My last blog post was titled, “A Bad Movie Review,” which might give you some insight into the title of this post. It started about a week ago when late one evening I received a text message on my phone. It was from a number not recognized by the phone so I didn’t know if it was from a friend or a wrong number.
I’ve got to tell you, I live for text messages from wrong numbers. You can have a great conversation if you’re willing to have a little fun.
The message I received read, “God’s Not Dead.”
I replied, not knowing who was on the receiving end, “Are you concerned?”
I got nothing back!
I learned later that Sharon received the same message only she actually called the number to learn the identity of the texter. Turns out it was a friend we haven’t talked with in a long time. He explained he had just attended a movie called, “God’s Not Dead.” They were encouraged to send the message to everyone in their address book.
The text accomplished the purpose of the movie producers, it led us eventually to watch the movie. Good marketing!
It is a movie about a college freshman in a philosophy class taught by an evangelistic atheist. The young student has a strong commitment to his faith and is immediately challenged by the professor that only a fool believes in God. Through an interesting encounter, the student is given the opportunity to debate the existence of God in front of the other students for the next three class periods.
It reminded me of a philosophy class I took in seminary. Several of us were assigned various positions to debate the existence of God in front of the class. I was to use Anselm’s ontological approach and try to prove that God exists. If I remember correctly, I did quite well. I had been on the debate team in college so I probably had an unfair advantage. I remember opening my argument with the statement, “If you vote for my opponent you are voting for the devil.”
Back to the movie. Josh the student did an amazing job! He was thoroughly prepared and offered masterful arguments in support of God; almost too good. Josh’s girlfriend was concerned he would mess up and fail the class and not be able to get into law school. However, as well-spoken and intelligent as Josh was in the movie, he should have already been at Harvard; no reason to be concerned.
The film provided a well-reasoned, intelligent defense of theism within the context of a good story. However, there were numerous subplots that seemed a little scattered at times. I’m still trying to figure out the scene with the old woman with dementia. After a long time with no contact, her son appears at her side for a visit, unloading some serious questions about the meaning and purpose of life. When he finishes, obviously not expecting an answer, this woman who was unaware that she ate chicken for every meal, spouts a thoughtful theological soliloquy that would make any seminary professor proud. Where did that come from?
At the end of the movie, the stubborn atheist professor was struck by a hit-and-run driver and left to die on the street. With just a few minutes to live, a pastor who was nearby, knelt down at his side to offer comfort. It was obvious the professor was not really an atheist – as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes. Sensing his need for a Savior, the pastor did what most of us have been trained to do; he led him to pray the Sinner’s Prayer.
It seemed strange when he was encouraged to give his life to Jesus when it only consisted of about 45 seconds. It caused me to think about what I would say in a similar situation. I can think of one “death bed” conversion in the New Testament – the thief on the cross. The only thing he said was, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) Jesus then spoke and assured him that was all he needed.
I don’t believe it is necessary to recite the Sinner’s Prayer in order to be saved, but this situation raises the issue of what needs to happen. With just a few seconds of life remaining, what did this man need to do? Or, did he need to do anything? Did he need to say anything? Or, is it simply recognizing Jesus is Lord?
It was nice to leave the theater contemplating spiritual matters. Now you see why I titled this article, “A Better Movie Review.” It is certainly a better movie than the previous one I reviewed, “Noah.” If you have friends with questions about God, this is the kind of movie you should take them to see. It will certainly provide a framework to encourage good discussion.