Faith, as described in the Bible, is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” But when you make a movie that revolves around a court case challenging whether Jesus Christ was a real person … well, you’re going to need some evidence that’s a little more concrete.
That’s just what the makers of GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 offer in their film, making a reasoned case for a Christian faith that can stand up to the rigors of the courtroom – and scientific inquiry.
“As we go through the series of GOD’S NOT DEAD movies – and I don’t know how many there’ll be – we want to answer a series of very determined theological questions,” producer Michael Scott explains. “And, ultimately, my hope is to develop an army of people who can talk about their faith intelligently, and really take that to the world.”
As a courtroom drama, GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 explores the intellectual aspects of the Christian faith primarily through the witness stand, courtesy of real-life experts who testify about the undeniable proof of Jesus’ existence. Other experts also appear in a mock talk-show segment hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (playing himself), in which they discuss the case at the center of the film’s plot – in which a public high school teacher is sued for mentioning Jesus in her history class in response to a student’s question.
While the ACLU consistently talks about the “alleged” words of Jesus, challenging his status as a historical figure, the defense musters a mountain of evidence to counter that claim.
“Virtually nobody in the scholarly community holds that Jesus didn’t exist,” says Gary Habermas, professor of apologetics and philosophy at Liberty University and author of The
Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. He appears in the films as one of Huckabee’s guests.
“There are a dozen and a half texts for Jesus outside the New Testament.”
Dr. Rice Broocks, whose book Man, Myth Messiah is featured in the film and who joins Habermas in the movie’s talk-show segment, seconds his fellow expert’s
“To someone who has interest in history, I mean real historians, there is no question that
Jesus existed,” Broocks explains. “There are three times as many references to Jesus historically than to the Roman emperor Tiberius.”
GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 doesn’t only engage in deep thinking about Christianity in its legal scenes, though. The journeys of many characters, including Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart), the teacher whose career is endangered when she’s sued, include meaningful moments of examining and questioning what it means to follow Jesus.
No character spends more time searching for answers than Martin Yip (Paul Kwo), who became a Christian at the end of the first film and now wrestles with what his decision means on a daily basis.
“Being a very intellectual person, Martin has lots of questions but very few answers, so he’s out there looking for the answers,” Kwo says. “Not just about God, but also for and about himself in his own life. For every question he asks, three or four more pop up.
“But that’s just what you do with science, so why shouldn’t it be the same with faith? Every time we ask a question, we learn more. But at the same time, because we learn more, there should be more questions.”
That reality plays out in Kwo’s off-screen life as well.
“It’s absolutely important for us to take faith intellectually and intelligently,” he says. “I don’t think faith and intelligence are two separate things. I think I’m pretty intelligent, and I’ve got a pretty strong faith myself.”
Hart can identify with her co-star.
“I imagine myself pretty fearless, so I don’t shy away from the things I believe or the things I want to say,” she says. “I want to debate. I want to talk about things. I want other people to tell me why they believe things. I love to have deep conversations with people about things you’re not supposed to talk about – religion and politics. Because I want to know more. And I want you to know more.”
It is that spirit – wanting to help moviegoers know more – that director Harold Cronk says drove him and his fellow filmmakers during every step of GOD’S NOT DEAD 2.
“Our goal is not just to preach to the choir with these movies,” he says. “We want to reach beyond the faith base and into more of the secular world. We want to get people asking questions about their faith and their beliefs.”