“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” So wrote the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.
By the same token, I can’t imagine God’s glory is increased any when we make movies about him, and so I don’t suppose the Lord is much interested in the latest box office news out of Hollywood. Nonetheless, that news is good for faith-based films. Not long after the indie film God’s Not Dead was a “surprise hit,” (i.e., a hit anyone outside of New York or L.A. could’ve seen coming a mile off), Heaven Is for Real earned more than twice its $12 million production budget on its opening Easter weekend and left the big budget Johnny Depp vehicle Transcendence in the dust. And there were two other recent Hollywood victories for Bible believers as well. 1) The opening weekend success of Noah followed by 2) the film’s huge drop into near oblivion when filmgoers realized the story was not told along biblical lines.
My feelings about this are not complicated. I like it. I’m glad there are movies being made about faith and I’m glad people like them and go to see them. Since a huge majority of us have some kind of belief in something, I don’t see why that part of the human experience should be edited out of the arts simply because it threatens the teeny-tiny-minded worldview of certain coastal reviewers. (The unsupported insinuation that concludes the New York Times review of Heaven is simply despicable.)
But more than that, I think well-made and successful stories that include faith accomplish a profound good. They counter the carefully constructed intellectual assumption of atheism that, for the last forty years or so, has created the impression that intelligent and sophisticated people don’t believe.
Intellectual assumptions are tremendously powerful things. Without any real evidence, they can create the unearned sense that the time for certain ideas has come, and that anyone who’s not on board is old-fashioned, uncool, or just plain stupid. (The Left tries to create such assumptions all the time — “The debate is over!” — because it’s so much easier than arguing for their absurd ideas.) The intellectual assumption of atheism accounts for the snide and superior tone atheists often take with believers, their implication that anyone who is anyone simply does not believe, doncha know, and anyone who does believe is just not “one of us.” Also doncha know.
When faith-based films and books succeed, the opposition to this mindless non-belief asserts itself. Some intellectual believers are embarrassed by the sentimentality and dewy-eyed optimism of some faith-based stories, and fair enough. But I believe these films are harbingers of a great turning in the intellectual tide. There is nothing in science that disputes faith — rather the opposite. There is nothing particularly intellectual about atheism — rather the opposite again. And it is a Christian precept that faith is for everyone at every level, and indeed that the faith of simple people might sometimes be wiser and richer than the complex intellectualization of even great minds like C.S. Lewis.
The success of films like God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is for Real, and the ultimate rejection of an avowedly anti-biblical film like Noah, are creating a new atmosphere in which artists of every stripe and intellectual level can begin again to deal with the questions that really matter. That has got to be a good thing.