Movie Critique: God’s Not Dead – The Critic Unleashed

My first real movie critique! I’m excited. The reason I chose to write up a critique on this movie is because I have quite a lot of thoughts about it, and when it comes to God’s Not Dead, I have an opportunity to unleash all the critic within me, though I don’t have the space here to do all of it. No better movie to start out with, right? Maybe the next movie critique I’ll do will be on Guardians of the Galaxy, so stay tuned.

I am a Christian and I disliked the movie. If you’ve seen the movie, and you’re a Christian, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. I do know of quite a few Christians who actually didn’t like it very much at all.

God's Not Dead- The Critic Unleashed

God’s Not Dead was released in 2014, directed by Harold Cronk, and starring Shane Harper (Josh) and Kevin Sorbo (Radisson). For a memory refresh or for those of you haven’t yet seen the movie, here is my brief summary on just the first half of the movie …

Josh is a normal college student. He has a girlfriend, good social status, and is looking forward to the school term. He is also a Christian. This proves to be the cause of a very unexpected semester, and it begins when the staff at the sign-up tables, after noticing Josh’s Newsboys shirt and cross necklace, warns him that taking this particular philosophy class may not be a wise decision. 

Josh takes the class anyways. The professor, Jeffrey Radisson, is an atheist and right off makes each student sign his or her name acknowledging that God is dead. 

Josh refuses. Radisson sees this as an advantage and pounces. He assigns Josh to come to class with a speech ready, on why he believes that God isn’t dead. Josh decides to take him up on the challenge, and even though his girlfriend doesn’t appreciate the commitment, and though this takes time away from other studies, he comes to class each day prepared to support his Christian beliefs and defend the faith. 

That’s only the first half of the whole movie. There are a bunch of other plots involving other characters who go through some trials that bring them to God in the end: a single lady encounters cancer and she is going to die. A Muslim girl who coincidentally goes to Josh’s college is found listening to the Bible on tape and her father throws her out of the family. Radisson’s wife is a Christian and is struggling with the fact that she is “unequally yoked.” A young Chinese guy, in Josh’s philosophy class, questions his earlier worldview and talks about Josh on the phone to his father in China. All of these people do, eventually, end up in the same place in the end: a Newsboys concert. This rest of the post contains spoilers, so:

SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! 

Okay, moving on. So you get the gist of it, not so bad, right? Well, the real stuff starts now.

First off, and most importantly, this movie presents totally inaccurate views on atheists so much. Here the narrative paints the Christians as good guys and the atheists as bad guys. What. Talk about the hypocritical propaganda. Here’s my point: I believe that all human beings are horrible, fallen people and we are all in need of a Savior. As far as I can tell in my limited experience, I think that to point out that the atheists are the bad guys and the Christians are the good guys is flat out unrealistic, and I could not state this more clearly. I know arrogant, horrible Christians and I know amazing, humble Christians. I know arrogant, horrible atheists and I know amazing, humble atheists. My dad is an atheist, and he is an awesome person who actually knows a ton more about God and Christianity more than I do (and used to be, ironically, a college philosophy professor). This movie offended and upset him way more than it did me, which means a lot of other atheists, as well as the average college professors were probably very ticked off too.

Josh and all the other Christian people in this movie are always moral, righteous and blameless (except for his girlfriend, oddly enough). Professor Radisson and other atheist characters are unrealistically unkind and proud, portrayed as either God haters, idiots, or abusive, terrible people, when some of the kindest men my dad has known were atheist philosophy professors. No. There are some pretty arrogant and belligerent college professors out there, though not necessarily over the God question. But sorry. If you want to make a realistic movie, you’re going to have to go on and do something different. I’m not saying that I disliked the movie hands down, there’s just a lot of things wrong with it, and I’m pointing out these things right now.

My overall impression?

Definitely Not Satisfied

Second, the way the classroom scenes are set up are also improbable.

  • Try to think of someone you know, a college professor or teacher. Would he/she, on the very first day of class, make everyone sign a sheet acknowledging that God is dead? I wouldn’t think so. At least, most people wouldn’t, and if someone did, well, you’re going to have a lot of upset people on your hands.
  • Josh is the only Christian student in the philosophy class. Perfect, he is, after all, the main character. Everyone else signs the sheet of paper without any problems, and Josh is the center of attention suddenly, because he’s the Christian. Again, not very probable.
  • Why does Radisson hate God, Josh asks him? “Because He took everything from me. I. Hate. God.” He goes on then, to explain his past and why that led him to hate “someone who doesn’t exist.” Now I could say a lot on this point here, but again, this is not a full orbed review, so I’ll keep it simple. Radisson could have brought up the whole problem of evil, (which is, by the way, considered to be the most powerful argument about God) but instead of stressing the “why such a good God would let evil run rampant” question, he simply says he just doesn’t want a God like this, a God who would take his mother away from him. Plus, being an atheist doesn’t always mean that the atheist hates Christianity. Most don’t hate God: They just believe He doesn’t exist.

Third, what about the Newsboys coming on stage at the end of the movie? Even Duck Dynasty was in there, for Zark’s sake! This was probably a way to get people in the seats. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Newsboys band, and it was kinda cool to see them in the movie and have it end that way. But really, I think there are other ways to get a good box office total without putting in some celebrity dudes that a lot of people like.

Fourth, if you were expecting the movie to be about a huge realistic God vs. Science debate, you’d be disappointed. This movie does have some good intelligent points, and Josh and Radisson bring up the God vs. Science argument several times, and this is probably the only parts in the movie that are unbiased. Of course, since this movie was made by Christians, there are Christian bias, just like movies made by atheists might have atheistic bias. I have not gone over and analyzed the dialog in the debates, but I plan on it sometime in the future. Again, this review won’t cover everything in the movie, I’m just raising the points I think are the most interesting.

Fifth, at the end of the movie, Professor Radisson decides to try out the Newsboys concert. He believes that Josh did have some valid points, especially after reading his mother’s letter to him before she died. Walking in the rain to the concert, however, he gets hit by a car and lays wounded on the road. The pastor, seen off and on in the movie, finds him amid the crowds and sirens and tells him that this is his last chance to believe in Jesus as his Savior. Radisson accepts God and dies. This scene may have been a redemptive one, but very unrealistic. How typical is that?

Oh, and is Josh’s hairdo super annoying, or is it just me? And I really don’t think his name is a coincidence … (Josh Wheaton vs. Joss Whedon? A-ha.)

So, that is my critique. Just go on the IMDb reviews and read them. They all talk about the points I have discussed, and more. Some of them are written by Christians and some are written by atheists and the majority of them are negative. As a Christian, I was unhappy after watching the movie, sad that a Christian would make a movie that portrays Christians and atheists in such a way in relation to each other. An atheist, however, would be even more offended. This is what we’re supposed to be labeled as Christians? This is the way the rest of the world is supposed to view us in relation to themselves? Please. As Christians, we are called to reach out lovingly to others who are not. However, these Christians made a movie that not only portrays Christians as awesome, flawless people (though his girlfriend was pretty bad) and atheists as terrible idiots, but set up the story so that it totally went against reality. It’s drama, and it’s fiction, but it’s one-sided, and if you’re a Christian and want someone you know who isn’t a Christian to watch God’s Not Dead, I wouldn’t recommend it, he might turn against Christianity altogether. Recommend him read the Bible instead.

“To say God’s Not Dead preaches to the choir would be an understatement. It’s the pastor, staring in a mirror, preaching to himself.”Todd VanDerWerff

Have you seen this movie? If so, what are your thoughts, opinions? If not, would you want to see it? I’d love to hear from others’ point of view. This is a matter of true discussion.

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7 thoughts on “Movie Critique: God’s Not Dead – The Critic Unleashed

  1. This is an excellent explanation of the subtle messages in this movie, Susannah. We watched this movie a while back and agree with you in your opinions. You state the Biblical view of man very concisely and accurately, as well as your own understanding of the actions and hearts of those in varying groups of beliefs. We would have preferred to have an ending that didn’t play on the emotions so much to draw others to Christ. I watched it again with some unbelievers and a few found it meaningful, but the college prof said she had never seen anyone treat any student in the manner shown in the movie. Keep clinging to Christ while you read and watch!

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  2. Since most movies labeled Christian have a tendency to disappoint me as a Christian and a movie-viewer, I watched God’s Not Dead on Netflix with extremely low expectations. In fact, I planned on turning it off if I didn’t see any redeeming factors in the first fifteen minutes. I watched the whole movie and I thought it was okay. I think the actors and actresses did the best job they could with the lines they had, and the pacing was good. The script-writing could have been quite a bit stronger – and not stronger with Biblical points, but stronger in realism. I actually liked the multiple view-points in the movie with all the other characters, however, like you, I was dismayed that all the atheists were portrayed as jerks. Although I believe in Christ and I do think that walking with Christ on a daily basis can make a huge difference in a person’s life, I have atheist relatives who are very nice people, who volunteer in their community, and who treat others with kindness . . . except I will say that they shut off anyone who tries to talk to them about faith in an immediate and rude way and they do actively make fun of Christians in all of their social media circles – facebook, etc. However, even with that, they treat me with love and decency, even if though I believe in Christ, because they know me. Because of my experiences with my family, I do think it can be realistic for atheists to be both kind and rude, just as Christians can be both kind and rude. As you said, we live in a fallen world.
    As for the ending, it definitely strained credibility, but I would have liked to see all these characters come together in a worship setting, and I would have liked to see the professor consider faith at the end of the movie and stay alive to wrestle with it. It definitely could have been better, but it was far better than some of the other Christian movies who have received more media attention . . .

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    • I’m glad you pointed out some positives from the movie such as the actors and script, I agree with you on those points. I have not seen too many Christian movies, but it’s interesting to hear that this one is better than others. Thank you for commenting, I’m glad to hear other peoples’ opinions!

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  3. I had MAJOR issues with this film. The title is in itself not correct – since a true atheist would not want his class to agree “God is dead,” rather, “God does not exist.” For God to have died, He needed to have existed at some point – therefore, the entire argument is stupid.
    I really didn’t like the way it portrayed Christians as complete saints, either – number one, we are not, we are human beings who will make mistakes. And the whole Duck Dynasty cameo felt so forced and it really gagged me. The ending was RIDICULOUS. A lifelong atheist – even when gravely injured – is NOT going to say a salvation prayer with a pastor WHO JUST HIT THEM WITH HIS CAR. I’m a fan of Kevin Sorbo, but I think choosing to be in this movie was a bad move on his part.
    I believe in God, and I believe He isn’t cruel nor does he have a twisted sense of humor (like some atheists would say). But I also think that churches on the whole have really turned off nonbelievers/nonattenders since about 1980, for pushing the sorts of stereotypes that are seen in movies such as this one. There are several really poor examples in the multimedia industry in the last decade or so, and I find it extremely disappointing. I think it’s definitely time for the churches to take a look at themselves and stop blaming the atheists as to why church attendance is so low lately.
    Just my two cents.

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    • YES!!!! Claiming that “God is Dead” makes no sense, He would have had to exist in the first place. *high five* Glad someone else pointed that one out!!
      I’m not familiar with Duck Dynasty, so I thought it was a funny addition, but I really don’t like how they glorified the Christians and portrayed the atheists as jerks. And I agree, the ending was awful and so unrealistic. I think all Christians need to take a step back and compare themselves with atheists. From a worldly point of view, we’re not all that different, except maybe in actions and being saved by Christ. Not all atheists are jerks and there are quite a few Christians that are. This movie was not accurate on so many levels. Thanks for your two cents!

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      • Duck Dynasty gags me on a regular basis, as a perfect example of why some people think Christians are just a joke. They’re ridiculously wealthy, but claim to be humble and have “down home country values”, they made gobs more money with their show (which was NOT reality, it was scripted and in retrospect it was clear they were acting), and now their kids are famous from being on the show, and already developing a big attitude over it, and that upsets me, too.

        I’ve known plenty of lovely people who weren’t Christians. I’ve known some very wonderful Christians as well. Most agnostics I’ve come across have been cool with others who do have beliefs or a religion (generally any sort). Even many self-proclaimed “atheists” are actually open to others having spiritual beliefs, regardless of what they themselves think. This movie is indeed one of the worst examples of why some real-life atheists don’t have a problem with God, but with those who claim to be His.

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