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God s Not Dead is a 2014 American Christian drama film directed by Harold Cronk and starring Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A. R. White, and Dean Cain. The film was released theatrically on March 21, 2014, by Pure Flix Entertainment.
Written by Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, and based on Rice Broocks book God s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty, the film follows a Christian college student (Harper) whose faith is challenged by an atheist philosophy professor (Sorbo), who declares God a pre-scientific fiction. It was heavily panned by critics but grossed over $62 million on a $2 million budget. The film was criticized for its screenplay, Cronk s directing, performances, mean-spirited tone, characters, and use of straw man arguments and common stereotypes of atheists, instead of any actual debate.
The film was followed by the films God s Not Dead 2 (2016), God s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (2018), and God s Not Dead: We The People (2021).
Josh Wheaton, a college student and evangelical Christian, enrolls in a philosophy class taught by Professor Jeffrey Radisson, an atheist. Radisson demands his students sign a declaration that God is dead to pass. Josh is the only student who refuses. Radisson requires Josh to debate the topic with him but agrees to let his other students decide the winner.
In the first two debates, Radisson has counter-arguments for all of Josh s points. Josh s girlfriend Kara demands Josh either sign the statement or drop Radisson s class because standing up to Radisson will jeopardize their academic future. When Josh refuses, Kara breaks up with him.
In the final debate, Josh halts his line of debate to ask Radisson: Why do you hate God? Radisson explodes in rage, confirming he hates God for his mother s death. Josh asks Radisson how he can hate someone that does not exist. Martin, a Chinese student whose father forbids him from talking about God to avoid jeopardizing his brother s chance at overseas study, stands up and says, God s not dead. Most of the class follows Martin s lead, and Radisson leaves the room in defeat.
Radisson dates Mina, an evangelical whom he belittles in front of his fellow atheist colleagues. Her brother Mark, a successful businessman and atheist, refuses to visit their mother, who suffers from dementia. Mark s girlfriend Amy is a left-wing blogger who writes articles critical of Duck Dynasty. When Amy is diagnosed with cancer, Mark dumps her. A Muslim student, Ayisha, secretly converts to Christianity and is disowned by her infuriated father when he finds out.
Josh invites Martin to attend a Newsboys concert. Radisson reads a letter from his late mother and is moved to reconcile with Mina. Amy confronts the Newsboys in their dressing room but asks them to help guide her in converting to Christianity. On his way to find Mina, Radisson is struck by a car and fatally injured. A reverend waiting at the intersection tends to Radisson and helps him as he dies. Mark, at last, visits his mother, but mocks her for her faith; she responds that his financial success was given to him by Satan to keep him from turning to God, then she doesn t remember his name. At the concert, the Newsboys show a video clip of Willie Robertson congratulating Josh on standing up to Radisson and encourages the audience to text God s Not Dead as a message to others. The Newsboys begin to play their song God s Not Dead , dedicating it to Josh.
- Shane Harper as Josh Wheaton, an evangelical college student
- Kevin Sorbo as Professor Jeffrey Radisson, Josh s philosophy class teacher who is an atheist.
- David A. R. White as Reverend Dave, the pastor of St. James Church. He would later play a larger role in the next films.
- Trisha LaFache as Amy Ryan, an atheist blogger who is diagnosed with cancer.
- Hadeel Sittu as Ayisha, a Muslim student who secretly converts to Christianity.
- Marco Khan as Misrab, Ayisha s estranged father who finds out her suspicions
- Cory Oliver as Mina, Professor Radisson s girlfriend who is an evangelical Christian.
- Dean Cain as Mark, an atheist businessman who is Mina s older brother and Amy s boyfriend
- Jim Gleason as Ward Wheaton
- Benjamin Onyango as Reverend Jude, a minister from Ghana who becomes Dave s friend.
- Cassidy Gifford as Kara, Josh s girlfriend
- Paul Kwo as Martin Yip, a foreign exchange student and Josh s best friend who gets to know God.
- Newsboys as themselves
- Willie Robertson as himself, the host of Duck Dynasty.
- Korie Robertson as herself, Willie s wife
- Alex Arstidis as Fahid, Ayisha s younger brother
- Lenore Banks as the mother of Mina & Mark; she is also a Christian, but suffers from dementia.
- Franklin Graham as himself (voice only)
The film s script was inspired by lawsuits involving the place of the Christian faith in universities and by the book God s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty published by Pastor Rice Broocks.
The film was shot from October to November 2012, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with the concert scene done in Houston, Texas. However, exterior shots of the concert were filmed at Staples Center.
The film soundtrack was released on March 3, 2014, by Inpop Records.
The film became a surprise success at the box office. In its first weekend of release, the film earned $9.2 million with an $11,816 per-screen average from 780 theaters, causing Entertainment Weekly s Adam Markovitz to refer to it as the biggest surprise of the weekend . During that weekend, it finished third behind Divergent and Muppets Most Wanted at the box office.
The film began its international roll-out in Mexico on April 4, 2014, where the movie grossed $89,021 its opening weekend. God s Not Dead grossed $60.8 million in North America and $3.9 million in other territories for a total of $64.7 million, against a budget of $2 million. At the end of 2014, God s Not Dead was ranked 93rd in terms of worldwide gross, and finished with $64.7 million worldwide.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film received 12% positive reviews, based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 3.40/10. The consensus reads, Deploying sledgehammer theatrics instead of delivering its message with a dose of good faith, God s Not Dead makes for bad drama and an unconvincing argument to the unconverted. On Metacritic, the film received a score of 16 out of 100, based on six critics, indicating overwhelming dislike .
Elaine Wilkinson criticized the film for presenting a narrative based on a Christian persecution complex in the United States, specifically the idea of colleges as atheist factories , a premise criticized as an inaccurate stereotype by Emma Green, writing for The Atlantic. Writing for The A.V. Club, Emily St. James gave the film a D− , saying, Even by the rather lax standards of the Christian film industry, God s Not Dead is a disaster. It s an uninspired amble past a variety of Christian-email-forward bogeymen that feels far too long at just 113 minutes . Reviewer Scott Foundas of Variety wrote … even grading on a generous curve, this strident melodrama about the insidious efforts of America s university system to silence true believers on campus is about as subtle as a stack of Bibles falling on your head … Some sources and blogs have cited the film s similarities to a popular urban legend.
Evangelical and Roman Catholic response
The Alliance Defending Freedom, American Heritage Girls, Faith Driven Consumer, Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, Trevecca Nazarene University, The Dove Foundation and Ratio Christi have all endorsed the film.
Dave Hartline of The American Catholic gave God s Not Dead a positive review and hoped that other films like it would follow. Vincent Funaro of The Christian Post praised the film for being a hit for believers and may even appeal to skeptics searching for answers .
Evangelical Michael Gerson, however, was highly critical of the film and its message, writing The main problem with God s Not Dead is not its cosmology or ethics but its anthropology. It assumes that human beings are made out of cardboard. Academics are arrogant and cruel. Liberal bloggers are preening and snarky. Unbelievers disbelieve because of personal demons. It is characterization by caricature. John Mulderig echoed similar concerns in his review for the Catholic News Service, stating: There might be the kernel of an intriguing documentary buried within director Harold Cronk s stacked-deck drama, given the extent of real-life academic hostility toward religion. But even faith-filled moviegoers will sense the claustrophobia of the echo chamber within which this largely unrealistic picture unfolds.
Pure Flix Entertainment produced a sequel, God s Not Dead 2, with a release date of April 1, 2016. A second sequel, God s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, was released on March 30, 2018. A third sequel, God s Not Dead: We the People, was released on October 4, 2021. David A. R. White, Paul Kwo, Trisha LaFache, and Benjamin Onyango reprise their roles in the second film. However, in the third film, only David A. R. White and Benjamin Onyango reprise their roles, with Shane Harper also reprising his role as Josh Wheaton from the first film.
|Plot||College philosophy professor Mr. Radisson’s curriculum is challenged by his new student, Josh, who believes God exists.|
|Awards||Awards, 1 win|
|Writers||Hunter Dennis, Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon|
|Stars||Shane Harper, Kevin Sorbo, David A.R. White|
|Produced by||Lisa Arnold,Grits Carter,Jarred Coates,Troy Duhon,Brent Ryan Green,Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis,Robert Katz,Chuck Konzelman,Michael Scott,Matt Shapira,Cary Solomon,David A.R. White,Russell Wolfe,Anna Zielinski|
|Music by||Will Musser|
|Cinematography by||Brian Shanley|
|Film Editing by||Vance Null|
|Casting By||Billy DaMota,Dea Vise|
|Production Design by||Claire Sanchez|
|Art Direction by||Perry James Trentacosta|
|Set Decoration by||Emily Meroney,Claire Sanchez|
|Costume Design by||John H. Smith|
|Makeup Department||Jeff Blair,Natalie Christine Johnson,Christine Lombardo,Morgan Marinoff,Francesca Salafia|
|Production Management||Jarred Coates,Bradley Dorsey,Austin M. James,Greg Jenkins|
|Second Unit Director or Assistant Director||Kim Barnard,Jordan Champine,Leila Garza Stockwell,Jared Scott Mercier,John Michael Sudol,Gabriel Sabloff,Kaelin Stockwell,Tyler Stratton|
|Art Department||Jane Madden,Amy McGee-Harrell,Greg White|
|Sound Department||Clay Achee,Kelly Ambrow,Chase Arceneaux,Ivan Basauri,Michael Capuano,Christian Coody,Michael Huang,Paul B. Knox,Richard B. Larimore,Eric Laws,Greg Miller,Humberto Zamores|
|Special Effects by||Donnie Dean,Wayne Rowe,Ken Speed|
|Visual Effects by||Grits Carter,Angelo Caruso,Jesse Daniel,Sean Devereaux,William Mings,Nick Siebold|
|Stunts||Jay Amor,William De Vital,Jorge Longoria|
|Camera and Electrical Department||Don Abernathy,Corey Addison,Kevin Scott Anderson,Jason Aragon,Carlos Aranda,Brent Bailey,Maxwell Beard,Kevin Bridge,Paul Charbonnet,Robert ‘Tweedy’ Francis,Daniel Greenup,Gary Harvill,Gregger Jones,Kaiyoti,Johnny Kearns,Liam Kibbutz,Raul J. Marin,Rick Marquez,David McGill,Kelly D. Mills,Benjamin Oliver,Josh Oliver,Brian Paddison,Jonathan Park,Mel Perdikis,Rob Russell,Mathew J. Sawyer,Pauline S. Storms,Travis Williams,Travis Williams,Evan Woss|
|Casting Department||Lisa Arnold,Debby Gaudet,Dawn Johnson|
|Costume and Wardrobe Department||Adriane Bennett,Shonta Hylton|
|Editorial Department||Jason Britton,Jacob Fletcher,Kris Kelso,Tom Meintzer,Wynton Payne,Keith Roush,Gabriel Sabloff,Max Zoghbi|
|Location Management||Lisa Arnold,Wendi Coates,Jennifer Guedon,Erica Mahorney,Lysa Oldhams|
|Music Department||Greg Jenkins|
|Script and Continuity Department||Taylor Chen Travers|
|Transportation Department||Brett Bodin,Drew Guillory,Cody Langhart,Amy McGee-Harrell,Jarrod McRight,Adam Newell,Daniel O. Wiseman|
|Additional Crew||Ashton Allison,Nina Nahal Ameri,Chad Bonham,Johnny Calloway,Kristin Cheramie,Kristy Choo,Paige Collins,Jonn Costantino,Ron Gell,Ashley Greyson,Adam Hastings,David Howard,Diane Howard,Chelsy Jensen,Terrisha Kearse,Paul Kobetz,Drew Langhart,Randy Maricle,Amy McGee-Harrell,Jeanette McRight,Ren Persac,Bill Reeves,Mani Sandoval,Elizabeth Shaw,SanChavis Torns,Thomas H. Vidal,Morgan Vinson,Ashley Wages,Kenneth Weeks,Eric Weiler,Cheryl Ariaz Wicker,Jennifer Willingham,Camila Zimpel|
|Thanks||Sadie Grace Adrid,Brent Ryan Green,Steve Lindsay,Scott Mills|
|Companies||Pure Flix Productions, Believe Entertainment (II), Greg Jenkins Productions|
|Keywords||reference to spongebob squarepants,christian film,atheism,injustice,religious persecution|