A Movie I Should Love
I am, by the grace of God, a Christian.
I am also, by the grace of God, a Christian philosopher.
I have, by the grace of God, survived the rigors of a non-Christian education in philosophy.
Finally I have, by the grace of God, participated in a number of public moderated debates on the existence of God with professing atheists.
The movie God’s Not Dead seems to be right up my alley. A lot of people have suggested I go see it. I probably will.
But I am not looking forward to it. In fact, the trailer alone really concerns me. Here is the movie trailer followed by some reasons why the trailer concerns me.
To Me, It’s So Postmodern
If you want to make what you say really palatable to society at large just add two little words to the beginning of everything you say. Those two words are “to me.”
You see, as soon as you preface your statements with the words “to me” you make the truth of those statements relative to you. Let me explain.
If you say, “God exists,” then you have stated, quite simply, that God exists, and that God exists out there, outside of you, and that He exists for everyone as it were, and not just for you.
But if you say, “To me, God exists,” then you have stated something quite different. You have stated that God exists, but not that God exists out there, outside of you. You have said nothing about whether or not God exists for everyone. Rather, you have only claimed that God exists for you.
Another way to put it is that you have said, in the second instance above, that your truth is that God exists. Other people may have other “truths” about God’s existence, but for you,God exists.
This is postmodern thinking pure and simple. Postmodernism is a pervasive anti-Christian philosophy. In postmodernism, truth is relative. Truth depends upon our beliefs. But that’s crazy. Just because I believe I can fly does not mean I can actually fly.
Moreover, in our society truth is often thought of as subjective. This means that truth depends upon our emotions. Truth has nothing to do with whether or not a statement is factual. If something feels good, then it is true. Sound familiar?
At least three instances of postmodern thinking loom large in the trailer.
At the 10 second mark in the trailer, a woman stands in front of the Christian Contemporary Music group Newsboys. She mockingly says, “In a few minutes you guys are going to go out there and sing about God and Jesus as if they are as real as you and me.”
Much to my disappointment, Michael Tait, the lead singer for Newsboys, replies, “To us, they are as real.”
No Mike! Truth does not depend on your feelings. Truth is not relative to you. “God and Jesus” are not just real to you. God and Jesus are real, period. (By the way, I am not sure why, but the phrase “God and Jesus” is used throughout this trailer in such a way that it sounds as though Jesus is not God.)
At the 1:30 mark in the trailer, the main character, “Josh Wheaton,” referring to God, says, “To me, He’s not dead.”
No Josh! Truth does not depend on your feelings. Truth is not relative to you. God is not just alive to you. God is alive, period!
At the 2:12 mark in the trailer, the Newsboys sing, “God’s not dead, He’s surely alive. He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion.”
No Newsboys! Truth does not depend on your feelings. Truth is not relative to you. God is not just alive inside of you. God is alive, period!
God is Never on Trial, We Are
At the 1:40 mark in the trailer Josh boasts, “We’re going to put God on trial.” The great Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis was spot on in his description of this mixed up methodology.
The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God is in the dock.
Not only is this approach to defending the existence of God methodologically problematic (for reasons I will not get into here), but it is exceedingly arrogant. Romans 9.20 comes to mind. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” God is not to be judged by us. We are to be judged by Him. God is not on trial. We are on trial.
But I Can’t Judge a Movie by Its Trailer
Or can I? The two methodological concerns I have pointed out above are significant concerns. They are, in and of themselves, enough to destroy the apologetic value of this movie. Based on the trailer, I would have a hard time recommending this movie to young, impressionable Christians. Perhaps the movie will change my mind, but I doubt it. I have three other comments not mentioned above. I discuss them below.
First, what is the target audience for this film? The Christian? The non-Christian? The academic community? The target audience is not immediately clear to me.
Second, those who believe the statement “God is Dead” is some sort of rallying cry that atheists run about and spout (or require on student “papers” for a passing grade) need to do a bit more research into the origin and meaning of the phrase.
Third, at the 2:27 mark in the movie trailer Josh claims, “Science supports His existence, so why do you hate him?” If this line indicates anything about the philosophical substance of the movie, then the movie is awful. Aside from the fact that Josh is talking about science in a philosophy class, and aside from the suspicion that Josh has not actually provided solid scientific evidence to “support” the existence of God, why does Josh think his question about the professor’s supposed hatred of God has anything to do with scientific support for God’s existence? Plenty of scientific reasoning supports my existence, but that does not prevent people from hating me. (For example, if you liked God’s Not Dead, then you probably dislike me at the moment.) More importantly, why does Josh feel it necessary to physically move toward the professor in a threatening manner, screaming at him as he does so? If a student were to approach me the way this “Christian” approaches his philosophy professor in this movie trailer, I would promptly dismiss class and call campus security. (Then again, I’m no Hercules.)
If God’s Not Dead teaches Christian students to fear their professors (and, gasp, philosophy professors in particular), and if it teaches them to make relative statements, and if it teaches them to think sinful students and professors are in a position to put the Creator on trial, and if it teaches Christian students to respond to unbelieving professors the way Josh approaches his atheist professor, then God’s Not Dead is just generally unhelpful. Perhaps I will change my tune once I see the movie. But I’m not getting my hopes up.