God’s Not Dead—The Next Big Christian Movie?

Writer Kevin Ott At Rocking Gods HouseWhen the Newsboys released their mega-hit song God’s Not Dead, they probably weren’t anticipating that it would spawn a movie that’s become the talk of the town.

Well, it has, to say the least.

By Facebook standards, the Pure Flix movie is so on fire that I’m surprised that Mark Zuckerberg himself hasn’t thrown some code onto the movie’s fan page that shows little 8-bit graphic flames bursting from all sides. With 329,000 likes and one million people “talking about it”—as Facebook describes it—God’s Not Dead is teeming with life.

If this is the first you’ve heard of it, you might be thinking, “Well, what’s the big deal?”

It’s quite simple actually: it has a really good trailer.

It has the appearance of a legitimate Hollywood feature film, and the trailer does an excellent job of capturing the conflict that drives the story: a philosophy professor forces all of his students to write, “God is dead” for them to pass the class, but when one student refuses, a showdown begins. The student is allowed to prepare a formal defense that God is not dead, but if he loses the debate and refuses to comply with the professor’s initial directive, the professor will fail him.

It also doesn’t hurt that Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty has a small appearance in it, and actors like Dean Cain, Kevin Sorbo, and Shane Harper are lending their established acting chops to the screenplay.

I wondered if the movie’s popularity was a Christian-only phenomenon or if non-believers were just as interested. As I scanned through the Facebook comments, most of them appeared to be from Christians cheering the film on.

So, why is this film so mind-blowingly popular among Christians? I mused.

First of all, the film is hitting on some pressure points in our society—Christian or non-Christian. The trailer honed in on the professor’s use of suffering as a proof against God, perhaps one of the most ancient debates about God among humankind: why is there suffering if an all-powerful, benevolent God exists? This is a poignant issue today as Western society has faced economic collapse, joblessness, and—speaking of suffering—millions of people losing their health insurance.

The heavy thought of the theological problem of suffering lingered in my mind as I scanned more Facebook comments from the movie’s page. And then I saw this one:

“God allowed my husband to die of cancer. He was my best friend in the whole wide world ever…but, since his passing I have been able to witness to many people about Christ and the gospel. Had he still been here, all of that [witnessing] might not have taken place. May his will be done.”

I blinked away a few tears as I read it, and then it dawned on me. This movie is doing something that Christians have always longed for: it is providing a lucid, compelling answer to why Christians “do not grieve as the world grieves,” as Paul said—why we have an eternal hope beyond this world. and why we sing such joyful songs at funerals despite all the suffering that comes in this temporal existence.

That is powerful. I was starting to catch on and see why this movie has hit a nerve.

And then I saw another comment in which a student explained that the movie’s story actually happened to her while at college. One of her philosophy professors pulled the same stunt.

I began to think of my own college experience at University of California (UC) in Santa Barbara where a professor teaching a pragmatism course opened his class with these words verbatim, “There is no God.” Unfortunately, that professor gave no one the opportunity to defend the faith. When my friend protested during his office hours, he personally insulted her and sent her away.

I thought of another incident at UC Santa Barbara where a professor launched into an attack against Christianity in the middle of a dance history class—yes, a dance history class—and it was so offensive that I stood up, interrupted him in front of 500 students, and politely explained why his vitriolic diatribe was wrong.

Over the past ten years, I’ve heard news report after news report of college professors all across the country using their classrooms as bully pulpits and platforms for indoctrination against the Christian worldview.

And we’re all sick of it, frankly.

This movie was hitting that nerve, too—and that’s a big one. I thought of Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed about the loss of honest intellectual discourse in higher education. It’s not just Christians who are sick of what is happening in colleges.

God’s Not Dead is addressing a perfect storm of timely, hit-you-in-the-gut truths and concerns that lie at the heart of Christianity in the West. It’s hard to say if this movie will find an audience outside of the four church walls, but it’s going to be a tidal wave in the Christian community once it is released.

And in case you’re wondering, the movie comes out in Spring 2014.