Why Our Society Won’t Believe That Jeffrey Radisson and Darren Aronofsky’s God is Dead
Recently, I went to see two movies: God’s Not Dead and Noah. Both movies have caused a lot of hype, albeit for entirely different reasons; God’s Not Dead, because it’s a Christian movie in which scientific and logical arguments are articulated for the existence of God, and Noah, because its director takes significant liberties in changing the Biblical narrative, which has caused controversy and frustration among evangelicals. I want to reflect a little on both movies, point out a connection between the two, and explain why the connection matters. Though there may be small spoilers here and there, I’ll give away as little as possible in case you have yet to see either of these movies. Also, I’ll spend more time on Noah.
God’s Not Dead
Professor Jeffrey Radisson, the atheist antagonist in God’s Not Dead, is a very angry man. That is one of the more obvious things that you will pick up on about his character beginning very early on in the movie. Throughout the film, we’re shown some of the personal problems that Jeffrey is facing. He, like any human, is a dynamic, emotive character. Thus, his pride, anger, and confusion are clearly portrayed throughout the movie as he deals with his personal trials.
The objective of God’s Not Dead is to invite us to watch as Biblical reasoning meets atheistic reasoning. The story focuses on Josh Wheaton, one of Professor Radisson’s students, who takes on his challenge to prove God’s existence to him and his class through a series of lectures. Because Professor Radisson is such an angry man, we see some heated debates throughout the film. I also think that some of the dialogue was heated because Josh took on this debate as an assignment, and he definitely saw Professor Radisson (and the entire debate) as a “project”, because that’s pretty much what it came down to in the movie.
One thing that Josh failed to do well enough, though, was to hone in on exactly why Jeffrey was so intent on proving that, in his words, God is dead. Clearly, Professor Radisson was mad at God throughout the movie because, as he put it, “He took everything from me!” At a deeper level, though, I think the reason Professor Radisson hated the idea that God’s not dead is the same reason why all atheists hate that idea; namely, they have accepted lies about God as truth, and the lies repulse them to the core of their being.
Which brings us to Noah.
This film was directed by atheist Darren Aronofsky. He himself put out the disclaimer that this movie is not an exact retelling of the Biblical and historical narrative, and I adjusted my expectations accordingly going into it. It was enlightening to see Aronofsky’s worldview play out in his movie. Particularly enlightening was the way in which he depicted God, humanity, and sin.
The god of Noah (hereafter referred to as “the Creator”, as he was called in the film) is vindictive, irrational, and unloving. Here are some evidences that that is true:
1) Early in the film, we’re exposed to the Rock People. These are fallen angels who the Creator condemned to live in bodies of stone, simply for “helping mankind.” The way the movie presented it, it seemed like we were supposed to feel the irrationality of the Creator and the innocence of the Rock People in that, but that’s just my opinion.
2) The Creator does not reward righteousness in Noah. The reason the movie says that Noah and his family were tasked with building the ark had nothing to do with how they loved the Creator and sought to serve him with their lives. According to the movie, Noah was the only person “strong enough” to complete the task of wiping out humanity, and saving the animals (more on that second thing next). But Noah and his family were humans, too, and Noah tried to kill various family members throughout the movie, thinking that the Creator told him he should.
3) See, being a human is a bad thing in this movie. The Creator, to put it even more accurately, hates humanity. Why? Well, because humans have sinned by hurting the environment, and that’s why humankind needed to be wiped out. As previously stated, the main reason Noah and his family were chosen to build the ark was to save the animals. The film’s antagonist quotes Genesis 1, which talks about filling and subduing the earth and being fruitful and multiplying, and we’re supposed to disagree with the point he makes, because too many humans equals bad things for the animals. The clear message in Noah is that mankind’s natural inclinations to fill and subdue the earth, to hunt and fish and provide for themselves, to build and create, ought to be suppressed in so far as their actions negatively impact the animals.
4) The Creator is very distant in Noah. The only time we even vaguely hear from him is when Noah receives a weird and ambiguous vision, somehow (in a way that is still a mystery to me) alerting Noah to the fact that he is going to destroy humanity in a flood. He is definitely not involved in the lives of Noah and his family as the film progresses.
I could go on, but that’s enough. In summary, Noah portrays the Creator as hateful, uncaring, and distant, reduces sin to environmental blunders, and depicts humanity as burdensome to the Creator.
And if I truly believed those things about God, sin, and humanity, I would be an atheist, just like Darren Aronofsky.
Atheism is the correlation between these two movies, because Jeffrey Radisson and Darren Aronofsky are both atheists. In God’s Not Dead, atheism plays out in Professor Radisson’s character. In Noah, atheism pervades the screenplay. And in both movies, we learn something about why some people hate God.
See, I don’t think that either Professor Radisson or Mr. Aronofsky really believe that God is dead. I think it would be more accurate to say that they hate who they think God is, so much so that they’ve built up walls of logic and reason to try to explain Him away. Anything to keep from admitting that God’s not dead.
And after watching these two movies, I can understand better why people like them do that.
I’m not saying that their perception of God is accurate; I’m just acknowledging that it’s a reality for them. And I think that rather than spending all of our time steaming because an atheist failed to tell a Bible story as well as the Bible does, we ought to be a bit more broken up because there are real people in the world who actually embrace the worldview of Mr. Aronofsky’s movie, or who identify with Jeffrey Radisson’s character.
You see, some people really think God is vindictive. Some people really think God isn’t good. Some people really think God is irrational, or that He’s unloving, or that He’s distant.
And sometimes it’s because they really have lost everything, and they blame God for it. It seems to me that if we’re really going to love people who disbelieve or doubt the existence of God, we first need to accept that, on a human level, many of them have logical reasons to believe what they do (or don’t) about Him.
We Christians can be so quick to label, or pull out all the formulas and pertinent Bible verses, or get into debates, like Josh Wheaton did. And that’s not always a bad thing. I’m just saying, it’s all too easy sometimes to treat a real person like a project or a problem; something to work on or something to change. And maybe some unbelievers have looked to us in their pain to see a demonstration of God’s love, and eventually came to believe that Mr. Aronofsky and Mr. Radisson’s god must exist, because we’ve made our God look so unattractive.
How easy it is to forget that the lesbian woman at the grocery store lost her mom to cancer. The drug addict at church got laid off. The hardened agnostic across the street just filed for bankruptcy.
How easy it is to forget that they’re human, and they have feelings and struggles, too.
Loving unbelievers by meeting them where they’re at takes humility and empathy, which comes when we remember that we, like them, were once “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12).” And, it takes an unwavering desire to point them to the joy to be found in God, which comes in rejoicing that “now in Christ Jesus, [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (v. 13).”
God’s not dead, and He’s given us a world to love, in His strength. By His grace, let’s do it.