startling statement in the form of a question at one point wondering if she, a Christian, and the atheist professor are unequally yoked. Yes. The answer is 100% yes. A professing believer dating an atheist is the most blatant example of being unequally yoked I can think of. It would also seem that the main character and his girlfriend at the beginning of the movie were unequally yoked.

While I can appreciate the sentiment in using famous people to prop up Christianity, I also can’t stand it. The Robertsons seem to be genuine about their faith and I greatly respect their unabashed embrace of Christ, but God does not need Duck Dynasty. The Christian church in America does not need Duck Dynasty. We’re under no obligation to redeem culture or to win over culture by being popular and famous. This is not a knock on Duck Dynasty. I’ve never watched the show. It’s a knock on America. We’re dangerously obsessed with celebrity. I’ve written about this as well (toot toot my own horn). I don't think it's a stretch that the movie came across as a 2 hour advertisement for Newsboys, but maybe that's just me.

My last issue with the movie was that all of the young people were attractive. The main guy was a handsome young fella. The girl who used to be a Muslim was very pretty and so were the humanist reporter girl and the girl dating the professor. Is it a sin to have good bone structure and to be in shape? Not at all. Is it unrealistic that every Christian under 30 is good looking? Absolutely. I get that it’s a movie and movies are always full of good looking people but c’mon. This is a movie by Christians (I think) and for Christians. If one movie can presume an audience to not be superficial, it was this one. Cast some normal looking people. Cast a scrawny guy and a chubby girl or a scrawny girl and a chubby guy.

I honestly liked the movie. It was just unrealistic. I recently graduated from a secular college and didn’t encounter any professor like the one in the movie (not saying none such exist). My school was extremely liberal but also not real in my face about it. I’m sensitive to those types of biases but in all honesty Kent (the Stark campus anyhow) did a good job hiding agendas. I couldn’t even tell you where 95% of my professors stood on issues of religion and politics. I wrote a huge paper on John Calvin and got an ‘A’ on it. I mentioned my faith and wasn’t shy about being dogmatic and still received good grades. But that’s just my experience. I’m not naive enough to think my experience was the norm for college students today.

See the movie or don’t. I’m not saying it’s a must see. I think it was good. I have some issues with it but not enough to issue a public warning like I did with “Heaven is for Real” and “Son of God.”

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