The statement – “God is dead” is found several times in the writings of German philosopher Nietzche and was popularised in April 1966 when Time magazine ran with the cover story “Is God Dead?” Nietzche himself was more concerned with the western world’s historic reliance on religion to provide a moral compass and meaning for life. He feared that without a higher morality the world would descend into an age of nihilism with no purpose or moral certainty. Popularly the statement is taken to mean that God does not exist, indeed never has. A God who has never existed by definition can never die. A god who can die is not God, at least not in the Judeo – Christian – Muslim understanding of an eternal, all powerful, Creator who existed before all things and will ultimately judge all things.
It is the philosophical debate about the existence (or otherwise) of God that provides the underlying narrative of the film “God’s not Dead ” which was inspired by a book of the same name written by Rice Broocks. The hero of the film is freshman Josh Wheaton who is enrolled to study an introductory course in philosophy with the fearsome professor Jeremy Radisson who has a reputation for demolishing the faith of Christians in his class. In the opening lecture the students are presented with a list of highly regarded philosophers and scientists who share an atheist worldview. The class are invited to agree with the view that there is no God simply on the weight of opinion garnered by these great thinkers without any supporting evidence. One by one the class follow the instruction to write “God is Dead” on a sheet of paper, sign it and then submit it to Radisson and so skip the first part of the module. All, that is, apart from Wheaton who cannot bring himself to deny his belief in God due to his Christian convictions. The professor permits his dissent under one condition; that at the next three classes Wheaton should take the podium in front of his 80 classmates and defend his belief in God. Alongside Wheaton’s developing argument we are introduced to a number of other character, each of whom has their own experience of God.
The target audience for both the book and the film are essentially Christians seeking help to defend their faith against the claims that science and reason have consigned it to history as a primitive and outmoded irrelevance. The film is a product of its American origin and so inevitably perhaps comes across as a little saccharin in places. Nevertheless it provides a good introduction to some of the more common objections to faith that British Christians also encounter, and will hopefully inspire them to read Broocks’ book which provides more detailed and rigorous answers. It will also be beneficial to sympathetic enquirers. I fear that some of the underlying American culture will prove a hindrance to more cynical audiences.
Nevertheless I whole heartedly recommend the film to all. The story is well told and flows at a good place. Their are moments of humour and the audience I shared the film with clapped and cheered at several points during the film. Following a highly successful run in the US where the film was in the top 5 movies for three weeks in a row it will shortly be screened in UK cinemas. Initially it will be available at selected Showcase and Odeon cinemas between 18-28 April.
Buy God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty from Amazon UK
Buy God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty from Amazon US