Movie Review: “God’s Not Dead”

ImageWhen you lose your temper, mother always taught you, “You’ve already lost the argument.”
That’s not good news for “God’s Not Dead.” This is the angriest faith-based film in memory.
Believers here are outnumbered, a persecuted, righteous and intellectually rigorous minority — i.e.  “Duck Dynasty” stars, or viewers.
Non-believers run the gamut from fascist, bullying college professors to an abusive Muslim who would rather beat his child than let her study the Christian Bible, from Godless Chinese who fear government persecution to “ambush” journalists out to “get” those God-fearing “Duck Dynasty” millionaires.
It’s a movie where rare is the voice that is raised, but deep is the rage bubbling through its rabid anti-intellectualism. When a non-believer is considered to be better off dead, that’s not brimstone you’re smelling. It’s bile.
Shane Harper plays Josh Wheaton, a freshman at Hadleigh University who ignores warnings and enrolls in Professor Radisson’s philosophy class. Radisson is a smug, sneering atheist who insists that his students sign an admission that “God is dead,” before he even starts the semester. Josh refuses to sign, and thus the professor, played by one-time Hercules Kevin Sorbo in a Lucifer goatee, decides to give the kid the entire semester (apparently) to prove the opposite.
Radisson is a caricature of a know-it-all college prof.
“In that classroom, there IS a god. And I’m him.” Fair enough.
But would this “god” allow a fundamentalist freshman to take over his class for an entire semester?
He’s fond of calling Christians “Flat Earthers,” of quoting Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and the like — atheists, all.
To which Josh fires back C.S. Lewis (naturally), John Lennnox (a British mathematician, Christian apologist and debate foil for Dawkins) and “Lee Strobel,” who is not identified as what he is — a TV preacher. No, those thrown into the fray from the “God is good, all the time” side are neither as numerous nor as credentialed.
Amy Ryan (Trisha LaFache) is a blogger for “The New Left” who wears her “Meat is Murder” and equivalent liberal bumper stickers with pride as she surprises Willie and Korbie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” and Christian rockers Newsboys with confrontational interviews.
She’s dating callous atheist lawyer Mark (Dean Cain), whose believer sister (Cory Oliver) is dating her former professor, Radisson.
Hadeel Sittu is Ayisha, a student whose stern Muslim dad keeps her covered up and unassimilated.
And then there’s the preacher (David A.R. White) who only wants to take his African missionary friend (Benjamin Ochieng) to Orlando, but every car he gets into fails to start. Divine intervention? He’s needed for a higher purpose here in this Louisiana college town?
The pace is stumbling, the characters are broad, the makeup and the performances uneven, though Sorbo dives into his tactless, unethical indoctrinator role with Satanic glee.
The laughs are mostly of the cruel kind. One character tells another she has cancer.
“This couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
The “Put God On Trial” stuff, a Power Point debate in the classroom, is pointless and comically imbalanced, with Josh accusing those who declare that God doesn’t exist of “circular logic” when that’s all he has to lean on himself — that, and false equivalencies. Hurling TV preacher quotes up against Hawking, Darwin et. al. is laughable.

The very title of the film is a semantics trick, to the nonbelieving cultures of the world. How can a supernatural being that never existed be dead?
It’s a movie better versed in propaganda techniques than cinematic ones. Band-wagoning, for instance, filling the closing credits with decades of legal actions by the James Dobson-backed Alliance Defending Freedom against colleges which have somehow impinged on Christian students’ rights, suggesting a sea of lawsuits and a tidal wave of “success” that isn’t really there.
And like the hit Creationist documentary “Expelled”, “God’s Not Dead” is a straw-man debate, with myopic and hopelessly biased theists laying out the other side’s arguments for it, twisting or dumbing them down to make them easier to swat down — Limbaugh style.

The movies too often paint Christians with the sort of laughably broad strokes that this Harold Cronk sermon-to-the-choir picture depicts atheists. Cronk and his movie are their own worst enemies here, pandering, outraging the faithful by telling them what they want to hear and, by giving “Duck Dynasty” a prominent role, giving away how frustrated — and angry– believers can feel that they have no better spokesmodels for their points of view than a bunch of blow-dried duck-call salesmen. Christian apologists are the ones who should be insulted here.

Update — Kevin Sorbo comes out of the closet — as a bigot.

(“God’s Not Dead” does well at the box office)
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, brief violence and an accident scene
Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A.R. White, Trisha LaFache, Dean Cain, Cory Oliver, Hadeel Sittu
Credits: Directed by Harold Cronk, written by Cary Solomon, Hunter Dennis and Chuck Konzelman. A Pure Flix/Freestyle release.
Running time: 1:52

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in previews, profiles and movie news, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Movie Review: “God’s Not Dead”

  1. Interesting review. I’m a devout Christian, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the movie. Christian movies are supposed to be uplifting (at least in my view, yours may vary), and I consider this an exception.

    • Peggy says:

      It was very uplifting Matt, you know how these arguments go! If you are a Christian you will love it! I am just growing more in my faith and have questioned God’s existence many times, this movie really makes you think! As the student in the movie says, God wants us to choose Him. He doesn’t force Himself on anyone!

  2. jim says:

    I enjoyed the movie, it was well written and the actors did a good job. The material is not laughable and it is not a comedy. The subject matter is serious and the content is true to life. If you have never been ridiculed for your faith or had anyone be condescending to you, than you are the minority.

    The Muslims and the Chinese were not shown in a disparaging light, they were not the focus of the movie. Both groups are not friendly or kind towards Christians or Christianity. Anyone that thinks otherwise should read the news or read about history.

    Unfortunately, this reviewer seemed content with a very lazily written review and one that was itself full of stereotypes and misinformation. Next time get the title right and then put some effort into an unbiased review.

    • tj says:

      Agreed 100%

    • Awaiting100 says:

      “If you have never been ridiculed for your faith or had anyone be condescending to you, than you are the minority.”

      Jim, you may want to grab a dicontionary because that is simply untrue.

      As an atheist I have been told several times that’s I’m “stupid” “going to hell” “fool” “thoughtless” “heartless” and have before been made fun if because I lack a belief system. Should a movie be made about me? If so I don’t think you’d like it unless every time free thought and atheistism was mentioned it was censored and over written with “Jesus.”

      Christians are not persecuted get over yourselves.

      • This is America. Ridiculing religion is allowed. Simple as that. I have liked plenty of faith-based films that lacked bigotry, willful ignorance and took an uplifting tack. This one? An anti-intellectual screed, “fear knowledge” and “rig the debate so’s we can win.”

      • George Privacy says:

        Some Christians are, or have been, persecuted. This is simply a matter of fact and claiming otherwise is just silly. It may be that the quantity or severity reported is not accurate, but it does occur. There is also the uneven treatment of Christianity in the public schools in many instances that is problematic. I am amazed by how often Christian symbols are forbidden in schools while those of other religions are allowed.

        For purposes of full disclosure I am a Christian and a PhD in Philosophy with teaching experience at the university level. No philosophy professor with a class worth taking would teach by starting with a doctrinaire answer to any important philosophical question. especially one as likely to engage student emotions, rather than their powers of reason.

      • Doug says:

        It’s “dictionary”. (Maybe you need one?)

      • Beth Poole says:

        God’s Not Dead was an awesome movie and one at which the entire audience clapped at the ending. The student did a great job of presenting Biblical Creation Principles in contrast to the many theories of the “Elite” atheist philosophers.

        It’s humorous to read the reviews by the self appointed “elite” atheists vs reviews by everyday people who go and see the film. I’ve got some good news for everyone including you “brilliant” atheist…God is here to stay. He wins this battle…I’ve read the end of the book. If your an atheist trying to defend your scholarly point of view, you’ll get no points from me. However, the one point I will make is that if you don’t turn your life around you will sadly spend eternity apart from God. That is the Good News or Bad News, however you choose to look at it.

      • Beth dear, fear of the educated and the “elites” is the height of Know Nothingism. And calling you on your willful fear of those who see a wider world than the King James version would have you understand are not “angry at God.” They’re angry at you for furiously arguing the case for “magic” and “superstition” and ignorance.

    • Cory says:

      true to life my ass, it’s laughable to think of Christians being attacked because it just doesn’t happen. to the contrary in fact, Christians bullied their way into teaching magic in our schools and keeping same sex couples from getting married. they hold the power and you fell for obvious propaganda because you want to feel like you’re brave by being very outspoken with your religious beliefs.

    • Dan says:

      Agree and well stated rebuttal.Sound like the person was more interested in trying to write a review and use all his new words. The arguments used on both sides of the topic were well stated and better than most used by most people. Like the professor in the movie, this reviewer seems to rather tell us what is inspired and correct rather than letting us make our own decisions.
      I recommend the move to people on both sides, listen and make up your own mind.

    • Joy Felix says:

      Well I guess I won’t be seeing it. You just confirmed that there are stereotypes against Muslims and Chinese two groups of people (one a religion and the other a nationality btw – so not sure why they would be used like this except charactures) that I love very much and have spent a good portion of my adult life with.

      The people, the individual people in China are not anti-Christian. The government is somewhat – it does persecute (real persecution too, not Americans fantasy persecutions) when the church interferes with policy eg: abortion and the one child policy make waves frequently among other things but they also have been know to work together in cases such as the Chengdu airport. I spent four years there and never met anyone who was openly antagonistic – most regarded it as a curiosity and asked a lot of questions and we got into some really deep philosophical discussions – not to convert in either “side” but to understand. I experienced none of the antagonism there that is portrayed in the US. Not from athiests, not from Buddhists or Muslims.

      And as to Islam – again, an official stated religious principle is not the same as the whole group of people. Some of the nicest people I know are Muslims and I have never known any of the individuals I know to be antagonistic against Christianity when they didn’t perceive that they were being antagonized themselves. There is always more to the story.

    • Jason Edwards says:

      Exactly!!! I’m not really a fan of Duck Dynasty, but thanks for your biased opinion of me! This movie is REAL! All through life, school, society we are so overwhelmingly pushed against our beliefs. (People in other countries are dying for the same beliefs). I’m SO glad for movies like this to challenge those who want to push their atheist agenda on us! It’s such a double standard and they all know it!
      How about let us choose what to have faith in rather than choose for us!
      Gods NOT Dead! He’s SURELY ALIVE!

      • Beth Poole says:

        Well said…the scholarly atheist believe that they are doing is a favor to enlighten is with their viewpoints. It’s like listening to ignorant teenagers tell their parents how they will run things when they are in charge. Of course, they don’t make a dime and their parents provide them with housing, clothes, pay for their cars, phones etc. But they believe that they are the authority.

        God created the earth and he has authority over it and you. You, like a teenager, are just too self-involved to realize it.

  3. tj says:

    Someone please get Roger Moore some serious speech therapy. You are so focused on condemning this movie that your constant ramblings blur your outcome.
    Maybe you should stop being so angry with God

    • Funny, that argument makes no more sense when it’s used in the movie.

      • Peggy says:

        Actually it made plenty of sense. ” How can you be so angry with someone you don’t believe in?”

    • samira says:

      I love the whole “you’re angry with god!” thing. I don’t believe in your god. I haven’t since I was a child. You cannot be angry with something that doesn’t exist. How about YOU stop being so angry that more and more people are seeing your dogma for the pile of garbage it really is?

  4. Reblogged this on DrLearnALot's House of Edumacation and commented:
    Writing/producing anything to savage people you hate is usually a guaranteed way to make something that really sucks.

  5. Truth Seeker says:

    Is there anything more biased than a Christian defending a Christian film? I applaud you for this honest review. The other critics are terrified to be honest and even review it. Such a pathetic film that makes the atheists into cartoon characters. How are the Christians so persecuted when they are the dominant majority in the country? Very odd to play the “poor us” role. They cling to their fairy tale in spite of cold hard facts, evidence, and truth. Most criminal line ever uttered in a film: “Science support the existence of god, and you know this!”. Humanity just took a big step backwards.

    • Harry says:

      You are just to smart for all us poor dumb Christians. Guess what, I am not going to defend my belief in God because anything I say you will try to can it into something silly. How sad your life must be to not have faith! I wonder who your heart cries out to in the darkness or when you are hurting?

    • George Privacy says:

      As far as the majority in a country being persecuted, try asking the Shia how their lives were with the minority Sunni ruling under Saddam or Blacks under minority White rule in Africa.

  6. Dale Proulx says:

    I’m an evangelical Christian pastor who just came from seeing God’s Not Dead. As a I believer, the movie was an encouragement to me as a reminder of what really matters to me and what I believe to be true. I understand the critiques of the film. I see it, in part, as two different cultures speaking past each other. Evangelical Christians expect to be persecuted for proclaiming Christ and that we are not to deny Christ. I’m not sure how convincing the movie is to anyone who isn’t already like minded. The film is geared towards insiders. When the girlfriend of the professor says that “they are unequally yoked”, what non-evangelical Christian is going to understand the reference? When the professor accepts Christ prior to his sudden death, it is the old preaching question of “if you die on the way home tonight, do you know where you’ll spend eternity?” While I’ve studied the arguments for, and against, the existence of God, I wonder how many people’s faith, or lack of faith, actually hinges on which arguments they find to be more convincing? This is the major concern of the film, to win that debate. It seems to me that you can line up the arguments on either side of the debate for and against the existence of God. My undergraduate professor in Philosophy was an atheist. He seemed to be a nice man, though he did take delight in arguing with college freshman against God’s existence. Thank you for reviewing the movie as there don’t seem to be many.

    • Thanks for the note. I appreciated a lot of the words they put in Kevin Sorbo’s mouth, standard boiler-plate “There is no God” stuff. The counter arguments were pretty feeble in terms of intellectual heft, I thought. As I noted in the review. As Dawkins and Lennox have demonstrated that this can be a civil debate, I appreciate folks who can keep it civil. The whole “Duck Dynasty” thing tilted towards “We embrace our Southern Fried Bigots” and was a bit of a tune out. Seriously, you believe anything those cynical hustlers pitch, you’re betting on Pro Wrestling.

      • Dale Proulx says:

        As a moderate evangelical living in Massachusetts, I would have left out the “Duck Dynasty” connection. As an evangelical, who understands the sub-culture of which I belong, we are often guilty of “preaching to the choir” rather than substantively engaging with people with differing viewpoints. I wonder as to the target audience of the film? It seems to be more of an encouragement to believers, when I think that the intent was to persuade nonbelievers. Again, thank you for your review and for the civil discussion.

      • David says:

        What I have found surprising is that the Christian-themed movie should have a built-in audience of millions, right? Therefore a studio should be willing to take any one of the hundreds of interesting stories in the Bible, flesh it out into a modern, compelling story, and make a blockbuster. Yet 99.99% of religious movies are boring, heavy-handed tripe that portrays people as cardboard cutouts whose lives are nothing until that fateful day when they accept Christ as their eternal savior. Then suddenly marriages are saved, gay feelings suddenly evaporate, and house fires are extinguished. No one ever seems to put out a movie where the shades of gray that actually make up religious beliefs and faith are explored—no characters ever lose their faith and become atheists (at least, no characters who actually survive, are successful in life and find some sort of personal happiness). What would be great is a movie where characters realize that religion—or rather, spirituality—is a personal choice, doesn’t require some shaman or middleman to achieve, and should be money-free.

      • There are several studio Christian movies out this year — “Noah,” “Son of God,” “Heaven is for Real” and “Exodus.” The Christian audience is older and harder to reach but once reached, easier to sell. As Mel Gibson, Ben Stein and the “Courageous” folks could tell you.

    • Annette says:

      I think many literate people understand “unequally yolked.” And, former-Christians will understand it as well–my husband and I, former Evangelical Christians surely do. I think non-believers with some ability to understand concepts from context will understand. However, the example you gave shows that this was a film created by Christians, for Christians.

  7. “When a non-believer is considered to be better off dead, that’s not brimstone you’re smelling. It’s bile.”

    Only an imbecile non believer could make a statement like that not realizing that the professor got saved right before his death. They weren’t happy that the “non believer” got killed, but rather that he made it to heaven. Clueless. Now I’ve just reviewed the reviewer and he gets 4 thumbs down.

  8. Paul says:

    Film looks cheesy to me.. doubt i watch it.. but im glad to see a much needed influx of faith based films.
    I read through this guys review.. i think he has an opinion & like most of the tomatoes .. its rotten.
    I have started ignoring (for the most part) the “professional” reviewers ratings.. they dont watch a movie and enjoy it the way i do.. they are too busy breaking everything down to get any enjoyment from them.
    Do yourself a favor .. bypass the pro’s & read the user (real people) reviews.

  9. Dale, good point. For the author of the article, I’d just like to point out that Lee Strobel is not mostly known for being on TV–he is known for several excellent books that he wrote including “The Case for Faith” and “The Case for Christ”. According to himself, Strobel was a hardcore atheist and journalist who decided to set out to prove that the Bible was false and God doesn’t exist. He was, however, convinced by the evidence and became a Christian. Not everyone accepts the vast plethora (on a very diverse scale) of evidence as legitimate, but most people are never given the opportunity to examine it in depth, and are only exposed to the other side (the “secular science” and humanistic side). I TRULY believe that, if more people were given the option of seeing the evidence presented by both sides, more people would be inclined to believe in the God of the Bible. However, other than rare individuals, people seem to believe in “evidence” that their hearts are already inclined to accept based on who they are.

  10. Fray2221 says:

    I had thought that maybe there might actually been a bit of nuance to this movie. Like that the professor was actually a good teacher and a complex character, who was just putting on an act in order to provoke debate and discussion, and that everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike would leave his class with a better understanding of themselves and of their fellow human beings.
    But, that just shows what i know.

  11. Brian B says:

    In my personal opinion, the only explanation for all of the agnostics who clam that christians are not persecuted, mocked, etc. in this country is that they are making some attempt to deflect moral accountability. Even in the comments above Christianity is being mocked. I have personally been ridiculed and persecuted for my faith by my professors and peers. It makes sense that many people would deny this problem exists because if it did, it would violate the same moral code that makes it unjust to judge someone based on race or gender.
    Also, people who say there can not be anti-christian prejudice because there are more Christians than non-Christians in America might need to do a little fact checking, and should also take age into consideration (at my university less than 20% of students identify as Christian, and less than 10% practice their faith by attending regular mass).

  12. Grant Hooper says:

    Roger. Since this is your blog…. I’m fine with you stating your opinion. Plus to be honest with you… i’m sure the movie is crap. That’s why I won’t see it. Faith-based movies are terrible. I’m Christian and it pains me to listen to my friends talk about how “well done” courageous was. Closest thing to a decent Christian movie was “the passion.” It was just one long two hour beating, but at least it was well made. I would be upset and say this review is bias, but the truth is, it probably doesn’t deserve a “fair shot,” cause i’m sure its aweful, and I, for one, will not use any of my money to help fund bad art. Gullible christians are the reason why Christian movies are still poorly made. They are the reason why they can re-write noah, make it about global warming, and it will still make a crap ton of money. Their the reason why they can peddle a movie on us, that already aired on the bloody HISTORY CHANNEL like a year ago, and act like its a brand new hollywood production. No, its not…. its not even a made-for-tv HBO movie… its a made for tv history channel movie. Which means its less than a made for tv movie. Its crap.

    Anyway, I like you roger…. but if we are being real here and doing the “not pulling any punches” thing here…. which you clearly are in your review. I find it laughable that you are complaining about the way non-believers, atheists, and other religions are portrayed in the movie. First off, yes, Christian persecution in america is pretty much non-existent compared to times past, however, the “caricature” in this movie sounds very accurate. I guess you haven’t been to college lately, huh? Well I have…. and there’s not just one professor like this, they are almost all like this… obviously less extreme though. But then again, umm…. this is supposed to be melodrama, so that can be expected. The fact that you sound slightly insulted that atheists would be portrayed this way is hysterically hypocritical. …. Cause we’ve never seen a Christian preacher, or Christian parents, on tv or in film, portrayed as extreme, out-of-touch, tyrannical, or having a big dark secret…. (pedofile perhaps?) ???? Well, I’m around Christians all the time and I’ve never met one that acts the way they are portrayed. Also, whats happening in the military right now absolutely is persecution directed directly at Christians. I have friends in the military who have been disciplined, passed up for promotions, and ridiculed for having bibles out in the open, making public statements about their faith, and things of this nature. I’m fine with you being an atheist. I like atheists more than Christians often times, because they are usually smarter. But I care about freedom of religion.

    Was your angry, preachy commentary stating that this film was angry and preachy actually serious or was it meant for satire? Here’s the thing. I’m actually not offended like most christians would be by this review. I expect honest critique…. and when a film is a pile of crap, thats what i want to hear…. and i’m sure it was. But I’ll also give you the low-down when I say that your review is also sub-par, at best. I still can’t figure out if this was all meant to be some sort of sly, elaborate illustration meant to teach us how bias, circular, angry, and ridiculous the film was, by creating a review that follows that exact same protocol. Please let me in on the secret. I’d imagine, perhaps, that you would cop to your own bias and justify the lazy critique by saying the film and its arguments weren’t deserving of a full thought-out response….. And, I;d be angry witht his statement, if it weren’t likely true.

    So in closing, basically, I’m not sure if I’m punching you in the face or patting you on the back right now.


  13. J. Kelley says:

    This review reinforces exactly what the movie espouses of the leftist media. The only hatred and vitriol I have seen out of this movie going experience was from the so called professional critics such as yourself. Christians are finally waking up and rising up!

Comments are closed.