Friday, April 3, 2015

'God's Not Dead' Film Review


"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before me, him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven." - Matthew 10:32-33

Last night before going to the CrossLife Seder, I decided to watch God's Not Dead for the first time. I recently just got God's Not Dead on DVD through the Newsboys store as they were offering the film on DVD as well as their album also titled "God's Not Dead" for like $16. I really like the Newsboys and I wanted to see this film, so it was not a purchase I was going to miss out on. But enough about that, I want to talk about the film.

If you haven't seen this film, I suggest watching it before reading this review as I WILL be talking about the contents of the film in detail. You have been warned.

Before I get in depth into this film I want to explain two things. One, I want everyone to know how real this film really is. People in public universities really DO get put on the spot when it comes to their faith! They really do get weird looks and are judged, even by the church, for standing up for the Lord. Although this film isn't based on a specific true story, there's no doubt that the events in the film, specifically with Josh, are true in and of themselves. Secondly, when reviewing this film, as I am a film major at a public university currently, I am doing to be reviewing the stylistic choices the film makes at times though my goal here is more to talk about the contents of the film and not the aesthetics of it.

Let's start with Josh's Professor Jeffery Radisson. Him telling his students to immediately come to the conclusion that God is dead is a very bold move on his part, even if he didn't realize it. Like every scientist and philosopher who immediately dismisses and rejects the concept of God, he will one day have to face the consequences of that choice. Though in this case, the professor DID accept Jesus as his Savior and Redeemer in his final moments of life. I thought this was a really cool way to bring his character arc full circle as we see him at the beginning of the film trying to bring everyone down with him in his quest for vengeance against God but then we finally see him humble himself, admit he was wrong, repent of sin, and believe in Christ thus saving him from the Wrath of God that would have been thrust upon him because of his rebellion. What a beautiful way to end the film to be honest!

But let's back up for a bit, I like how Radisson challenges Josh throughout the film by solely using science as his source of knowledge and fact, when in reality that is as much circular reasoning as Christians using the Bible is! I love the scene where Josh actually points this out during the second lecture he gives (at least I think it's the second one). Eventually, at the end of the third lecture, Radisson pushes Josh into a corner which makes Josh as his teacher the question, "Why do you hate God?". After three times of asking, Radisson finally admits that his mother died of cancer and that he blames God for that happening to him.

This is the point where I want to stop for a moment and consider something. There's a line in the film where Radisson says that "the most devout atheists were once Christians", which is actually true! Charles Darwin himself was a believer until his daughter died, and, like Radisson in this film, he turned and cursed God, refusing to follow Him anymore. How many people who go to your church now would also turn from God if something like this happened to them? Better yet, would YOU turn from God if this happened to you? I would hope not. Recently, my Dad suffered a massive heart attack (you can read the full testimony here if you'd like) and I know that although it was a hard time, my family still trusted in Jesus, even if others around us were loosing faith. What would you do?

But going back to the film, I find it extremely interesting that Radisson, once realizing that his life is coming apart, realizing that maybe God does actually exist, completely changes his mind on who God is, eventually leading to his salvation at the end of the film as he runs to find his former girlfriend Mina. Which brings me to my next tangent...

In the film, we have TWO, not one, but TWO characters who are unequally yolked with someone. Both Josh and Radisson. Josh's girlfriend Kara actually dumps him immediately when he accepts Radisson's challenge to defend God. Now, there are multiple levels of issues here so let me start with the most obvious, this girl has a Jezebel Spirit.

What is a Jezebel Spirit?? Well, for those who don't know, Jezebel was an evil, wicked queen who lived during the time of her nemesis, the prophet Elijah. Elijah defeated Jezebel on multiple occasions, but her threats to destroy him actually sent Elijah away in fear, even though he knew that God could wipe her out. You see, both Jezebel and Elijah had specific spirits set upon them, one by Satan and one by God. The Jezebel Spirit and the Elijah Spirit. John the Baptist was occasionally called Elijah because he had received the Elijah Spirit from God! The same goes for Herodias with the Jezebel Spirit, who ultimately had John killed. The point is, a Jezebel Spirit is a spirit that uses feminine charm and female empowerment/domination over men to achieve her own goals. Check out this video for more:


So, we know that Kara had a Jezebel Spirit and was not right for Josh at all, good! But let's look at the other relationship in the film, that of Radisson and Mina. Right when we find out that Mina is a Christian, this should immediately be a red flag. 

Let me explain something here, when she says, "I'm starting to feel like I'm unequally yolked...?", the CORRECT phrasing here should be "I AM unequally yolked, this is over." 2 Corinthians 6:14 is extremely clear when it says, "Do NOT be bound together with unbelievers..." Other translations say "unequally yolked". This isn't something that's a suggestion, this is a demand from the Lord. He is telling us how we need to conduct ourselves in terms of our dating, marriage, and just relationships in general. Now, let's be honest here, NONE of us can fulfill the Lord's commandments 100%, there is ALWAYS going to be something that we will mess up on or not get right, but as Philippians 3:12 says, "Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect, but I press on to make it [as in perfection] my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own." We don't have to get everything right, but we need to be trying our best.

You see, both Josh and Mia were unequally yolked in this film, and both eventually got out of these relationships, which is great! But the danger here isn't them getting out of the relationships, the true danger of being unequally yolked with someone is that if they don't believe in Christ then they will not view marriage the same way we are called to, as a picture of Christ and the Church. I've seen too many of my Mom's friends and heard stories of countless others who's marriages have ended in divorce because they were unequally yolked (which is also a sin by the way, unless the spouse leaves you or kicks you out, then it is on them because you continued to fight, 1 Corinthians 7:11-15 covers this). My point is, these relationships were bad for the start, and regardless if you're physically or emotionally attracted to someone who's a non-believer (like Mia was) or regardless if you met at a Christian conference/concert and the other claims to follow Christ (like Josh), you need to make sure you're equally yolked (and that doesn't always mean the person just has to be a believer, look at their theology, convictions, lifestyle, etc.) before jumping into a relationship.

But let's move on from this topic as that tangent went on a little longer than I originally had hoped.

The side-plot involving Dean Cain as Mina's older brother was honestly something that seemed there simply to have Dean Cain in the film. Essentially, Cain's character is a terrible person, but he has a really good life! His mother on the other hand is a believer, yet she has dementia and continually forgets who her kids are. When Mark, Cain's character, confronts his mother about this she simply tells him that sometimes Satan makes terrible people happy so that they don't have the opportunity to see God and break out of their prison cell, even though the door is wide open. It was a very powerful scene even though this was probably the weakest plotline of the film.

Now let's move to Amy. Amy, Mark's girlfriend until she tells him that she has cancer and he dumps her (like I said, terrible person), is a left-wing blogger who loves to rip on Duck Dynasty and apparently Christianity. We see her confront Willie and Korie Robinson before they get to church. I have to be honest here for a second though, although I am a fan of Duck Dynasty and I think their family is both hilarious and awesome for having fun and yet standing up for their faith in Jesus Christ (as they do pray in Jesus' Name in every episode), I have to say that Willie kind of acted a bit goofier than he maybe should have. Now, I know that's the type of person he is and I love and respect that, but at the same time Christians have a hard enough time trying to get people to take them seriously without scenes like this.

Eventually, Amy breaks down, looses it, and in an attempt to make herself feel better, she ambushes the Christian musician group Newsboys right before their concert that night. But instead of following through with her original plan to try and discredit them, her story ends with them praying with her for healing of her heart, mind, soul, and body, which is an awesome testimony to who the Newsboys are as individuals and as a group who wish to glorify and honor our Lord and Savior (which they do at the end of the film with the song's "The King is Coming" and "God's Not Dead (Like A Lion)").

There's also a character in the film named Martin. Martin is from China and Josh's lectures on God are is first experiences with God, Christianity, and Jesus which cause him to wonder who God is. Throughout the film, he begins to research God on his own, and at the end of the film when Radisson's class is to give an answer to whether or not God is dead, Martin is the first to stand up and say "God is not dead!" Josh even brings Martin along with him to the Newsboys concert at the end of the film (a ticket meant for his former girlfriend Kara... Ha ha ha!)

Finally, we get to I think the most intense plotline of the film, that of Ayisha, a former Muslim who secretly converted to Christianity and has been hiding it from her father for over a year. When he finds out, he beats her and throws her out of his house. Though this is extremely hard for her, she refuses to give up her faith, just as Josh refused to, and at the end of the film he also see her at the concert.

Now onto what ties the whole film together. David A.R. White's character of Reverend Dave is seen being the one to remind Josh that if he doesn't confess Christ before others, that He won't confess him before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33). Rev. Dave also counsels Ayisha when she is kicked out of her home for her faith and was actually the one to lead Radisson to Christ as he witnessed his car accident and got there in time to share the Gospel once again. Rev. Dave, although trying hard to go on a vacation throughout the film, wanted important work, and he found it in this film.

I want to say this, I really do like this film. I like the message that God is NOT dead and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! I love this a lot! I'm not a fan of the Catholicism used in the film (how many times to I have to say Catholicism is not Christianity? Same does for Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, but this isn't the point), or the product placement for Duck Dynasty or the Newsboys (though I will say, overall I liked both their roles in the film as I think it may have helped people who were interested in Christ to look somewhere in our pop culture to find Him), and obviously there's the whole Jezebel Spirit and unequally yolked issues, but here's the thing, at the end of the day, if this film help's lead someone to Christ or at least makes them start to think about Him as Lord and Savior, then it's done it's job. I can't ask for more than that.

Overall, God's Not Dead is a well done film by PureFlix that shows the very real struggles of a college student standing up for his faith (I do wish we would have seen Josh's interactions at home with this though...) as well as others around him struggling to follow Christ in our fallen world as well. It's well directed, written, edited, and the music is pretty great. Definitely check out the soundtrack to the film "God's Not Dead (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)" as well as the Newsboys' worship album also entitled "God's Not Dead", they're both great! I know that there is going to be a God's Not Dead 2, so I hope in that we will see more of Josh's struggles with his faith on his campus, Ayisha's with her family, and potentially Martin, Amy, and Mark's road to salvation! And hey, maybe Rev. Dave can finally get a vacation!

Rating: A-

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