John J Kirkwood,
God’s Not Dead is an alarm for unconverted sinners and a wake-up call for slumbering Christians and that is why it is worth seeing, and seeing more than once. This is the movie for which the mall-churches should be buying out theaters and holding small groups; but you won’t see the world or the worldly church embrace God’s Not Dead because, frankly, it confronts them.
With only 780 screens the Pure Flix movie God’s Not Dead shocked Hollywood Box Office gurus by pulling in 9.2 million and a fourth place overall finish this past weekend. Raking in just under $12,000 per screen average, God’s Not Dead just may be the most popular top 5 movie that you’ve never heard about. The popularity of the film is being spread as the Gospel should be, by word of mouth from people who have seen it and been authentically touched by it.
Without the big budget or celebrity splash surrounding Son of God, this collaboration between Pure Flix and Freestyle Releasing has Variety and Entertainment Weekly hailing it as the “Biggest Shocker” and “Biggest Surprise” of the weekend. But this movie is a success for a different reason: It’s not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. On numerous occasions it shares that gospel in a direct and dramatic way.
Starring Kevin Sorbo [Hercules] and Dean Cain [Superman] with appearances by Willie and Korie Robertson of Duck Commander and the Christian rock band Newsboys, the low budget movie challenges status quo dismissal of true Christianity and defuses many of the stereotypes. When college freshman Josh Wheaton is challenged to defend his belief in God by his atheist philosophy teacher (Sorbo), he finds that his struggle transcends the classroom and forces him to choose between discipleship and his most cherished relationships.
The plot was inspired by real life cases of religious bigotry on college campuses, 40 of which are listed in the credits at the end of the film. And to all those who take their faith seriously, there are some very familiar moments in this film. The unanswered question that the movie poses is “What do Communism, Atheism, Liberalism and Shiny-Happy Christianity have in common?” The stunning answer is that they all, with differing levels of hostility, oppose the true disciple of Christ.
I don’t imagine that this movie will cause legions of unbelievers to walk the sawdust trail, although I do think that many may come to Christ as a result of the seeds planted, but the true effect of God’s Not Dead will be on the life of believers. It is an absolute challenge to true discipleship. Many are missing that point. Not only is the gospel shared on multiple occasions but more than once we are reminded, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:32-33
In a time when Churchianity’s biggest names are busy denying the real Jesus and apologizing for his Word, God’s Not Dead stands out as a challenge to the embarrassed believer to let the dead bury their dead and to take up his cross. And this is why it will continue to be provocative.
The controversy over the movie Son of God came from within the Christian community for its social justice theme and its watering down of the gospel, while the movie was embraced by everyone from the ADL’s Abraham Foxman to the High Priestess of New Age possibility, Oprah Winfrey. The controversy over God’s Not Dead will not come from within the Christian community at all; it will come from Muslims, atheists and embarrassed believers. And with a plethora of reviews coming out about the movie Noah; the buzz about God’s Not Dead is poised to push it to a second eye-popping weekend as it expands to 1100 screens.
“I have not posted comments about Noah because I haven’t seen the film,” wrote Todd Starnes of Fox News. “That being said, I’m a bit perplexed by ‘celebrity’ Christian leaders who are saying that Christians have a responsibility to see Noah – even if it’s contrary to the Bible. And a number of folks who’ve seen the film say it strays greatly from the Bible’s version of events. One ‘celebrity’ Christian leader went so far as to say Christians would hurt their witness in Hollywood if they did not support the Noah film. That’s a load of fertilizer, friends. If all these pro-Noah Christian leaders are so passionate about Hollywood making faith films – why aren’t they promoting God’s Not Dead?”
David Steiger, co-host of the Uncommon Show agreed: “Tell me, why it took a low budget group of virtual no names (apologies to Sorbo and Cain) to make so great a Gospel proclaiming movie, when Son of God could have and should have had that covered already? Where were the mega-pastors on this one – buying out theaters, telling their flock to skip church and go to the movie? Where are the “small group” books? Why are the mega-shepherds silent on what is easily the boldest Gospel movie in the last decade? I guess it doesn’t fit their narrative.”
These men may be too gentlemanly to tell you what everyone is thinking: that the makers of God’s Not Dead did not pay for “spontaneous” acclaim. They didn’t offer a taste of the profits to “Christian mouthpieces” that would push their movie; like construction companies offering Tony Soprano a kickback to get a piece of the Esplanade. It’s called integrity and yes, there are still Christians, even prominent ones that have it. And that is why you don’t hear the big names pushing this movie, there’s no Mammon in it for them.
Most of the “supporters” that I have talked to about Son of God had not seen the movie and yet they still scolded me, though I had seen it, for critiquing it. The supporters of God’s Not Dead have seen the movie and are going back multiple times and bringing others with them. And that’s how I feel as well.
God’s Not Dead takes on all comers – the new Atheists, Islam and even Communism. And it does so without a sniveling apology for our existence as believers or for Christ’s exclusive claims. How so very faithful. How so very refreshing.
If I had any criticism of the movie, it’s that some of the characters are almost a caricature; too severe in their nature and forging a thread worn stereotype, but they do have some basis in reality: Kevin Sorbo could have been portraying Ted Turner, a bitter man turned hostile to God because of the excruciating experience of losing his sister at a young age. Fortunately, it doesn’t get in the way of the most daring Christian movie since The Passion of the Christ.
Until That Time, Mi Spes en Deo
Pastor: Grace Gospel Fellowship, Bensenville;
Host: IN THE ARENA; UNCOMMON SENSE