God's Not Dead (2014)

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Movie Info

Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words "God Is Dead" on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at a … More

Rating: PG (for thematic material, brief violence and an accident scene)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Hunter Dennis, Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 5, 2014
Box Office: $60.8M
Runtime:
Pure Flix Entertainment - Official Site

Cast


as Professor Radisson

as Pastor Dave

as Willie Robertson

as Korie Robertson

as Martin

as June Wheaton

as Actress

as Themselves
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Critic Reviews for God's Not Dead

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (4)

Despite the campus setting, little about the story is intelligently designed.

Full Review… | April 8, 2014
USA Today
Top Critic

Even by the rather lax standards of the Christian film industry, God's Not Dead is a disaster.

Full Review… | March 26, 2014
AV Club
Top Critic

The film is slickly produced, with a competent cast, and although it sometimes stacks the deck shamelessly in defense of its credo, it does allow a few dissenting voices to slip into the debate.

Full Review… | March 24, 2014
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

The Almighty deserves better advocacy than he gets in this typically ham-fisted Christian campus melodrama.

Full Review… | March 23, 2014
Variety
Top Critic

Has a decided agenda but still manages to be entertaining

Full Review… | May 11, 2014
jackiekcooper.com

Lambasts reason, and celebrates Christianity unabashedly, which is a shame, because it has an opportunity to really challenge its target audience.

Full Review… | May 7, 2014
Cinema Crazed

Audience Reviews for God's Not Dead

½

Before I dive deep into the unfortunate indie film, God's Not Dead, allow me to disclose my own leanings. While I can objectively deconstruct and analyze a film, as I intend to with this one, allow me to state that I consider myself a Christian. I also happen to have several friends of different faiths including some who are atheists. We can civilly discuss our differences without having to demonize one another, finding merit in the different tracks people take to add value to their time on this Earth. Well somebody should have let God's Not Dead know that the world isn't so didactic, and the best way to reach people is not to loudly declare your own sense of superiority. This is such an angry little movie disguised with a misleading happy face.

Josh (Shane Harper) is a freshman assigned to Professor Radisson's (Kevin Sorbo) introductory philosophy class. He's been warned early on that the prof has a target for Christians in his clas.s Sure enough, on day one, Radisson offers his class a tempting offer: if they will turn in a slip admitting God is dead, then they will automatically get a good grade and the class will move on to other thinkers. Josh can't do that, so Radisson challenges the coed to prove the existence of God over the course of three classes. Josh's peers will serve as the jury of this theological trial.

It should go without saying that God's Not Dead feels like it exists in a world that doesn't come close to resembling reality. That's fine, movies don't have to be a perfect reflection of our world, but when a film purports to be the reaction to the persecuted, it has to bend over backward to create its illusion of persecution. One of the big giveaways early on was the fact that all but one person in a full class would acquiesce to admitting, "God is dead" for a better grade, especially a school in the South (the film was filmed in Louisiana). The next giveaway was when Josh's girlfriend threatens to break up with him if he goes through with challenging Radisson. Her thinking: if Josh gets a poor grade in one class his freshman year, he'll never be able to go to law school, and their future plans will be kaput. Who thinks this way? Another giveaway was the representation of academia, namely the professors at the university, all of whom come across as snobby, self-satisfied, smug, and mean-spirited even to the point that they're mocking their own colleague's girlfriend to her face. People don't behave like this. Then again this is more of a parable than a story, and more of a conversion exercise than a movie.

The genesis of this movie feels like it was spawned from a collection of e-mail forward bogeymen, in particular the notion of Christian persecution. For starters, a far majority of this country identifies as Christian, as do the politicians making and enforcing the laws. This is very much a Christian country, so why do certain people feel they are under attack? Even accepting the premise, the movie is rife with creaky subplots that don't add weight to the film, only padding. There's the Chinese student who wants to gravitate toward Christianity, whose father warns him to go with the flow lest they upset the Chinese government (COMMUNISM!). There's the Muslim student forced to wear a headscarf and who secretly listens to Billy's Graham's son on her iPod, afraid of what her traditional father would do if he found out (MUSLIMS!). There's a blogger that writes for "The New Left" who wants to ambush good Christian celebrities like the Newsboys and one of the bearded gents from Duck Dynasty (he looks eerily like my critical colleague, Ben Bailey) with her position of outrage (LIBERAL MEDIA!). In light of the controversy over the Duck Dynasty patriarch saying gays are on par with terrorists and black people were more cheerful in the Jim Crow days, it's even more unusual. These additional storylines are grafted on with such witless care, belaboring the running time.

Radisson is the prime bogeyman, the smug, self-satisfied atheist intellectual (LIBERAL! COLLEGE! ATHEIST!). No college professor is EVER going to force his or her students to declare God dead in class. They would be disciplined severely and booted. Radisson can spout out a few famous names, but really the man resorts to bullying and intimidation, including physical threats against Josh. There's no way a dean would allow this to stand. The classroom, and higher education in general, is meant to provoke discussion, especially for a philosophy class. The notion that a philosophy professor would think only in reductive right/wrong terms is idiotic. The entire idea of college as this liberal brain-washing ground that infringes upon the freedoms of Christians, a feeling catalogued in the end credits with reported legal cases, falls apart when you understand that college is about the exchanging of ideas. A Christian viewpoint is but one viewpoint, and within that group the variances are many. Simply being exposed to differing views, texts, and people is not cause for alarm, unless, of course, the person is too insecure in their own faith. The anti-intellectualism argument seems to believe that the more knowledge one is exposed to, the more choices they have, the less trustworthy they can be with making up their own mind.

Then there's just the overall poor nature of Josh's debates. If you're going to put God on trial, then devote the majority of the movie to this exercise. Cut the many subplots just floating around gunking up the narrative. Josh is in charge of presenting a compelling case for the existence of God. He opens with the notion that man cannot prove God exists but they also cannot disprove God. Huh? Josh, you're tasked with proving the Almighty and you start with this rhetorical nonsense? Let's apply this logic elsewhere: I can't NOT prove that eating ice cream spares me from getting struck by lightning. An intelligent case can be made for a Creator, but that's not what happens here. Instead, Josh relies on circular logic while blasting others for circular logic. He cites Genesis as the accurate scientific account for the Big Bang, saying science had it wrong, forgetting that science is, pardon the term, an ongoing evolution building off the previous ideas and breakthroughs. He also grossly misrepresents the theory of evolution, the timeframe of developing life, provides a ham-fisted rationalization for the existence of evil, and finally resorts to pressuring Radisson to admit he is a lapsed Christian who has never forgiven God for the death of his mother. Because, you see, an atheist can't simply come to their beliefs logically. The final head-scratcher is when the class unanimously votes with Josh "I am Spartacus" style, not a single soul, in a philosophy class no less, quibbling over the flawed presentation (Hey, he made animated PowerPoint slides! That's all we need). I also doubt that any modern-day college class would be filled to capacity especially a class as potentially boring and esoteric as a philosophy class for eighteen-year-olds.

Let's focus on the really nasty core of God's Not Dead, which states explicitly and implicitly that anybody who is not a Christian is without morals and judgment. Josh, in his concluding argument, cites Dostoevsky (though it's really a character in his book) saying, "If God does not exist then everything is permitted." His argument boils down to the concept that those who do not believe in God are without moral clarity. That's generally insulting and downright hostile, presupposing that the only reason people treat other human beings with kindness and respect is because of religious faith and not, you know, an innate sense of personal right and wrong. Newsflash: no one religious group has a monopoly on moral values. Hammurabi didn't need Christianity to come up with a system of moral laws to live by in 1700 BC. I don't kill my neighbor merely because I fear cosmic retribution. Likewise I don't help a person in need because I want my brownie points; I do it because I know it's right. The entire movie exists in such a black and white terms, and to keep up with this edict every non-Christian is presented as a terrible, often mean-spirited human being. The Muslim father believes in God, but not the Christian God, and so he must beat and threaten his daughter for her clandestine conversion. The superficial businessman has riches but at what price? The liberal blogger has her career but in her time of need nobody close to comfort her. The film posits that atheists or non-Christians are without morals and cannot be truly happy in life. It's this gnawing and unnecessary sense of superiority that infuses the film, leaving an unsettling aftertaste of smugness for a movie purporting to castigate others for their own smugness.

Let's talk about the liberal blogger and Radisson for a moment. It's not enough that we can't allow intelligent people to have differing perspectives and beliefs, and respect those differences; no every person with a different view on God must be punished. The liberal blogger finds out she's dying from cancer. Big spoilers ahead: Radisson is fatally hit by a car. Our kindly reverend character has just enough time to get Radisson to profess his love for Jesus on his deathbed before stepping off into the light. And so, our voices of dissent are unceremoniously killed off. Literally we jump from the death of a man outside to an extended Newsboys concert that asks people to text bomb their pals, a text which just happens to be the name of the movie and the Newsboys' 2011 album. It's a little unseemly from a dramatic standpoint but from an ethical standpoint more so.

I've expended a lot of words examining the content of God's Not Dead, so allow me to judge it as a film. For starters, there are way too many subplots that eat up valuable time, mostly people on the periphery meant to provide validation to Josh for his actions. Tonally, several of these segments clash, especially the kindly minister and his wacky misadventures trying to drive to Disney World. The time in the classroom is the hook of the film but it gives us about equal time with the liberal blogger or the Muslim daughter or any other distracting side character. Also, the filmmakers have the annoying habit of cutting to another scene and then back while their first scene continues to play out. I assume they're forcing parallels but in reality it's just shoddy editing that disorients an audience. Then there's the sequence where the Muslim girl's younger brother is entering her bedroom, going to discover what she's listening to on her iPod, and it's played hilariously like a horror movie with the lurking shadows. There are directing choices that take away from the potential drama of scenes. From a technical standpoint, God's Not Dead looks slightly better than other Christian widespread releases, but the filmmakers are worse storytellers than the Kendrick brothers (Courageous).

The acting is inoffensively bland with one notable exception. Despite what you may think, Sorbo (TV's Hercules) is actually pretty good as the raging atheist. He digs into his character's pool of rage and arrogance and produces a performance that weirdly feels moderately grounded, even for a character that is not. I don't really know why the Duck Dynasty cameo was necessary but I suppose the filmmakers felt they needed additional star power to lure their target audience.

God's Not Dead is a surprisingly mean little film that hides its purpose under the auspices of evangelism. I expected a pro-Christian message and it has every right to put forward its own viewpoint, but the film isn't so much pro-Christian as anti-everyone not already following the same limited interpretation of Scripture. This is not an inclusive film that will reach out to those lost sheep. Putting aside the poor filmmaking, the misplaced persecution complex, and the straw man arguments, the most disappointing aspect of God's Not Dead is the illusion of intellectual rigor. The merits of Josh's less-than-stellar arguments are not the point, though any person skilled in critical thinking should be able to poke holes in his faulty rationale. The point of the film is to feed into an unjustified sense of being wronged, that even though Christians are a clear majority in our country, that somehow they are under attack simply because others are allowed equal opportunity to share their own valid views and beliefs. In the black and white universe of God's Not Dead, there is only one way to be happy, to be moral, and if you're not on this team than there's no way to achieve anything of substance in your life. Do you see the difference? It's not that my side is good, it's the notion that my side is better, that your side is worse. It's a distinction that adds a decidedly sour note. This is a movie after all where the purveyors of atheism have to be struck down with death. God's Not Dead is likewise striking 'em dead at the box-office, but you should hold the movie to a higher standard.

Last note: the very title is a misuse of Nietzsche's quote. The full quote is, "God is dead and man has killed him," which implied man no longer needed religion to serve as its lone basis of moral authority.

Nate's Grade: D

Nate Z.
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

½

It's a little corny, but God's Not Dead has a positive message about standing up for one's beliefs. Based on a series of court cases where colleges have infringed upon students' religious liberties, freshman Josh Wheaton takes up his philosophy instructor's challenge to prove that there's a God; and in doing so he starts a ripple effect that spreads throughout his community. The acting's pretty poor all around, and the writing's not that good either. Yet it's rather interesting how the story plays out and interconnects the different characters. And, there's an inspirational quality that comes through as well. Though it has some problems, God's Not Dead ends up being more than the sum of its parts.

Dann Michalski
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer

A straightforward title like that leaves little to the imagination for debate. In the same way the same person wrote the Ten Commandments said "Thou Shalt Not Kill" nearly wiped out every single specie with a flood. As my supporting evidence in Exodus 34:1, "The Lord said to Moses, "Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke". Further supporting my evidence with Exodus 34:28, Moses writes "the words of the covenant, the ten commandments" onto the second set of tablets. These words were not the same: both God and Moses wrote on the tablets, but only Moses wrote the Ten Commandments. It is sometimes appropriate to describe an agent as doing something even when he delegates the work to someone else. God wrote the Ten Commandments onto the tablets, even if he used Moses to do so. I know for a fact my argument will be defeated by those who actually read the Bible unlike myself which is intentional. This film does inspire to this kind of level of thinking. While I am not a Christian follower nor of any particular religion. I do however favor Buddhism teachings personally because of Buddha himself, and you better believe I would try convince non believers that not every person in a specific faith wants to force their beliefs down your throats like this film claims. Not only are it arguments favoring God existence and depiction of atheists one sided, but also how it represent the Christian community so poorly it has the power to convert Christians into another faith. Ladies and gentlemen of the court. I present to the jury or readers my arguments for why "God's Not Dead" IS THE WORST CHRISTIAN FILM EVER MADE.

Hate Thy Neighbor

In this film if you're an atheist you will suffer. For example, there's a reporter who gets cancer because she's an atheist and took offense when a clear rip off a "Duck Dynasty" actor prays on his show. Instead of choosing to dive into the complicated subject of how a man sticks by a faith even when it's against his personal way of living. Preferring instead to proudly claim atheist hate Christians. Not only that, but according to this film shooting an animal will not cause it any suffering. Seems like the writers fail to acknowledge its audience is not brain dead as they are. So the reporter attempts to get support in her hour of need from her boyfriend who's also an atheist. Once she tells him she has cancer her boyfriend responds with "How could you do this to me?". Going by this movie logic it's because she's an atheist. I'm curious to witness what the resolution to this dilemma will be? Oh it never gets resolved. The atheist couples end up separated never working to fix the relationship and the reporter conforms to Christianity which according to this film makes everything better...except she still has cancer and is not shown accepting it as part of her life.

Another is an over controlling Muslim father whose daughter he physically beats when he discovers his daughter is listening to the bible on tape. Yeah because college students will be jamming to the "Book of Genesis". I'm not even Muslim and even I got offended by this film portrayal of the Muslim community. It's almost like this film is ignorant of the same message it's trying to send. So what happens to the over controlling Muslim father and the daughter who chose a different faith? One screening later. Man, even the Devil would call that needlessly cruel. Okay, so this Muslim family never resolves the differences between religious beliefs and the daughter has been tossed out to the street without us ever being shown a place where she can safely sleep. Call me insane, an atheist, (going by this film) the Devil, but I don't think her going to a Christian concert is something that will fix the hardship that comes with breaking family traditions. I'm just saying...oh I just learned from the film I'm going to Hell for challenging it's broken message. Oh how nice of it.

Finally, the antagonist, who is also atheist is professor Kevin Sorbo. Well to be fair to Sorbo I would also lose faith if Lutz played the same character as me. Professor Sorbo is a terrible teacher who knows nothing about Philosophy. "God Is Dead" is a phrase popularized by Friedrich Nietzsche doesn't mean that the Christian God was alive, but has died, nor does it mean that he never existed (as Kevin Sorbo's philosophy professor character states). Nietzsche was simply saying that god wasn't a consideration for how most people live their lives. You'd think a philosophy professor would know that but, apparently the straw-man professor in this movie hasn't even read "Philosophy for Dummies" or lazy research on Wikipedia.

Atheist Professor Sorbo doesn't have philosophical justification for what he believes, which you'd think would stack the deck in favor of Christians in this movie. Instead, it does the opposite. By misrepresenting the atheist position, the film-makers are telegraphing their insecurity about the arguments. The entire atheist position is reduced to a quote from Stephen Hawking, a distortion of one Richard Dawkins argument, and the problem of evil, and even these arguments are only discussed as a cartoonishly over-the-top grotesque parody. What you don't get is an intellectual debate with a misunderstanding of how science works, but also fails in raising philosophical questions which Sorbo teaches though ignores.

In the film Professor Sorbo loses faith in God because God let his mother died. Yet, was okay with world hunger, wars, political corruption, terrorism, and so much more before his mother died while believing in God. I would call Kevin Sorbo character a overly dramatic mama's boy, but Hercules name has been tainted enough. Not only that, but he also dates a Christian who leaves him because he's an atheist. What happens to him? He gets run over by a car and the driver never bother checking if he's okay because you know the nerve of a hardworking atheist who gives college students an education is irritating. Even in his moment of death two Christian preachers happen to be close by and one asks if he wants to believe in God before he dies. Well the intention was nice, but heavy handed none the less. Doesn't matters when the same preacher gets a text saying "God's Not Dead" and says "This is a time worth celebrating". Despite the fact that an atheist died before their very eyes. Then again this a film bloated with pointless subplots (one then is a preacher attempting to start a car) than a fair depiction.

Conformity Equals Freewill

The protagonist of the film is named Josh Wheaton....nope can't insult someone whose name is similar to someone hardworking like Joss Whedon. I think i'll pick out a nickname based on a historical figures that best represent the film protagonists ideal and I'll pick Little Hitler. Now before anyone says I'm going too far comparing a freshman college student to one of most hated human being here's the basic idea. As written in Mein Kamp by Adolf Hitler, "We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity...in fact our movement is Christian" is the philosophy followed by film protagonist Little Hitler. So Little Hitler has the opportunity to switch classes if he's so offended by an atheist who tells his class to write "God's Not Dead" on a sheet of paper in the first day of class. Disregard the film depiction that all college professor want to manipulate easily impressionable young minds, but instead focus on Little Hitler who is so outraged by the oppression of the school system which allows him to change classes and a atheist teacher who nicely tells him to change classes if he offended takes upon himself to be the voice of the oppress and manipulated college students who could care less about skipping some lessons ahead in the material. Accepting the challenge of the atheist that god is not dead. HEIL GOD!

Also like Adolf Hitler, Little Hitler is a hypocrite. So he spends the entire film trying convince others that god is not dead. Little Hitler asks Professor Sorbo why he hates God and Sorbo responds that his mother died while praying to God. From this comes the final words to win everyone over is "How could you hate someone who doesn't exist". Umm...Little Hitler you do know that could also serve as a counter argument as why bother following the teaching of a man whose existence which you even claimed is not proven in your supporting arguments favoring God's Not Dead is not conclusive to assured victory. For that matter, what was the point of Little Hitler arguing in the first place? He sets out in a blaze of fury organizing everything he learned from books to prove the existence of God, yet the argument that declares him the winner goes entirely his purpose because of bad writing.

Little Hitler also has the nerves to say he's spreading freewill. Yeah right free will. Little Hitler forces his views down on his peers to the point it clouds the meaning behind Christ teachings. He neither presents other religions when presenting his argument because he's want everyone to be a Christian. He's not allowing the students to choose for themselves he only them to in his lead. Not once does he bring up Buddhism, the Quran, or another religion for that matter. Nor does he ever accept anyone truly wants to be an atheist. After seeing this film I wouldn't blame anyone instantly turn into an atheist over night. Man it's terrifying how much this film protagonist bares similar motive to Adolf Hitler of all people.

Thy Commit Secular Promotionalism

(You can skip this section all the way to the closing paragraph if I convince you of my position already)

A film that claims to take the moral high ground of religious debates it selection of music is one sided too. Rather than have music for "God's Not Dead" that touch on various issues it's too is shallow like the film depiction of Christians. Let's take the theme song for the film which both share the same title that neither understand the meaning behind the saying. I'll admit and say Christian music is not my thing, but I have heard some terrific piece of deep music from "Jesus Christ Superstar" which is my standards for what I consider good Christian music (and fantastic musical as well I highly recommend regardless of faith). The lyrics for the theme song are as follows.

The Newsboys - God's Not Dead

Let love explode and bring the dead to life
A love so bold to bring a revolution somehow
Now I'm lost in Your freedom
In this world I'll overcome
My God's not dead
He's surely alive
He's living on the inside
Roaring like a lion
Roaring, He's roaring, roaring like a lion

Rinse and repeat that same verse through the whole song four times. By these lyrics alone it's getting those who already believe in their faith pumped up. Like I said earlier it's music is as shallow as it depiction of Christians. Every song basically says just keep the faith and spread good will. That's nice and all, however the opening song in "Jesus Christ Superstar" is well.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Heaven's On Their Minds

My mind is clearer now - at last all too well
I can see where we all soon will be
If you strip away the myth from the man
You will see where we all soon will be
Jesus! You've started to believe the things they say of you
You really do believe this talk of God is true
And all the good you've done will soon get swept away
You've begun to matter more than the things you say

Best part about this particular track from "Jesus Christ Superstar" is that does not repeat any verses and goes to tell Christ story while expressing the point of views from one of his followers. Out of sheer laziness I rest my case on "God's Not Dead" music is shallow. The only thing left I haven't raged upon are the cast which sadly play their roles straightforwardly. For a film this cartoonish and horribly executed the cast is clutter with not enough screen time to define their characters. This results in no one in the film having any resemblance of chemistry. Nearly every line is delivered with the same wooden and emotionless way. Even when Kevin Sorbo is dying (even Hercules is not immortal to this power) it's wooden.

Thy Faith Shalt Be Wronged By This Film

God's Not Dead is a poor existence of a product. It's ignorant to the point that is paints those it is defending in a negative manner that make them just as evil and shallow as the people it's attacking. This film is a sin not just to filmmaking, but also to the teachings of its religion. According to this film I would burn for all in eternity in the deepest regions of Hell with the worst torture imaginable. Being expose to this film non-stop making with my head exploding and regenerating in a endless cycle. It's lives in far off distant land where Christianity is only way to salvation and while that might sound nice to some it's followers live in the real. The same real world where there are intellectual and respectful debates base on these same beliefs. The same real world where the followers of these teachings are challenge everyday to maintain their faith in the world around them. The same real world with religion tolerance where both atheists and those who follow a religion can be friends.

It's not just bad filmmaking. It's not just a horrible movie. It's just an ignorant and insulting piece of a film. IT'S BAD CHRISTIANITY.

Cinema-Maniac
Caesar Mendez

Super Reviewer

God's Not Dead Quotes

– Submitted by Lucas B (7 months ago)
– Submitted by Todd H (8 months ago)
– Submitted by Parth L (8 months ago)
– Submitted by Lucas B (8 months ago)

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