Spoiler alert: Skip this post if you don’t want to know too much about the God’s Not Dead movie
Note: I haven’t seen the movie and probably won’t, but this review seemed pretty thorough and came from a site that would presumably be predisposed to like a production like this. Go ahead and see it if you like, but either way I encourage you to use it as a springboard to candidly discuss the points of the movie, the gaps and how we could be more effective in sharing the Good News. My goal with skeptics isn’t to fully address every item in their Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites, but to give thorough, meaningful answers to a couple key questions to remove some barriers and then encourage them to read the word of God, which will do the real work.
And remember that apologetic reasoning isn’t just important for addressing legitimate questions of non-believers as we seek to point them to the truths in the Bible, but also to strengthen the faith of believers. So it is important to always use good arguments and to consider the counter-arguments.
When I first heard of God’s Not Dead I thought it might be a good opportunity to present some key apologetic arguments in a movie. Sounds like the effort may end up being counterproductive. Apparently they used arguments that weren’t fleshed out very well and that atheists could easily refute. If Christians new to apologetics try to use the arguments presented by the movie, they will probably fail with the atheists and may end up with less confidence themselves. Yes, we have been given the truth, but if you love people you won’t send them off with a false sense of confidence and pretend that they can be white-hot apologists in one easy lesson.
There are multiple subplots in the movie which are all introduced in its first few minutes, but not developed immediately, and it seems to take a while before the details emerge allowing the viewer a chance to catch up. However, the main story is that Josh, a college freshman, is taking an Introduction to Philosophy class from an infamously atheistic professor, Dr. Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo who is known for his role on the TV show Hercules, among other roles). The very first class, the professor stands up and gives a short discourse about the virtues and intellectual superiority of atheism. He then gives the class their first assignment. He passes out blank papers, and demands that each student write “God is dead” and sign their names in order to get a passing grade. Josh refuses, so the professor forces him to take an alternate assignment; Josh will be given time in the next three lectures to prove the existence of God. If the students in his class are convinced, he passes the assignment. If not, he fails the semester, and thus his chances at a prestigious law degree.
This “hostile atheist professor” is a pretty common scenario, though usually not in such a heavy-handed way. I am a big believer in equipping kids to stay strong in their faith when they leave your house. But you can’t give them superficial or partial arguments.
And you should never expect some sort of immediate and across the board conversion of a group of people even if you make sound arguments. The Holy Spirit goes where He will. We can honor God by stating the truth about him regardless of whether He has made them spiritually alive and they accept the truth.
I don’t want to be too hard on the movie, because there is only so much you can cram into two hours. But it sounds like they could have used better arguments and that they made the characters and scenarios a little too extreme. I would have stuck with things like the cosmological, design and moral arguments. These are very sound yet also accessible to the average person. But I would not have missed the opportunity to work in the minimal facts* arguments. Consider the benefits of that:
- You would be talking directly about Jesus, not some generic god.
- You would point to facts that the history professors on that very campus would agree with (e.g., Jesus really lived and died on a Roman cross, that Paul was a convert and wrote extensively about Jesus close to his death, etc.).
- You would be bursting the myth that we have a blind faith.
- You would be talking about the crucifixion and why it occurred, and the resurrection and what that meant.
And I definitely wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to highlight Romans 1, which would demonstrate that in the Christian worldview no amount of arguments will work on people who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and that God will judge them based on Christ’s standards, not their’s.
Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
We know why atheists hold their worldview, but all they have to explain our worldview is their beloved Darwinian evolution (however they are defining that this week). And if the manifestation of their theory is the cause of our trust in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, why are they so angry about the outcome?
Whether you see it or not, be sure to be prepared to address the topic when it comes up. Point them to resources like Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design or Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, or to my favorite apologetics blogger, the Wintery Knight.
You can remind people that Christianity is a faith based on real events in history. We readily concede that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then we are completely wrong about God (1 Corinthians 15).
But we have great reasons that He did rise from the dead, that He is fully God and fully man, that if we repent and believe in him we can be saved from our sins and have his righteousness imputed to us, that He is the only way to salvation, and more! Point them to the word of God and trust him with the results. And don’t be surprised if they dislike you even more after you share the truth in love.
*Summary of the “minimal facts” approach: Nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements:
- Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
- Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
- Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
- The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others. He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.
75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty.
None of the alternative theories can be true in light of these facts. The physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts.