Philosophy and Christianity have been mostly at loggerheads from the beginning . . . of Christianity.
My side is with philosophy. No doubt about that. But having watched God’s Not Dead for the first time tonight, I have to say that I am not exactly on that proselytizing film’s critics’ side. The movie is not as bad as most critics make out. It is well acted, tightly plotted and edited, artfully framed with incidental music, and contains several juicy, fun scenes.
At base, God’s Not Dead is about a philosophical argument. Kevin Sorbo plays an atheist philosophy professor who professes atheism but engages in almost no philosophical argumentation.
I would like to say this makes the film horribly unrealistic, but I have heard stories about such abominations in colleges. Sorbo’s Prof. Radisson is a terrible teacher, and there is little evidence demonstrating his expertise in his subject. Surely most philosophers would leap at a student’s interest in a subject dealt with in many different ways during the course of philosophy. Instead, Radisson tries to skip the theology section of his philosophy course by demanding that each student sign a piece of paper saying “God is dead.”
An absurd approach to teaching, and no way to cover philosophy, which began, after all, as the critique of both religion and common sense.
But it does not really seem too far out of the stream of bad teaching in America.
His foil is our hero, a young Christian student who stands up for God in class.
Philosophers who like movies might want to contrast it with Agora, a film set in late antiquity Egypt starring Rachel Weisz as the neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia.
Whereas God’s Not Dead is fiction, with a shaggy god ending, Agora retells a historical tale. Fictionalized, of course.
In Agora, as in history, a mob of Christians kills the philosopher.
In God’s Not Dead, the filmmaker kills off the atheist professor . . . fictionally, giving him a deathbed conversion to boot.
This is how Christianity has progressed: from lying about and killing a philosopher to discrediting a philosophical position by “killing off” the vexatious representative character.
In a film that also depicts (fairly realistically) a Muslim father who disowns and throws out of his house a daughter who converts to Christianity, I would say that this is a kind of progress.
Still, the attack upon reason goes on. In real life, a number of years ago, Christians got their hands on senescent atheist philosopher Antony Flew, cajoling him into a half-assed repudiation of some of his previous positions. The devil takes the hindmost; Christians pick off the weakest.
Most critics of GND hated it, saying it was too simplistic and tendentious. Objectively, that is true. But we are talking movies here. Simple-minded and tendentious is the new style, no? That’s what all political movies are, basically. Michael Moore, anyone?
It is not as if today’s highly politicized ideological culture is better when it comes to politics. It is not.
For my part, the biggest disappointment in the film is not the convenient death of the professor. It is the ending at a Christian Rock concert. If I wanted to disprove the existence of God, I might point to Christian Rock as all the proof I need. God cannot even make a miracle of converting young people to like great music. Instead, they adopt CR as a smoker switches to vaping. The drug is there. It is just a new delivery system.