03 November 2014

God's Not Dead

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.

If I were in the situation of Josh in this movie, I would simply drop the class because I’d rather not take a course from a complete idiot. Actually, I’d question the credibility of an institution that hired such an incompetent person for such a position. In the entire movie, he doesn’t make a single philosophical statement to counter anything his freshmen student says. Instead, aside from emotional reactionary statements, he simply quotes old arguments from the endless debate between fundamentalist Christian creationists and atheistic non-creationists, which are not really relevant because, as Josh rightly states, “Atheists say that no one can prove the existence of God, and they’re right. But I say, no one can disprove that God exists.”

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.

Nietzsche saw the errors in the Christianity he had experienced. It was not foreign to him as his father was a Lutheran minister and he himself was studying theology before he lost his faith. (This movie might suggest that Nietzsche, like Prof. Radisson whose grandmother died when he was 12, became an atheist because his father died when he was 5, but that would be quite a stretch if Nietzsche’s life is actually examined.) Nietzsche also had a number of friends who were Christian theologians, such as Franz Overbeck. Like I said, Nietzsche saw the errors in the Christianity he had experienced. Thus, Nietzsche was trying to find the true source of morality which would counter the nihilism that seems to result when religions are eliminated. He assumed religions needed to be eliminated due to the religions he had experienced. The movie God’s Not Dead seems to suggest he was correct. However, Nietzsche can be used for a rather good argument to defend authentic Christianity. (I am of the opinion that philosophers such as Nietzsche and Christians such as the makers of this movie are both the results of errors in Scholastic thought, particularly Ockhamism. And, I admit that William of Ockham was also a Franciscan, though definitely not a dunce.)

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.

This movie suggests that Christians are quite simplistic and seemingly delusional given the reality of this fallen world. It also suggests that atheists (and perhaps Moslems) are either evil beyond salvation (I didn’t mention these two characters in this review) or just confused and hurt Christians that need to accept Jesus as there personal Lord and Saviour. Another character that I also didn’t mention, suddenly became a Christian, after being an atheist, because she’s going to die of cancer. She’s last seen smiling in the movie after being led to Christ by a Christian Rock band. Of course, this flies in the face of the fact that many Christians have a crisis of faith and even lose their faith in such a situation.

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.

During the most joyous and spiritual event of a Christian Rock concert (this is sarcasm), the most shocking part of the movie happens. The atheist professor is killed by a car in a hit-and-run. This may appear as vindictive at first, but it’s actually quite delusional. The two Protestant pastors in the movie just happen to be sitting in a car at that very crosswalk, and one of them helps the poor professor to accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour just before he dies. After he dies, his now ex-girlfriend at the Rock concert, who had previously just broken off her relationship with the professor due the emotionally abusive way he treats her, preforms a true act of charity (this is more sarcasm) by following the suggestion at the concert for everyone to text every contact on their cellphone the message, “God’s Not Dead.” The pastor who helped “save” the professor picks up the dead professor’s cell phone to see this miraculous text message. It is such a happy occasion and everyone is smiling, even though a crime had just been committed (i.e. the hit-and-run) leaving a man lying dead on the road. In the real world, his ex-girlfriend will likely need some serious psychological counselling now. However, the two pastors may be able to help her to delusionally not accept reality. The movie did not show any 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.

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.