The God Who Wasn’t There is the latest attempt by the hyperskeptical community to advance the thesis that Jesus never existed. The DVD includes a main video, which is approximately one hour in duration and several ancillary files available to the viewer. These files include extended interviews from which Flemming selected portions for his main work, commentaries in audio format that mainly include interviews with Earl Doherty on his book The Jesus Puzzle (approximately one hour) and a second commentary, which is primarily an interview with Richard Dawkins with shorter interviews with Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and the Ranting Atheist.
Flemming regards these interviews as the documentary evidence for the claims he makes throughout his main video. One can also watch a PowerPoint type presentation with further comments, most of which are reiterations of what was presented in the main video. Finally, biographies of Flemming and his guests are presented.
Flemming is an amateur film producer. It will become obvious to all viewers that he is embittered against Christianity. However, his sourness extends to religion itself. In this review, I will comment briefly on the quality of the production and then move on to its contents
The filming is poor. This is most likely the result of Flemming’s working from a shoestring budget and either his inexperience or lack of gifting. The poor quality is sometimes distracting. For instance, in two interviews with Robert Price and David and Barbara Mikkelson, there is a distracting reflection of camera light and sunlight in their eyeglasses. In the interview with Price, the camera can even be seen in his eyeglasses, because it is directly in front of him. Changing the angle would have easily eliminated this. Flemming did not bother to straighten the tilted lampshade in his interview with Price. The quality of the filming reaches its low in Flemming’s interview with Scott Butcher. Because of backlighting, Butcher looks very dark. Flemming uses only one camera throughout his interviews and asks his questions from behind the camera, producing the impression that one is viewing a homemade video rather than a professional production. The graphics are very repetitive, seldom change, and are of a low quality. Yet, as we shall see, the film’s technical difficulties are the least of its problems.
The thesis of the film is that Jesus never existed. The first words that appear on the screen claim that the video is “a documentary.” However, viewers expecting to encounter up-to-date scholarly research will surely be disappointed. With the exception of a telephone interview with Richard Dawkins, who is not a scholar on the historical Jesus and is, therefore, speaking outside of his field, no major or well-known scholars are interviewed. Additionally, Flemming finds it difficult to stay on topic. His video goes back and forth between arguing that Jesus never existed and pointing out atrocities committed in the name of Christ, like the Inquisition. This flip-flopping between two theses is distracting, since his second and unstated thesis is unrelated to the first. It is as though Flemming is saying, “Jesus never existed and, oh, by the way, I hate Christianity and all religion.”
The God Who Wasn't There
Beyond Belief Media, 2005
Click here for the official movie website, and here for a clip.
Movie running time: 62 minutes; including special features: 259 minutes.
2005 Mike Licona
Used on bethinking.org by the kind permission of Mike Licona.
Other resources by Mike Licona are available from his website risenjesus.com.