I wasn’t expecting much. The standard was incredibly low. There is nothing so disappointing as setting the bar extremely low and then having to watch as they stand on their tiptoes just to make their fingertips touch it.
That’s the way that I usually feel when I watch a Christian film. I don’t necessarily mean the documentaries. There have been good, informative, documentary films. I mean the ones where the film tries to depict actual life. Those are usually a train wreck. If we were to compare them to art, they would most resemble the work of a five-year old brat who has secretly found her mother’s tube of red Revlon and gone Van Gogh on the hallway walls.
It happened again. Last evening I had the dubious honor of watching yet another wall being wrecked by the furious scribblings of the erstwhile five-year old defenders of the faith. I am speaking of the latest feel good film, God’s Not Dead.
When the first scene opened I was pleasantly surprised. The cinematography was very good. This was not a bargain-basement, low-budget monstrosity. This was actually going to be a real movie! For a moment I thought that I would get to be proven wrong for holding such critical notions. It wasn’t to be. The alluring spell of the talented camera men was broken as soon as the first character opened his mouth.
I expected corny and cheesy. Sometimes you would rather not get what you expected. Unfortunately, I got just what I expected. I don’t want to give a play-by-play overview. That would be too exhausting for all of us. Let me just summarize and move on. The characters were shallow and superficial. The caricatures of the atheists, muslims, pastors, and missionaries were just downright offensive. The innumerable sub-plots were scattered and forced. The Christianity presented was hollow and trite. The plot never did thicken, it just clabbered. It was one, long, Newsboys commercial (the amount of memorabilia displayed was almost hilarious). If you have two hours that you absolutely hate, and you want to see them die a slow, agonizing death, then go watch this movie.
The worst part of the film was the actual heart of it. The protagonist in the movie, a college freshman, has the unenviable task of having to defend the Christian Faith, against his anti-theistic professor, in front of his philosophy class. He is given three chances to make his case for the existence of God. So far so good. Then the wheels come off.
“We are going to put God on trial. The professor will be the prosecutor, I will be the defense attorney, and you (class) will be the jury.” Wait a minute! Time out! Cut! Who do you think you are?
From the very first argument God is divested of His inherent godness. God is never judged. He is the Judge. He never stands to be affirmed or denied by a jury of His peers. He has no peers. An apologetic that begins by denying the supreme authority of God has failed miserably at holding forth the claims of the God of the Bible. You are jumping up and down on the skinny branches before you ever begin. You will never reap a great harvest if you just give away the farm. C.S. Lewis addresses this idea in his book, God in the Dock, when he says,
“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock…The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God in the dock.”
The Christian is defending a point, not proving one. Our starting point is always, “Jesus is Lord!” The Apostle Peter gives us both the mandate for apologetics and the manner of apologetics in his first epistle. In 1 Peter 3:15 he says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always be ready to set forth a defense to everyone who asks you for a reasoned account concerning the hope in you, yet with gentleness and respect.”
Notice where we start our arguments. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…” A truly Christian defense of the faith must never fail to exalt Christ as supreme Lord over all. That includes arguments and reasoning. Greg Bahnsen notes, “An apologetic that builds on any other rock than Christ does not honor the greatness of divine wisdom; it is foolishly and audaciously erected on the ruinous sands of human authority.” Commenting on the verse cited above, Calvin writes, “Contentious disputes arise from the fact that many think less honorably than they ought of the greatness of divine wisdom, and are carried away by profane audacity.”
Profane audacity—that was the opening gambit in the fight to defend God. Who has the right to put God on trial? A college professor? A first semester student? A room full of pimple-faced underclassmen? Hardly. No, God isn’t dead. He’s not showing up for your kangaroo court either.
More to follow…