God’s Not Dead Movie Review
God’s Not Dead is a movie based on the Newsboys song, “God’s Not Dead”. At the time of writing (April 5, 2014) the movie scored 20% by critics and 80% by the audience on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, that’s because the target audience is Christians, but the non-Christian critics are forced to watch a movie they have not connection with. As a Christian, I score the movie a 50%, but if I had to choose out of 5 stars, I’d give it 2 of 5 (I’ll explain as I write).
The movie attempts to prove either that God exists, or that there isn’t proof that He doesn’t exist. Since it is a Christian movie, there are connections to Christ. But what the movie doesn’t do is try to prove that Christ is that God (or Son of God). Just by default it assumes that if there is a God, then it must be Jehovah, I AM, the Father of Jesus Christ. HOWEVER, this is complicated by a few things.
Allow me to tell you about the characters. The reason that I wanted to see the movie was purely for the debate between the student and the teacher. Besides that, I didn’t know there would be anything else. To my disappointment, there were several side stories. All of the characters indirectly affect the other characters, and they all come together at the end… for a News Boys concert.
SPOILER ALERT – This whole article is full of spoilers.
Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty had nothing to do with the plot. He probably had 2-3 minutes screen time. He kind of introduces the theme of the movie, “acknowledging God”. The reporter, who is against Christianity (and killing ducks) confronts him and his wife before they step into a church. At the end of the movie, he appears on a big screen at the News Boys concert. He said he heard about the student who stood up for God, and urged everyone in the room to text everyone they know that “God’s Not Dead”. The characters all text the people they know, and the movie tells the audience to do the same.
The professor was played by Kevin Sorbo, who I know best from the 1990’s TV show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He drove this movie. He’s the philosophy teacher who is bent on teaching that there is no God. On the first day of each class, he makes each student write “God is dead” on a paper and hand it in. When the main student refuses, the professor gives him the option to present to the class why God is not dead for the last 15 minutes of the next 3 classes with the students as the jury. The student accepts. Of course, the professor is studies many modern atheist scientists such as Steven Hawking and uses their statements against the student. The professor has a girlfriend who was previously his best student a few years back. She is a Christian and is becoming stronger in Christ, which comes between their relationship. After he embarrasses her at his dinner party, first for being Christian, and second for accidently serving spoiled wine to the dinner guests, she breaks up with him. During classes, the student asks, “What happened to you!? Why are you like this?” The big answer hit me hard. He said, “Try telling a 12 year old who begged God to save his mother who died of cancer that God is there and that He cares.” Earlier, the professor quotes parts of Job, suggesting that the part of the bible that he is familiar most with is about tragedy. During the third and last presentation, the professor decides to make it a debate where they both speak. When the student talks about evil and moral values, he asks the professor, “Why do you hate God?” In short, the professor yells, “Because He took everything away from me!” The student then asks, “How can you hate someone who doesn’t exist?” The professor leaves.
The end of the movie upset me. The professor in his office looks over all the students’ papers that wrote “God is dead”. Then he pulls out another letter from his dying mother from the past that basically says, “Find you way, fulfill God’s plan”. He tries to call his girlfriend, who doesn’t answer because she is at the News Boys concert. Seeing a newspaper advertisement that has the News Boys concert advertised, he starts running to the concert. Why does he go? I thought it was to repent, but my wife said that it was to find his ex-girlfriend. RIGHT BEFORE he gets to the concert, it suddenly starts to rain, and as he crosses the road, a car hits him. His ribs are broken and he’s dying. The pastor, who is nearby, runs out and presents Jesus to him, and he accepts. I was really disappointed in the movie at that point. He was coming closer to God right before that. It is a cheap answer to the question, “So what happens after you turn?” What would the students assume but that they judged against him and that God killed him? The director tried to make this poor like Job. God is not willing that anyone perish but that everyone repent (2Pet 3:9). I hate how the movie gives the vibe that if you don’t repent, it will be God who cuts your time short so that you will hurry up and make a decision for Him. If it weren’t for the sudden rain fall, I wouldn’t have as strong of a feeling that the director was trying to say that this guy died because God wanted him to.
The professor’s girlfriend (played by Cory Oliver) was his past student, and is also a Christian. She is also the sister of the business man and daughter of the old lady with dementia. In the beginning, she visits her mother who doesn’t recognize her. She then goes to buy wine for the professor’s dinner party. Before the dinner party, she and the professor talk about the past. She says that she’s a Christian, he’s an atheist, and that’s the gist of the conversation. For the dinner party, the professor invites other teachers of philosophy at the school to come. He tells them that a Christian student is debating him in the class. They all laugh. The girlfriend says, “I’m a Christian too”, so the professor says, “Ok, let’s stop talking about this”. The professor embarrasses her once again at the dinner itself when she serves everyone spoiled wine, so she runs away. After time, she meets the professor to break up with him. Of course, the professor doesn’t want that, but can’t do anything about it. At the end of the movie, she goes to the News Boys concert.
The student (played by Shane Harper) seems to be a typical guy. He’s got a pretty girlfriend who also happens to be a controlling jerk. She’s supposed to be a Christian, but breaks up with him after he gives his first presentation to prove God’s existence. He buys 2 tickets to the News Boys concert for their 6 year anniversary. They’re not in the same classes, just to make that clear. After accepting the teachers challenge, he consults the pastor and studies and studies. His arguments are good. He argues against the big bang, evolution, and evil. He has good arguments. For the sake of the movie, his presentation was more high tech than a typical student. After his last presentation, he asks the students, “Is God dead or alive”? The Chinese student stands up and says, “God’s not dead”, and then EVERYONE stands and says, “God’s not dead”. If there was someone who didn’t stand, I didn’t notice. I didn’t like this part of the film because it’s unrealistic. Not everyone would stand. People typically believe whatever they want regardless of a winning argument in the favor of one way or another. After the class, he and the Chinese student go together to the News Boys concert…
The student’s girlfriend is ridiculous. He and this girl have dated for 6 years. They met each other at a News Boys concert which their youth groups both attended. For their 6 year anniversary, the student bought 2 News Boys concert tickets for them. Why is she ridiculous? It’s because when she finds out that her boyfriend wants to accept the professor’s challenge and defend God that she forbids him to do it. She says that it will affect her life in a bad way and ruin her chances for whatever. After she finds out he did his first presentation, she breaks up with him. Ok, so there are a couple of reasons why this bothers me… 1) She’s supposed to be a Christian and she breaks up with him for… being a Christian. 2) They were together for THAT long and she ends it like it’s nothing, and finally 3) the guy didn’t break up with her first. This girl really sucks. How is it that he didn’t see earlier that she was both controlling and not really Christian?
The Chinese student (played by Paul Kwo) came from the PRC, People’s Republic of China. I was interested in him, because I’m married to a Chinese woman. He attends the class that the main student is giving debates in. After the student’s first presentation, the two students bump into each other in the library. The Chinese student asks, “Why are you doing this?” His answer is basically, “I’m a Christian and I believe God is real”. The Chinese student calls his dad to ask about God and house meetings that he used to attend. The dad is for some reason bitter against God. Both my wife and I couldn’t help but noticing that the student was speaking Cantonese to his father, while the father was speaking Mandarin back to him. WHO DOES THAT!? They should have both been speaking the same language. In the end, the Chinese student is the first to stand up at the end of the debates to say that “God’s not dead”. He meets with the main student after that class to go with him (in place of his ex girlfriend) to the News Boys concert where he texts his dad in ENGLISH, “God’s Not Dead”. His dad looks at the phone angry and walks away.
The business man was played by Dean Cain, the dude who acted as Superman in the 1990’s TV show, Louis and Clark. He’s a bad guy who breaks up with his reporter girlfriend who has cancer. Throughout the movie he refuses to see his mother who has dementia because she doesn’t even know who he is. At the end of the movie, he visits her and says, “Look at you, you’re the best woman there ever was and you trusted in God, yet you’re in this horrible condition. Look at me, I’m the worst guy in the world and my life is perfect. Explain that.” In a brief moment of clarity, the mother answers, “Sometimes the devil lets you live life in sin. It feels good, and you don’t want to get out, until one day, the door shuts, and there’s no getting out. Oh, who are you again?” The man gets in his car to get a text, “God’s Not Dead”. He was a meaningless character who shouldn’t have been in the movie.
The reporter (played by Trisha Lafache) is the business man’s girlfriend. She’s the same person that interviews Willie Robinson. She’s a reporter and a blogger apparently. When she finds out she has cancer, she tells her business dude boyfriend, and he unsympathetically breaks up with her. Later, she’s alone, just going to see the doctor. The doctor says she’s going to die. At the end of the movie, for some reason, she goes to the News Boys concert to give a mock interview with the band. While she insults them for being Christian, she says that she has cancer. They pray for her real quick and then say, “Ok, we gotta go perform now!” That made me mad. That was the last the movie showed of her. She’s actually a character that shouldn’t have been in the movie, but there was no closure in her case.
The pastor (David A.R. White) and African missionary (Benjamin Onyango) are almost always together, so I look at them as one. The African dude just wanted to go to Disney World. Meanwhile, every car they get in doesn’t start. Things happen in the meantime. The pastor meets the student and gives him advice (before they try taking the trip). The Muslim girl runs to the church after being kicked out of her family and they give her a place to stay. Some good comes out of them being there, but they didn’t have to be there in order for the church to accept the Muslim girl. What the whole movie boils down to (BIG SPOILER) is when the professor gets hit by a car. The 2 ministers finally get their car to start and witness the professor getting hit by the car. The pastor runs out, grabs him by the hand, and asks him if he accepts Jesus sacrifice. This is furthest that the gospel is presented in the movie. The professor accepts, and dies. The movie cuts to the News Boys concert and shows the professors ex girlfriend having a good time. Then the movie cuts back to the 2 ministers, both completely die (though it was raining moments before) and they’re like, “isn’t it beautiful”? THAT BOTHERS ME.
It’s as if they’re saying, “God wouldn’t allow the cars to start”. It’s also like they were saying that the God caused the rain to start suddenly so that the professor would get hit by a car and die, and be forced to make a decision for Christ or not. That makes me so mad. There was no healing in the movie. I think back to when Paul preached and someone fell out of a window and died. Paul brought them back from the dead (Acts 20:9-12). Is it much different to get hit by a car and die than to get hit by the ground and die? Why was there not even an attempt to pray for his healing or even resurrection? Is God alive and just unwilling to do what He said He would do? Therefore the strength of the movie is made weak.
The News Boys wrote the song “God’s Not Dead”. I really don’t think they should have been in the movie… They hold a concert in the end that almost everyone in the movie goes to. They get interviewed by the reporter and pray for her. What they say in the prayer is unknown. They acknowledge the student that debated the professor. They sing. That’s it.
The Muslim girl… I must mention last. Played by Hadeel Sittu, she was one of the first characters shown, but she is the #1 person who should not have been in this movie. Her very traditional Muslim father demands that she wear a veil to school and in public. She takes it off after he’s gone though. She comes across the main student in the beginning who says he has accepted his professor’s challenge just so that she can have a connection with someone else in the movie. She later goes home and listens to an mp3 player that has a picture of Jesus praying while playing a sermon. Her little brother walks in, sees what she’s listening to, and tells their dad. The dad storms into her room, grabs the mp3 player, and says, “There is only one god! Say it!” And she says, “Jesus is my Lord and savior!” He slaps her, carries her downstairs, and throws her outside. She runs to the church where she gets taken in, and later goes to the News Boys concert where she meets the main student. I thought, “Ah, ok, he met his first girlfriend here, so they must be saying that these 2 characters are going to hook up”.
Why I say that she shouldn’t have been in the movie is because it forces us to ask another question: If God exists, then which god is He? Allah? Jehovah? Buddha? Vishnu? Ganesh? Zeus? All? None? Why is the Muslim way not the way? Why is the Christian way right? The movie is too busy trying to explain that there is a God and not busy enough explaining that Jesus is the way. Having the Muslim girl in the movie adds a new element with no explanation. We have no reason why she became a Christian besides that she doesn’t like to wear a veil.