“I’d rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God” – Grace Wesley
God’s Not Dead 2 introduces us to Grace Wesley, (played by Melissa Joan Hart), a high school teacher, who refuses to apologize for her faith, even when the school board takes her to court after what they consider to be be proselytizing.
The incident that started it all was her response to a question from a student, Brooke Thawley, (played by Hayley Orrantia), in regards to how Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s non-violent approach to peace can compare to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Much like God’s Not Dead, (which I reviewed here), this sequel revolves around the theme of standing strong for one’s faith and convictions. This time, instead of the teacher as the antagonist, the teacher is the persecuted. Instead of the class as jury, there is a real jury.
As we hear the arguments from both the plaintiff’s attorney (played by Ray Wise), and Grace’s attorney (Jesse Metcalfe), we are asked to consider one question: Is it faith at trial, or is our heroine?
Takeaways from the movie:
I think it is a timely movie with a timely message. Religious civil rights and freedoms are a big battleground right now. As such, God’s Not Dead 2 has been criticized as catering to a “persecution complex”, and in all honesty, I can see why people would say that. It is true that we as believers in the U.S. suffer very little for our faith compared to those in the Middle East. And yet, I believe that any awareness of the growing intolerance (as evidenced by 50 real life court cases at the end of the movie), is not crying wolf, but simply acknowledging written prophecy. (Matthew 10:22). It’s not as much about any present level of persecution, it’s about the gradual trend that society is taking, and recognizing it from the frame of reference of a Christ follower. Pastor Dave (played by David A.R. White) refers to this awareness when he said “If we sit by and do nothing, the pressure that we’re feeling today will mean persecution tomorrow”.
- I found the real-life witnesses used for the defense to be quite compelling, especially that of J. Warner Wallace, (Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University) who wrote “Cold Case Christianity”. In this work, he provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel accounts. The approach of the defense was to prove the historic Jesus, logically and factually. Much was left with to audience to ponder, at least for this viewer.
- I could relate to the underlying theme of doubting one’s faith. Trisha LaFache is back to play the role of Amy Ryan, a reporter diagnosed with cancer. She is in remission now, but begins to wonder if her faith came about only because she was in crisis. There are two other characters in this film (played by Martin Yip and the aforementioned Hayley Orrantia) who are full of questions about faith. In light of the overriding courtroom drama, a parallel is drawn: Christ once asked the question, “who do you say that I am?”, and we must all answer it, both individually and as a society.
- I found the classroom conversation that brought the matter under question in the first place to be a bit far-fetched. A teacher gave a factual, historical answer to a student’s honest question. Even the scriptures quoted were done in context of a historical speech, and none of it even remotely sounded like proselytizing. It would have been more interesting to create a circumstance with more gray area, but I think we just need to take this movie as a caricature that was written to make a point; a simple sketch of real-life situations.
- At times, there were story lines that were incohesive and could have been developed more, or otherwise seemed to drop off for no reason. In one scene, Pastor David is threatened for not turning in his sermon transcript to city authorities. We never see what happens with that. God’s Not Dead 3 perhaps?
- While I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I will say that I found the closing argument to be confusing, in light of the no-nonsense approach of the previous arguments of the defense. It didn’t seem to fit into their decided strategy, and in my opinion unnecessary and probably not likely to be successfully had this been a real courtroom.
Have you ever been put in a position to defend your faith, even at the cost of your job, friends, or family?
God said it, I believe it. That settles it.
I’ve seen this on many bumper stickers and I love the message it conveys. It challenges me to find opportunities to test my faith. No, I don’t mean playing with snakes or not taking medicine when I need it. That’s testing God Himself and there’s a big difference. I mean, I’d like to be the kind of believer that more often displays a strong, simple faith in God’s Word.
I know and admire people who have this kind of faith. They don’t get caught up with all the questions and human thoughts of doubt around them. Some may think this is naïve, but those with strong faith are usually the ones that show a calm resolve, even in the midst of direct opposition.
Then there are others, (like me), who can be more guarded and skeptical. They approach faith needing to look at all the angles and need answers to all the questions they have. They read apologetics, thinking through their doubt and analyze everything before they believe.
Which leads me to the question: Is it okay for a Christian to doubt?
From my own study and experience, I’d have to say that some doubt can be used as a catalyst to grow our faith. Do you doubt your salvation? God may be prompting you to examine yourself to see if you really are in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:15). A good healthy dose of self-examination is essential not only to hold a person’s life up to that all-important litmus test, but also to bring to light any area we may lack in our growth. The good news is that if our lives show the evidence of salvation (read 1 John – a book I will talk about in the next blog), we can rest assured that our salvation is secure. We don’t need to worry that we will ever lose it. In fact, God will preserve faithful believers without blame for the day of his coming. They are destined to receive a crown of life. (Jude 24).
Additionally, if taken with the right attitude doubt can intrigue us to delve into scripture. As I alluded to earlier, I went through this myself at one point in my life. I saw the many passages in the Bible that seem to contradict each other. I heard the murmur of other religions. I stood unstable with all the questions in my mind….not an easy place to be, no doubt! (no pun intended). So, prayerfully and methodically, I studied the contradictions and questions. I found that through the Holy Spirit and the use of Bible aids and study tools that many of them made sense after all.
God can take a long journey of faith and use it to reach others. He did that with authors such as Josh McDowell, who first set out to disprove the Christian faith but instead converted when he found evidence in its favor. He wrote “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”, which continues to be one of the bestselling Christian book of appologetics.
Others, such as Lee Strobel, a self-proclaimed former atheist and journalist, began to investigate Biblical claims in order to disprove them. His investigation lead him straight to Christ instead. His book, “The Case for Christ”, details his experience from beginning to end.
(Both of these books are packed with a wealth of information about the credibility of the Christian faith, and I highly recommend them)
On the other hand, it is when we allow human reason to overshadow God’s command that doubt becomes a stumbling block.
There are lots of examples of this in the Bible. Take Eve, for instance. Satan used doubt as a tool to lack any confidence in God’s command. Her heart was swayed towards being easily convinced. Then there’s Zachariah. He was told that he and Elizabeth would have a baby, even in his old age. When he questioned God, he was struck with an inability to talk until the baby (John the Baptist), was born.
However, the most famous cynic has to be Thomas, the disciple. He refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead until he could see him and touch the scars on his hands and side. Instead of cricizing him, Jesus was gracious enough to meet him where he was spiritually. After Jesus showed him his scars, Thomas instantly believed. What did Jesus say to Thomas? “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”. (John 20:29)
I don’t think that Jesus was advocating a faith entirely without evidence or apologetics, (he invited Thomas to touch his nail print), but was blessing a faith that doesn’t need to question who He is.
It comes down to the condition of our hearts when it comes to doubt. God knows whether we are asking in genuine sincerity or not. If you are dead-set on throwing road blocks at any rational biblical discussion, then no amount of reasoning will sway you. Atheists do this all the time, and I grieve at not only their blindness, but also at their refusal to see. However, if you have a sincere heart, like the centurion who cried, “I believe, help thou my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), then He will be sure to s sure to nurture your faith to grow.
John Montgomery Boice summed it up well:
If you have honest, intellectual questions about Christianity, God will provide intellectual answers for them. He gave you a mind as well as a heart. He will provide what you need. But the thing that will ultimately win you is not so much the reasoned arguments, though they are often important stepping stones, but the love of Christ demonstrated by his death for you.” (Boice’s Expositional Commentary on John, Vol. 5, P. 1610).
What do you believe may be an area of struggle for most Christians? Have you ever come through or are going through a period of doubt? Would love to hear from you. 🙂