A Criticism of Apologetics Press' "God's Not Dead" Movie Review.



The movie “God’s Not Dead” has done incredibly well in movie theaters. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should, it’s very good. The movie is about Christian college freshman Josh Wheaton (played by Sean Harper) who takes a philosophy class run by a militant atheist professor Professor Raddison (played by Kevin Sorbo). Professor Raddison required that all of the students sign a written confession stating the 3 simple words “God Is Dead”. If they did that, they’d get extra credit. If they didn’t, they would flunk the class. Josh could not compel himself to write that written confession. With good reason too. Being a Christian, he’d endanger his soul and would sin by doing such. Jesus said "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 10:32-33

The professor said that if he did not sign the written statement, that he would have to defend the antithesis. He would have to give good reasons to believe that God’s not dead.

But Apologetics Press wrote a review of the movie and published it on their sites. They spoke well of it in a few areas. But in other areas, they criticized the movie. It’s those few areas that I wish to respond to. I find their criticism to be unjustified.

While the apologetics content wasn’t too in depth or comprehensive, I found the arguments were sound and were sort of abbreviated versions of arguments that I myself have defended in various online debates with atheists, in this blog and that I’ve read about in books by people such as Hugh Ross and William Lane Craig. It wasn’t too in depth but hey, what are you going to do? An hour and a half movie or two hour movie has time constraints and they can't act out a debate of actual length in which one can probably defend these arguments in greater length

Puig dismissed the idea of a professor at a respected academic institution ever criticizing religion as “primitive superstition,” saying, “Even if a teacher believed this, it’s highly unlikely he would declare it to a class full of students” Apologetics Press rightly corrected them by saying that someone came up to them at one of their “lectures and recounted how, at the beginning of one particular semester, a science professor asked students in the class to stand up if they believed in God. Seven individuals out of a fairly large class rose from their seats. The professor then went on to say that by the end of the semester not one of them would stand up when he asked that question. Sure enough, toward the end of the semester the professor posed the question again, “How many of you believe in God?” Only one student stood up.”

Indeed. I’ve heard Mike Licona and Greg Koukl recount similar stories of people coming to them, and telling them that their professors have outright said that their goal was to make sure that they had no religious faith by the end of the semester. I too have had people tell me that this kind of thing has happened. So the actions of Professor Raddison in the movie aren’t at all implausible. This kind of thing does happen, surprising as it is. Atheistic professors are not at all discreet in their goal to destroy the religious faith of their students.

The “implausibility” of Professor Raddison requiring the students to write “God Is Dead” in order to pass the test isn’t a criticism that Apologetics Press brought forth, but it is one criticism that I’ve heard and I thought I’d just get it out of the way.

But, Apologetics Press did object to some things about the movie, such as the type of argumentation that Josh Wheaton used in defending God’s existence. Namely, by appealing to The Big Bang as evidence for divine creation. They write “he (Josh) implies that the Big Bang is scientifically and biblically credible, and that God could have used evolution as the process by which all life (including humans) came into existence.” Well, the first part is true at least. He did appeal to The Big Bang. But he did not say that evolution could be the process by which God created all life. In fact, he criticized macro evolution. I don’t know what movie they saw, but I can’t recall him endorsing Theistic Evolution anywhere in the movie. Many young earth creationists get confused and sometimes group big bang cosmology and Darwinian evolution together. They think that to believe one is to believe the other. So maybe they inferred that from the fact that Josh did appeal to the Big Bang. But this simply isn’t the case. The Big Bang and Darwinian evolution are completely different topics! Indeed, they aren’t even in the same scientific discipline! The Big Bang is in the realm of astrophysics! Evolution is in the realm of biology! One can believe in The Big Bang and not believe Darwinian macro evolution occured. Likewise, one can believe Darwinian evolution occurred without believing The Big Bang occurred. Indeed, many Christians such as Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe, William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith, Richard Bushey of ThereforeGodExists.com, and myself believe the evidence for big bang cosmology is very powerful but we are very skeptical of Darwin’s theory.

They wrote “Not only is the Big Bang an unscientific idea (May, et al., 2003a), it is an unbiblical idea as well” – Well, I don’t have the space to defend the scientific evidence for The Big Bang. But I will demonstrate that it is a very biblical idea. In fact, it looks so much like the biblical doctrine of creation that I’m surprised that it’s allowed to be taught in the classroom!

THE BIBLE SAYS
1.   The universe has a beginning (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews. 1:10, Hebrews 11:3).

2.   Time has a beginning (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20).

3.   God is “stretching out the heavens” like a tent (Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5; Jeremiah 10:12; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1)

4.   Is governed by a "law of decay" (Romans 8)
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5.   Someday this universe will come to an end and be replaced by a “new heavens and a new earth” (Psalm 102:26, Isaiah 34:4; Hebrews 1:10-12; 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1).

SCIENCE SAYS
1: The universe began in a hot origin event dubbed by Fred Hoyle as "The Big Bang". Our whole universe suddenly appeared and was in a hot dense state during the first few seconds of it's history.

2: Time had a beginning at The Big Bang.

3: The universe has been expanding since its origin and will continue to expand in the future.

4: The universe is governed by a law dubbed "The second law of thermodynamics". This law brings things in the universe toward decay and disorder.

5:  Eventually, the universe won't be able to sustain life; the universe may collapse, or at the very least it will run out of energy (as the second law of thermodynamics predicts).

Obvious parallels emerge from these descriptions, both biblical and scientific. The similarities between the scientific and biblical descriptions is staggering! But moreover, the big bang proves the second premise in an argument for God’s existence known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument goes as follows.

1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2: The Universe began to exist.
3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

A cause must transcend its’ effect. Therefore the cause of the universe must transcend the universe. Being the cause of nature, it must transcend nature, or be supernatural. Being the cause of time, it must transcend time, or be timeless. Being the cause of space and material, it must be spaceless and immaterial. Finally, since it brought the entire known universe into existence, from nothing, it follows that it must be enormously powerful and intelligent as well, which presupposes that it also must be a personal entity. I went into more detail of this argument in my blog post titled “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”. I admonish you to read that as I go into much more depth than I am able to here.

The argument shows that the cause of the universe is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, supernatural, personal Creator of the universe. The Big Bang demonstrates the truth of the second premise! The Big Bang should bother atheists, not Christians! The Big Bang is a friend to theism, not an enemy.

Apologetics Press then criticized the end of the movie. SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE, DO NOT CONTINUE READING! TURN BACK NOW! I DO NOT WISH TO RUIN THE ENDING FOR YOU!

Near the end of the movie, in a tragic accident, the atheistic professor is struck by a car and is about to die. It just so happens that a denominational minister is on the scene. The minister begs the atheistic professor to call on the Lord, say a version of the “sinner’s prayer,” and receive Jesus into his heart. Now, you may be wondering, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, I’m wondering that same thing. The reason Apologetics Press thinks there’s something wrong with that, but their reasoning seems rather silly. They complained that “such teaching is never found in the Bible” and that “God requires faithful obedience to the Gospel plan of salvation in order to receive the gift of salvation” They said that Paul informed the Thessalonians that at the end of time Jesus Christ will be revealed from heaven “with His Mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, emp. added). They wrote “What the atheistic professor did in the movie to be “saved” is not what the New Testament means when it says to “obey the Gospel” (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Matthew 7:21). Thus, in the very process of claiming to teach that people should be willing to sacrifice everything for Christ, the movie producers failed to heed their own message.”

Well, it’s true that The Sinner’s Prayer is never found in The Bible, but so what? Many things we do in Christian living aren’t found in The Bible? Is playing the organ during worship in a church building found in The Bible? No. The organ didn’t exist in the first century and at that time, most church services were held in the homes of believers rather than in church buildings. Church buildings didn’t come about until later. It’s not found in The Bible that we are to drive our cars to the church building. Should we walk to church since driving to church isn’t mentioned in scripture? It’s not taught in scripture that we’re to go door to door asking people “If you were to die tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity?” A lot of things aren’t mentioned in The Bible. Are we going to stop doing these things because they’re not explicitly mentioned in scripture? There’s nothing in scripture which seems to suggest we SHOULDN'T use the sinner’s prayer. If you want to say the sinner’s prayer is unbiblical, you should give positive reasons for thinking so instead of making an argument from silence.

As for their latter criticism, just because Professor Raddison asked Jesus to be his Savior during his final moments does not mean he didn’t get saved. As long he truly regretted living his entire life not serving God and worshipping Him and truly wished He could do things different, then I’m convinced that The Lord would have forgiven a person like that  and accepted him into Heaven. Yes, He didn’t have time to “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Romans 6:3-4; Matthew 7:21) but neither did the thief on the cross next to Jesus (Luke 23:32-43). That man said to Jesus “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and Jesus replied to him saying “I tell you, today you shall be with me in paradise” Was Jesus lying to the thief? Did the thief really not join Jesus in paradise on that very day? After all, he didn’t have the opportunity to “obey the Gospel” He didn’t have time to give “faithful obedience to the Gospel plan of salvation in order to receive the gift of salvation” He was dying on the cross! He was in the process of dying when he obtained salvation!

While it’s true that we need to obey God and serve Him during our life, if someone was truly repentant at the moment of their death, God would forgive them. Some people reading this might thing that because of this, they can play the system. Living a life of sin and selfishness and then asking for God to forgive them while they’re dying. If this is their mindset, then they won’t be saved. God knows what is in every person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Deuteronomy 31:21, Psalm 44:21, Psalm 139:2, Proverbs 15:11) and He therefore knows if we truly regret not living for Him during our lives. You can’t fake repentance and remorse with God. You can’t play the system like that.

WHAT DO I THINK OF THE MOVIE?
I loved the movie! I really loved it! And I'm glad that it did so well in theaters. My hope is that the arguments of the main character (Josh Wheaton) might persuade some into becoming believers. I also hope that people who see the film who are already believers might walk out of the theaters thinking "I'd like to be able to learn how to defend the Christian faith too." and that this might start them down the trail of studying Christian Apologetics. At a time in history when Christians' faith is intellectually attacked on all fronts, I can't imagine a time when being able to explain why you believe what you believe is as important as it is now.  

I've been studying apologetics for 3 years. It all started when I accidentally stumbled upon Lee Strobel's "The Case For A Creator" movie on YouTube. I was inspired and excited to know that there actually are good reasons to believe that God exists and Christianity is true. I bought Strobel’s books and studied them. That lead me to discover other apologetics books and I studied those too. Today, I can hold firm in a conversation with a skeptic. I no longer flounder about for good answers to their arguments against Christianity. My hope is that “God’s Not Dead” inspires believers to start training in apologetics in the same way Strobel’s film inspired me.

"Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." - 1 Peter 3:15