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Film / God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

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The third of the God's Not Dead series, released in March 2018.

The film takes up where God's Not Dead 2 left off, with Dave arrested for contempt of court after he refused to turn in copies of his sermons. However, he's almost immediately released since the order's ruled unconstitutional. We see that Dave's church is located on the grounds of a public university, where many students protest it. The plot then turns tragic as someone throws a brick through the window of David's church, starting a fire which kills Jude when he goes inside. After this, the university decides to use eminent domain and take the property, sending David into a legal battle. His estranged older brother Pearce, an attorney, takes up his case.

A fourth movie, God's Not Dead: We The People, was released in the fall of 2021.

The film features examples of:

  • Artistic License – Education: Public or 'liberal' universities and colleges have chapels or churches on their campus (often holdovers from days when Christianity was the sole religion among students aside from a few Jews) and instead of demanding their demolition, school administrations have usually just made other changes (such as multi-faith worship spaces) as the student population diversified. In reality as well you would be hard-pressed to find a college, university, or any public school where no Christian students or groups exist and trying something like this would cause huge negative publicity.
  • Ascended Extra: Reverend Dave. In the first two God's Not Dead films, Dave was a Recurring Character in Four Lines, All Waiting plots. In this film, he's "promoted" to the main protagonist.
  • Black Sheep: Pearce, Dave's brother, is an atheist while Dave and the rest of their family are devout Christians from what the film indicates. He has been estranged from them for many years, ever since he'd voiced doubts about their religion which met with a poor reception (this only pushed Pearce into a total loss of faith). By the end of the film they still haven't reconciled, but it's implied the pair are at least back on the path to a relationship.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The film is much more even-handed in how it portrays the Non-Christians, presenting both sides as making reasonable arguments, rather than setting up easy strawman arguments for the Christian heroes to effortlessly knock down.
  • The Bus Came Back: Josh reappears in this movie, after having not been seen since the first one. It seems he chose not to pursue a legal career, and went into the ministry with Dave.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Prior to the third act, Dave and Pearce have a Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure which ends with Pearce storming out on Dave. Unlike most examples of this trope, the two do not reconcile by the end of the movie. In real life, it takes time for people to forgive each other and move on, especially after a major argument.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Adam is horrified when he learns that a brick he threw in Dave's church busted a pipe and caused a gas explosion that resulted in Jude's death. Adam was vandalizing a church just because of pent up anger over Keaton breaking up with him, but he didn't want to cause destruction of that level, and he certainly didn't want anyone to die.
  • Forgiveness: This is a theme in the film. Dave forgives Adam, and also his antagonists in general, making peace by the finale.
  • Freudian Excuse: Adam developed his attitude towards Christianity after seeing his mother disowned by their community for leaving his abusive father.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Adam lost his faith when his mother was mistreated by their church after divorcing her husband over his abuse. Pearce also apparently was rejected after he started asking difficult questions of Christianity, thus losing his faith entirely. This film, however, is far more sympathetic than the previous ones regarding them.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • The film acknowledges that there's no basis for subpoenaing sermons, as Dave is quickly released after the order's ruled unconstitutional. However, it's never explained just why they were subpoenaed in the first place-you need a reason for this. Further, although eminent domain can be used on a church, there is no way they could legally obtain a demolition order on the property before it was actually confiscated. If this had gone through, the university would have had huge liability.
    • There's no evidence for Adam's arrest either-anonymous accusations or mere suspicion won't cut it. Without that to begin with, even a later confession wouldn't be admissible. Assuming they had evidence though, it wouldn't be under Dave's control whether the charges got dropped-that is a decision for the prosecutor. Given that a man died, it's also very unlikely they would if a case existed (Adam could be facing Felony Murder, or at least manslaughter).
    • When a church on the grounds of a college burns down, the college attempts to use eminent domain to seize it and tear it down. Only a city or state government would have that power, not a school (the film claims it was given to the university, but that wouldn't happen). Plus, it was on their grounds to begin with, meaning they technically already owned the building and thus have no need to seize it.
  • Internal Deconstruction: The film deconstructs many of the themes associated with the God's Not Dead movies.
    • The previous two films' Black-and-White Morality, with all Christians being depicted as good and any non-Christian being depicted as evil, gets deconstructed. Both Christians and atheists are shown to be equally capable of committing bad deeds and the antagonists are all shown to have legitimate reasons for wanting to tear the church down.
    • The us vs. them mentality also gets deconstructed, as it's shown that this sort of thinking only creates division and further conflict.
      Keaton: You wanna know why our generation's leaving the church? It's because the whole world knows what the church is against, but it's getting harder and harder to know what it's for.
    • The persecution complex displayed in the previous films is also called out when Dave claims that a black preacher hasn't been through the struggles that he has. The preacher points out that Dave's struggles are nothing compared to actual persecution:
      Preacher: Brother, who do you think you talking to? I'm a black preacher in the Deep South. I could build you a church with all the bricks been thrown through my windows.
    • Related to the above, Dave's brother also points out that the church has a long track record of mistreating or excluding people and then acting innocent when said people push back.
  • Lighter and Softer: The film considerably tones down the persecution themes, showing some far more sympathetic antagonists, acknowledging there are legitimate grievances against certain Christians, and that the modern church has failed in many ways. It's also got much more humor and light moments than the previous ones. The ending is also not a straight Christian triumph, but a reconciliation.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Pearce notes that Christians have persecuted plenty of people themselves when arguing with Dave.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Pearce takes this view regarding religion, saying people have outgrown the need for it.
  • Playing the Victim Card: Pearce accuses Dave of doing this, reminding Dave that the Church doesn't exactly have a spotless record when it comes to persecution.
    Pearce: The Christian Church has a long history of persecuting people, and then those people push back and you guys want to cry "victim."
  • Strawman U: Hadleigh University, as with the first film. Of course, it's the same one which employed Professor Radisson. Apparently tons of students are opposed to the very existence of a church on its grounds.