On April 1 Pure Flix Entertainment will premiere the second installment of its growing franchise with “God’s Not Dead 2.” Along with the release of this film, Pure Flix will be one of the first Christian film groups to do several things: (1) produce a highly anticipated sequel, (2) host a user-friendly digital streaming service, and (3) yes, stick around a few minutes after the movie because there is an after-credits scene/preview!
Not to take away from the movie, but to be honest I am more intrigued and excited about Pure Flix’s online service that they now offer. Pure Flix Digital (pureflix.com) streams a catalog of over 2,500 faith and family oriented videos including: feature length movies, television series, documentaries and more. I know what you are thinking and yes, it is essentially Netflix for Christians. Now I’m sure that there is a fair amount of cheese that comes along with such a product, but I definitely think the pros far outweigh the cons. It is an encouragement and a relief to know that families can subscribe to a wholesome streaming site.
Okay, So Back to the Actual Movie
Like its predecessor, “God’s Not Dead 2” is not just one story but several. Four separate but intersecting stories zoom in on the lives of a teacher, student, pastor and blogger. The main plot revolves around a Christian named Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) who teaches at a public school. An entire community is engulfed in the politically-fueled momentum of controversy when Grace offers a reasonable response to an honest question about Jesus in the classroom. What culminates is an epic court case that could cost Grace the career she loves and act as a precedence for expelling any talk of Jesus from all public squares henceforth.
Depositions and dilemmas
This is a difficult film for me to review. For what it represents, there is a lot to like about the film. What I think both God’s Not Dead films have done best is to ask very difficult questions. The question of the first film (2014) was essentially, “Is there really a God?” and the answers arrived in the form of scientific evidence and philosophical arguments. Now the questions shifts to, “Who then is Jesus?” and the answers offered are from a more legal and historical stand point.
Of course, with any court case film, the theme of truth runs throughout. At one point of desperation, student Brooke (Hayley Orrantia) exclaims, “I’m not afraid of telling the truth. I’m only afraid of not being able to tell it!” We are quickly reminded that society does not always value the Truth as much as it values its own truth.
The emotions of the movie are also genuinely felt. But as a form of literature and art, there are several weaknesses to the movie. For one, the ending is a little perplexing, and it leaves you wondering “What if it happened the other way?” What happens when it does end another way? Is our Christian faith true and strong whether we win or lose in a secular law system? This is where the main confusion comes from. As pure as the intentions of the film are, the lines between faith and country are often blurred. Are we more concerned about the Kingdom of God or the kingdoms of man?
At the same time, I do believe that these films can have a positive impact on society. Many will be offended. But some will be changed forever. After all, the vision of Pure Flix is “to impact the global culture for Christ” (Christian Leaders Solutions Guide, Pure Flix Alliance, 2016). I can certainly envision a youth pastor bringing a group of doubtful yet seeking students to see this film and being greatly impacted. In fact, it has been estimated that around 35 percent of Americans who saw a Christian movie last year were unchurched, so the importance of the film ministry cannot be overstated (pluggedin.focusonthefamily.com/they’ll-know-christians-movies/). Perhaps the story would come across better as a series of Christian videos (such as for Bible study groups) rather than a feature-length film.
Ultimately, God’s Not Dead 2 does offer a great opportunity for those investigating the claims of Christ. Jesus is no foreigner to standing accused. But either way, the important thing for us to remember is that regardless of a trial’s outcome, Jesus is on the throne!
The film sees the return of David A. R. White as the Reverend Dave and Trisha LaFache as journalist Amy Ryan. Also featured are Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), the expert testimonies of Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace, and the band Newsboys.
God’s Not Dead 2 is rated PG for some thematic elements. For more info or to view the trailer, visit godsnotdead.com
Finley is a freelance writer and doctoral student at SEU. He can be reached at: [email protected]