(Photo: "God's Not Dead" website.)
A character who leaves behind his atheist convictions in the recently released God's Not Dead movie was inspired by the real-life Lasik and cataract surgeon, Tennessee resident Wing Mang.
Wang, a native of China, endured the country's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, which sent millions of its better-educated and professional citizens to hard labor camps.
In 1982, Wang immigrated to the United States, equipped with little more than $50 and a Chinese-English dictionary. He eventually was accepted to Harvard Medical School, from which he graduated with honors, and later became one of the first surgeons in the United States to perform laser cataract surgeon.
It was during his time in college that Wang, then an atheist, built a relationship with a professor who began asking him questions about God and showing him evidence for the existence of a deity.
"A Harvard professor, a professor of pediatrics, and a believer, saw the status of mind that I was in, confused and in crisis," Wang told The Christian Post in an email.
"He knew that because of his medical expertise, I would listen to him out of my respect of his medical knowledge. So he saw an opportunity, to guide and influence me, to broaden my understanding of life, to a broader prospective by introducing faith in my life which could help answer the questions that I had and for which I could not find answer in science."
Wang recalled a conversation where his professor asked him how he could believe that a car could somehow been created in the absence of a creator but yet assume that a brain had come about randomly.
"Right there and then, he opened a door, in my life, and I found God, found Christianity, that could provide the answers to the questions that I was asking. I have come to realize that faith and science serve to different purposes, they are the two sides of a coin: science is about what things are, and faith is about why things are," wrote Wang, who later received another medical degree from MIT.
Wang's Christian convictions later led him to found the Wang Foundation for Christian Outreach to China and Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration. Wang's organization provides pro bono sight restoration surgeries for both domestic and international patients from over 55 countries.
His story was subsequently recounted in the book, God's Not Dead, by Rice Broocks, the senior minister at Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville. The 2013 release tells the story of six former atheists who eventually found a belief in God.
In the film, Martin Yip, a character inspired by Wang, is played by Paul Kwo. Unlike Wang's relationship with a professor, Yip finds himself reconsidering his original stance on God after his classmate Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) defies his professor's proclamation that "God is dead."
Wang said it was "wonderful" see his story on screen.
"I have always believed that I have a duty, to help other students, to see that life is not just about science, it is about faith, it is about faith and science. It is about faith and science CAN can indeed work together," Wang wrote. "By conducting scientific research, guided by faith and a sense of purpose, we can solve the conflict, between faith and science, allowing them to work together, 1+1 will be MORE THAN two, and identify new and more powerful solutions, to the problems in our lives."
"This movie, will help me, in my continued effort to teach the students, to tell my life story, from science alone, to now faith with science," Wang told CP. "Believing in God, in faith, in research guided by faith, has inspired me to do all what I have done, medicine, charity, art… everything."
Wang also said while Kwo, "the Chinese student character," does portray part of his life story, the doctor also sees much of himself in the main character Wheaton.
"Some of the arguments that I made in the original book God's Not Dead, with regard to the evidence of existence of God, was put into Joshua's mouth, in his brilliant presentation of the evidence of existence of God. So, in essence, sort of half of me, in the original book, has gone into this main character Josh," he explained.
Over the weekend, God's Not Dead finished fifth place at the U.S. box office, earning just one percent less than the $9.2 million it brought in over its opening weekend when the film was released on March 21.
The small independent faith-based movie expanded its release last weekend by nearly 400 theaters and took in $9 million, bringing its total box office earnings to an impressive $22 million.
God's Not Dead was produced by Pure Flix Entertainment and Red Entertainment Group, directed by Harold Cronk, and stars Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) and Harper, a Disney Channel actor whose show Good Luck Charlie drew controversy earlier this year when it became the first show on The Disney Channel to include a same-sex couple.