'God's Not Dead' At Our Church And School, But Being A Lutheran Is

It was Franz Pieper who reminded us...


"It is not possible to derive the doctrine of the Trinity from human reason."


And yet, so much of what passes for "apologetics" these days operates under the presupposition that we can somehow reason non-believers into heaven by our ability to wield the facts about Jesus and the Christian faith rather than the Word of God and the Sacraments. I should know because I used to be one of the worst offenders!

What does God's Word have to say though?


1 Corinthians 2:13 (ESV) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.


What I mean to say is that conversion of one's soul happens "by His 'Means Of Grace' and not 'any means necessary!'" like many believe, teach, and confess nowadays in the "Church of Anything Goes!"

I'm not saying that Lutherans shouldn't familiarize themselves with apologetics (1 Peter 3:15). It's just that people aren't converted by reasoning with them, by appealing to their logical, rational mind, but by the Word of God and His Means of Grace (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 3:21).

We say we know that, but our own actions and practices often betray us. How else do you explain how a majority of Christians -- whether they're Lutheran or not -- are huge proponents of a Christian movie like God's Not Dead?

Ok, so what do you mean? What's the movie about? Why is it so popular within Christianity today? Why the concern?

One compelling review
I found online approached things from a very honest, refreshing, and unique angle, and I actually agree with the analysis.



But, in any case, all that is to say that assuming God’s Not Dead exists primarily to convert you is a rather narcissistic and imperialistic attitude.  
It’s an assumption that can be forgiven, considering the film’s didactic title and obnoxious viral marketing campaign, but an assumption nonetheless. It’s worth entertaining the possibility, I think, that films like GND might not exist primarily — or even at all! — to proselytize you. Maybe instead they exist merely to express the contemporary evangelical experience (either to the subculture itself or to the mainstream culture as a whole) and are wholly unconcerned with what you think of them. 
In other words, maybe we should entertain the possibility that God’s Not Dead is ethnic cinema, not propaganda.  
We should also consider the possibility that it’s satirical — not only of atheism or of secularism but of evangelical culture as well. Most of GND’s critics have rushed to point out that the film’s portrayals of atheists and Muslims are deeply offensive stereotypes, and they’re correct in a trivial sense: the atheists in the film are all hedonists, demagogues, and closet God-haters, while its Muslims are all intolerant, patriarchal child-beaters. What has been lost on critics, though, is that the Christians in the film are all negative stereotypes as well: naïve, whitebread chumps out to singlehandedly save the world; True Love Waits alumni who have been planning their weddings since a middle-school youth group trip; privileged white girls who think God’s plan for their lives is a nice house in the suburbs; pastors who are nearly incapable of putting even a bit of trust in God’s providence; people so poorly catechized that their understanding of the Gospel is nothing more than a cringeworthy bumper sticker slogan; etc. 
Further, literally everyone in the film seems to value celebrity over knowledge or critical thought, and while this is certainly true of its atheist antagonists (“How dare you question the great Stephen Hawking!”), it’s even more true of its evangelical protagonists (and audience!) — witness the trotting out of shallow Christian superstars, as if their fame would make a difference in a philosophy debate. GND is implicitly critical of all of contemporary America, but it sets its sights on evangelical celebrity culture as much as anything. This isn’t to say that the filmmakers disagree with the titular premise, or that they’re not Christians themselves — just that they’re being a bit more subversive than anyone is giving them credit for.


The problem, however, is that a majority of Christians seem intent on using this movie as a "witnessing tool" or as a "rallying cry" for them to become more bold in sharing their faith when "witnessing" and giving their "personal testimony" to others.

They don't seem to grasp the kind of discernment that would lead them to the same conclusions as the reviewer above (and as those held by this writer, Yours Truly).

In that sense, it's quite ironic, because all a movie like God's Not Dead does is actually perpetuate the same popular myths and stereotypes that those who champion it are trying to change.

For all the talk of the importance of the so-called "Culture War" by American Evangelicals (and American Evangelical wannabes from various denominations who also want to joint the fight), their enthusiastic and vocal support for this film does absolutely nothing to help their cause, IMHO.

As for me, personally, I think this next observation from a fellow sister in Christ (a Lutheran herself) sums up my feelings about God's Not Dead...


"I was sorely disappointed with this film. Same old junk. In one scene, a missionary told a pastor that before they got into the car to go on a trip that he needed to have faith that the car would start (the previous two times it didn't start), and to put his bags in the trunk. Well, wouldn't you know it...the car started. UGH. Few things disgust me more than 'Tinkerbell Faith' as if something will only come true if you believe hard enough. It's not working -- believe harder! HARDER! If that's what faith is to someone, then it is only a matter of time before it's broken. That movie wasn't very 'Theology-of-the-Cross-y' either."


Now, that's not to say that God's Not Dead doesn't have any redeeming value for us as believers. That's why I highly recommend listening to the Cross Defense episode devoted entirely to this movie (Cross Defense is an LCMS radio show on KFUO AM).


The Apologetical Use of The Movie 'God's Not Dead' 
Was this movie, God's Not Dead, a missed opportunity or an apologetic opportunity for us? What were the takeaways from the movie we can use? The problems we hope will be asked of our theological stance on, e.g. free will, problem of suffering, creation, etc. With guest Rev. Jeremy Klaustermeier of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Warrenton, MO.


If you're looking for more reviews of this film from a distinctly Lutheran perspective, then look no further than "God Is Dead...But Can We Talk About Him Anyway?" and please keep this in mind too whenever we consider Pop Culture's influence upon our shared and cherished faith.

Please allow me to explain what I mean by that.

So, the latest non-Lutheran popular trend in Christianity at my LCMS church is this same movie God's Not Dead that has American Evangelicals (and American Evangelical wannabes) buzzing.

For the last several weeks, "church leadership" made up of deacons, teachers, parents and students from the supposedly LCMS church and Lutheran Day School my family attend, have been promoting an upcoming event where they are going to host a free screening of this film complete with free pizza and, of course, "fellowship" after the movie.

Seriously, you'd think this was the Christian equivalent to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane or something with the way this flick is being built up. Even a quick search for #GodsNotDead on Twitter will make you think you've been living under a rock or worse, that you're a pagan, if you call yourself a Christian and you haven't seen this movie yet (which a majority want to call "The Best Christian Movie Ever!").

Whether the adulation and praise is warranted or not, I thought it was time to check this one for myself, especially given all the hype in my neck of the woods.

I have to say that what I find particularly frustrating and laughable about all the promotional materials leading up to this showing at our church and school is that it's just more evidence of the sheer hypocrisy present within this body of believers.

Case in point, please consider the following...


"Our children's faith is being peeled away by society and those teaching them. Their faith is challenged and worn down by some of the very people they are supposed to trust. Become aware of the challenges faced in a society that teaches our children differently than the way we would have them go. As parents, please don't be naive. While the setting of this movie takes place on a college campus, the same principal is prevalent in our high schools and grade schools as well. It is slowly taking the faith of our children without us even realizing. Talk to your kids and teens about God and continue to help them see how real He is."

************************************************

"Please invite family and friends to this educational and entertaining movie about standing up for your faith and what you believe!"


Now, those are both very noble sentiments for sure, but sincere sentimentality does not equal Biblical truth, especially when the very same people who are issuing these kinds of statements are the very same people who shut down and silence those who actually take their advice here and try to get them to see that they need to repent and turn from all the false teaching and return to our Lutheran Confessions instead.

As a result, it's downright tragic when the encouragement here to "stand up for your faith and what you believe!" apparently only applies to those Christians who are willing to do so in the secular public square, because that's not allowed or even encouraged in the private religious arena (i.e., within the church and school itself).

If it were, then people like me wouldn't have been ignored, shunned, and told it's probably best that we find a new church to call home. And why did that happen? Because we stood up for our faith and what we believe when we tried to get the church and school leaders to understand that we've completely lost our Lutheran identity even though it says "Lutheran" on the church sign out front.

So, to sum it up, while this movie is good in that it encourages us to not only know what we believe, but to know why we believe it, it fails miserably when it communicates a watered down presentation of Law and Gospel that emphasizes the false teaching of "Decision Theology" or what we commonly call free will.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, God's not dead at our church and school, but being a Lutheran is, which is a real shame because, last I checked, we Lutherans proclaim Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind, and we preach the importance of Word and Sacraments in converting lost souls, not Christian movies that can't save anyone.

If art forms like movies and music did have the power to convert souls like everyone else seems to think ("Jeff, God can use anything He wants to use like a song or a movie to save people!"), then how do you explain how the Newsboys co-founder is now an atheist like the Philosophy Professor character in the film (the title of this film is inspired by and is the exact same title as the Newsboys hit song of the same name that features prominently on the soundtrack)?

I'm just saying.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!