Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Friday, June 19, 2015

If God is dead, then God's Not Dead killed Him: a very late film review

Dear Hannah,

Imagine, for a moment, that a society of Elvis fans pooled together a bunch of money and decided to prove that Elvis was alive.  And so they got a lot of marketers and Kevin Sorbo and all their finest arguments for Elvis's current existence and put them all together for a film imaginatively called Elvis is not Dead.


It begins with an obnoxious douchebag professor forcing the children in his classroom to sign a paper admitting Elvis is dead -- which a conscientious Elvis fan (like any other conscientious Elvis fan) openly rejects.  The Elvis fan is shocked that nearly everyone in class believes The King is dead, so he compiles a bunch of arguments and lists some historical references and drops names of obscure scientists all very seriously asserting that Elvis is alive.  And after several arguments have ended and the classroom believes in the possibility of Elvis, then everyone goes to a concert where an Elvis impersonator -- who never suggests anything other than that he's an impersonator -- sings to a crowd of other Elvis impersonators that the spirit of Elvis is alive, and they all know it because there they are, singing Elvis songs about Elvis. The number of times Elvis makes an appearance?  Zero.  The professor who hated Elvisism?  Smashed by a car.  That is exactly the plot of God's Not Dead.

I've heard it quoted many times that the fool says in his heart, "there is no God".  A much less popular verse says that not many wise were called to be Christians; which is a very nice way of saying that most people who became Christians were fools.  The reason we quote the first and ignore the second is because it's flattering to our intelligence; but if the verses prove anything -- which they don't -- it would be that our belief in Jesus has little to do with our wisdom or our intelligence.  This isn't to say that we should never try to remove intellectual obstacles to our faith -- if they can be honestly removed.  It means that a reliance on arguments to prove something bigger than life that you might have missed if you're brilliant, and might have known if you're an idiot, is a precarious reliance.  If religion is true, it precedes the existence of the human mind, which means it lies primarily beyond it.  God's Not Dead was in a very real sense a convincing film.  I saw it when I was still an Evangelical Christian, and it convinced me that Someone was missing.

Perhaps the biggest failure of the movie was the activist campaign it spawned, which could be summed up exactly as this: find your phone, and text God's NOT dead to as many friends and relatives as you want to take you less seriously.  This was no moral failure on the part of the well-intentioned campaigners; only the political failure to recognize that doing so is about as successful as receiving a text telling you God really is dead, or that He isn't and Mohammed is His prophet.  In short, it has the feel that God is more of a public campaign than a spiritual reality; something propagated by a noisy and increasingly irrelevant Evangelical "majority" taking a stand.  Almost like a campaign in defense of "traditional marriage" when nearly everyone has already accepted the political reality of no-fault divorce.  I would much rather be convinced by experiencing God Himself, but since everyone with any sense has been asking, and nobody except the Pentecostals appears to be even faking, this seems a bit much to ask.  And so I'll keep praying and hoping that something will happen, and see if God loves me as much as He loved Saint Thomas the doubter.

I don't know if this film convinced anyone of God's existence, but my positions are these: I realized I was a skeptic when I left the theater, and David A.R. White -- who appears to be a very good man with very good intentions and very bad (but constantly improving) movies -- has fourteen of my dollars.

Your father,
-J

P.S.  This essay isn't an argument against intellectual Christianity or against Christian evidence.  There are plenty of excellent arguments for God's existence; arguments almost as excellent as the ones against talking snakes and a four-thousand year old Earth.  The most highly recommended ones at the moment, on my part, are all concerning the theory of Intelligent Design, and all from The Discovery Institute: particularly their films on genetics, the fossil record, and the existence of the human race.  But these will only get you to Deism; they may pave the way to Christianity, but not a literal Biblical account of it.  At this moment, they are the best we have.  If you're looking for arguments in favor of Christianity, the best we have (in my opinion) are C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton -- particularly Mere Christianity and Orthodoxy. 

5 comments:

  1. "I've heard it quoted many times that the fool says in his heart, "there is no God". A much less popular verse says that not many wise were called to be Christians; which is a very nice way of saying that most people who became Christians were fools. The reason we quote the first and ignore the second is because it's flattering to our intelligence ..."

    You're misunderstanding the root meaning of the word 'fool'. It doesn't mean 'stupid', it means "behaving and/or reasoning as though one were stupid", which is a very different thing -- thus, in most cases, it means "intellectually dishonest".

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  2. "And so I'll keep praying and hoping that something will happen, and see if God loves me as much as He loved Saint Thomas the doubter."

    I'll keep praying this also for you. He was always my favorite.

    I, myself, was corralled into watching the movie. It depressed me very much.

    But these are not the reasons I'm commenting. I simply wanted to say, Happy Father's Day.

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  3. Thank you so much -- if you're a dad, back at you!

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  4. Perhaps I'm missing something here, Jeremy, but it seems to me that your objection to the movie is that those who hate Christ will scorn you unless you scorn the movie.

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    1. That isn't my objection at all. My objection (aside from the one about our experiences being more important than our theological arguments) is that the texting campaign would convince absolutely nobody. The truth of the matter is that someone is always going to hate you no matter what you take a stand for: I highly advise making the right people angry, by angering the people who are the most wrong.

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