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Film / A Matter of Faith

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A Matter of Faith is a Christian drama film from 2014 by Rich and Dave Christiano.

When a Christian girl, Rachel, goes to college and starts studying biology, Stephen, her equally religious father, becomes concerned that her teacher, Professor Kaman, teaches evolution and not Biblical creationism. When an annual debate event comes up, the professor invites Stephen to debate him about which is true.

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  • Appeal to Consequences: Portland claims if evolution is true and there's no God, then moral rules don't exist, without accountability to anything. Even if true, this is irrelevant to whether either exist.
  • Argument of Contradictions: A lot of Kamen and Stephen's exchange devolves into this.
  • Big Damn Heroes: For the creationist side, when former professor Portland appears during the debate and takes over Stephen's place in it.
  • Cessation of Existence: During the debate, Kamen states he believes death is the end, to Stephen's dismay.
  • Character Filibuster: In the debate, after Portland takes over, he completely dominates it by a stream of long-refuted points against evolution, with the moderator just letting him do it. Kamen does not even attempt to answer them later when he's done.
  • Cool Teacher: Professor Kaman makes genuine efforts to make his classes interesting and seems well-liked by students.
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  • Didn't Think This Through: After Stephen makes a big deal about Creationism and accepting the debate, he later realizes he does not know enough to properly defend his side. He is later reading from a high school level biology text book.
  • Doting Parent: Stephen is this towards Rachel, going as far as confronting her college biology teacher. It could border on a gender reversed My Beloved Smother with how embarrassed she is by this.
  • Excuse Plot: The story of the film is really just there to present the filmmakers' idea of the evolution vs. creationism discussion. The actual debate takes up about the last third of the movie.
  • False Dichotomy: The only options raised in the debate are naturalistic evolution versus creationism. In reality, many believers take a third option of theistic evolution, claiming God at least started or perhaps guided the process. Of course, the film was backed by creationist groups which reject this, so naturally the idea isn't brought up.
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  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Discussed. Portland claims that even if the stars fell from the sky to form the phrase "God is real", it would still be deemed a trick by atheist evolutionists.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Rachel met Evan when they were kids during the scene shown in the beginning of the film, though neither recognizes each other as adults until Stephen tells Evan about it. This also adds nothing to the plot.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: The debate is supposed to be focused on creationism vs. evolution, yet it quickly devolves into the idea of proving God's existence. Not once does the moderator try to get the debate back on track.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Surprisingly subverted with Kamen, given that he's set up as the designated villain of the film. He's unfailingly friendly, patient and polite with others, showing none of the stereotypical traits. The nearest he comes is bruskly saying Stephen should "Wake up" and realize that there's no God or afterlife during their debate. Earlier he sincerely stated he's got no problem with Stephen's faith though, so this may have just been a bit of exasperation in their exchange, which had gotten heated. Despite the fear Stephen has, he never tries to convince Rachel and the rest of his students that his views are right as a result of the fact evolution occurred.note 
  • Informed Ability: Kamen is stated to be a skilled debater, but fails miserably in the film, not even attempting to rebut the points which Portland makes.
  • Jerk Jock: Tyler Mathis and, to a lesser extent, his group of friends.
  • Men Act, Women Are: Even though the film sets up Rachel as the main character, it is her father that has the problem with Kaman teaching evolution. From there the last half of the film focuses on Stephen and Kaman with their debate and practically sidelining her.
  • The Moral Substitute: Of a sort, for God's Not Dead. A lot of creationist groups had problems with God's Not Dead, saying they wanted to endorse but couldn't because the main character argues that evolution is true and compatible with Christianity. This film provides creationists with a similar film, but from a strictly creationist perspective.
  • Never My Fault: After Stephen barged his way in, tries to get Professor Kaman to teach creationism, and accepts Professor Kaman's offer to debate his side, Stephen seems to treat it like he was forced to do this debate.
  • No Name Given: Both Kamen and Portland are only addressed by their last names.
  • Strawman Fallacy: Portland attacks many claims (such as evolution explaining the origin of life) which real evolutionary theory doesn't attempt to do (abiogenesis is a separate field). The film has thus mangled the arguments which support evolution so badly that they are easily taken down by the creationist side. It helps that their advocate caves easily in the debate, without trying to rebut the opposition.
  • Title Drop: During the debate, Professor Portland calls believing in evolution or creationism "a matter of faith".
  • Token Minority: Portland is the only non-white character in the movie with a significant role.
  • Truth in Television: Not the scientific parts, but the parts where Rachel questions her faith after being taught about evolution in class seems to draw inspiration from a modern trend of college students who have grown up in religious households and been taught falsehoods about evolution learning about the subject from more qualified science teachers and, as a result, growing distant from their faith or leaving it.
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Stephen, Rachel and their family, alongside every major character, are overwhelmingly white upper-middle class American Christians. In fact, Portland was the sole exception we see.


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