Last July, I was contacted by Brandon McGuire telling me about his new film. I ordered a copy and watched it to see how good a resource it would be for my Ratio Christi chapter or any other apologetics classes I teach. The problem I had when I watched it is that having recently completed a Masters Degree in Christian Apologetics, the material in the movie was too familiar. I wasn’t sure if it was too technical for a lay audience, or interesting enough. (Even your favorite song gets old after a while.) So I asked one of my Sunday School students to watch it with her family and let me know if it was helpful. She and her husband have several unbelieving children and relatives whom they invited to see it as well. Her nephew, an atheist, wrote the following review. I thought it was so even-handed and well written that I would share it here, with a few comments at the end.
“MINING FOR GOD” Documentary Review by John Regina
While being the first documentary of this sort that I have watched (at least in recent years), I found myself quite familiar with a good portion of the information and opinions presented, in particular the apologetics that were interspersed throughout. I rather enjoyed the seemingly random interviews conducted in public with (“non-expert”) Americans mainly during the first ten minutes of the film, and in relatively short order was under the impression that one of the film’s primary objectives is an attempt to clarify what it means to be a practicing Christian, as opposed to the many Americans that select their religious and/or spiritual beliefs a la carte (the term “cafeteria style” is used in the film) or have a misapprehension or otherwise vague interpretation of Christianity. I would have liked to see more of these interviews, or at least a more thorough investigation of the “70%” of Americans cited by the film that identify as being Christian.
Directly following the interviews the film’s narrative veers sharply into apologetics, sometimes for the better and other times not. I would consider the information presented in the film to be an entry-level, beginners’ introduction to Christian apologetics, because it covers much ground, including a cursory (although not detailed nor expansive) examination of most of the core claims that I am aware of. I felt that some arguments, as with some of the commentators, were more convincing than others. For instance, I felt that the ‘cosmological, “first cause” argument’ (for God) was summarized brilliantly, mainly by William Lane Craig- although he failed to address the opposing problem of “infinite regression” often cited by skeptics. However, I did not like the manner in which the “teleological argument (or hypothesis of intelligent design)” was presented, due to the Creationist/anti-evolution viewpoint that was briefly expounded upon (by the commentator Donald Williams). I feel that the “argument from morality” was perhaps the strongest, most persuasive argument for the existence of God that was presented, but am also of the opinion that too much time was devoted to the sub-topic of personal sin. Lastly, I found the viewpoints expressed within a couple parts of the film relating to pluralism to be intolerant and at odds with American culture. After all, our country was primarily founded on secular values, and however Christian our nation may be, we should hold firm to our established right to religious freedom, even in rhetoric. Overall I found the film to be informative, well put together and great as an introduction to apologetics.
I really appreciate the tone of this review. I would just like to respond to a few things the author says. In response to the cosmological argument, Regina says “… he failed to address the opposing problem of “infinite regression” often cited by skeptics.” Note that in the argument from first cause, the first premise is “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” God, by definition, never “begins” to exist. For God to begin to exist, he would have to have a cause, which is greater than him. However, if there were anything greater than God, than IT would be God. As Regina noted, the film is a beginners introduction to apologetics. The discussion on the impossibility of actual infinites can be technical, and making it accessible would be lengthy. I discussion of this can be found here.
Regina thought too much of the discussion of the moral argument focused on personal sin. But the whole point of noting the existence of objective morality is that personal sin is a real problem, for which Christ is a real solution.
Finally, Regina seems to conflate the ideas of religious pluralism with civic pluralism. Religious pluralism is the claim that all religions are equally true and valid. However, logically the only way this could be true is if they are all false, since they make contradictory truth claims. Christianity claims to accurately describe reality. If it does, then religions that contradict Christianity are necessarily false inasmuch as they contradict it. Likewise, if any religion that contradicts Christianity accurately describes reality, then Christianity is false. Civic pluralism, on the other hand, is the view that each citizen has the right to believe what he wants without fear of government interference. Christianity is only “intolerant” in the way the word has been redefined to mean disagreement. That it is at odds with American culture, well so what? As for religious freedom, that too is a Christian idea. We share the Gospel with people. We do not try to force it on them. As to the “secular” values that America was founded on, even letting the claim pass, the values America was founded upon result from the impact Christianity has had on Western Civilization. More on that can be found in Glenn Sunshine’s fine book Why You Think the Way You Do, a review of which can be found here.
Once again I want to say how much I appreciate the thought Regina put into his review. Too often reviews of films like this from an opposing view tend to come from trolls. (I know, we have our share too.)