I recently watched the 2014 Christian movie, A Matter of Faith. See here to watch the trailer. Familiar faces in the movie include Harry Anderson, who played in the 1980’s sitcom Night Court, and Clarence Gilyard, who played in Matlock; Walker, Texas Ranger; and the first two Left Behind movies.
The movie is about a young woman, Rachel Whitaker, who goes off to a
secular university to study biology. There, she takes a class that is
taught by Professor Kaman (played by Anderson), an evolutionist and an
Unlike the atheist professor in God’s Not Dead, Professor
Kaman is much more irenic and hopeful in his worldview. His approach is
to attract flies with honey, not vinegar. He gives students a “C” just
for showing up to all of his class sessions. He uses humor and visual
aids (i.e., the rubber chicken and the egg). He is optimistic about the
direction in which evolution could go, as he notes that people run
faster today than they did in the past. He is not against people
looking to faith for comfort, but he is happy when his students “think
for themselves” and question conventional wisdom. He did, however,
perform one act of intolerance when he first joined the faculty: he got a
creationist biology professor, Professor Portland (played by Gilyard),
fired for teaching creationism.
Rachel is open to Professor Kaman’s concepts, and that concerns her
father, Stephen. Stephen, notices that she has not looked for a church
yet, and he learns that she has not been reading her Bible. (He left
money in it, then the money fell out of the Bible when he later opened
it, showing that she hadn’t been reading it.) Stephen visits the
university to meet with Professor Kagan, and Professor Kagan challenges
him to a public debate over evolution vs. creationism. The university
regularly holds public debates, and Professor Kagan’s department is up,
so Professor Kagan has to find a topic. Stephen is reluctant to be in a
debate, since he has no experience doing that. What’s more, his
daughter, Rachel, does not want him debating in front of the school,
since that could embarrass her.
A fellow student, Jason, a Christian, works for the school
newspaper. Jason gives Stephen books to prepare him for the debate and
suggests that he contact Professor Portland, who refuses to help Stephen
because he is bitter about being fired. Jason also reaches out to
Rachel, telling her that Professor Kaman is wrong, and encouraging her
not just to “add” Jesus to her life, but to submit to Jesus. This is a
spoiler, but we learn later that Jason and Rachel crossed paths years
before, when they were kids. They were at the lake, a coin was on the
ground, and Jason took the coin from Rachel. Jason’s dad used that as
an opportunity to teach Jason that he was a sinner who needed a savior,
and Rachel’s dad used that as an opportunity to teach his daughter that
we need a savior because we deprive God of the glory and obedience that
The night of the debate arrives! Professor Kaman has his students
attend. People from Stephen’s church arrive. Stephen, in his opening
address, essentially says that what exists needed a cause, and that the
complexity and beauty of the universe could not have just happened.
Professor Kaman in his speech then says that there is laboratory evidence for evolution, and that the fossil record demonstrates evolution and the old
age of the earth. Stephen then asks Professor Kaman about God, and,
echoing Freud, Professor Kaman argues that people made up God out of
their insecurity about life and death and their desire for ultimate
justice. Professor Kaman then asks Stephen what proof Stephen has that
the Bible is true, and Stephen replies that he does not have proof—-he
just has a sense that the Bible is true.
Then Professor Portland enters the debate! He was sitting in the
audience, which was unknown to Stephen. Stephen lets Professor Portland
take his place in the debate, and Professor Portland gives a speech.
Professor Portland says that he doubts that people invented God, for
many would prefer not to believe in a God who would tell them how to
live their lives. Portland says that the laboratory results showing
that organic matter can come from what is inorganic is not an argument
against design, but rather for it, since someone intelligent, the
scientist, was conducting the experiment. Portland states that there is
an absence of transitional forms in the fossil record. Portland then
acknowledges that Kaman could come back with counter-arguments, and that
Portland could then counter Kaman’s arguments. According to Portland,
evolution vs. creation is a matter of faith.
Portland also critiques how he himself handled the issue as a biology
professor years earlier: he was proud, he said, and he tried to teach
students to believe in creation, when he should have presented students
with both sides and encouraged them to acknowledge and follow the
ramifications of their positions. Portland prefers the creation model,
however, both because it makes sense to him, and also because it has
better ramifications (i.e., hope). Portland then apologizes to
Professor Kaman for harboring bitterness against him all those years.
Professor Kaman is crestfallen after the debate, whereas he is
usually energetic and talkative. One can tell that he is questioning
whether he was right to be promoting atheism all those years.
Also, there is the sub-plot about a student trying to seduce Rachel.
I’ll stop here, for now. Sometime next week, I may share my reactions to the movie.
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