Why Professor Fincke’s Analysis of “God’s Not Dead” Didn’t Actually Care About What the Movie Was About

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Professor (of sorts) Daniel Fincke set out to write an analysis of the movie God’s Not Dead. What he accomplished with it ended up being something else entirely. He admitted early on that the topic had gotten away from him, and that this had turned into much more than a review. It seems to me that it also turned into less than a review.

We’ll take his points in turn. I must warn you: his post was lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong. Many of his subpoints were as long as my usual blog posts. My response, you’ll be grateful to know, is only lo-o-o-ong; less than a fifth of the length of his article.

I’ve written a response to his first point, “hypocrisy,” elsewhere already. This is going to go long enough; no need to repeat myself. Well, actually you’ll see that I do repeat myself in one way as I go along here, but you’ll also see how that makes sense.

Following that point, Fincke goes into a lengthy explanation of “Why Leaving Theology Out of Philosophy Isn’t Persecuting Students.” This has nothing to do with anything in the movie. The same goes for his next topic: “Philosophy Is Not Authority Based The Way Theology Is.” I think he has misrepresented theological authority there, but why did he even bother bringing that up? There’s nothing in the movie about that topic.

There’s a theme developing here…

His complaint under “The Students in the Movie Already Believed in God” boils down to his belief that the students complied with the professor because,

They’ve been conditioned by our educational system to be spineless conformists who defer to authorities. They will write down whatever their professors want if that’s what will get them their grade and get them to where they want to be in life.

… which he admits “has a grain of truth.” I tend to agree. But then he aims at the church and shoots:

The giant log of lazy intellectual conformism and thoughtless deference to authorities is still in the church’s eye. It is churches that praise submission to Christ, overcoming doubts not by endless questioning but by deferring to the Sunday School teacher.

Sure, some churches do that. The other day, though, I gave a talk to conservative Christian parents in a conservative city in Michigan, on “Coaching Your Children Through Their Toughest Questions.” My main point was this: whatever the question is, whether you know the answer or not, have the conversation, and work through the question.

There were a couple dozen students there. At the beginning of the talk, before giving away any of my thesis, I asked them to write on a card “yes” or “no” to the question, “Do you feel safe, and do feel the freedom, to ask questions about the faith at school, at church, and at home?” It was all handled anonymously, secret ballot-style. The result was unanimous: every student said yes to feeling free to ask questions in all three venues.

The fact is, Professor Fincke has stereotyped Christianity according to its least attractive manifestation. I wonder if he’s proud of himself for that. Stereotyping has such a rich tradition, no?

Next he tells us he grades  students who disagree with him by a fair standard. I’m sure he does. Professor Radisson, in the movie, doesn’t. Fincke isn’t Radisson. Radisson is a fictional character. So is Gandalf. So is Saruman. So is Father Mulcahy. So is Church Lady. So was the priest in The Exorcist. So what?

His next informative topic was, “Demanding Philosophical Reasons For Beliefs Is Not Persecution” Who said it was? I don’t know why he bothered to bring that up, other than his desire to carry through on his already-established pattern of delivering platitudes that have no connection to the plot of the movie.

Next up? The student’s, Josh Wheaton’s, use of Big Bang cosmology in his apologetic. Where previously Fincke has been disconnected from the movie, here he demonstrates his disconnection from movies in general. He tells us, “The other argument draws on Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig without directly citing him.” That’s an odd criticism to make: I don’t recall ever seeing a feature film with footnotes.

Wheaton doesn’t prove God, he tells us. He uses 1,600 words to tell us. Wheaton’s argument in this sequence, by comparison, runs to perhaps two minutes, maybe three, if my estimate is correct. He may be the first character in all cinematic history not to prove the existence of God in less than three minutes. Or, Fincke may be the first professor in all of history to find significance in the fact that he didn’t accomplish it. (By the way, we know from elsewhere in the film that Wheaton spoke three times for twenty minutes each, so we’re not seeing nearly all he might have said.)

Moving on, Fincke tells us, “Creating A Strawman of Philosophers is a Lazy Copout,” to wit:”And it is a complete joke to suggest that the strong majority consensus of philosophers against theism is all because we secretly hate God.” Here’s a straw man for you: it’s a straw man to suggest that this was the argument Josh Wheaton made in the film. Nothing of the sort was said.

Fincke goes on to wonder, “Why Do Christians Say Atheists Disbelieve for Emotional Reasons?” The stereotypes fairly ooze off the page: “Christians” say “atheists” disbelieve for emotional reasons. All Christians? All atheists? I don’t think so. Not that it isn’t partly true: some atheists do disbelieve for emotional reasons. They don’t like Christianity. They don’t like its moral beliefs. They don’t want the universe to be like that. Huxley and Nagel are both on record for saying that sort of thing.

Now, if the movie had said this was true of every atheist, that would have been wrong. It didn’t. Prof. Radisson was portrayed as one particular professor with a particular history. He wasn’t portrayed as representing every atheist professor who ever taught. And these filmmakers were not quite the first ever to portray someone in a negative light.

Then the professor  asks, “Who Really Are the Humble Ones More Likely to Say “I Don’t Know”? The Christians or the atheists?”

Gee, I don’t know.

Fincke acts as if he does, even though he provides no sociological or psychological research data. That might have been helpful. But even though he indicates no plausible reason to show he knows the answer, he does not say, “I don’t know.” Interesting.

He’s not done yet. Not even close. Can you believe it? And here’s the amazing thing: he keeps forcing topics into the discussion as if they’re connected to the film when they are not. Case in point: “Why Do Some Atheists Say They Do Know There’s No God? Are Atheists Hypocritically People of Faith Too?”

That’s not in the movie. I don’t know why he bothered bringing it up.

Going on (and on, and on…) Next point from the prof: “If Antitheists Are Bad People, Evangelicals Are Downright Awful”

Really, now. What’s his movie-associated reason for bringing that in?

Why should civil but adamant atheists have to be any less aggressive about promoting our views and values than you are about promoting yours? Why is it a-okay for Josh to explicitly seek to use his philosophy class to preach Jesus but it’s not okay for an atheist to challenge a student’s Christian faith?

Here’s the problem with that: Prof. Radisson, in the movie, didn’t promote any views or values. He  demanded that his students adopt his, so as to be able to “dispense with needless debate.” Josh Wheaton promoted his, yes, but he wasn’t aggressive about it. He did it reluctantly and by invitation only. This complaint by Fincke has nothing to do with the movie. Nothing. Class, repeat with me: “I don’t know why he bothered bringing it up.

Next, “If Professor Radisson’s A Bad Guy, The Christian God is the Worst Possible Bad Guy.”

When you loathe the way Professor Radisson leverages his power to pick on someone smaller than him, you should be loathing your God for doing that to the humans He creates and demands obedience from. When you’re appalled at Radisson’s jealousy and vindictiveness, you should disown when your own God call himself a jealous God who punishes those who don’t worship Him singlemindedly.

Also, he tells us, we who defend God’s goodness are ignoring “all the clear counter-evidence and warping all your moral judgments accordingly, even if it means making excuses for the most heinous crimes imaginable.”

Here Fincke demonstrates his ignorance of God’s goodness and of the reasons for which Christians worship him. It’s a complete straw man distortion of who God is, according to our understanding. (Remember, though, he doesn’t disagree with Christianity for emotional reasons!) 

Do you think Fincke might have an attitude toward God? Check out his other post titled, “The Atheist Philosophy Professor Strikes Back! (Or, “You’re Right, God’s Not Dead, But He Will Be When I’m Done With Him!”). This is not funny, friends.

Then there’s the “God of the Gaps and the Origin of Life”.

Wheaton tries to argue that because scientists do not have an account yet of the origin of life that perhaps it was God that originated it. What is so tedious about this is that it is a “God of the Gaps” argument antithetical to the entire spirit of science.

Ah, the spirit of science. What a happy choice of words! All I have to do is capitalize them: Why fill the gap with God, when we have the Spirit of Science to fill it instead!

Next topic: “Why Explaining Evolution with God is Anti-Science”

Ready, class? “I don’t know why he bothered bringing this up.” No one in this film tried to explain evolution with God. Maybe Fincke doesn’t know the difference between origin-of-life and evolution, but at least Josh Wheaton did.

Next, as if the whole article wasn’t long enough, Fincke gives us a subject heading long enough to be its own article: “How Science and Philosophy Vindicate Metaphysical Naturalism and the Existence of Religious Scientists Doesn’t Vindicate Theism.” He tells us, for example,

[Religious apologists] accuse metaphysical naturalism of being an unwarranted assumption. But I see it as a finding, an inference we have come to (rather than assumed) by seeing the enormous explanatory power that opens up when we assume that nature is all there is. If that holding that position is so unprecedentedly powerful for generating truths in the laboratory, why not think it’s because it’s also metaphysically true.

This part is funny. I’d like to see just where in the laboratory anyone has run a test on these two conditions: one where God exists, and one where God doesn’t exist. That’s how science is done, you know. That could lead to a proper scientific finding. I don’t think it’s actually been tried, though, strange to say.

To say that the success of science demonstrates metaphysical naturalism is to ignore all kinds of other reasonable alternatives, including, yes, standard Christian theism. Metaphysical naturalism is a metaphysical, not a scientific, belief.

Oh, and by the way, this topic wasn’t in the movie. Join with me now: I don’t know why he bothered bringing it up.

Under the question, “Is Philosophy Dead,” Fincke complains, “This is basically a philosophy class that has no interest in philosophy itself.”

Actually, Prof. Fincke, this is not a philosophy class with no interest in philosophy. It’s a movie. It’s two hours of drama that cover at least five different parallel plots, and even the philosophy-class plot takes place mostly outside the classroom.

He says the “real action is in science” in this film. Sure. Why not? It’s a first-semester philosophy class, and it’s also a movie being shown to non-philosophers who know a lot more about science than they know about Nietzsche, Sartre, or Derrida. I suspect the producers wanted it (a) to be realistic to a first-semester situation, and (b) not to be a total dud of a movie that no one wanted to watch.

But maybe, just maybe, Fincke wasn’t so concerned about responding to the movie. (What was my first clue?) Maybe he was more concerned about showing that God’s existence can’t be so easily proved. So let’s go on and consider his next major subheading: “Why The Film Didn’t Actually Care About Proving God’s Existence.”

(Anyone see the irony? Need help? See the title of this blog post.)

Under this heading he writes,

The film, like, in my reading, much of the Bible, assumes almost everyone believes in God and that the real challenge of faith is the challenge to trust God. The filmmakers then treat all the atheists (except possibly Mark, played by Dean Cain) like secret Christians in denial.

Also except for the other faculty members at the dinner party. And Amy. And Martin. And Martin’s father. That is (by a certain way of looking at it), it treats one atheist as a secret Christian in denial. That covers all the atheists in the movie, except for all the other atheists in the movie.

We’re getting close. We’ve made it through more than 12,250 words of Fincke’s fisking. Now for (cue ominous music) “The Problem of Evil.” Fincke thinks  the film’s answer to this problem is inadequate and the discussion is cut short. Yes, it’s too true: his expectations of a full Blackwell’s Companion discourse were dashed.

Finally (yes, he uses that word, too) he turns to “The Appeal to Need for Absolute Morality”. Here I caught the same oddity that Fincke did. Professor Radisson had never identified himself on screen as a moral relativist, but Josh Wheaton argues with him as if he were. Moral relativism can be found among philosophy profs, but it’s a minority position.

But we’ve already seen how Fincke has no trouble finding things in the movie that aren’t there. He does it again here, objecting to the idea of associating moral objectivity with absolutism.  That’s not in the movie. Ready? “Why did he bother bringing it up?”

In Fairness to Dr. Fincke

Now, in fairness to Professor Fincke, I have to admit I’ve touched too lightly over something he explained at the top of the post.

This post turned out to be not just a movie review but a nearly comprehensive counter-apologetics case that I intend to refer Christians to in the future. For both those future and current readers, here is a Table of Contents, with links, so you can jump to the section that interests you most if you do not have time to read all ~12,000 [sic–actually 13,500-plus] words.

True, it wasn’t “just” a movie review. That’s a true statement. It’s grossly understated, but that alone doesn’t make it false.

In fact, whole wide swaths criss-crossing his “not-just-a -eview” had nothing whatever to do with the movie. Yet the title remained, “A Philosophy Professor Analyzes God’s Not Dead’s Case for God,” — even though the case for God he analyzed was in large part stereotyped, and in large part a straw man distortion. In some some cases he twisted things so far out of recognition that it was more of a straw oil tank or something else besides a straw man. In almost every case he gets the movie wrong, distorting its intention or its message. He gets Christian theology wrong, too.

If you ask me, he even gets the whole concept of a movie wrong. That part should have been the easiest of all. I guess it bothered him (maybe this is why he kept bothering us!) that the movie presented a message. So instead of treating it as a movie, he treated it as if it were pure message. He got up on his soapbox, and stayed there until his legs got tired. Finally he got done.

Finally I’m done too.

There are so many topics in this post, I can’t imagine how we could have a focused conversation on it. Talk about whatever you like, only be civil and substantive, and at least loosely connected to what’s gone on before.

P.S. Concerning Daniel Fincke

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42 Responses to “ Why Professor Fincke’s Analysis of “God’s Not Dead” Didn’t Actually Care About What the Movie Was About ”

  1. There hardly seems any point discussing such a long diatribe.

    The good thing is that many people are talking about and discussing the movie, including atheists. That’s a lot better than it being ignored!

    Similarly for the new Noah movie. There’s plenty in there to criticize as a Christian, but there is a lot of discussion going on about Noah and the Bible as a result – a good thing in my opinion.

  2. Atheists can be awfully exhausting, can’t we?

    I think it’s a drag that so many people who don’t think they’ve ever met an atheist will form their opinion about atheists based on this movie’s narrow portrayal, but what are ya gonna do? It’s a propaganda film, but so was Religulous. So is the cringingly self-serving Krauss/Dawkins doc. We all preach to the choir sometimes.

    Also: I get why Mike Licona spent hours putting the boots to The God Who Wasn’t There, but I don’t get why Fincke or any other atheist would find it worthwhile to break down God’s Not Dead with that much rigor. If you’re going to spend that much time interacting with Christian philosophy and you’ve got the expertise, why not go after a heavy-hitter like Craig or Feser?

    But that’s one of the upsides of atheism. You can spend your time however you like. So write on, Professor. (And on and on and on.)

  3. Blockquoted words are Tom’s. Italicized words are Fincke’s.

    Fincke goes into a lengthy explanation of “Why Leaving Theology Out of Philosophy Isn’t Persecuting Students.” This has nothing to do with anything in the movie.

    “Radisson nastily suggests to Wheaton that he may go back to his dorm room “sink to [his] knees” and pray all he wants on his own time and it’s none of his [Radisson’s] business but what goes on in the classroom is his business. Now, this is a really uncharitable and demonizing way to deal with a real issue that does come up in philosophy classes with religious students. Occasionally religious students think of philosophy classes as theology classes. They want to give theologically derived answers to philosophical questions. “

    The same goes for his next topic: “Philosophy Is Not Authority Based The Way Theology Is.”

    “In God’s Not Dead, the supposedly philosophical discussions hardly resemble philosophy. They’re citations of authority back and forth.”

    Prof. Radisson was portrayed as one particular professor with a particular history. He wasn’t portrayed as representing every atheist professor who ever taught.

    “So, sticking it to the strawman of Professor Radisson avoids honestly dealing with sincere and rational philosophers.” (Or, as a Christian reviewer put it, “I’ve certainly met an atheist or two who was more angry at God than generally dubious of His existence, but in a film about arguments, this seemed like card stacking of the worst kind.”)

    (Remember, though, he doesn’t disagree with Christianity for emotional reasons!)

    “it’s an evasion of all our arguments when you psychologize us in ideological ways rather than honest ones and when you confuse psychologizing us for refuting the force of our actual arguments.”

    Aah, the spirit of science. What a happy choice of words!

    (Won’t bother quoting all of Fincke’s other words on this topic.)

    It’s a first-semester philosophy class, and it’s also a movie being shown to non-philosophers who know a lot more about science than they know about Nietzsche, Sartre, or Derrida. I suspect the producers wanted it (a) to be realistic to a first-semester situation, and (b) not to be a total dud of a movie that no one wanted to watch.

    (Won’t bother quoting all of Fincke’s words on why philosophy is important. And for myself – Tom, are you saying that a movie can’t talk about philosophy and still be engaging?)

    You admit that Finkce doesn’t just tackle the movie itself, but the case inside the movie. Still, I think you “touched too lightly” on the cases where he tied his words directly into the movie.

  4. Tom,

    A quick perusal of Professor Finkce’s not-just-a-review of the movie reveals that he does not really understand Christian faith.

    Thanks for your excellent and articulate review of his not-just-a-review. JB

  5. Tom – Thanks for writing a response to this “movie review”.

    Jenna Black – Are you from Easley, SC?

  6. Ray,

    On leaving theology out of philosophy, I’m sorry, but Fincke stretched a hundred miles to reach that one and to suggest that it was “persecution” in the movie.

    On philosophy is not authority, see this in the OP, which applies here as well:

    Actually, Prof. Fincke, this is not a philosophy class with no interest in philosophy. It’s a movie. It’s two hours of drama that cover at least five different parallel plots, and even the philosophy-class plot takes place mostly outside the classroom.

    Professor Radisson is not a strawman. Professor Radisson is a character in a movie who was never represented as being an average professor.

    Read my lips, Ray: IT’S A MOVIE!

    It’s just as well you didn’t quote all of Fincke’s other words on God-of-the-Gaps. Then I would have had to explain to you how badly he gets historic and current Christian theism wrong there. God-of-the-Gaps is a strawman, and always has been.

    Am I saying a movie can’t talk about philosophy and be engaging? Heavens, no. What on earth gave you that odd idea???

  7. I almost missed this strange statement:

    “You admit that Finkce doesn’t just tackle the movie itself, but the case inside the movie.”

    Huh? I don’t think Fincke tackles the case inside the movie at all. He faults it for not being a multi-hour philosophy course that footnotes William Lane Craig, solves the problem of evil, develops the cosmological argument in complete detail, etc., etc.; That’s not tackling it, that’s standing on the edge of the playground and calling out “nyaah-nyaah-boo-boo, my philosophy course covers more ground than your movie!”

  8. Serious question time, Ray.

    When you sit down to read and to respond here, what’s going through your mind? Are you reading to understand? Or are you reading to find something to snipe at?

    I find myself sniping back at you, or at least that’s the feeling I have inside as I write. I don’t find myself doing that with other commenters here, at least not so consistently as I do with you. I’m asking myself, what brings me to do that?

    I don’t think the answer is completely in you: if I snipe at you, I’m responsible for my actions, and I own that. I’m not proud of it, now that I reflect on it here. But I don’t think the answer is completely in me, either.

    It has to do with what psychologists call cross-situational consistency. If a person responds in a certain way across a variety of situations, that person is demonstrating something fundamental to his or her character and/or personality. If not, then whatever that person is demonstrating is not so deeply fundamental to his or her inner self. It’s situationally conditioned.

    So, since I don’t react to others’ comments the way I react to yours, I’m wondering what it is about yours that differs from others’.

    I doubt either of us could see what’s going on here with anything like full objectivity. Maybe some other visitors can, though. I’m open to input here, friends.

  9. Tom,

    We used to have regular visits by the culture warrior who’s name escapes me but he was reasonably well known in the blogosphere, if remember. He stopped coming by once everyone got his act. Ray isn’t quite the culture warrior he was but I get the impression Ray believes his role here is to make sure absolutely nothing goes by here unopposed. No matter how obvious or trivial the matter or how far he has to stretch his argument to accomplish it. Would that be fair Ray?

  10. It’s worth owning up to the fact that I do get that same feeling when I read other sources, Dan Fincke’s “review” included among them. And yet I don’t have that experience with every atheist blogger.

    From my flawed subjective perspective, this is how it seems to me. It’s hard for me to take a post like Daniel Fincke’s seriously. Obviously he wants to be taken seriously, and he acts as if he should be taken seriously. He comes at it with a professor’s mien. There isn’t enough credibility in it to take it that way, though, overflowing as it is with so many obvious flaws and fallacies. H

    I think that’s what gets me about a Professor Fincke: the contrast of attitude and performance. He displays the self-assured cockiness of being convinced he’s right and that Christians are pretty much consistently all wrong (“hypocritical,” preachy, authoritarian, having a persecution complex, believing without evidence, manipulative, denying the validity of reason, nasty, lazy, using copouts, addressing only the weakest objections, exploiting emotional weaknesses, arrogant, dogmatic, triumphalist, mocking, “riddled with rational contradictions, anti-scientific supernaturalism, and historical fabrications,” living by an “arbitrary, culturally and psychologically engrained double standard,” “downright awful,” obnoxious, demanding, using “any emotional reason whatsoever” [Hah!! see chapter five in True Reason], following “the worst possible bad guy,” opposed to the “spirit of science,” stopping our curiosity with “God did it,” hurting the cause of science, …).

    Meanwhile he comes up over and over again with ridiculous howlers like the ones I named in the OP, not to mention others I passed by. Care for more?

    And when Amy really doesn’t know where to find hope, her honesty is not affirmed by the Christians…. [not true!]

    Christians sometimes try to solve this by saying God is not just “a” being among other beings by “nature” itself or “being itself”, somehow the being in which and through which all others exist. But that road is the road to pantheism. That is compelling only if we just make Nature and God synonyms. [Thoroughly confused!!]

    There is also a rational consideration that makes me a naturalist. I do not understand how supernaturalism can be coherently conceived. I do not know how anything could exist without a nature. [Huh? Who ever said that?]

    So he’s full of himself, and he’s extremely down on Christians, God, and Christianity—and he doesn’t have a clue how clueless he is.

    That gets to me.

    So, does this have anything to do with how I respond to you, Ray? I think so. Fincke takes it to an extreme. But I see you also being consistently confident in your position despite the fact that your positions are so constantly, easily refutable. You’re sure you’re right, but you’re consistently, demonstrably wrong.

    I think it’s that contrast that brings something unpleasant out of me.

    Now, maybe someone with more objectivity can provide a better dose of reality….

  11. It’s hard for me to take a post like Daniel Fincke’s seriously.

    Agreed. It makes me want to scream IT”S JUST A MOVIE!

  12. I find this whole episode to be amazing and amusing. Why are Daniel Fincke and Ray Ingles so obsessed with this movie? Why did they become so threatened and emotional even before either one of them had seen it? (Well, at least we now know that Fincke has now seen it. We still don’t know if Ray has… Ray?)

    I found this to be ironic: “Why Do Christians Say Atheists Disbelieve for Emotional Reasons?” I wouldn’t say that is true of all atheists but I do think it might be true of at least some atheists– like a philosophy professor who goes ballistic over a movie trailer’s portrayal of an atheist philosophy professor five months before before the movie has even been released. But of course not personally knowing any philosophy professors like that (not that I want to) I really can’t say.

    About a week ago I asked Ray:

    Why are you concerned about this, Ray? Whose beliefs are being attacked?

    (My point was that atheists really
    don’t have beliefs .)

    Ray replied:

    Well, I think it’s actually people who are being attacked…

    That’s a nice sentiment, Ray. So do you now believe that Christians should not be stereotyped or misrepresented in movies?

  13. Although if you permit me to play Devil’s advocate here for a moment, what do you (bigbird, Tom, whoever) think your reaction would be if the shoe was on the other foot?

  14. Search this site for my reaction to Religulous, which, by the way, was a whole lot more damning towards Christians than this movie was toward atheists: https://www.google.com/search?q=site:www.thinkingchristian.net+Religulous.

    Or try doing a search for my reaction to Dawkins’s extremely anti-Christian “Root of all Evil: https://www.google.com/search?q=site:www.thinkingchristian.net+%22Root+of+all+evil%22

    Those are a couple of good ways to gauge how I’d react if the shoe were on the other foot.

  15. Although if you permit me to play Devil’s advocate here for a moment, what do you (bigbird, Tom, whoever) think your reaction would be if the shoe was on the other foot?

    If the shoe was on the other foot? You mean like the literally hundreds of examples of Christians and Jews that Hollywood, both in movies and on TV, has stereotyped, misrepresented, made fun of, lied about, denigrated, ridiculed, and otherwise mocked. Gee, I wonder how I would feel.

  16. Hey, remember when you were slamming on JT the other day? Here, let me help.

    [when JT forgets to capitalize “Bible”]

    (Bible is a proper noun when used in this context. Oh, well; JT is only doing what many atheists do.)

    [when JT forgets to capitalize “God”]

    (“God” is also a proper noun in this context. Oh, well. Apparently it’s important to many atheists not only to denigrate God but also to violate what they learned in English class.)

    So let’s glance upwards and find this…

    Here Fincke demonstrates his ignorance of God’s goodness and of the reasons for which Christians worship him.

    “Him” is a proper noun when used in this context. Oh well, etc, and how could you denigrate your God like that, Tom???

    Matthew 7:5

  17. Although if you permit me to play Devil’s advocate here for a moment, what do you (bigbird, Tom, whoever) think your reaction would be if the shoe was on the other foot?

    Not a 12,500 word rambling essay, that’s for sure 🙂

  18. @Billy Squibs:

    Although if you permit me to play Devil’s advocate here for a moment, what do you (bigbird, Tom, whoever) think your reaction would be if the shoe was on the other foot?

    Have not seen the movie and quite honestly, am not very interested in seeing it — this is just a statement of a personal preference, not any slight on the movie.

    As for your question, given that in mainstream media a Christian is either all fluff or only fit for a portraying a Serial Killer or Paedophile or a Hypocrite (usually all three combined), I surmise that I would react fairly well.

    note: yes, I know, I am exaggerating. But not *that* much.

  19. I didn’t promise a movie review. I already did something more like a movie review in the previous post.

    The title of the post was clear, this was a post for analyzing God’s Not Dead’s case for God. Then, in the introduction, I explained my motives in writing about what I wrote about specifically. I said the film would likely inspire some young budding apologists to want to dig into philosophy and the case for God so I wrote them an explanation of all the things the film gets wrong about philosophy, both from how it works to the plausibility of atheism. That, and to point out the myriad ways that this “message movie” projected vices which are worse in Christians than in atheists onto atheists. So, this was an opening, using the film as a conversation starter that could hook the attention of people who might otherwise never find my blog, to address many misconceptions religious students might have when they have the fears of the philosophy classroom that the film was based on. And it was an opening to explain to them atheist positions on subjects broached briefly in the film.

    Those were my goals. Failing in providing a standard form “movie review” doesn’t mean I failed in them.

  20. I find this whole episode to be amazing and amusing. Why are Daniel Fincke and Ray Ingles so obsessed with this movie? Why did they become so threatened and emotional even before either one of them had seen it? (Well, at least we now know that Fincke has now seen it. We still don’t know if Ray has… Ray?)

    I found this to be ironic: “Why Do Christians Say Atheists Disbelieve for Emotional Reasons?” I wouldn’t say that is true of all atheists but I do think it might be true of at least some atheists– like a philosophy professor who goes ballistic over a movie trailer’s portrayal of an atheist philosophy professor five months before before the movie has even been released. But of course not personally knowing any philosophy professors like that (not that I want to) I really can’t say.

    I’m not threatened by the movie. I do however grasp that it is built on a fundamental hostility to people like me and I am indeed emotionally invested in defending atheism and philosophy against blatant demonization. My atheism has a rational basis. That’s completely consistent with my caring emotionally about what I see as the lies and manipulations of Christianity, its fear tactics, its encouragements to irrationalism, its mischaracterizations of everyone outside the faith, etc.

    I deconverted from devout evangelical Christianity. Christianity had an inordinate power over my mind and my life that it used recklessly and abusively. I have every right to be pissed off about that and write angry things about that. This is all wholly consistent with the process of my deconversion being a rational one and my actual justifications for thinking atheism is true and Christianity is bad in many ways being defensible independent of my emotions.

    Why did I pick on a movie? Usually I don’t. Usually I just write about things in the abstract. But three of my posts on this movie are now three of the four most clicked on posts of my original writing in the history of my blog. I don’t say much that I haven’t said before. But the way of things is that people are more inclined to read your philosophy when it’s addressed to something that they already care about, like a controversy or a something else going on in the cultural zeitgeist. The immediacy of the cultural provocation makes things relevant to people that they wouldn’t see the relevancy of unprompted, in an abstract piece written out of the blue and totally in the realm of the hypothetical.

    So when numerous people were bringing this movie’s trailer to my attention, I realized this was something people were interested in my thoughts on. It became a chance to write things I always say anyway but in a way people would be more interested than usual in reading.

    Then when I saw the film, based on the success of the trailer, I saw the opening, with people paying attention, to make a large, broad defense of philosophy and repository of counter-apologetics for Christians who want a serious atheistic challenge to look at.

    And it worked!

    So, yeah, this was not just an emotional meltdown here.

  21. Thank you for dropping by, Dr. Fincke.

    My own biggest question for you wasn’t about why you were so concerned about the movie. It had more to do with what you wrote about it, and about Christianity. Your motivations are what they are. Your reasons are what they are. Your reasoning is what it is, and as I’ve noted in this post, your reasoning leaves much, unfortunately, to be desired.

  22. Tom –

    Professor Radisson is not a strawman. Professor Radisson is a character in a movie who was never represented as being an average professor.

    A lot of people, Christians included, think that he was a poorly drawn character. Compare, say, Shylock – the Bard never claimed that he was representative of Jews, either, but sympathetic readings of the character had to wait until the 19th century and it’s been used by anti-semites since the play was written.

    I’m not claiming that “God’s not Dead” has to aspire to match Shakespeare, just pointing out that even the very best writers can have problems fairly presenting people they disagree with.

    Read my lips, Ray: IT’S A MOVIE!

    That you brought up and pointed out as a “must-see movie” that’s “authentic”. If you don’t want anyone to disagree with that, you might want to include a note or something.

    When you sit down to read and to respond here, what’s going through your mind? Are you reading to understand? Or are you reading to find something to snipe at?

    To understand, and to be understood. You feel that I and others atheists misrepresent you and many other Christians. On the other hand, I feel that you and many other Christians misrepresent me and other atheists. Unfortunately, both can be true…

    So, since I don’t react to others’ comments the way I react to yours, I’m wondering what it is about yours that differs from others’.

    Possibly they make points that are harder to dismiss? 🙂 Or perhaps it’s just a communication issue.

    But I see you also being consistently confident in your position despite the fact that your positions are so constantly, easily refutable.

    Obviously, another thing we disagree about is the difference between disagreement and refutation.

  23. Thank you, Ray, for your opinions on the movie.

    I’m glad you put a smiley face after “Possibly they make points that are harder to dismiss?”

  24. BillT –

    I get the impression Ray believes his role here is to make sure absolutely nothing goes by here unopposed. No matter how obvious or trivial the matter or how far he has to stretch his argument to accomplish it. Would that be fair Ray?

    What I said last time:

    I think what’s going on is that we have very different worldviews – ‘paradigms’ if you like Kuhn’s terminology – and we have a lot of difficulty talking across the gap. You assume bad faith, but I’d like to point out that I don’t ‘pick fights’ about Christian doctrine, or simple expressions of opinion. When I think you’re wrong about something that I know something about, I’ll speak up. And, of course, I don’t think this is ‘beyond my education’ so much as my words don’t fit your preconceptions. (And, sadly, often vice-versa.)

  25. JAD –

    So do you now believe that Christians should not be stereotyped or misrepresented in movies?

    Why is that word ‘now’ there? Is this a ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ kind of thing? Or can you actually point to a case of me advocating for stereotyping and misrepresenting Christians in movies? If you could, I admit I’d be fascinated to see it.

    As it happens, I don’t think Christians – or anyone – should be misrepresented in movies – or other media. I get annoyed when movies muck up history without need or screw up science when they don’t have to.

    For example, I thought the first book of Pullman’s “Dark Materials” was quite good. The second was still pretty decent, but the third suffered from a terrible case of Writer On Board. I was more or less relieved that the movie version didn’t do well, just to avoid what the franchise would have become.

  26. Here’s a copy of the comment I left on Dr. Fincke’s page, linked in the previous comment:

    I welcome any reader to visit the page you called “nitpicking,” Dr. Fincke, and to see that my response covered more than “the fact that [you] address issues not explicitly raised in the film.” For example:

    – Christians’ openness to questions
    – God’s goodness
    – Metaphysical naturalism

    But in general, I find your criticism of my blog post ironically similar to your criticism of the movie: “rather than writing detailed responses to many (or even a manageable few) of my ideas….” You were also concerned about the movie’s lack of detailed arguments. But your post was 13,600 words long. A detailed response even to one of your subheadings would have required a full-length blog post. I could have chosen to do that, or I could have chosen to survey your long post. I chose the latter.

    Maybe you think I made the wrong choice, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find some moral or rational basis for that opinion. It’s a matter of preference, I think. You say I put “a lot of energy into pointing out that [you] didn’t write a proper movie review but talked about things not there.” Since this had every appearance of a movie review, I thought it appropriate to respond to it as such.

    Meanwhile, thank you for your assurance that you have a bad opinion of some atheists as well as “Christian culture”, the members of which (from this post) have an “anti-intellectual, anti-philosophical, anti-secular persecution complex,” have a “revenge fantasy,” need a “safety blanket” for our “intellectual insecurities,” and are “fearful,” “paranoid,” “manipulative,” and “domineering.” I haven’t studied what you’ve written about atheists, but maybe you’re an equal-opportunity critic. Does this really, mean, though, that you’re trying hard not to look like a stereotyper?”

  27. Well, I’ll be darned. After a bit of searching around, and contrary to what I was taught growing up, most style guides (both secular and religious) do not require the capitalization of pronouns when referring to God.

    I apologize for sniping at you. I mean, sniping and nitpicking is something of the theme on this thread, but I should have paused before doing it. It looks like perhaps you should have, as well.

  28. Let’s compare just the first sentences from each post.

    Tom, from your first sentence you slighted Dr. Fincke. I don’t know if you get many participants here who qualify as well as he does as an actual professor of philosophy (not one “of sorts”). If you choose to disrespect him in every other way, perhaps you should at least respect that!

    Dr. Fincke’s first sentence was “This post turned out to be not just a movie review but a nearly comprehensive counter-apologetics case that I intend to refer Christians to in the future.”. He reviews the movie, in the sense that he reviews topics that the movie covers, and adds some other stuff…. and yet you malign him for doing those very things that he said he would! You focused on the first phrase and ignored the rest!

    He addresses some apologetics, and in some cases he doesn’t touch on them at all. But oh, because he didn’t speak to the apologetics in every single instance, much less your particular theology and understanding of God, he’s constructing straw men and distorting Christian doctrine?

    …all this, and you’re the one speaking about straw men and distortion?

  29. Hey, you’re the one who cast someone with a stereotype (because of course all atheists don’t capitalize “God” or “Bible”). You made that judgement call based on your preconception – just as I made a similar call based on one of my preconceptions. Turns out we were both wrong.

    The fact is that if there’s bickering and sniping and distortion and straw men, it’s because you set the tone for it from the very first sentence of your post. I’m still thinking of the “let’s-ask-atheists-to-build-a-bridge-together-while-insulting-them-until-they-don’t-want-to-then-decrying-them-for-not-meeting-us-halfway” post a little while back – is this a trend for you? I don’t read every post you make, so I’m not entirely certain.

  30. Now that I think about it, wasn’t that post about respecting people’s humanity even when looking past disagreements? Yet here you slight Dr. Fincke as a human being.

    That’s why this hasn’t come across to me as a “thinking Christian” post; it’s largely come across as petty.

    I mean, you’ve dedicated a whole post to quote-mining him and pulling the words that he uses out of context. Isn’t that supposed to be a no-no in serious debate?

  31. Sault, @#34,

    Daniel Fincke has been an adjunct professor and an award-winning graduate student. In 2014 he gave up adjunct teaching, according to the linked page, “to focus exclusively on his own online classes and other philosophical services which you can sign up for.”

    He was never a tenure-track professor, and he is not currently employed by any educational institution, according to his own website.

    All of this was information you could have discovered by clicking the link there.

    In #36, you say,

    Hey, you’re the one who cast someone with a stereotype (because of course all atheists don’t capitalize “God” or “Bible”).

    The passages you’re referring to there read,

    Bible is a proper noun when used in this context. Oh, well; JT is only doing what many atheists do…. “God” is also a proper noun in this context. Oh, well. Apparently it’s important to many atheists not only to denigrate God but also to violate what they learned in English class.

    When, Sault, did “many” come to mean “all”? I made a distinction there which you distorted. Also, for the second time, see here. I did make a mistake with JT, and I corrected it. But it wasn’t the mistake you claim it was, and it’s quite uncharitable for you to continue hammering me with it after I’ve corrected myself for the mistake that it was.

    The fact is that if there’s bickering and sniping and distortion and straw men, it’s because you set the tone for it from the very first sentence of your post.

    I see. Apparently, then, this earlier material from Professor Fincke had nothing to do with setting the tone. (Quote-mining? No.)

    Look, Sault, if you can find someplace where I insulted him in this post, I’ll post a retraction with an apology. I have made a commitment to make this blog safe for humans, but as I wrote there, I have made no commitment to making it safe for ideas that need challenging. “Ideas are not humans. We can feel free as always to challenge and even attack others’ ideas.” I extended that to include, “Ideas that lead to behaviors and character traits are fair game.”

    If I have attacked Prof. Fincke rather than his ideas or their negative effects (including the most obvious one, his stereotyping), then I have violated my standards. I don’t know where I have done that. Please feel free to show me, but be specific. (Again, professor “of sorts” was not an attack, it was an accurate evaluation of his professorial status.)

  32. Again, professor “of sorts” was not an attack, it was an accurate evaluation of his professorial status.

    I’m willing to be charitable and assume that you meant nothing malicious, but addressing Dan as “Professor” with that immediate parenthetical is pretty underhanded. If you simply meant that he isn’t currently employed as a philosophy professor by an accredited institution, then “of sorts” is one of the worst ways you could have said that. You could have said “Former professor” or “Freelance professor” or even something simple and descriptive like “Philosophy blogger and teacher.” “Of sorts” implies that he’s not a real professor, which is dismissive whether you intended it or not. (And that is all separate from the fact that his current employment status is not at all relevant to the arguments, as you should well know. The fact that you thought it important to include the detail at all, regardless of the method, seems telling.)

  33. TCC, I did not intend it as underhanded. I apologize for communicating it in such a manner that it could be construed that way.

    I have to admit, I do not know what “freelance professor” means. “Philosophy blogger and teacher” would have been accurate, but Prof. Fincke titled his post, “A Philosophy Professor Analyzes God’s Not Dead’s Case For God.” He himself drew attention to his professorial status.

    I called him “Professor Fincke” multiple times in this blog post without further complaint or criticism. Again, I regret not communicating more effectively and carefully than I did at the beginning.

  34. I don’t understand how you can argue that the negative stereotypes of atheists in this film are acceptable simply by saying “It’s just a movie!”

    It is not merely that Prof. Radisson is an incredibly inaccurate portrayal of an atheist professor, bad as that is. It’s that *every* notable atheist in the movie is portrayed in a negative light unless they’re actually just pre-Christians. The movie has a message and it is trying to portray itself as seriously presenting a case for God. But by having a whole pack of negative and stereotyped characters as atheists, it’s hard not to see it as an attack on atheists.

    Radisson is a bully and a crappy professor and is portrayed as fundamentally only pretending to be atheist, which he does because he hates God. His (presumably atheist) colleagues laugh at his verbal abuse of Mina. Dean Cain is basically evil. Amy is snarky and full of herself, ambushing Christians with ridiculous questions. Martin’s father is intolerant.

    The only positive atheist character in the movie is the Chinese student Martin, who barely has any characterization aside from being awed by “Mr. Josh’s” arguments. So he is not portrayed negatively – only because he is completely open to Josh’s arguments from the beginning. Likewise, Amy and Radisson only really get anything positive when they convert. In the film, the only good atheist is an atheist who’s about to become a Christian.

  35. One more point I might make is that Amy is portrayed as a rising star of the “New Left”.

    But no atheist or leftist I know would be impressed by ambushing Christians and calling them offensive for praying to Jesus on TV or singing Christian music. It would be seen as idiotic. Atheists care about mixing church and state, or people trying to impose prayer on us, we’re not offended that people pray in public venues or the existence of Christian rock.

    The implication that she would be getting millions of hits for her idiotic questions casts further negative aspersions on atheists. (And left-wingers as well.)”.

    I guess that scene was also kind of a whitewash PR stunt for Duck Dynasty as well, to pretend like they were actually just attacked for praying to Jesus. We all know why the Duck Dynasty guys got in trouble, and it’s not because they pray to Jesus (rather, it was about bigoted remarks about gays, sexist attitudes and nostalgia for segregation).

  36.