A Review of God’s Not Dead
by Ken Mann
I have a confession to make. When I first saw the trailer for God’s Not Dead, I winced. Perhaps it was the brevity of the medium. Perhaps it was the “David against Goliath” theme being wielded (at least in the trailer) with the subtlety of a nuclear weapon. Perhaps it was simply my fear it would be another in a long line of poorly executed Christian themed films.
I have never been more pleased to be so wrong. Having viewed the film this weekend with my 18-year-old daughter, I could hardly wait to write about it. I believe every Christian should see this movie. They should become familiar with some of the apologetics material in it and take an atheist/skeptic friend to see it. The conversations that would follow would be wonderful, even epic.
Allow me to review the film from two different perspectives: as an apologist and as a filmgoer.
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As an apologist, going in I was especially worried. From the trailer, it seemed obvious that the Problem of Evil as well as the existence of God were part of the story. Making such material accessible and presenting it in the necessarily compressed context of a film narrative are daunting challenges. A college classroom and an arrogant philosophy professor are wonderful vehicles for the film’s protagonist (Shane Harper) to present scientific arguments for God’s existence. The nerds of scientific apologetics (like myself) will be awed at the name-dropping (Hawking, Dawkins, Lennox and Lemaître) and potent quotations (“Philosophy is dead.”). The casual viewer not familiar such material will hopefully come away with the strong impression that the Christian view of reality, as seen in the history of the universe, is rational and plausible.
The problem of evil plays a prominent role in the film’s overall narrative, while playing a very minor role in the apologetics dialogue of the classroom. b Since I want to avoid spoiling the film, I will simply say that the problem of evil is real and has “nasty pointy teeth.” There are some difficult, gut wrenching moments, which serve to drive home the necessity of grappling with the question of God.
Overall, I would describe the apologetic elements of the film as script as tight, clear and effective.
As a filmgoer I was pleased. The story never dragged and kept four different yet interrelated storylines moving toward a significant and powerful collision at the end of the film. As I experienced it, there were only a few times when the dialogue seemed stilted. After certain plot elements were injected into the story, the scene ends abruptly. However, these minor annoyances were overshadowed by a well-acted and well-paced story where almost every character, even the atheist, was sympathetic. I wept. I cheered. I was completely captivated…