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 hired Kevin Sorbo, and compiled all their arguments for Elvis's right-here-today existence, and put them all together for a film brilliantly titled Elvis is not Dead.

The film begins with an obnoxious douchebag professor.  His brilliant idea?  Force the students to sign a paper admitting Elvis is dead -- which a lone and conscientious Elvis fan (like any other conscientious Elvis fan) categorically rejects.  This Elvis fan can't believe that all the students just go along saying The King is dead, so he compiles a bunch of arguments, lists some historical references, and drops the names of obscure scientists for the purpose of asserting that Elvis is alive.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 Elvis 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.  You are now familiar with 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.  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 just because you're a genius doesn't necessarily mean you believe in Jesus. This isn't to say we should never try to deal with intellectual objections.  It means that a reliance on arguments to prove something bigger than life, which 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 in my case was extremely convincing.  I saw it when I was still an Evangelical Christian and it convinced me that I had never met Jesus.

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 immediately text God's NOT dead to all the friends and relatives to you want to take you less seriously.  This was less a moral failure than a political one -- to recognize that doing so is about as useful as texting your friends that God really is dead, or that He isn't and Mohammed is His prophet.  It had the feel that God's more of a public campaign than a spiritual reality, and 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 this seems a bit much to ask.  So I'll keep praying and hoping that something will happen, and that God has a more convincing argument than a bunch of random arguments.

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 movies -- has fourteen of my hard-earned dollars.

Your father,
-J

P.S.  This essay isn't an argument against Christianity.  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're the best we've got.  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 -- and Mere Christianity and Orthodoxy are probably the best of these. 

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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