I purposely look to give my presence and money to efforts like this. And I am very cautious to criticize any of these types of efforts in public forums. The boldness and work that it takes to produce a film in a culture where every headwind is working against you is admirable. Heck, who am I to be a movie critic?
What did I like about the movie?
(WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS)
I am always thrilled when ANY movie, play, you tube video, song, etc lifts up the name of Jesus Christ and presents the gospel without any reservation.
When the movie repeated Matthew 10:32-33 TWICE in the early stages-
 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,  but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
to me that was important gospel proclamation.
For the most part, the 'debate' in the classroom covered a good list of the many rational arguments used as evidence to support the existence of God.
I taught these for 7 years in a class called 'Apologetics' and I do see the value in being prepared to answer questions/issues like the problem of evil, is there absolute truth, is Jesus the only way, etc.
But it is so interesting that the Bible does not debate the existence of God. At Genesis 1:1, He is there and in Romans 1, Paul's basic point to the philosophers is that God is 'plainly evident' and those who cry that there is not enough evidence are blinded by the enemy or unwilling to see it.
The basic premise is that an atheist cannot find God for the same reason a criminal cannot find a police officer ... he doesn't want to.
Don't misunderstand me- apologetics is more necessary now more than ever in being prepared to proclaim the gospel in a culture who have been trained by people like Hitchens and Dawkins- apologetics is evangelism if done in the right way.
But I have written on the danger of apologetics emphasis as well: Christian Quarries and Apologetics
Should you debate professors?
This is a tough one. I used to play a role in my classes called 'Professor Skeptic' and, because I knew the arguments, I could take apart almost all of my students.
And we would talk about the scenarios of when to speak, when to stay silent, when to go private, when to be public.
In this movie, the professor does a full frontal assault and in that scenario a Christian would have to respond. The word for 'apologetics' is found in I Peter 3.
 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV)
This is such an important passage for the field of defending THE faith.
My advice to college students is to be wise. Don't go pick a philosophical fight.. but if it comes to you...don't back down, but let the audience see your demeanor and resolve... you may not win the argument, but you may win a soul.
And I encourage students to be trained in apologetics... the Christian worldview EXCELS in these areas. Our narrative BEST EXPLAINS the condition of life because it is TRUE.
The key is our demeanor...look again at the passage - be wiling to suffer, don't fear... don't worry...Honor Jesus (this is not about us)- prepare- answer questions about the hope we have- do it with gentleness (this is one I mess up in all the time) and respect.
This does not mean we cower away... but it also doesn't mean we don't be so right we are dead right!
We are to present Christ.... and that message should be the only offensive thing about us. (and it is enough..believe me!)
I also ask students to go and speak to teachers they are concerned about in private (with a friend/witness) with a positive spirit. Let them know you are a believer, but are excited to learn in the class. Respect them as an authority even if you have disagreements in views. Be a great student- be attentive- do excellent work- learn.
If a professor is extremely attacking- listen to their arguments and learn how to research the counters.
In Acts, Jesus told his disciples to not worry about what to say- the Holy Spirit would grant the words- but this does not mean we do not prepare... we have to know the Word better and being trained in giving answers does help!
If the public debate happens- know what that is about.
You are not going to win over that opponent.. He/she is likely dug in if they are willing to challenge you in public. But you are really defending a reasonable faith in public and the goal is being faithful to your testimony. If you do it humbly, yet confidently. If you are skilled and articulate. If you are truthful (willing to say, I don't know). If you show a good knowledge of the gospel and Scripture- you will win- even if the entire audience votes that you lost. All you are called to do is stand for your Savior in a world that put Him on a cross- but do it with love- and plead for God's mercy on us all!
WHAT ELSE DID I LIKE ABOUT THE MOVIE?
I like how the movie depicts the power of social media to spread the message globally.
I love when we get positive messages about Christ trending. Don't get caught up in endless controversies on the internet... there is not enough space or time to flesh out all the Biblical balance. Tweet good news!
As Christians, I challenge all of us to let our social media speech to be a pleasing aroma to the love and joy of following Christ!
I like seeing Franklin Graham and Willie Robertson cameos!
I liked the music! (except for the same piano rift over and over- for some reason it sounded too much like Freddie or Jason was about to come out with a knife!)
ARE THERE THINGS I DID NOT LIKE?
Sure. But it does not keep me from being grateful that the movie is making an honest effort to entertain and inspire.
Josh Wheaton made a tactical error in the 3rd debate by attacking and challenging the professor. First of all, that professor is not going to fall into the 'God is not there and I hate Him for it' line of reasoning and it would not help in Wheaton's desire to win over the watching audience. Also, I wish only 2 or 3 students stood up at the end... that would have been just as cool without the cheese factor.
If it were me, I would not have used the Muslim characters in a movie unless the movie was about the theme of making a decision to follow Christ in a family deeply entrenched in the tradition of another.
There are too many nuances in this to adequately deal with it as a subplot. In the end, this scene hurt our dialogue with Muslims in our neighborhoods (in my opinion). The cross cultural tension was already adequately shown in the Chinese family. That one is easier to develop and pits a decision for Christ against the pressure of a government system and a family struggling under the weight of that.
I also cringed a little in the atheist professor getting run over by a car and having a deathbed repentance.
I know, I know.... in all movies there is a universal suspension of reality from the audience.. but that one threw me for a loop. Our Rev. Joe was actually smiling when the professor breathed his last breath..."Well, he knows now."
And I wish the 'attack journalist' had not been given a 'terminal' cancer diagnosis...it made the prayer scene at the concert almost as heartless as the last rites scene in the rain. Every scene where that poor lady was left alone- boyfriend walk in and out- Dr walks in and out- Newsboys walk in and out- always leaving that suffering person with no one. How about, 'Come out with us as we go and sing about God's not dead- and here is all of our support staff to be with you" . Been better to have her struggling with a potential deadly cancer ... but when you get to that stage, I doubt you are going to attack the Newsboys before the show.
I know... give them a break... it's only a movie.
I do wish we wouldn't make stories that seem to say- 'trust Jesus and you win state championships, get a new truck, have massive revival, your car starts, your wife starts making you coffee, and get to go meet everyone at a rock concert!'
I was so excited that my 9th grade daughter chose on her own to go see it. She liked it. Her comment? "They had too may stories going on for that type of movie. They could have done less and made it better."
Her review is spot on... and she did it much better than my rambling blog.
On a side note- as we finished the movie, I ran into some of my former students. One of them WALKED OUT of the movie NOAH. "That movie was a bunch of bllpppp (he did a NY raspberry sound) but the meaning was clear.
I will not be seeing that one- the director helped me out by bragging that he had produced 'the least biblical biblical movie ever'.
I will choose instead to recommend you give your money to "God's Not Dead".
Of the entire genre (christian movies produced by christians and for christians) I still list "Courageous" as the best effort.
I hope I haven't seemed too full of myself or jaded... let's keep turning on all the lights. The gospel is that good!
This movie gets a thumbs up for me!
And even if it were bad?......... listen to what Paul says:
 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, (Philippians 1:18 ESV)