Why You Should Embrace the Noah Movie

Noah poster

I am just plain psyched for the upcoming Darren Aronofsky Noah movie. As a filmmaker and as a Christian, no matter how many times Hollywood disappoints me I never cease to get excited when it comes to an on-screen adaptation of a biblical story. I never stop hoping. I love seeing my faith brought to life through art.

Of course, this movie is causing a lot of controversy in the Christian community for not being “biblically accurate.” Many people of faith are even publicizing their plans to boycott the film. Here’s why I think they are wrong.

Why the Bible Should Be Made into Movies–All Kinds of Movies

Regardless of your faith background, it is hard to deny that the Bible is one of the most influential (if not THE most influential) works of history and literature ever written. Ever! I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, or Atheist. This is a centuries-old fact of Western and now even global culture.

How is it right that less-important (though admittedly great) works are made into hedonistic blockbuster films a la Troy and even popular video games a la Dante’s Inferno while many believe that the Bible remains “too holy” to bridge this cultural gap? Why do classic mythology and literature get to shape our culture through the permeating medium of film and video while the Bible collects dust in a church pew?

The Bible needs to be made relevant, and little is more relevant to today’s society than the movies.

Why aren’t there more action films about the judges, the mighty men of David, the fall of Jericho, Elijah’s challenge, or the fiery furnace? Why aren’t there more classic war films about Saul and basically any Old Testament king or general? Why aren’t there more romances and dramas about the stories like those of David and Abigail or Samson and Delilah? Well-told stories like these could make disconnected, apathetic audiences relate with and invest in the characters, and maybe invest in looking deeper into the Bible as a result. That’s something I’d like to see more of–the gritty reality of inspiring biblical tales paired with solid artistic direction to make great films that people like.

I could be proven wrong, but I think Noah is that film.

Of course the production team has tweaked some details of the account to make for a more well-crafted story, adding characters and conflicts for depth and character development. Honestly, when doesn’t this happen in a historical account being adapted for film? Some of the details of reality are either dull and boring or just not conducive to being depicted onscreen. Filmmakers have been tweaking true tales for the big screen ever since Battleship Potemkin. It’s called dramatization.

Also, Paramount had the big-boy pants to post this “disclaimer” at the start of the picture:

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, was even quoted as saying that Paramount is “very proud of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.” How wonderful and once-unimaginable is it that a movie based on a Sunday School story is something that the most experienced and influential Hollywood bigwigs can be proud of? I find that amazing. What more could we want from these people? They are skilled media makers, and they are respectful of the spiritual significance of the Bible. They are bringing our Bible to life for a media-driven generation. They are making great art (I hope) with a great message. 

We have been asking for years for Hollywood to helm faith-themed and biblically-based projects. Now that they are heeding our calls, do we really have to complain about how they have chosen to do so?

Okay, so instead of continuing to talk about a film I have yet to see, I’m going to point you to a great article written for the Christian Post by John Snowden. NOTE: I have since found that this piece may have originally been written by Snowden as an educational packet to give to attendees of the NRB International Christian Media Convention.

This article is cool because, unlike all of the faith bloggers who have slammed Noah without even seeing it (?), author John Snowden has not only seen the film, he has worked on the production team as the crew’s biblical adviser. This concept is near and dear to my heart as the Christian film that I worked on a few years ago had a team of faith advisers who were very special people. I love the role. It is so crucial to the believable marriage of faith and film nowadays.

Anyway, here is Snowden.

———————————————————————————————

There has been no shortage of headlines in recent weeks about Paramount Pictures’ upcoming feature film Noah – with a fair amount of the coverage speculating about how closely or loosely the movie adheres to the story of the title character as found in the Bible.

Unfortunately, those who have felt compelled to criticize the film in these stories haven’t actually seen it – so it’s difficult to understand what exactly they’re criticizing. I have seen Noah – in fact, I’ve been working on it for the last two years as the filmmakers’ biblical adviser.

I will confess, when the studio first approached me about consulting on the project I had mixed emotions, weighing my caution of Hollywood’s ability to take liberties with stories and values against my standard for good theology and a healthy presentation of Bible stories, theology and mission. Paramount was adamant about having a practical, integrated adviser in the process from start to finish, which impressed (and surprised) me.

I read an early draft of the script and was particularly impressed with their exploration of judgment and mercy. I accepted the offer and quickly found myself fully engaged with the creative team, talking about Noah, God and Jesus a lot. And they listened. And asked more questions. I’ve read probably more than 10 drafts of the script, given longwinded feedback on each, seen every piece of footage that was shot and been flown around the world … twice.

With all of that work under my belt, and the March 28 premiere just a little more than a month away, I am happy to offer the following 10 reasons I believe we as a church can find very valuable reflections on Noah, God and theology in the film. This isn’t to suggest the movie matches everyone’s read of Noah perfectly, but it is a very worthwhile time to spend understanding how a couple of very thoughtful filmmakers interact with Noah.

1 – Noah Has a Relationship with God

In the film Noah, Noah hears from God at times, wants to hear more from God at other times, is directed by God, and acts singularly different than his contemporaries in following God’s directives. Scripture is overtly quoted by many characters in Noah. God’s words from the Bible are unmistakably a part of this film. The film is pro-God.

The Biblical text lists out what God said to Noah but never tells whether that was verbal or written communication, though most would assume it verbal. In our film, God gives visions to Noah just like God gave to several prophets and many key Biblical figures (Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and John to name a few). I pray one day my sons will dream dreams and receive visions directly from God, just like God promised us through His prophet Joel.

2 – Noah Acts Faithfully Yet Isn’t Perfect

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That includes Noah. It’s healthy that Noah struggles to understand precisely what God is saying, but, regardless, Noah trusts and acts faithfully. The struggle is not always easy to watch, particularly in the later parts of the film, but the values that come out of this narrative are special.

A woman in her early 20s whom I spoke with about the film (she grew up “churched” but is since disengaged) really appreciated that the film’s Noah heard from God but not in a simplistic way. It felt to her ironically accessible; since she’s never personally “heard” God’s voice, she felt a connection to Noah as he began to trust God’s vision.

3 – Noah Sees and Acknowledges His Own Sin

Noah sees his own sin as no better or worse than those who will die in the flood. This evokes the great scriptural dilemma: God’s plan to fill the Earth with humanity reflecting His glory has been promised, but our sin has stained the reflection of His glory in all of us. Four-thousand-ish years after Noah, Jesus did the work of restoration for us. Noah the movie agrees that we hadn’t earned our salvation back then either. Our long-white- beard, long-white-robe depiction of a docetic (proto-Evangelical?) Noah has not helped our kids learn that we’re all coming up short were it not for God’s grace. That ark Noah built is a gift, not our own proud creation, so that His purposes can be fulfilled through us.

4 – It Keeps Closer to More of the Text Than You Might Have Imagined

The film sticks to many key details from the Text. The ark set was built twice to full-cubit
scale, though not out of gopherwood. It depicts a global flood. No extra people survive the flood who shouldn’t. God speaks to Noah. Noah gets drunk. Tubal-Cain forges iron and bronze. Ham and Noah have a rough father-son relationship. Creation from nothing. Sin. Murder. Methusaleh. There’s a dove and a rainbow, two of each animal (admittedly seven of each clean animal was a detail that didn’t get communicated in the film), an olive branch and lots of water coming up from the ground.

Read the rest of the article here. It’s good stuff!

My Amazing, Ever-Changing Faith

faith in motionIn so many ways, I could deeply relate with this article I discovered about spirituality written by a gentleman who once authored a blog called The Agnostic Pentacostal. Interesting blog title, no? I was instantly intrigued by the concept. I resonated with it so much, as I believe it reflects much of the truth of my current situation as a believing Christian who is slowly becoming more and more willing–even eager–to admit those three scariest of words . . .

“I don’t know.”

Let me say up front that I have struggled with pride all of my life. Literally from infancy. I have wanted to be right more than I have wanted anything else in life for as long as I can remember. If knowledge is power, I was on my way to world domination. I just wanted to know all the right answers . . . understand all the mysterious concepts . . . believe all the important truths.

And that was what my faith stemmed from.

I was raised as a member of the Christian faith from day one. My parents were and are devout. They taught me unconditional love, but they also taught me right from wrong–and I clung to that. Now I didn’t just know the right answers. I didn’t even just know the right things to believe. I knew the right things to do. I knew everything that mattered.

Of course, as children how can we really know what matters? In high school and especially in college my faith was shaken by the simple and common experience of coming into contact with other people who “knew” what they believed just as much as I did. I experienced extreme stress as I wrestled with what I knew to be the truth, what others knew to be the truth, and whether or not any of us actually knew what we were talking about.

I became a debater. I thought it was my intelligence that made me so argumentative. Later I became willing to admit that it was my stubbornness. Looking back, I now know that it was fear.

Pretending that I knew the meaning of life or where I was going to go after I died forced me to pretend that I knew everything. Abortion, women’s roles in the church, sex, drinking, the afterlife–I was master of it all. I had to develop a persona–a fake me that looked like a girl thriving on confidence, hyper-intellectualism, and sometimes humiliation of people who pretended they knew were talking about. The girl was such a hypocrite.

I hated that girl. She had to go.

One day I had a conversation with my younger sister about a “truth” that we had been taught growing up that she had drawn a very different conclusion about in her adulthood. I was still clinging to my Sunday School lessons and was so ready to tell her how wrong she was. Then I had a thought– “I love my sister. Why would I hurt her feelings by telling her she’s wrong when I can’t prove that?” It honestly hurt me to think about it. “What if–what if she’s not wrong?” I swallowed my pride, smiled and said the unthinkable,

“You could be right. I don’t know.”

She smiled too and said, “Wow, you’ve changed.”

I can’t even begin to explain or describe the peace that has come over me since making this change.

All I know is that I like the me who admits she doesn’t know better than the me who thinks she does.

Now I don’t want to know the “truth” or the “right answer” nearly as much as I want to

  1. know myself,
  2. know the people of this world where I’ve been placed,
  3. and know the God who placed me here.

That is faith to me.

I don’t know why bad things happen . . . but I will praise God in the midst of them.

I don’t know if homosexuality is a sin . . . but I will not sin by casting judgment.

I don’t know if I believe in evolution . . . but why not? I have evolved so much myself in such a short time.

I want to keep evolving. I want to keep changing. I want to keep moving. My faith is a fluid thing, and I think my God wants it that way.

Why the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate Should Not Have Even Happened

I am a person of faith–a Christian, in fact. I believe in creation by a supreme being I call God. I may also believe that said supreme being used a process known as “evolution” to mature the world to its current state. I am, essentially, on both sides of a very contentious fence.

By all accounts, I should have been eager to watch the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate that was televised this past Tuesday.

I was not.

Not only was I happy to not take part in this cultural phenomenon, I wish that it had never occurred. I may be overly cynical, but I could not foresee any good that would come from it–and looking at the reactions that the debate has spurred, I can see that I wasn’t far from the truth. I am still seeing angry posts to news sources and social media almost a week after the fact. Friends and family members who have so much in common including years of history who are at each other’s throats because they disagreed about the outcome of this debate–it’s just not right.

Here is why I believe this debate should not have even happened.

1. Creation and evolution, like faith and science, are not mutually exclusive.

False dichotomies drive me crazy. “Either A is right or B is right! Hurry up and fight it out so the public can make up their mind!”

According to a survey by the Washington Post, 24% of adults believe that a supreme being facilitated a process of evolution. This theory is equal parts religious and scientific. It possesses elements of the tenets of creationism and elements of those of evolution. It is a well-balanced, faith-filled, reason-based response to a challenging question.

But this type of response is not sensational. The media is not interested in perpetuating this type of response or telling the stories of the people who believe it. The media wants a fight. Our society has created “sides” on this issue, and the media has jumped on it and refused to let it die because the fight is profitable and entertaining.

2. If an informative debate was the goal, it should have been between debaters with better credentials.

Obviously Nye is well-known in the science community. He’s the Science Guy, after all! But the fact is that his background suggests that he is an educator and entertainer moreso than a scientist. I’m curious as to why he was chosen as the representative in this “great debate.”

Ham may be the founder of Answers in Genesis, but how can one be a professional creationist? Shouldn’t he be an educated anthropologist or a theologian or (gasp!) a biologist before we consider him qualified to speak authoritatively on the evidence for creation?

Because of the (in my opinion) less than expert status of the people involved, this debate felt like little more than a battle of who believes in their worldview more.

3. This issue is absolutely beaten into the ground.

Tensions are so high on either side of this debate and have been for years. Continuing to argue this issue in the public sphere has further perpetuated a false dichotomy that creates a closed-minded “us” and “them” attitude. The animosity around the issue has caused people to be extremely stubborn about their current position to the point where I highly doubt that any debate could sway them. The vast majority of people who watch these debates walk away thinking that their “side” won! They hear and see what they want to hear and see.

Sadly, I think creationists are often more guilty of this than people who believe in atheistic evolution. When asked what could possibly change his mind, Ken Ham says “Nothing.” When asked the same question, Bill Nye says, “Evidence.”

What does that say about creationists? Nothing good. We/they certainly shouldn’t be debating with attitudes like that.

4. This issue simply does not matter.

I know I’m going to make some enemies (potentially on both sides of the debate) over this, but I am convinced that the origin of the world doesn’t matter a shred when it comes to our day-to-day and even eternal existences.

A friend of mine said it best when he posted something along these lines on Facebook:

“I don’t think there will be a ‘length of creation’ portion on the entrance exam to heaven.”

The truth shines brightly through his sarcasm. The state of our souls does not depend on our specific beliefs concerning the origins of the universe and/or the origins of our species. It does, however, depend on how we treat people. In the form that they have taken, public debates like this one are about being right, not about being righteous. They are about proving a point, not about communicating with a person.

I have a big problem with that, and I would like to see it stop.