Posted in: Review

God’s Not Dead

If you get a text message from a friend that reads “God’s not dead,” you’ll know they’ve been to the movies recently. That’s because the Christian-themed film God’s Not Dead ends with an on-screen plea for audience members to text the film’s titular message to everyone in their contacts list. Here’s a movie whose concept is just interesting enough to make you wish the execution was better. While it most certainly has some very good qualities, it is ultimately undone — at least for general audiences — by a completely unsubtle desire to do more than simply tell a meaningful story; it wants to rock the world.

Shane Harper plays college freshman Josh Wheaton, who signs up for a philosophy class taught by Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). To make sure everyone is prepared for what he plans to teach, the avowed atheist asks each of them to write the words “God is dead” on a piece of paper and sign their name to it. This renunciation of the Lord will be vital to getting into the correct mindset to ace the course, he assures his students. Josh is a Christian, though, and he refuses to do it. Radisson then announces that he will give Josh twenty minutes at the end of the next three classes to convince his peers that God exists. (In a major stretch of credibility, apparently not one single other student in the class is Christian.) If they don’t buy it, he fails the course. Josh begins making his case, but his increasingly angry professor attempts to refute him at every turn.

When God’s Not Dead sticks to the classroom, it’s engrossing. The characters engage in very well-written point/counterpoint sessions, and their individual arguments are interesting and thought-provoking. You can easily become wrapped up in them, much in the same way you would if you were attending a debate and listening to both sides haul out the most powerful evidence in their arsenals. Harper and Sorbo deliver committed, believable performances, which helps sell the adversarial dynamic between Josh and Radisson. The classroom scenes of God’s Not Dead do a fine job depicting the ongoing cultural discussion of science versus religion, and whether there can be any intersection between the two.

The problem is that the movie keeps veering out of the classroom to focus on a handful of supporting characters with little or no connection to Josh. There’s a leftist blogger, also an atheist, whose job seems to be harassing Christian celebrities, including Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson and rock group The Newsboys (both of whom have awkwardly forced cameos). There’s also Radisson’s girlfriend, who, ironically enough, is a believer; a minister desperately trying to take a vacation with a visiting missionary but unable to find a car that works; a young woman hiding her belief in Jesus from her strict Muslim father; and a morally bankrupt businessman (played by Dean Cain) who callously ignores his Alzheimer’s-ridden mother. The film tries to surprise you with revelations (no pun intended) about how these characters are connected to each other, but they are ultimately far less interesting than the classroom debate.

God’s Not Dead has a final act that is frustrating. After the Josh/Radisson plot wraps up, the movie goes on to bring all the characters together at a rock concert, where a miracle happens and souls are saved. It’s done with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the head. Finally, there’s the aforementioned plea to text your friends as the credits roll. Christian audiences will probably forgive the grand finale since it does, after all, most blatantly drive home the message about the Lord’s capacity for greatness. While that message is certainly uplifting, the way it’s delivered detrimentally shifts the movie’s tone into something beyond melodrama.

In the end, God’s Not Dead is really two movies. The one about the student standing up to his bullying professor is pretty good. The one involving everyone else winding their way toward a miracle is heavy-handed and didactic. It’s a shame that second movie gets in the way of the first.

Comments (23) on "God’s Not Dead"

  1. This movie seems to propagate one of the gop’s myths, that colleges are evil institutions with the goal of turning young people into god-less liberals. So stupid. No professor would require students to deny god or else get a failing grade. If one tried, it’d be all over fox news for months and he’d be fired. Beyond that the ‘ secular education is bad’ reasoning is not only stupid, it’s harmful. What irks me more though, is how the gop and christian conservatives are so joined in ‘hating’ liberals (as this movie apparently reinforces), yet conservatism’s economic goals of benefiting the rich at the expense of the poor, cut food stamps, unemployment insurance, other programs, while slashing taxes and providing tax loopholes for billion dollar companies and individuals, is contrary to Christs’s teachings! Also, you really think Christ would love guns, ‘shoot first’ laws and war as much as the gop does? . As well as this sneering shrill attitude they project (all of Sara Palin speeches for example, all the conservative talk show people) towards liberals, the poor, and often women and minorities: again, not Christ like.

    1. Talk about the movie after seeing it, or the review after reading it. Leave your political spin on MSNBC’s thread.

  2. Even watching the trailer made me laugh out loud. I have never seen such a straw man atheist in my life, you would only ever see this kind of person in THIS kind of film. The arguments are sad, I pity the fool who takes these arguments to his atheist friend and thinks they would hold up to a moment of rational thought.
    My only hope is that the Christian kids who go to college will take this and try to apply it to a real life experience and end up being persuaded by logic and reasoning that will surround them in their college setting, one in which professors don’t normally physically push their students around and accuse them of ridiculous evils.

  3. The review is really pretty good. The comments are horrendous. Cam and A, you both sound like political hacks.

  4. I saw the movie and I actually think the review was pretty fair. The classroom scenes were engaging; the myriad characters winding through the film, less so.

  5. Fantastic movie, for those with eyes to see. Points out the most important element anyone can ever have in their life, which makes them eligible or not for eternity. There’s only 1 way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. Miss that, and you’ve missed it all.

  6. this is one of the best films I’ve seen in years it brings out so many truths in our reality of life

  7. The first poster is completely correct. The fact that the professor will fail anyone who does not deny god is not only laughable, but contemptible. No matter, this movie is preaching to the converted and isn’t interested in winning hearts and minds, only reinforcing the ridiculous Fox/Koch propaganda of the “persecuted christian” and appeal to those use religion as a mask for their bigotry and hatred. Fortunately, Most Christians reject this kind of dangerous nonsense. “God’s not Dead” is certainly offensive to anyone who does not share it’s politically motivated point of view.

  8. I was 50/50 going into this new film, but I came out 100/100!!!! I see that some people are bothered by the portrayal of some of the characters in this movie, I can understand that to an extent, however, in reality many people in the world ARE that way if not more-so. I’ve been around the world and I’ve lived in America for 32 years…

    Here in America we are used to having low budget, “christian” films who show a generic amount of what it truly means to believe in God. On the other hand in mainstream films and in the media in general, “christians” are made to look like bigots and idiots with no legitimate reasons to believe in what many atheists call a “sky daddy.” Well…

    This movie DEMOLISHES those anti-God notions with absolute TRUTH and more proof of who He is than who He isn’t!! The main point of this movie is the real life DEBATE details, not the characters. Anyway you look at it, if you pay attention to and and take all stances into account with the debates in a REAL LIFE manner, you won’t be able to go by in life Truly believing that there is no God… our Creator! You could say that I’m easily swayed and brainwashed, ignorant and need a crutch, but according to all things that matter in life, it’s just the opposite.

    You’ll also see that there were at least 40, yes FORTY –> REAL-LIFE, DOCUMENTED, COURT CASES HERE IN AMERICA that took place because of similar events of discrimination and hate towards “Christian” groups and students on college campuses. Yes, even here in America and to this very day – and growing!

    Lastly, please remember this if nothing else from this review: As you all go throughout life meeting people who claim to be Christians (simply meaning: a follower of Jesus Christ) yet they display any HATE towards anyone… it’s got to be legitimate ‘hate’… What do I mean? Well to clarify, just because one may disagree with something or someone or ANY particular act or lifestyle (those lifestyles go beyond homosexuality though that may be included…) does NOT mean that they “hate” them at all)… Now back to the original point– Not everyone who claims to be a Christian truly is one. What do I mean? Well, standing in a garage all day, everyday will not turn a person into a car. And the same applies to church, just because someone goes doesn’t make them a true Christian…

    God does love ALL people whether we hate Him or believe in Him or not. At His essence He IS love, He created it (1 John 4:8) and He wants you to know that He does love YOU, despite the sins we’ve all committed, despite ANYTHING any of us has ever done or didn’t do. That’s why He sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for ALL of mankind, every ethnicity, every nationality, every religion, EVERY person. Seems so cliché, but it’s so true: John 3:16. And finally, read: Romans 10:9-10. The decision is our own. Free will. It all comes down to whether we receive or reject the Love of God through His only Son, Jesus Christ. God bless you all.

    “Atheism doesn’t cure the pain, it only takes away the hope.” -Dr R. Broocks

  9. ASIA FOR THE ASIANS, AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS, WHITE COUNTRIES FOR EVERYBODY!
    Anti-Whites say there should be no White Countries?
    Anti-Whites say there should be no White Towns?
    Anti-Whites say there should be no White Neighborhoods?
    Anti-Whites say there should be no White Anything?
    Anti-Whites say there should be no White People?
    Immigration = Colonization – “Diversity” = Fewer White Children
    “Multiculturalism” = WHITE GENOCIDE
    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White

  10. Every White country on the planet is forced to become multicultural and multiracial.
    EVERY white country is told to end its own race and culture.
    No one asks that of ANY non-White country. Immigration and forced-assimilation is for ALL & ONLY White countries.
    Anti-Whites call themselves “anti-racist”, but their words & actions lead to the genocide of only one group: White people.
    The true goal of anti-racism is to genocide my people.
    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

    1. Whenever I read nonsense like this, it makes me convinced the multiculturalists are right. If multiculturalism brings an end to ignorant, racist, hate-spewing, “White Power” lunatics like you, then I’m all for it!

  11. Upon receiving the “God’s not dead” text message from an acquaintance, who, by the way, wasn’t even in my contacts, I immediately asked a mutual friend why on earth this girl would send such a weird text message to me. When she explained that it was from the movie, I was horrified. I was even more horrified to read the reviews on the movie. I am a Christian and I haven’t gotten up the nerve to go see it. I think it’s good to know what’s out there, but I hate the thought of giving any money to the producers the film.

    Anyways, I’m very glad to have read your review. I wanted to let you know that there’s a new Christian movie coming out that I’m hoping changes how Christian films are made. It’s well-done with a good cast and it’s funny for Christians and non-Christians alike. There’s no bashing of other religions. If anything, it takes a look at some of the things Christians might want to reconsider. But most of all, I like that at the end, it leaves the audience with a conversation, rather than bashing them over the head with a specific message. The movie is called “Believe Me”, by Riot Studios. You can check out the trailer at http://believemefilm.com?hlr=Vx91nSU8.

    Thanks!

  12. So I never do this (reply to reviews etc) but this movie….oh my GOD…let me start by saying I rented this for my boyfriend & I (who believe in God) thinking it would have substance! Boy was I embarrassed! It is an insult to everyone! I don’t even know where to start it’s so bad but I’ll pick 1 part (spoiler- lol as if this movie has any real surprises, oh unless u consider Duck Dynasty dude or the “Newsboys “appearance a “surprise”) the girl who gets cancer is a vegetarian. Ok well there are many deep reasons people go this way such as a knowing feeling God wouldn’t want animals unable to live their genuine purpose in life out, unlike in today’s sick underworld of factory farming a very Godless and creepy true evil (anyone that has seen a real spiritual movie like “Earthlings” knows where I’m coming from) no this chick is a moron who just spouts out “Willie Roberston u shoots ducks & pray to Jesus you’re bad” making her look just stupid. Then good ol boy Willie says some words of wisdom bla bla bla ….Offensive to Atheists. Offensive to Christians with a brain. Offensive to Muslims. Offensive to America! The funniest part was Muslim girl chillin to Christian podcast. What a rebel! Lol! Or maybe the funniest was what a lil bitch joshes gf was! I think that part was supposed to be sad, I don’t know, I definitely laughed a lot in this movie. I almost felt like it was made by the “other side” to get intelligent people to go atheist lol!

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