After many of my friends and students advised me to see the movie “God’s Not Dead”, I watched it with some apprehension. I was afraid how it would portray college professors and even more concerned that it might give the impression that scientific theory and atheism were synonymous. Many of my evangelical Christian friends have a negative impression of “intellectuals” because they have had bad experiences where they have been made to feel that their faith is at best misinformed and at worse childish and naïve. There is good reason why they feel this way. In a world where tolerance to all points of view is taught from preschool through college, Christianity often falls into an exception. Christianity is often dismissed as being a valid point of view because it is seen as small-minded, bigoted, uneducated and backward. Because of the stance that some Christians have on homosexuality, marriage, climate change and biological evolution, many academics feel that Christians are one group that they can point fingers at. The only thing that many intellectuals feel that they can be intolerant to is intolerance. And Christians are thought of being intolerant to every way of life except their own.
While watching, God’s Not Dead, I realized that this film is a backlash to that way of thinking but it is done in a childish, “he hit me first Mommy” kind of way. “Look at all the ways Christians are being persecuted by self-absorbed jerks”, it proclaims. The academic scoffs and publically tries to humiliate the Christian student; the Muslim father beats and disowns his daughter who dares to hold to Christian beliefs; the arrogant, successful businessman belittles the faith the elderly; the reporter ridicules the gun-toting fundamentalist (what was the deal with that bearded character anyhow?). All of the heroes are Christians (except perhaps the girlfriend of the protagonist) and all the villains are non-Christians. It felt a bit like I was watching one of those old black and white melodramas where the audience boos and hisses at the villain who tied the helpless girl to the train tracks.
In my experience, attending a public high school and university, many intellectuals were atheists, but they were not on a rampage, waging a war against Christians. They weren’t vengeful, selfish, arrogant or cruel. More importantly, I never saw science as an enemy of faith. Being rooted in faith from birth and being raised by a father who was both a devoted Christ follower and a chemist, I was encouraged to study science as much as I was encouraged to pray.
My favorite part of the film is where the student uses big bang cosmology to provide evidence of a God. I always wondered why some Christians have trouble with the idea of a big bang when it sounds very much like the “let there be light” proclamation in Genesis. In Romans 1:20, Paul writes that “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.” Indeed the complexity, beauty, vastness and highly ordered universe gives testimony to a Creator. The fact that there is evidence of a beginning of the universe is also consistent with the idea of a Creator.
Another tact I like, but was surprised at was the argument that creation was supported by the fact that animal life has occurred relatively recently in evolutionary time. Usually, Christians dismiss millions/ billions of years entirely because they do not believe the universe is older than 10,000 years. Here they were using the relatively sudden arrival of animal life (last 500 million years) as being in concordance to Genesis 1:24. “Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal. And so it happened” I agree with the idea that God used vast tracts of time to create through a process we are discovering through science. I disagree that evolution implies a self-created universe where no deity is needed. I don’t believe you can disprove God’s existence through science but I also believe you can’t prove his existence through science either.