A number of my college philosophy students have come to me and asked "Have you seen "God's Not Dead" yet? You need to see it, because it's about the things you teach in our class!" So last week Linda and I went to see it but couldn't since it was sold out. Finally last night we saw God's Not Dead, and I enjoyed it.
It's about a Christian college student who is persecuted by his atheist philosophy professor. Is this scenario realistic?
This happened once to me. I was in my PhD program in philosophical theology at Northwestern University. This was a joint PhD with Northwestern and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Northwestern's roots are out of the United Methodist Church (like Harvard and Yale have Christian roots). Garrett functioned as Northwestern's Divinity School. My program required me to take courses at both Northwestern and Garrett.
I was studying and researching in Northwestern's philosophy department and Garrett's theology department. My program was going nicely until...
The head of Northwestern's philosophy department called me into his office. I will never forget that day. This professor was an atheist and he told me that, even though he liked me (really?) as a student and I was doing well, he and the philosophy department would not support me and work with me because I was associated with a Christian seminary and he had real problems with Christians and some of their moral positions. I left his office thinking my PhD was wasted.
In retrospect I think I could have challenged this, maybe even sued because of contractual obligations being broken. But had I protested he would have battled me all the way and secured my ultimate failure, like the God's Not Dead atheist professor who threatens to subvert the Christian student's law school hopes.
Instead I went to a small chapel on Northwestern's campus and prayed, much like the student did in God's Not Dead. Thankfully, Northwestern's Linguistics department and their History and Literature of Religions department supported me and worked with me, and I was able to finish my degree.
So, about the movie...
- I found the atheist professor realistic. His arguments against God's existence are relevant; e.g. against the cosmological argument (via Hawking) and using the existence of evil as a premise in an argument against God. And, BTW, this atheist has a deeper issue, which I have encountered many times before. Is every college atheistic professor like this? Of course not. The movie does not claim so. But this one is. Are there atheist professors like this? Of course there are. I've met them. I've been in their classes. I was bullied by one of them. And I teach with some of them. (Stay for the rolling of the credits at the end of the movie.)
- The student's arguments for God's existence are well-presented and to be commended, especially since this movie has gained a wide following. For example, the movie uses atheist physicist Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design and theistic mathematician John Lennox's (Oxford) God and Stephen Hawking, and I've read both. God's Not Dead rightly tells us that there's another side to the God debate. The movie has an intrinsic intelligence to it that speaks to the common man. As a philosophy professor I realize that's not easy to do; viz., to take difficult intellectual ideas and serve them up so everyone can taste, see, and read the other side if they like.
- God's Not Dead is to be commended for its portrayal of real life struggles. The existential problem of evil and suffering is not avoided and runs like a river throughout the movie.
- Finally, God's Not Dead presents the living hope we have in God and Christ.
Last week God's Not Dead was still in the Box Office Top 5. After watching it I can see why. People are laying out cash to see an alternative intellectual option to the media-bloated,"bright," "free-thinking" (huh?), cliche-ish culturally fading old-school Richard Dawkins-type bully-hegemonic "atheism."
SEE ALSO former philosopher- atheist Antony Flew, arguably one of the most prominent intellectual atheists of the 20th century who came to believe in God via the anthropic teleological argument - There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.