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God’s Not Dead Revisited

by Roger Patterson on August 5, 2014
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In a previous review of the movie God’s Not Dead, I claimed that the film used the big bang and biological evolution to support the existence of God. As a film that is explicitly Christian, this is problematic. As a result of the first review, many AiG supporters raised concerns about the critical nature of the article. I do not offer this second article as a defense of my own character, but to offer an example of thinking carefully about the messages we receive today through various forms of media—even if they have some truth in them. We are called to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I pray that this article will reflect a critical mind in testing all things and holding fast what is true without reflecting a critical spirit.

As I stated in the initial review, “As with lots of movies, an astute and mature Christian can use this film as a teaching opportunity by opening up the pages of Scripture with those who have seen it to explain the real origin of suffering in the world as well as the real hope of salvation by repenting of sin and trusting fully in the Creator God—Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not dead: He is risen and seated at the right hand of the Father. Let us boldly proclaim that He is the Judge of the living and the dead rather than putting ourselves in His rightful place.”

As this article is being posted, the God’s Not Dead DVD is being made available to the public, and promotional kits including sermon outlines, a DVD-based study curriculum, study guides for adults and students, and other promotional resources are being sold to churches. While these resources will surely contain many biblical explanations and encouragements to stand strong in the faith and proclaim the truths of salvation to all, there will likely be elements that are unbiblical and promote various forms of evolutionary ideas as compatible with the Bible.1 This article is intended to help you think critically about those aspects, whether or not you choose to use these resources with the movie.

Receiving Correction

I acknowledge that I could have done one thing better in my initial review: I could have acknowledged the helpful elements of the film in a way that was more approving of those aspects without endorsing the negative aspects. After receiving many negative comments through social media and emails regarding the article, I thought it would be wise to view the movie again to consider the concerns raised by the commenters. Some of those comments fell far outside the prescription of Ephesians 4:29 and several likened me to a pawn of Satan getting people to not watch the movie. After watching the film again with another trusted brother from the ministry and transcribing the sections of the film that dealt with the scientific and moral arguments, I stand by my original review without hesitation and with only one caveat.

The name of Jesus was proclaimed as the hope of salvation, and truths from the Bible were clearly communicated at several points in the film.

In hindsight, I should have said more positive things about the effect a movie like this can have in encouraging Christians to be bold in sharing and defending their faith. Based on the success of the theater release, this is surely the case with God’s Not Dead. Exhibiting a willingness to challenge the thinking of fellow students and stand up to professors who would try to indoctrinate students rather than teach them to think critically is a commendable, Christ-like trait, and I am sure this movie has had that effect for many. It also admirably demonstrated a willingness to trust Christ and do the God-honoring thing despite the hardships that would come in relationships (a point I commended in the original review). The name of Jesus was proclaimed as the hope of salvation, and truths from the Bible were clearly communicated at several points in the film. Those things are commendable.

Remaining Concern

My concern still lies in the fact that several of the arguments used were unbiblical, and I would never encourage anyone to use the methods and several of the arguments that the student, Josh Wheaton, used in the film. Further, the response of many AiG supporters who failed to see Wheaton’s promotion of the big bang and evolutionary processes as consistent with the Bible and others who said that the film actually spoke against those two models was alarming. While the endorsements were somewhat subtle, they were there nonetheless. I hope this article will equip Christians to recognize the influence that evolutionary thinking has even within the church and how we must not casually accept ideas presented to us as true without acting as the noble Bereans and comparing those ideas with Scripture (which you should apply to everything I write in this article, as well).

A secondary goal of this article is to offer a tool that you can use in discipling others around you. This may come as you teach your own children, your youth group, or parents who are trying to equip their children. You may choose to watch the movie with a group and benefit from the positive aspects, and then take time to exercise discernment together and evaluate the film’s portrayal of the relationship between science and the Bible. At this location you will find a printable document that can be used as a discussion guide to engage with the three different debate sections shown in the movie as well as some general apologetics and evangelism questions to consider together.

Examining the Arguments

After refusing to agree with his professor that God is dead, Josh Wheaton (the Christian student) engages in a debate with Professor Radisson (the atheist philosophy professor). He presents three main arguments for the existence of God to the class of freshman students, and they act as the jury. In the three sections that follow, you will find a transcription of the debate segments, an expanded explanation of the concerns with the debate sections in the movie, some of the reactions from those who raised concerns about my initial review, and other resources that will help you understand the issues from a biblical starting point. Additionally, I will provide explanations from the book God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty by Dr. Rice Broocks, an advisor to the filmmakers. His articles and books are promoted on the movie’s website, and they demonstrate the underlying ideas taught in more detail in this book that is being promoted as a companion to the movie.

First Debate Scene: The Big Bang

In the initial article, I made the following claim: As his evidence for God’s existence, Wheaton uses a quote from Lee Strobel about the evolution of living things through the ages and a quote from the Roman Catholic astronomer Georges Lemaitre describing how the big bang corresponds to “let there be light” in Genesis 1:3.

The following were responses from Ken Ham’s Facebook page after posting the initial review:

I absolutely disagree with this!!!! They show that “Big bang” did not exist, but that GOD created the heavens and the earth. What movie did you see?? WOW. This movie CLEARLY gives the gospel. You may be the one who needs some discernment! Don’t lose your credibility!!
—AKV

The movie does NOT support the big bang theory whatsoever! The student uses it to make a point that instead God spoke things to be and bang, there it was! Yes, I agree with [commenter] that the enemy can be so sneaky and am saddened that Satan would use these sort of reviews to turn people away from supporting a movie that has the potential to plant seeds to save lost souls.
—ADH

Josh Wheaton

Image courtesy of Pure Flix, godsnotdeadthemovie.com/photosvideos.

Here is a transcription of the first debate scene using the big bang and cosmological evolution for you to examine:

Josh Wheaton: Atheists say that no one can prove the existence of God, and they’re right. But I say that no one can disprove that God exists. But the only way to debate this issue is to look at the available evidence, and that’s what we are going to do. We are going to put God on trial; with Professor Radisson as the prosecutor, me as the defense attorney, and you as the jury.

Most cosmologists now agree that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago in an event known as the big bang [video image illustrating the big bang in the background]. So let’s look at theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg’s description of what the big bang would have looked like. And since he’s an atheist, we can be sure there isn’t any believer bias in his description.

“In the beginning there was an explosion, and in three minutes, 98% of the matter there is or ever will be was produced. We had a universe.” [On-screen animation of the big bang]

For 2,500 years most scientists agreed with Aristotle on the idea of a steady-state universe—that the universe has always existed with no beginning and no end. But the Bible disagreed. In the 1920s, Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre, a theist, who was actually also . . .

Female Student 1: What, what’s a theist?

JW: A theist is someone who believes in the existence of God. He said that the entire universe, jumping into existence in a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, out of nothingness in an unimaginably intense flash of light, is how he would expect the universe to respond if God were to actually utter the command in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light.” In other words, the origin of the universe unfolded exactly how one would expect after reading Genesis, and for 2,500 years the Bible had it right, and science had it wrong.

You see, in the real world we never see things jumping into existence out of nothingness, but atheists will make one small exception to this rule; mainly the universe and everything in it.

Female Student 2: But, in his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says that if you tell me God created the universe then I have the right to ask you who created God.

JW: Dawkins’ question only makes sense in terms in a god who has been created. It doesn’t make sense in terms of an uncreated god, which is the kind of God Christians believe in. And even leaving God out of the equation, I then have a right to turn Mr. Dawkins own question back around on him and ask, if the universe created you, then who created the universe? You see, both the theist and the atheist are both burdened with answering the same question of how did things start. What I’m hoping you’ll pick up from all this is that you don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to believe in a Creator behind the Creation. And to the extent that you don’t allow for God, you’d be pretty hard pressed to find any credible alternative explanation for how things came to be.

Professor Radisson: Well, I imagine you’re quite pleased with yourself. I see you carefully avoided the fact that Steven Hawking, the world’s most famous scientist and who’s not a theist, has recently come out in favor of a self-designing universe.

JW: I haven’t avoided it, I just didn’t . . . .

PR: You just didn’t know about it. Well, let’s see what professor Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Physics at Cambridge who occupies a teaching chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton, has to say about the origin of the universe. And I quote, “Because there’s a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing spontaneously. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something instead of nothing; why the universe exists; why we exist. It’s not necessary to invoke God to set the universe in motion,” end quote. So you may have never come across his comment but his point remains. How do you answer it?

JW: I don’t know.

PR: You don’t know? I prick the balloon of your entire argument with a single pin and you don’t know. Huh?

JW: Well, I mean, I’d like to tell you I have the perfect answer, but it doesn’t shake my underlying faith.

PR: OK. So the greatest scientific mind of all history says that God is not necessary, but first semester freshman says, “Oh, yes He is.” Wow, you know, it’s gonna be a really tough choice. Well, I look forward to next week’s lecture. Class is dismissed.

In his presentation, Josh Wheaton uses a reference to astronomer Georges Lemaitre to attempt to reconcile the big bang model with the account of creation in Genesis 1. Lemaitre was a Roman Catholic priest who was the first, before Hubble, to propose that the universe was expanding from an original “cosmic egg” from what we know today as the big bang hypothesis. Wheaton suggests that the big bang explains exactly how we “would expect the universe to respond if God were to actually utter the command in Genesis 1:3, ‘Let there be light.’”

Rather than accepting Wheaton’s assertion, let’s stop and analyze Genesis 1:1–5 and compare it to the big bang model. The big bang suggests that the “cosmic egg” or “singularity” contained the entire universe in an infinitely compacted space until it began to expand in an energetic flash of energy (including light), and the energy eventually began to form simple atoms. These atoms formed the first stars after 400 million years. Those stars exploded to form heavier elements, which formed more stars, which exploded to eventually form star systems. Our star system formed beginning about 5 billion years ago, and our earth finally formed as a molten mass that eventually cooled and developed seas.

Now let’s read Genesis 1:1–5:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

In God’s description of the events, the earth was formed first, covered by water, and then the light appeared to distinguish night from day. So in Genesis 1:3, we wouldn’t expect a flash of light to form the universe, but to illuminate the water-covered earth that was already there. The biblical explanation and the big bang explanation are fundamentally incompatible. To make them fit together, Wheaton must rearrange the events of the Bible to fit with the big bang model. He must also deny that God created the earth first and then light in order to accept that the big bang fits just fine with the Bible.

Days vs. Millions of Years

Image: Jason Lisle, “Does the Big Bang Fit with the Bible?” Answers in Genesis, https://answersingenesis.org/big-bang/does-the-big-bang-fit-with-the-bible/.

In his companion book to the film, Dr. Broocks spends all of chapter four describing how the big bang model is compatible with the Bible and is the scientific proof that the universe had a beginning. He uses this as one of the nine proofs of God’s existence in the book. Throughout the chapter, and elsewhere in the book, Dr. Broocks references many scientists who embrace the big bang, especially those who see it as how God created the universe. Interestingly, the big bang can be used as an atheistic model that does not require God, but suggests the universe created itself through various quantum fluctuations. So even if one were to argue for the origin of the universe from a big bang, the existence of a “god” is irrelevant. This is definitely not a good argument for the existence of the biblical God.

Dr. Broocks repeatedly refers to Dr. Hugh Ross for explanations of many of these ideas, so it seems that he embraces some form of progressive creation, as Dr. Ross teaches.2 (There will be more on the biological evolutionary implications below.) Progressive creation utilizes both cosmological evolution (big bang) and geological evolution (billions of years to form the earth and its rock layers).

There is absolutely no mention of a biblical creation explanation for the origin of the universe.

There is absolutely no mention of a biblical creation explanation for the origin of the universe. A young universe is not even presented as an option in the book. In fact, the only reference that even approaches the topic comes in a section in chapter eight where biblical interpretation is discussed. There we read, “Even the first chapters of Genesis, though hotly debated in many circles, do not contradict what science has verified about the physical world. Though very narrow interpretations by skeptics and believers alike can leave some with a sense of irreconcilable differences, there are clear answers to the objective mind.”3

In light of these considerations, I cannot come to any other conclusion but that Josh Wheaton intended to portray the big bang as God’s method of creating the universe and that the events of the big bang are compatible with the Bible. He had no intention of offending the “scientific” sensibilities of the students or the professor by denouncing the big bang as unbiblical. He certainly had no intention of presenting a biblically-based recent creation over six actual days only 6,000 years ago as Genesis describes or saying that the big bang is wrong as a scientific explanation of how God created. The apologetic argument in this debate section was unbiblical and embraces a form of cosmological evolution over billions of years.

Additional resources on the incompatibility of the big bang and the Bible:

Second Debate Scene: Biological Evolution

The second debate included a sound refutation of the professor’s previous challenge regarding a self-creating universe and then moved to biological evolution. Wheaton uses a clock analogy to explain the existence of life on earth and then concludes by suggesting that God guided the process.

The following were responses from Ken Ham’s Facebook page after posting the initial review:

I enjoy reading what Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis have to say, but I agree with many others on here. . . . I think Ken might have misunderstood what was being said. Josh argued against the Big Bang and evolution. I thought it was an excellent movie and if more Christians supported movies like this, then we would get more big budget well written Bible based movies.
—JBC

I still do not agree that he used evolution to explain creation, I believe the writers could have written that part better but what I saw was him explaining that evolution was wrong and biblical creation (6 days) was correct.
—RD

It was just an example, he clearly stated that all things came to being in a matter of seconds “each after their own kind.” Sounds like someone just wants to find something wrong here, because we are very conservative and in our watching could not see a single shred of evidence for even 1 point in this false article!
—JLC

He did not support the big bag or evolution in fact quite the opposite . . . . I believe whoever for AiG who saw this has it all wrong. This was a very well done movie. And for you to find those kind of flaws is shameful on your part!
—JB

Here is a transcription of the second debate discussing biological evolution for you to examine:

JW: [Stephen Hawking] also wrote a book called The Grand Design which says the following, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” To be honest, I didn’t know how to refute that. I mean, after all, Hawking is clearly a genius. But, Professor John Lennox, who teaches mathematics and philosophy, has demonstrated that there are not one, even two, but three errors of logic contained in that one simple sentence, and it all boils down to circular reasoning. Hawking is basically saying that the universe exists because the universe needed to exist, and because the universe needed to exist it therefore created itself. It’s like this, if I say to you that I can prove that spam is the best tasting food that’s ever existed because in all of history, no food has ever tasted better, you’d probably look at me strange and say I haven’t proven anything, and you’d be right. All I’ve done is restate my original claim. But when Hawking claims that the universe created itself because it needed to create itself and then offers that as an explanation as to how and why it was created, we don’t immediately recognize that he’s doing the same thing, but he is, prompting Lennox to further comment, “Nonsense remains nonsense even when spoken by famous scientists, even though the general public assumes they are statements of science.”

PR: This is the height of hubris. Are you telling me that you, a freshman, are saying that Stephen Hawking is wrong?

JW: No, what I’m saying is that John Lennox, a professor of mathematics and philosophy, has found Professor Hawking’s reasoning to be faulty, and I agree with his logic. But, but, if you can’t bear to disagree with Hawking’s thinking, then I suggest that you turn to page five of his book where he insists philosophy is dead. And if you’re so sure of Professor Hawking’s infallibility, and philosophy really is dead, then, uh, well, there’s really no need for this class.

[Laughter from the class; followed by a break in the debate scene to a counseling session between the pastor and Professor Radisson’s Christian girlfriend.]

JW: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for the last 150 years, Darwinists have been saying that God is unnecessary to explain man’s existence and that evolution replaces God, but evolution only tells you what happens once you have life. So, where did that something that’s alive come from? Well, Darwin never really addressed it. He assumed maybe some lightning hit a stagnant pool full of the right kind of chemicals—Bingo—a living something. But, uh, it’s just not that simple. You see, Darwin claimed that the ancestry of all living things came from that one single simple organism which reproduced and was slowly modified over time into the complex life forms we view today, which is why after contemplating his own theory Darwin uttered his famous statement, “Natura non facit saltum,” meaning, “nature does not jump.” Well, as noted, author Lee Strobel pointed out that if you can picture the entire 3.8 billion years that scientists say life has been around as one 24-hour day, in the space of just about 90 seconds most major animal groups suddenly appear in the forms in which they currently hold, not slowly and steadily as Darwin predicted, but in evolutionary terms almost instantly. So, “nature does not jump” becomes “nature makes a giant leap.” So how do theists explain this sudden outburst of new biological information?

“And God said, let the waters teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems according to its kind, and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:20

In other words, Creation happened because God said it should happen. And even what looks to our eyes to be a blind, unguided process could really be divinely controlled from start to finish.

There are two things worth noting about the explanation of evolution given by Wheaton. The first is that he clearly denies Darwinian evolution. This is a very popular way for people who accept cosmological and geological evolution over billions of years to distance themselves from accepting biological evolution by blind, random processes. This is the common tactic of those in the Intelligent Design movement, most of whom believe in the big bang and slow geologic processes and many of whom accept a God-directed form of biological evolution. Wheaton’s presentation to the class clearly rejects a naturalistic view of the origin of life and biological evolution—a view which no Christian can consistently accept.

Similarly, Dr. Broocks also clearly states in his book that he does not believe in Darwinian biological evolution and denies that humans evolved from other animals, but he says that many respectable Christians believe in these forms of evolution and that theistic evolution is a respectable interpretation.4 Based on his references to Hugh Ross, I suspect that Dr. Broocks would endorse some form of progressive creation of animals where God created and then wiped out animals in successive stages over billions of years, creating the “jumps” seen in the fossil record. This view allows for acceptance of the big bang and a history of billions of years while rejecting what is popularly referred to as “macroevolution.”

I can see no other way to interpret this section other than as an endorsement for either a form of progressive creation or theistic evolution of life on earth.

The second aspect of the argument presented is the clear acceptance of long ages of biological change that was “divinely controlled from start to finish.” As spoken, I can see no other way to interpret this section other than as an endorsement for either a form of progressive creation or theistic evolution of life on earth. But it clearly precludes a young earth, six-day creation view by using the clock analogy. (The analogy is attributed to Intelligent Design author Lee Strobel, but it is better attributed to Jonathan Wells, though both men have worked together through the Discovery Institute.) Again, Wheaton has no intent to offend the “scientific” sensibilities of his audience regarding an earth that is 4.5 billion years old and that fossil-bearing layers of rock are consistent with that interpretation of history.

Dr. Broocks follows this approach in the book, never arguing against an old-earth interpretation of Scripture and never even acknowledging that a young-earth interpretation is an option. As with the big bang argument, I can come to no other conclusion from the debate scene than an endorsement of an Earth that is billions of years old and a fossil record that is consistent with that interpretation. However, this acknowledgment creates a substantial problem when it comes to the issue of death before sin, as we will see in the next segment.

At face value, Wheaton’s comment about God guiding the process seems to be a clear endorsement of some form of theistic evolution. Whether Wheaton has a theistic evolution process or a progressive creation process guided by God in mind, the argument is not consistent with the Bible. In the Bible, the order of the creation does not agree with either of those interpretations. As one clear example, both progressive creation and theistic evolution teach that theropod dinosaurs were around before birds, as evidenced in the fossil record. For theistic evolutionists, theropods evolved into birds. For progressive creationists, there is a complex overlapping of the ages of creation so that some parts of “day six” happened before “day five.” In God’s account of creation, birds are created one day before land animals like theropod dinosaurs. These old-earth views are not compatible with the plain reading of Scripture, and one must accept that the Bible’s order of creation is wrong or needs to be understood in a non-literal or overlapping series of ages of various lengths. Wheaton’s argument for God’s existence denies the biblically derived age of the earth and the biblical order of creation.

Additional resources on the incompatibility of an old earth and the Bible:

Third Debate Scene: The Problem of Evil

The final debate scene brings the climax of the film as Josh Wheaton confronts his professor with the implications of the presence of evil in the world. To be sure, this section of the debate was a powerful part of the film, and God is used as the standard of truth and good, unlike the previous two debate segments. To use God’s character as the basis for recognizing absolute truth is a very biblical and effective argument.

But the foundation that Wheaton has laid does not provide a platform to preach about a God who wants to remove death and suffering from a world that was created in perfection. All old-earth views must accept that the history of the earth is one of death, disease, suffering, natural disasters, and the constant struggle for existence. In the debate scene, there is no mention of the real reason for the existence of these natural evils or of the biblical description of man’s original condition.

Here is a transcription of the final debate scene discussing the problem of evil for you to examine:

JW: It has been said that evil is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith. And it is! After all, the very existence of evil begs the question [sic], “If God is all good and God is all powerful, why does He allow evil to exist?” The answer, at its core, is remarkably simple: free will. God allows evil to exist because of free will. From the Christian standpoint, God tolerates evil in this world on a temporary basis so that one day those who choose to love Him freely will dwell with Him in heaven free from the influence of evil, but with their free will intact! In other words, God’s intention concerning evil is to one day destroy it.

PR: Well, how convenient. “One day, I will get rid of all the evil in the world, but until then you just have to deal with all the wars and holocausts, tsunamis, poverty, starvation, and AIDS. Have a nice life.” Next he will be lecturing us on moral absolutes.

JW: Well, why not? Professor Radisson, who’s clearly an atheist, doesn’t believe in moral absolutes. But his course syllabus says he plans to give us an exam during finals week. Now, I am betting that if I managed to get an A on the exam by cheating, he will suddenly start sounding like a Christian, insisting it is wrong to cheat, that I should have known that. And yet, what basis does he have? If my actions are calculated to help me succeed, then why shouldn’t I perform them? For Christians, the fixed point of morality, what constitutes right and wrong, is a straight line that leads directly back to God.

PR: So you are saying that we need a god to be moral? That a moral atheist is an impossibility?

JW: No, but with no God there is no real reason to be moral; there is not even a standard of what moral behavior is. For Christians, lying, cheating, stealing, and my example, stealing a grade I didn’t earn, are forbidden as a form of theft. But if God does not exist, as Dostoyevsky famously pointed out, “If God does not exist, then everything is permissible.” And not only permissible, but pointless. If Professor Radisson is right, then all of this—all of our struggle, all of our debate, whatever we decide here—is meaningless. I mean, our lives, our deaths are of no more consequence than that of a goldfish.

PR: Come on, this is ridiculous. So after all of your talk, you are saying that it all comes down to a choice—believe or don’t believe.

JW: That’s right. That’s all there is. That’s all there’s ever been. The only difference between your position and my position is that you take away their choice. You demand that they choose the box marked “I don’t believe.”

PR: Yes, because I want to free them. Because religion is like a . . . it’s like a mind virus that parents have passed on down to their children. And Christianity is the worst virus of all. It slowly creeps into our lives when we’re weak or sick or helpless.

JW: So religion is like a disease?

PR: Yes, yes. It infects everything. It’s the enemy of reason.

JW: Reason? Professor, you left reason a long time ago. What you are teaching here isn’t philosophy; it’s not even atheism anymore. What you’re teaching is anti-theism. It’s not enough that you don’t believe, you need all of us to not believe with you.

PR: Why don’t you admit the truth? You just want to ensnare them into your primitive superstition.

JW: What I want is for them to make their own choice. That’s what God wants.

PR: You have no idea how much I am going to enjoy failing you.

JW: Who are you really looking to fail, Professor: me or God?

JW: Do you hate God?

PR: That’s not even a question.

JW: Okay, why do you hate God?

PR: This is ridiculous.

JW: Why do you hate God?! Answer the question! You’ve seen the science and the arguments. Science supports His existence. You know the truth! So why do you hate Him?! Why?! It’s a very simple question, Professor. Why do you hate God?!

PR: Because He took everything away from me! Yes, I hate God! All I have for Him is hate!

JW: How can you hate someone if they don’t exist?

PR: You’ve proven nothing.

JW: Maybe not, but they get to choose. Is God dead?

Students [as they stand]: God is not dead. God is not dead. God is not dead. God is not dead. God is not dead . .  .  .

Professor Radisson

Image courtesy of Pure Flix, godsnotdeadthemovie.com/photosvideos.

What Wheaton fails to do in his argument is to explain that God had originally created a world where there was no death, disease, suffering, or sin. Everything was perfect and worked in perfect harmony. The animals did not eat each other. There were no tsunamis to wipe out massive numbers of creatures in minutes. Creation was perfect (Genesis 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:4). It was Adam’s rebellion against God that brought these evils into the world.

But from an old-earth view, that cannot be the case. Whether you accept theistic evolution or progressive creation, the world before Adam sinned was filled with violence, death, and destruction. Death is not an enemy that is to be eliminated (1 Corinthians 15:26), but a part of the process of creation. Disease is not an intruder, but a part of bringing God’s will for His creation to pass. Natural disasters are not a sign of a fallen universe corrupted by sin, but a tool used by God to wipe out creatures to make room for new ones. The creation has not been groaning as it awaited the redemption and restoration since the Fall (Romans 8:22), but it has always been groaning. And if this is the case, to what will it be restored—a restoration of the death and disease that was common before the Fall?

Without a foundation of an initially perfect creation, there is no foundation upon which to say that these natural evils are bad and contrary to God’s original purpose.

Without a foundation of an initially perfect creation, there is no foundation upon which to say that these natural evils are bad and contrary to God’s original purpose. Romans 8:20–22 talks of the impacts of the curse on all of creation and the longing for redemption and restoration at the consummation of all things. Without a perfect original creation, this promise has little hope in it. The God that Wheaton has convinced the students exists is one where the disease that took Professor Radisson’s mother was part of the “very good” that God pronounced when He finished His creative works (Genesis 1:31). Had professor Radisson not imploded in an emotional fit, he could have pointed out these underlying inconsistencies in Wheaton’s argumentation, as many atheists have done in the past.

In the book, Dr. Broocks devotes chapter three to the problem of evil, but he does not ground his argument in God’s perfect original creation. Rather, he grounds his argument in the necessity of “free will” and the general acceptance of evil by all people. He does say that God will ultimately deal with evil through Christ’s work on the Cross and provide an eternity without evil in a new creation, but there is no explanation of this being a restoration of the original creation. There is no doubt that the Bible describes an eternity in perfection for those who are in Christ, but the Bible makes it clear that that new creation is a restoration of the original state in which God created the world—only without the possibility of future sin since Christ has conquered sin.

Wheaton’s argument for the presence of evil fails to acknowledge the perfect original creation and, combined with his other main arguments, demands a world where death reigned before Adam’s rebellion and God’s proclamation of “very good” included many natural evils. In that sense, a biblical truth was built upon an unbiblical foundation, and it cannot stand. Without a perfect creation, there is no reason to expect that the restoration of all things will be perfect, and the gospel itself is undermined. Accepting the perfect original creation described in Genesis is essential to answering the question of the evil we experience in the world and the hope of its removal in the future.

Additional resources on the incompatibility of accepting death before sin and the Bible:

Conclusion

As I stated in the introduction, the movie God’s Not Dead presents many commendable ideas and actions. However, it is not free from error. And as I have demonstrated above, those errors are somewhat subtle. I can understand how someone watching the movie could misunderstand the nature of the arguments being made, especially if you are already thinking from a biblical creation perspective as you enter the experience. However, I must emphatically deny that the movie spoke against the big bang and old-earth ideas, as many who commented on the original article suggested. Any question about whether the intent was to promote the big bang and millions of years in the movie were laid to rest by the book’s explanation.

I trust that you can use God’s Not Dead and this article to equip yourself and others to stand boldly for Christ. Whether challenges come from other Christians or those who stand against Christ, I pray that you will look to Scripture as your absolute authority in every area of life and not be taken captive by old-earth, evolutionary views—whether cosmological, biological, or geological—that are based on the elementary principles of the world and the traditions of men (Colossians 2:1–10). Rather, look to Christ and rely on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to carefully evaluate the arguments being offered to you, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, holding fast to the good and using it to spread the hope of salvation found in Jesus Christ—our Creator and Savior.

Footnotes

  1. I have not reviewed any of these sermon outlines or study guide materials, so this claim is based on the assumption that the materials will be consistent with the movie’s teaching and with the content of the companion book of the same name, which I have read and will reference in this article.
  2. At an event promoting his book at Bethel World Outreach Church in March 2013, Dr. Broocks acknowledged his friendship with Hugh Ross and described embracing Ross’s explanation for the existence of evil.
  3. Rice Broocks, God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty (Nashville, Tennessee: W Publishing Group, 2013), 184.
  4. Ibid., 96, 124–129.

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