Some “faith-based” movies are as subtle as a Mac truck. So, I wasn’t the first in line to buy tickets to “Heaven is for Real” or “God’s Not Dead.” But since both movies are now “on demand” from our television company, we watched them. The first was actually better than the book, upon which it is based – but I was not a fan of the book. The second movie was not based on any book – but upon the experience of dozens students whose faith has been challenged on university and college campuses.
More so, than “Heaven is for Real,” “God’s Not Dead” presented scriptures, and references to philosophers’ arguments for and against God. Its premise is the encouragement that faith in an infinite, personal creator-God is not intellectual suicide – and that this faith is not just a feeling, but also a commitment that often comes with a cost. “Heaven is for Real” carefully avoided the question of the God’s justice, and stressed His love.
One distinction I sensed between the two movies was that more people of faith in Christ were involved in the production of “God’s Not Dead.” Initially this film seemed realistic – but became platform to present the debate over God’s existence, and magnify Christian concerts and celebrities. But it didn’t become pedantic.
Its several characters were believable, and the stuff of their lives often painfully realistic: Adult children caring for disabled parents, selfish lovers who quickly discard their partners at the first sign of trouble, disease, and death – the characters struggles were not overblown. The characters that represented the church, a minister and his visiting missionary friend, were consistent, compassionate – and their conversations, again the platform for “messages,” were credible as they coped with big and little trials.
I am glad I saw them both – especially since more people may view these messages than go to church. I am glad filmmakers are tackling topics flowing from religious faith. Both movies respected the Lord Jesus – and those who follow Him, and those who do not. Both were more restrained than the scare yourself into heaven movies of the ‘70’s – both were unafraid to tackle thoughts that plague humans – is this life all there is? If not, how do I live? One says, feel God’s love; the other encourages us to reason what faith means.
One standard by which I judge the artistic defense of Christian faith is a sermon by Dr. S. M. Lockridge who described hope in Christ, and the reasons for following Him. You might enjoy listening -- That's My King.
May God meet you, dear reader, and me right now – and enable us to confess Him as alive, and loving and ruling.