What would you do, assuming you’re a Christian, if you enrolled in your first philosophy course as a freshman in college, and on the first day, your professor demands that you write “God is dead” on a piece of paper, sign your name, and hand it in? I know what I would do, particularly now that I’ve seen the movie God’s Not Dead. This is what I would write:
“Dead are all the Gods” (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 13:10)
— Russell Jonas Grigaitis, O.F.S.
Now, if my professor is an actual philosopher, he would know that I am quoting a passage from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the book written by Friedrich Nietzsche that is most responsible for popularizing the phrase, “God is dead” (“Gott ist tot”): “Tot sind alle Götter: nun wollen wir daß der Übermensch lebe.” (“Dead are all the gods: now we want the Superman to Live.”) However, after quoting this passage, I also suggest that a passage from the Bible be consulted: “But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are the men who give the name “gods” to the works of men’s hands, gold and silver fashioned with skill, and likenesses of animals, or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.” Of course, in being asked to sign my name, I would also be allowed to not only identify myself as a Christian, but a Catholic and a Franciscan (Franciscan are usually dunces, by the way).
Perhaps most freshmen would not be able to put the post-nominal “O.F.S.” after their signature, but at least I could suggest that the origins of the quote does not necessarily conflict with my beliefs, the Bible, or Christianity. Hopefully, this would allow me to enter into dialogue with my professor. This would be, obviously, assuming my professor is an actual philosopher, which Prof. Radisson, in the movie God’s Not Dead, clearly is not.
This last comment by Josh was the only redeeming point in the movie. I was actually quite surprised that something so intelligent was in this movie and I was considering that I had slightly misjudged this movie before I saw it. However, the ending was so horrific that it far exceeded my expectations, which I’ll get to shortly.
The above correct statement by Josh, nonetheless, was eventually followed by the statement, “God allowed evil to exist because…” It doesn’t really matter what he says after this because this is a complete destruction of any argument he was attempting to build. He just admitted that the God he believes in is evil and, therefore, not a God of love. I would assume he would acknowledge and accept John 1:3, “[A]ll things were made through him [God], and without him was not anything made that was made.” Hence, if evil exists, then God would have created evil, which would leave no other conclusion than God is evil, at least the one that Josh believes in. Had Prof. Radisson been at all competent, this would have been the end. Fortunately, for the sake of the movie’s plot at least, Prof. Radisson is not in the least bit competent.
It seems Prof. Radisson is a Christian at heart, but he’s mad at God because his grandmother died when he was 12. He also has a Christian girlfriend. Some may think she’s his wife, but that would make the movie seem even more bizarre given the way their relationship is portrayed. Of course, given that she’s been his girlfriend for such a long time also seems a bit strange given the generally accepted differences between Christians and atheists concerning sexual morality (it is mentioned that Prof. Radisson does not believe in moral absolutes). The true display of his incompetence, however, comes at what seems to be Josh’s most convincing part of his argument that God is not dead, by stating what actually seemed to be Nietzsche’s quest in philosophy. I would hope that an actual philosopher would have been aware of this.
This has been the third such movie that I’ve watched. The first two being Fireproof and Courageous. All three give a very simplistic and erroneous view of Christianity, which would give atheists nothing but confirmation that they are correct. God’s Not Dead, however, is much worse than the other two.
It was quite revealing that the spiritual highlight for all the Christians in the movie was a Rock concert. I was completely unfamiliar with this music and found it completely indistinguishable from any other such Rock music. Some such music does have quite an anti-Christian message and is suggestive of grave sexual immorality (this is the origins of the term Rock and Roll). This was in contrast to the classical music that was played at the dinner party where the atheists seemed to make the single Christian feel very uncomfortable. The strings sounded like Mozart, but I couldn’t make it out because it was too quiet and there was too much talking. The Rock music, however, was a main feature of the movie, which is odd since classical music came from a Christian tradition, and Rock music comes from a tradition of rebelling against authority, particularly Christianity.
There are a few quotes that the movie brings to my mind, a few from the Bible and one from St. Thomas Aquinas:
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
“Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal. But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.” (Wisdom of Solomon 1:12–16)
“Therefore an example of perfect patience is afforded in the greatest of evils, which is death, if it is borne without distress of mind. Such tranquillity the prophet foretold of Christ: He “shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and He shall not open His mouth” (Is. 53:7).” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae, cap. 227)
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
The movie God’s Not Dead does not in any way reflect true Christianity, but demonstrates the problems of a corrupted Christianity that caused Friedrich Nietzsche to write: “Gott ist tot.” If he had truly encountered authentic Christianity, he may have written: “Gott ist nicht tot.”
Addendum:07 November 2014
I’ve been thinking about the disturbing ending of this movie. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the characters that do not appear in the movie, but would exist if this story actually happened in the real world.
What would happen to the “horrified crowd that would have naturally gathered to see the joyful men casually standing over the body of a dead man lying in the street”? Witnessing such a horrible accident that resulted in the death of a person has been known to cause PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder). However, what effect would the witnessing of the two joyful Protestant ministers casually standing over the body have on some persons? For some that already question Christianity or who actually consider themselves atheists, it would likely confirm their misconception that Christianity is evil. This is actually the problem Nietzsche had and the reason he wrote, “God is dead.” For some Christians, it may be enough for them to lose their faith. To them, “God is dead.” Thus, it seem this movie perpetuates the idea that God is dead.
But what about the driver of the car? Being involved in an accident that caused the death of a person is often devastating to the person responsible for the accident. Again, PTSD is a common response. Of course, the person driving this car is not shown, nor is there any indication that the car even stopped. Therefore, we can only conclude that it is a hit-and-run. Thus, this incident adds further guilt and mental distress to an already troubled person. It is confirming this person in a life of evil in which God is dead to this person.
The only message that I can see in this movie is that Nietzsche is right, God is dead. Perhaps some atheists will realize this and begin to promote this movie, but I kind of doubt that. I would not suggest this movie to anyone, particularly anyone questioning or doubting Christianity as it would only discredit true Christianity. I am hopeful that many Christians will see this movie for what it is worth and denounce it as a deluded and simplistic corruption of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.