Did you see the movie God’s Not Dead? I watched it for the first time with my wife, a few days ago. I returned two days later to watch it a second time with my son and several of his friends. This time I took notes, as well as anyone can take notes in a dark theater.
If you have watched this movie, or you are planning on watching it, then take a moment and read this. It will help explain some of the arguments used by both the atheist, Professor Radisson, and the Christian student, Josh Wheaton. This review, (if you can call it that), is far from exhaustive in covering the logical fallacies and apologetic arguments, but for the layman it may be of use.
The Most Intelligent People are Atheists
The first argument Professor Radisson used when he walked into his philosophy class was to point to a list of famous, intelligent, if not brilliant, people who were all atheists. This is a logical fallacy called appeal to authority. Come up with a list of famous, educated, or powerful people that support your cause, and your cause must be important and intellectually just.
Every year in politics, you see candidates endorsed by famous actors or actresses. They do this because the Hollywood spotlight holds a position of influence over us. If a popular actor or actress endorses someone, more people will vote for that individual. Both the Republicans and the Democrats use a Hollywood face or famous sports figure to promote their campaign. The fact that both sides take part in this should tell you something. It works.
Christians could also come up with a list of brilliant minds that believed in God or the Christian world view. In popular culture, we have Tyler Perry, Patricia Heaton, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen, Angela Bassett, to name a few in the Hollywood circles. They all believe in God or profess to be Christians. We could also list those famous for their towering intellect. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Mendel, and Einstein to name a few.
Appealing to authority can be persuasive, but it does not make something true. Even if everyone I listed above thought that the world was flat, it would not be true. And when Professor Radisson shows off a list of brilliant and famous people that were, or are, atheists, it does not make atheism true, any more than the lists I offered makes Christianity true.
The prompting is that only smart people are atheists, but you can see that is not the case. The suggestion is that science trumps faith and that science and faith are at odds. Or more specifically, that knowledge and faith are on opposite ends of each other. Many atheists and even some Christians believe, the less knowledge you have, the more faith you need. Give it some thought, this is obviously not true, the opposite of faith is unbelief, not knowledge, and the opposite of knowledge is not faith, but ignorance. Brilliant minds, throughout history and today, have excellent reasons and evidence for their faith.
Atheists do not have the market on knowledge, reason, and science. In my readings on apologetics, I have found support for the faith I have in Christ. As my knowledge has increased, so has my faith. As Josh researched the Christian world view, no doubt his faith also increased.
There were two apologetic arguments Josh Wheaton used in the movie I would like to touch on, which would help those watching the movie for the first time understand the philosophy behind them. It is also important for every Christian to be familiar with them, because when talking to skeptics or atheists, they commonly come up.
The First Cause
The first argument Josh brought up was the Big Bang Theory.
In 1929, Edwin Hubble noticed what he called a ‘red shift’ in the color of very distant galaxies. What this turned out to mean was that the galaxies were actually moving away; in other words, the universe is expanding. Why is this significant? If we were to dial back time a thousand years, the universe would be smaller than it is today. If we were to go back a million years, it would be smaller still. We could go back to the beginning and find the universe compressed into a single point that science calls a singularity. What caused this singularity? We call that God. As Greg Koukl puts it, to have a Big Bang, you must have a Big Banger.
Just a few years later, Albert Einstein came to peer through the telescope at the Wilson Observatory to confirm, at least in his own mind, the findings of Hubble. Since then, science has continued to conform this, and the Big Bang Theory is widely accepted in the scientific community.
I know many Christians that have been uncomfortable with this, but it actually plays into the hand of those who believed in God. Simply put, if the universe had a beginning, it must have been created. For centuries, science believed that the universe had always existed, but Genesis says, “In the beginning God created…”
One form of the cosmological argument is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and essentially it states the following premises and conclusion:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.
Someone might ask, “Then who caused God?”, but God is an uncaused, eternal being. He stands outside of his creation, much like the author of a book stands outside of his novel. Time is inexorably tied to our universe and God stands outside of it. He is not bound by his creation any more than Thomas Kinkade is bound to live in one of his idyllic country cottage paintings.
Problem of Evil
Another argument Josh addressed is the problem of evil. The argument goes something like this: how can an all powerful, all loving, all knowing God allow evil? David Hume put it this way, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
Let me ask you, what is your purpose in life? If you hold a Christian world view, you must understand that your purpose in life is not your happiness, but for you to commune with God. This life does not end with our last breath, but spills over and opens up a door to an eternal ocean of God’s presence and love.
The old woman in the nursing home toward the end of God’s Not Dead spells it out nicely when she says to her son, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble, because he doesn’t want them turning to God.” 1
I think many of you may have the same experience I do, when I say the times I have been the most active in prayer are when I have been going through difficulty. No doubt many of you have experienced the same thing. How many have cried out to God when they are experience a sudden life threatening experience? Most everyone recognizes, in times of difficulty, we turn toward God, but sometimes the answer is no, and we suffer great pain or loss. For many of us, this brings us closer to God, and a greater understanding of the purpose to our life.
Timothy Keller wrote, “For many years, after each of the morning and evening Sunday services, I remained in the auditorium for another hour to field questions. Hundreds of people stayed for the give and take discussions. One of the most frequent statements I heard was, ‘Every person has the right to define right and wrong for himself or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, ‘Is there anyone in the world right now, doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?’ They would invariably say, ‘Yes, of course.’” 2
We are all free to do good, and we are all free to do evil. The same freedom allows us to do one or the other, but without good we could not measure evil. Without God, evil is just a behavior that some don’t enjoy, and it becomes a totally subjective feeling.
Timothy Keller was pointing out that without a grounding objective morality we get from God, then evil is just a point of view. If we each decide what is right and wrong, then evil is just a matter of opinion.
Volumes have been written on the problem of evil, and it is one Christians should be familiar with because it can be one of the most difficult questions to answer when the suffering does not offer any rhyme or reason.
Go see God’s Not Dead if you have not seen it. I would have enjoyed more classroom debate and apologetic arguments in greater detail, also more character development. Nevertheless, it has raised awareness in Christians who might never have considered intellectual and philosophical arguments for their belief in Christ.
1. God’s Not Dead. Dir. Harold Cronk, Perf. Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper. Pure Flix Entertainment, 2014. Film
2. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.
A brief look at God’s Not Dead by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.