The movie's main plot line, while fictitious, is not at all far from reality. Situations like the one the main character, Josh Wheaton, faces are not at all uncommon. In fact, during the credits, a series of similar cases that went to court were listed for the viewers to see. And the level of intolerance toward Christianity displayed by his atheist professor, Jeff Radisson, are even less uncommon. While watching the scenes in which Radisson openly mocked God and believers, I was reminded of two passages in Scripture that shed light on this subject.
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools." - Romans 1:20-22
"Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water." - 2 Peter 3:3-6
Many of these verses were brought to life in this film. I pray that as families watch this film that parents' eyes will be opened to these facts and will be moved to teach their children apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith). I also pray that while students watch this movie, they will be encouraged and feel a new sense of boldness to stand up for their faith and defend the cause of Christ, as we are told to do in 1 Peter 3:15, and most importantly, to share the truth of the Gospel with others. One of the most touching parts of the film occurs while Josh is seeking council, when his pastor encourages him to debate Prof. Radisson so that his class would be able to hear the truth.
All that being said, I must warn you that many of the arguments presented in favor of the existence of God are not solid biblically or scientifically. In the first scene where Josh debates Prof. Radisson, Josh argues the following:
"Most cosmologists now agree that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago in an event known as the big bang. So let’s look at theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg’s description of what the big bang would have looked like. And since he’s an atheist, we can be sure there isn’t any believer bias in his description. “In the beginning there was an explosion, and in three minutes, 98% of the matter there is or ever will be was produced. We had a universe.” For 2,500 years most scientists agreed with Aristotle on the idea of a steady-state universe—that the universe has always existed with no beginning and no end. But the Bible disagreed. In the 1920s, Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre, a theist...said that the entire universe, jumping into existence in a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, out of nothingness in an unimaginably intense flash of light, is how he would expect the universe to respond if God were to actually utter the command in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light.” In other words, the origin of the universe unfolded exactly how one would expect after reading Genesis, and for 2,500 years the Bible had it right, and science had it wrong."
This argument is problematic because it is built on the wrong foundation--naturalistic evolution--the very thing Josh is trying to argue against! While some theists were involved in the development of the Big Bang, it is really an attempt to explain the the universe according to naturalism. Naturalism says that only natural explanations can be given for natural phenomena, thereby ruling out the possibility of the kind of divine creation described in Genesis 1! Contrary to what Georges Lemaitre said, the big bang doesn't even remotely resemble Genesis. The big bang completely contradicts the order and timeline of the events in Genesis (See above graphic)!
In the second debate scene, Josh argues against atheistic evolution, but leaves open--and even suggests--the possibility that God used a form of progressive (slow and gradual) creation or theistic (God-directed) evolution:
"You see, Darwin claimed that the ancestry of all living things came from that one single simple organism which reproduced and was slowly modified over time into the complex life forms we view today, which is why after contemplating his own theory Darwin uttered his famous statement, “Natura non facit saltum,” meaning, “nature does not jump.” Well, as noted, author Lee Strobel pointed out that if you can picture the entire 3.8 billion years that scientists say life has been around as one 24-hour day, in the space of just about 90 seconds most major animal groups suddenly appear in the forms in which they currently hold, not slowly and steadily as Darwin predicted, but in evolutionary terms almost instantly. So, “nature does not jump” becomes “nature makes a giant leap.” So how do theists explain this sudden outburst of new biological information? “And God said, let the waters teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems according to its kind, and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:20. In other words, Creation happened because God said it should happen. And even what looks to our eyes to be a blind, unguided process could really be divinely controlled from start to finish."
Josh is correct in saying that the sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record is an argument against slow-and-gradual evolution, however, he is incorrect in saying that this matches the description of the Fifth Day of Creation. On Day 5, sea and flying life was created and was said by God to be good. But the fossil record is really a record of the death of countless animals, which according to evolution, died millions of years before Adam's fall and the Curse. For these reasons, the fossils could not have formed during Creation Week. A better interpretation of rock layers and their suddenly-appearing fossils is that they are the result of the worldwide Flood of Noah's day. By his suggestion that, "...what looks to our eyes to be a blind, unguided process could really be divinely controlled...", it is clear that the filmmakers accept (and are promoting) some form of theistic evolution or progressive creation.
In the last debate scene, Josh attempts to answer the question of why God allows bad things to happen:
"God allows evil to exist because of free will. From the Christian standpoint, God tolerates evil in this world on a temporary basis so that one day those who choose to love Him freely will dwell with Him in heaven free from the influence of evil, but with their free will intact! In other words, God’s intention concerning evil is to one day destroy it."
Notice that, while this is an answer for why God allows bad things to continue to exist, it doesn't answer the question of why He allowed them in the first place. The biblical reason for why bad things exist is because of Adam's sin and the curse. Death, disease, and bad things are a result of Adam's sin. And yes, God will one day remove it. However, the compromised foundation upon which Josh builds his arguments can give no real basis for why. According to theistic evolution and progressive creation, God used a process of millions of years of death, disease, and decay to bring about his creatures, then called it "very good". So, why should God remove things like death and disease? There is no good answer, and this is one of the biggest weaknesses of this otherwise well-made film.
All in all, I recommend that Christian families watch this film, but afterwards, discuss the apologetics content of the film, filtering everything that was heard or seen through the lens of a biblical worldview. I would also encourage you to get equipped with answers to many of these questions by visiting websites like www.answersingenesis.org, www.icr.org, www.creation.com, www.creationtoday.org, and www.genesisapologetics.com.
Be sure to visit www.amatteroffaithmovie.com to find out about the upcoming film A Matter of Faith, which defends the faith both biblically and scientifically and proclaims the Gospel.
Thanks for reading!
~ Post Script: I do not recommend watching this movie with younger children, as there are a few violent and emotionally intense scenes.