Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah; Some Thoughts

Ok, ok, ok, let's all take a second and take a few deep breaths. There has been a lot of hate being flung at the new Darren Aronofsky movie "Noah" starring the very handsome, very manly, Russell Crowe, by many different Christian sources. Let's start off by addressing the topic everybody is dying to hear about, me. I want you, reader, to understand where I'm coming from. I do my best to avoid categorizing myself as this kind of Christian or that kind, or even identifying with a single denomination. I usually find it sufficient to say, "I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ" and then let my actions and interactions fill in the details. But, if I had to label myself I would say I am "reformed-charismatic". I hold to the traditional, orthodox teachings of the protestant church while at the same time being open to the unpredictable and amazing movements of the Holy Spirit in many different ways. While these two foci are not mutually exclusive, I am intentional about bringing the two together. All that to say I would not call myself liberal and I do not take liberty with the Word of God. So no, I do not believe that angles who wanted to help mankind after the fall were cast down to earth and imprisoned in awkward rock suits or that fallen angels can be redeemed (yes, all of which appear in the film).

I will add this, if you went to "Noah" the movie, expecting to see a biblically accurate portrayal of the story of Noah and the flood I have one question, "Since when does Hollywood do biblically accurate?" If you get your theology from Hollywood (even from films like "The Passion of the Christ" or "The Bible" miniseries) then we have bigger issues that we can talk about in another blog post. However if you went to the "Noah" film with the expectation that Hollywood would get some, if not many, things wrong, then I think there are many good things that God can and will use from this film. Again let me stress; I am not saying that I find no fault in this film, only that I expected it. And just like God can use us, faults and all, I believe God can use this film for his glory.Let me take the rest of this post to identify a handful of really positive things that can come from this film if we allow it.
  1. An Increased Awareness of the Self Sufficiency of God and Faith; "God does not need us", that statement is extremely sobering! God does not need you. He does not need me. One of the most pervasive sins in creation is pride, it infects and corrupts everything mankind touches. It is at the heart of all sin as we look upon the King of kings and say, "I can do better, my way is best, I don't need you!" But the fact of the matter is that we desperately need God, it is He who does not need us; He doesn't need our worship, He doesn't need our gifts or sacrifice, He is sovereign, He is over all and in all and can handle things on His own. But while God does not need us, for some amazing reason that I cannot comprehend, He wants us! He wants you! He wants me! Isn't it ironic that God doesn't need us yet wants us, and it is so often the case that we do not want God, but we need Him. In the film Tubal Cain, the antagonist, has set himself up as the king of a rebellious people he leads underneath the rally cry mentality of "we make our own destiny". This barbaric horde is set up in juxtaposition to Noah who serves the King of king with out question, in faith, even to the detriment of his own reputation and the loss of his greatest treasures. Hebrews 11:7 says "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." Noah's faith in the midst of a corrupt generation is certainly brought to the fore in this movie.
  2. Dramatic Portrayal of the Wickedness of the Earth; This verse from the story of Noah for some reason never finds its way onto the walls of nurseries, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart" (Gen. 6:5-6). Read that again. EVERY thought of man's heart was ONLY evil CONTINUALLY. Wow! Mankind was so corrupt in the sight of God that he regretted making us. Often times I find myself reading verses like this one and sterilizing them, not realizing the implications of the words. I think the movie did a fantastic job portraying the wickedness of man, and tastefully may I add, a verse like this could easily lead to an R rating, but the filmmakers were able to keep it to a PG-13 level and for that I take my hat off to them. 
  3. An Emphasis on Mankind as the Stewards of Creation; Ok, right now just go and read the first three chapters of Genesis. I'll wait...One thing that is clear upon a close reading is that God gave man dominion over creation, not to abuse it, but to tend and care for it. Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'"Then again in Genesis 2:15, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." We were meant to be stewards of creation, we have not and are not do this very well. The movie can easily be seen as a pro-green film by that crowd but I think that Christians need to be pro-creation. Our sin has not just affected man, but the creation itself groans in anticipation of redemption (Romans 8). In the movie the corruption of man has a direct effect on the corruption of creation. There is an emphasis in both the film and the Bible of the natural creation being represented of purity while industry based cities being connected to the corruption of the human heart, Eden verses Babel if you would. I rather enjoyed seeing this deeper element incorporated in the film.
  4. A Demonstration of Progressive Revelation; Did you know that Noah never read the Gospel of Matthew or John? Nor did he read any of Paul's writings nor any of the great commentaries that have been written about his life in the last two thousand years. We look back on the story of Noah knowing how it ends, knowing how its incorporated into God's bigger story, knowing how it's all tied into the work of Christ. We look back on the story of with a fuller revelation of who God is because of the Cross, Noah did not have this fuller revelation, he had to have faith in what he knew, or rather who he knew. The movie communicates this progressive revelation of God in some really neat ways. God is most often referred to as "the Creator" this is so astute of the writers when we realize that God's name He chooses for Himself (YHWH, I AM) is not given until many generations later to Moses from the burning bush. So He is "the Creator" because this is how they knew him and it comes across through Noah's character. We see an echo of Adam (pre-fall) in Russell Crowe's adaptation of Noah, he knows God as the Creator and sees his relationship with everything through that lens. God is the Creator, mankind is (supposed to be) the caretaker.
  5. The Inclusion of the Centrality of Oral Tradition; Church tradition says that Moses was the original and primary author of the first five books of the the Bible, the Torah. This includes a whole book that takes place many years before he was even born. How then were these stories communicated to Moses in order that he might write them down? It was through oral tradition from father to son. Some of my favorite parts in this movie is when the movie pauses while somebody tells about the Creator and all that He has done. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Psalm 145:4 "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts."
Now I could go on but I will end with this. Take a second and think about how many people were involved in the making of this film; writers, producers, actors, extras, cameramen, sounds techs, etc. Now take a second and think about how many of these people picked up a Bible and read the story of Noah. I'll bet good money that if Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, and Darren Aronofsky take their jobs seriously, they did. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." This gets me excited! Pray that the men and women who opened up the Word of God for this project will see the Love of God in what they have read. Pray for Russell Crowe. Pray from Emma Watson and Darren Aronofsky. Pray for Hollywood. That they may hear the words of love and truth from our Lord and fall madly in love with the King of kings. Everyone wants a king like Jesus. Use this movie as a conversation starter with friends and family who do not know the Lord and let them known that the book is way better than the movie.