"Noah" and "God’s Not Dead": Graceless and clueless

The main problem with “God’s Not Dead” is not its cosmology or ethics but its anthropology. It assumes that human beings are made out of cardboard. Academics are arrogant and cruel. Liberal bloggers are preening and snarky (well, maybe the movie has a point here). Unbelievers disbelieve because of personal demons. It is characterization by caricature.

And it raises a sobering question: Do evangelicals actually view their neighbors this way, as moral types and apologetic tools? Not in my experience. Most evangelical leaders and laymen I know would recognize that the line between good and evil (to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn) runs not between groups but within every heart — and that grace often moves in subversive and unpredictable ways. In general, evangelical lives are better than their art.

Here evangelicals could learn from Catholic writers, whose art was often better than their lives. Evelyn Waugh comes to mind. In “Brideshead Revisited,” the working of grace leaves everyone — Sebastian dying at his monastery, Charles and Julia forgoing their love — both shattered and transformed. In Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory,” a bad priest — the alcoholic father of an illegitimate child — unknowingly reenacts the Passion and becomes a saint and martyr while believing himself a failure. In Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation,” Mrs. Turpin — respectable, upright, odious — is granted a vision of souls climbing toward heaven in which the respectable come last and “even their virtues were being burned away.”

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