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Is God Dead? A Review of "God's (Not) Dead"

Updated on January 13, 2016

God's Not Dead movie review

What would you do if someone in authority over you - someone who had the power to destroy your future career plans - demanded that you deny something that is core to your very being? What do you choose? Accept the demand and play along, pretending that you don't believe what you know to be true, doing what everyone around you is doing, or stand up for what you believe in, even if it means doing what those you love most tell you you shouldn't?

That is the position Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper) find himself when Professor Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo) demands everyone in his philosophy class write out the words "God is dead" on a piece of paper and sign it, on their first day of class.

Josh's choice to stand up for his faith leads to Professor Radisson forcing him to either prove God exists, or be failed in class, and losing his chance to get his degree.

In the end, the class has to decide, based on the evidence they are presented with, who is right; the freshman or the professor.

Is God dead?

What do you think? Answer now, then again down below.

Is there a God?

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Synopsis

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On the first day of philosophy class, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) demands that his entire class deny the existence of God, or fail. Everyone in class is willing to write out and sign their names to the words "God is dead." Everyone, that is, but Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper). Josh, a Christian, refuses. Professor Radisson responds by tasking Josh with proving God's existence in only three 20 minute lectures. Under those limitations, while facing Professor Radisson's mockery and antagonism, he must convince his classmates that God is real. If he fails to do so, he fails his class, ending his hopes and dreams for his degree. Or, he could just sign the paper, like everyone else in his class, and life would go on.

Josh chooses to stand up for his convictions. In the process, he is confronted by an aggressive professor who threatens to ensure Josh never gets his degree. He goes against the wishes of his family, and even his long-term girlfriend abandons him.

Is it worth it?

Official Trailer

Three Arguments for God

Josh has only three chances to prove God's existence. He uses this time to put forward three arguments for the existence of God.

Cosmology

Josh's first argument is scientific. In this lecture, Josh demonstrates how "science" once believed that the universe itself was eternal and uncaused, but that evidence shows that the universe had a beginning (the Big Bang theory), and was therefore caused. He shows how science and reason favour the existence of God; not just any god, but God as described in Christianity.

The shortest version of the cosmological argument is the kalam cosmoligical argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

At the end of his lecture, Professor Radisson "destroys" his entire argument with a single quote from Stephen Hawking. That quote becomes the starting point of Josh's second lecture.

Evolution

In his second lecture, Josh does his research and returns to the Stephen Hawking quote, pointing out how it is circular reasoning. He also points out that, in the same book, Stephen Hawking states that "philosophy is dead," as well.

For the remainder of his lecture, Josh addresses evolution, and the challenge of how life could form from non-life, demonstrating how Darwin's gradualism theory was proven wrong by fossil evidence, suggesting that, while such evolutionary leaps could not occur through random events in such a relatively short period of time, they can be explained if they were guided by a creator.

After this lecture, Josh finds himself in a face-to-face with Professor Radisson. In this altercation, Professor Radisson reveals his own Christian past, and how he abandoned faith as a child, when his prayers to save his dying mother went unanswered.

The Problem of Evil

In this lecture, Josh addresses the reality, that bad things happen to good people. If there is a God, how can this God allow evil to exist? In this lecture he talks about free will, and the consequences of our choices.

Just before this lecture begins, however, Professor Radisson changes things up at the last moment. Rather than allow Josh to simply give the final lecture, he instead turns it into a debate; the seasoned professor taking on the freshman. The professor's anger is palpable, leading Josh to demand of him, why does he hate God so much? When the professor finally does answer the question, admitting his hatred for God, Josh then asks, "How can you hate someone who doesn't exist?"

At this point of the movie, I heard a number of people watching it with me break into applause.

The three arguments Josh uses in his lectures are common in Christian apologetics. The main problem I had with them is that time constraints prevented them from being fully addressed to the viewers, leaving significant gaps.

After the end of his third lecture, it is up to the class to decide if Josh succeeded in his goal; proving that God does exist. Almost (but not quite) the entire class eventually stands to say, "God's not dead."

Source

The Subplots

Throughout the movie, there are a number of subplots. One involves a journalist, Amy Ryan (Trisha LaFache) who writes for a blog called the New Left (at least I think that's what she said it was called). She ambushes people for interviews, including Duck Dynasty's Willie and Korie Robertson, while openly hostile towards her subjects. Her world is turned upside down when she learns she has cancer, and is promptly dumped by her wealthy, selfish boyfriend, Mark (Dean Cain).

Mark turns out to be the brother of Professor Radisson's girlfriend, Mina (Cory Oliver). Mina is a Christian, and a former student of Professor Radisson's. In one scene, the professor talks about his early impressions of her, and how glad he was to find such a good mind attached to her good looks. Later, however, it becomes clear that he doesn't think much of her intelligence at all, partly because of her religious beliefs, openly mocking her to his more cerebral (and atheist) friends, until she finally leaves him.

Mina's mother, meanwhile, is suffering from dementia, no longer recognising her own children. Mina visits her and tries to talk her brother into doing the same. Towards the end of the movie, he finally does, leading to what turns out to be a very powerful scene.

Another subplot involves a young woman who works in the cafeteria, Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu), where she overhears Josh talking to his girlfriend about why he feels he needs to stand up for his Christian faith. This woman, from a Muslim family, turns out to be a secret Christian. When her father learns of her Christianity, he throws her out of their home - literally.

One person who supports Josh in his efforts to defend the existence of God is Reverend Dave (David A. R. White). Mina turns to him for advice as well, and he helps Ayisha after she is rejected by her family. He also turns out to be a man who is struggling with his own faith.

And finally, there is Martin Yip (Paul Kwo), a student from China who is fascinated by talk of God and wants to learn more, but is warned against it by his father.

All of these subplots do eventually come together, adding different layers of meaning to the entire movie.

Conclusion

Is this movie worth spending your money on?

This movie had a lot of things going against it. It's a low budget movie, limiting its resources. It's a Christian movie, a genre with an unfortunate reputation - not entirely undeserved - for making poor quality movies. It had a limited release in the US, only recently opened in Canada, in only 33 theatres across the country, and has yet to open in the UK at the time of this writing. Given the subject matter, it also opened with a large segment of the population already determined to hate it.

I first learned about the movie only because I follow Kevin Sorbo, one of the few openly Christian actors in Hollywood, on facebook. I've wanted to see it since, and was glad to find out it would open in Canada. I'd heard both good and bad about it, but given the sorts of comments made by those who hated it, I figured that meant it was a really good movie!

Was I right?

I think so, yes.

For starters, the acting is good. Sorbo and Harper do a great job with their characters. The script writing was good, too. While the subplots did run the risk of bogging the movie down, by the end, they were tied together fairly well.

There were times when I felt some characters were off, such as Josh's girlfriend, until I remembered that I've actually met people in real life that behave that way. One subplot did come across to me as more unrealistic; the young woman who secretly converted to Christianity. Based on first hand knowledge and experience, I felt that they underplayed the severity of her situation, and portrayed her father in a far kinder light than reality. The antagonistic behaviour of the journalist, as she ambushed people she openly dispised for interviews, is another one that, at first, seemed artificial, except that once again, I have experienced that sort of behaviour myself.

It is the behaviour of Professor Radisson that one would think would be the most unrealistic. It's hard to believe that this sort of open bigotry and bullying from a professor could be real. Yet it is. This is the sort of environment that is all too common in today's universities. The movie itself is based on a book, God's Not Dead; Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty, by Rice Brooks. It's also based on real life events. One of the most amazing things about the movie comes at the end, just before the credits, when lists of real court cases involving Christian persecution in US universities scroll by. The sorts of attacks Josh experiences in the movie happens to Christian students in real life. Most modern universities are openly hostile to Christians, and there are plenty of Professor Radissons out there.

Does the movie prove what is says in the title?

Yes and no.

It addresses the primary arguments for the existence of God, but only briefly. It is more of a teaser. For those who are interested in learning more, it gives starting points for further research.

This is a movie that's really aimed at the fence sitters. If you're a Christian, I would hope you are already familiar with these arguments. If you are a staunch atheist, chances are you'll dismiss them completely. If you're somewhere in between, this movie addresses a number of important issues, providing at least a launchpad for further investigation.

Is this movie worth seeing? Yes, I would recommend it.

Is God Dead?

No. He is very much alive, and there is plenty of evidence for this.

Are you open to learning more about what that evidence is?

What do you think?

Here's your chance; choose a position, then explain why you hold it.

Does God (as described in the Bible) exist?

Yes, I believe the evidence points to God.

Yes, I believe the evidence points to God.

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    • Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      I converse with Him everyday!

    • AnnaMKB 3 years ago

      One of the reasons I say yes is because of the science. As the cosmological argument states, our universe had a beginning and, therefore, had a cause. That cause cannot be material, as that would require endless regression (what caused the cause). The creation of a material world logically requires an immaterial cause; something that is eternal and exists outside of our material universe, including both time and space. Only the Bible describes such a being. God is not described as some human with superpowers, but rather as an amorphous, intelligent being that exists outside the material world, yet able to interact with it.

      Other reasons include the language of DNA; a language that we can actually read. In fact, it's recently been discovered that DNA is made up of not one, but two languages. The information in DNA is more complex than any software code humans have ever been able to come up with, yet no one would reasonable claim that the information in programs just happened spontaneously and randomly.

      There is more, but too much to write here! *L*

    • jolou 3 years ago

      Absolutely!

    No, I don't believe there is evidence for God.

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      • David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

        No, certainly not. The Biblical God is constructed of human elements and hope. If there is a God, He, She or It is no more likely to be like a man than like a cat or a salamander. While much of the Bible is well-intentioned, it misses the point that God is not about proof but about understanding.

      Answer this after you've had a chance to explore the issue.

      Is there a God? (Feel free to explain more in the comments)

      See results

      Learn More

      Here are just a few books where you can start your journey to answer the question for yourself: Is God Dead?

      Your thoughts.

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        • AnnaMKB profile image
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          AnnaMKB 3 years ago

          @WinWriter: Thank yo so much for sharing your experience.

        • profile image

          WinWriter 3 years ago

          I tried to post this up in the area above, but had no luck.

          I say Absolutely, yes! God does exist. The Bible is convicting and that's why many atheists don't want to acknowledge its truth.

          I think this movie is really good. I could see it again and have recommended it to many people. Is it a perfect movie? No, just as you mention in your article. But, itâs a good start.

          I grieve for those university professors who feel the need to trash God and Christianity. These professors and their students (who fall for that deception) are lost, and in need of a Savior. I pray for their hearts and minds to be open to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Yes, the attacks will come but, as Christians, we've already been warned about that. The evidence is very clear, but some people will refuse to accept anything even when there is a huge library of evidence in support of God's existence. You can't have a creation without a Creator. It's impossible, otherwise buildings, cars, and houses just pop up out of nowhere. The facts and evidence are there for those who truly want to search it out. I did it myself. As a former television reporter, I don't just take things at face value. I prayed, I sought the truth, and found the answers I was looking for. This is a fact: my entire perspective on life and salvation has completely changed and I praise the one and only God for that. I am living proof of a changed life after putting my faith in Jesus Christ. That is the gift that God has given me.

          Every night I offer a prayer for unbelievers - I do care about them. Blessings to you, AnnaMKB, for writing this well-done article.

        • AnnaMKB profile image
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          AnnaMKB 3 years ago

          @alienbritt: Uhm... I did mention that in the conclusion; the movie provides starting points for those who are looking.

          Of course, those who have already made up their minds will have no interest in looking.

        • alienbritt profile image

          alienbritt 3 years ago

          Honestly, this movie does not prove the biblical God's existence. I think if you look at it with skepticism and common sense, one could come to this conclusion! As much as you WANT to believe something, it doesn't make it true.

        • PaigSr profile image

          PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

          There are very few movies these days that I will actually pay to see in the theater. And this is one of them. The last one was Courageous. And as soon as it was released on video It along with the soundtrack were added to my collection. Not sure about the sound track on this one but the movie will be added as soon as possible.

        • SimplySherlock profile image

          SimplySherlock 3 years ago

          Figured I should poke around a bit. I noted this and I am not a God believer myself but I wanted to note that I enjoyed your review. It was well written. Thank you.

        • WriterJanis2 profile image

          WriterJanis2 3 years ago

          There is so much that can be said here and so much controversy. Let me just say that I enjoyed this lens.

        • SusanDeppner profile image

          Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

          I love that this topic is coming up so frequently right now - because time is short and so many need to know the truth. I pray that doubters become bold believers as a result of this movie.

        • AnnaMKB profile image
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          AnnaMKB 3 years ago

          @Heidi Vincent: Thank you.

          For myself, I was raised Catholic, then went through phases of almost-atheism (never could quite grasp the illogic of it, though) agnosticism, new-agey spiritualism, religious pluralism and even explored occultish avenues, back in my rebellious teenage years.

          What finally brought be around was exactly what detractors claim is impossible in order to hold a belief in God: logic and reason. The more I learned about everything from cosmology to the incredible complexity of even the simplest of cells (there's no such thing as a "simple" cell!!), to the conditions required for life, and even fossil evidence (Cambrian Explosion, anyone?), the more I realised that the Judeo-Christian God was the only possibility. For me, emotion got in the way of finding the truth.

        • CherylsArt profile image

          Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

          I think the movie was interesting, but really didn't answer the question. There are many interpretations of God. Even in the Bible, Jesus said that God is spirit, and that all ye are Gods. This wasn't explored in the movie.

          Also, in the movie, it was mentioned about having to have a god to have morality. People can be moral and have values without believing in God.

          By the way, I believe that God is spirit, and that we are all gods. : )

        • Heidi Vincent profile image

          Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

          Great review, AnnaMKB! I especially liked your conclusion wherein you address a most important point, "Does the movie prove what it says in the title?" and explain what each type of believer or non-believer will come away with from it. In my opinion, the key thing is that we live in a world that has so grown accustomed to 'now for now' answers that I think some people went to the movie sort of hoping that all their questions about God and His existence would be finally answered in 2 hours. Personally, my experience of God is ongoing, in all of my emotions, the people I encounter, the circumstances I face and my own response to each and all of these. Thanks for this lovely addition to the Christian niche! I wish you a Happy Easter, in advance!

        • AnnaMKB profile image
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          AnnaMKB 3 years ago

          @David Stone1: Most movies have their own bias - that's normal - but very few of them are clear or honest in their presentation (Noah comes to mind, since it's out at the same time and is so blatantly and unapologetically twisted in its message).

          This movie doesn't just directly attempt to address the most common atheist objections (if not as fully as I would have liked), but it uses real life cases as the foundation of what happens in the movie. The characters are fictional, but the plot is not.

        • AnnaMKB profile image
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          AnnaMKB 3 years ago

          @jolou: Just watching the trailers for Noah makes me cringe, it's so terrible. Turning it into an environmentalism/anti-meat eating movie is pretty lame, too.

          And rock monters. Who thought *that* was a good idea? Sheesh! *L*

        • AnnaMKB profile image
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          AnnaMKB 3 years ago

          @CherylsArt: Context is everything. Jesus was referring to psalm 82

          1God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the âgodsâ:

          2âHow long will youa defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?b

          3Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

          4Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

          5âThe âgodsâ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

          6âI said, âYou are âgodsâ; you are all sons of the Most High.â

          7But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.â

          8Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

        • David Stone1 profile image

          David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

          Ambitious movies of this kind are always interesting. All movies start with a point of view, so the fact that this one comes in with a Christian slant is no problem. The question that matters is whether the story is unreasonably slanted to promote its values or is a clear, honest presentation that leads to its conclusion.

          To me, it sounds like the filmmakers were willing to take the right kind of chances to let both sides be heard. It certainly sounds better than any movie of its kind I've heard about before. Might be worth a watch, if it comes around.

        • jolou profile image

          jolou 3 years ago

          This is one movie I would like to see. I definitely won't see Noah, but am happy to support films like this that are made my Christians and have a Christian message.

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