Today the movie "Noah" is coming out to the big screen. And I want to share why Christians and churches should view this as a great opportunity to talk about their faith--and why it is foolish to waste time and energy attacking the film.
In our secular world, getting people thinking about God is a good thing. The problem with much of our culture today--and certainly where culture is going--is the almost absence of God from the public square. Where as presidents, school teachers, and other public figures used to quote from Scripture, pray publicly, observe Christian holidays, etc. (read some of George Washington's speeches, or that of Abraham Lincoln--they are God saturated), today, for example, Governor Scott Walker is facing being sued for tweeting a Scripture!
God talk is frowned upon or banned at work, on television shows, in neighborhood discussions, while waiting in line at DMV (maybe especially at the DMV, where cursing is much more the norm). The problem in today's culture is not getting some major theological position wrong. It is that our culture is not thinking about God at all. And having people think about God is a good thing.
Attacking the director for being an atheist is just plain dumb.From a missiological standpoint, it is mission suicide. The problem is that many Christians are living in a 1950s dream world, where they think that most everyone is Christian--that most everyone is part of the church. That is simply not the case.
**ALERT TO AMERICAN CHRISTIANS**- The US is a mission field!! Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5 that we are not to judge those outside of the church, but those who are in. Director Darren Aronofsky is an atheist. He is not a Christian. So we should approach him with love and kindness. You don't attack him because he sometimes uses bad language (shocking for non-Christians, I know!) or does not get the biblical story completely right. Why would he?
Now if one of our churches made this film, the director was a preacher and spoke like a sailor, well, it would be fair to approach the Christians that made the film in a kind and loving way. BUT DARREN ARONOFSKY IS NOT A CHRISTIAN! And what must he and other non-believers think of Christians from the attacks from the Christian community? The reaction that is happening publicly from many mirrors the unfortunate reality of how so many Christians approach non-Christians in their daily lives--attacking non-Christians for the language or dress or drinking because it makes them uncomfortable, rather than sharing Christ and being Christ to them. We preach Christ, who then brings about moral transformation, not the reverse.
A movie, by the nature of the genre, must fill in gaps in the biblical story. The story of Noah is only a few verses long, with a scattering of other Scriptures about him in other places. That leaves a lot of the story untold. Some would say that you should not even try to fill in the gaps, so a movie should not even be made. The funny thing is, these same Christians seem to love Charlton Heston's movie the Ten Commandments, which contains all kinds of filling in the gaps and additional sub-plots that are not in the biblical text.
And as a reader of biblical stories, I often wonder about the parts that are left out. I have an imagination. I sometimes think about things the Bible does not cover, like where Cain got his wife. I might even imagine some possibilities for this. Is sharing this imagination inherently wrong?
If so, then a lot of preachers need to stop preaching and ought to be censored, because the same thing happens in preaching all the time. Preachers ask people to put themselves in others' shoes, to imagine how they would have felt in this story, etc. And the movie producers added a disclaimer to the movie indicating that the movie was inspired by the biblical story of Noah, and that the original (much shorter) story is found in the book of Genesis.
This movie can spur people to actually read the Bible for the first time or to read it again to compare the movie version and the biblical text. That is what happens when movies about, say, the Lord of the Rings, come out. And yes, in many ways, the book is always better. But I appreciate the vision that Peter Jackson had in translating this book series into a movie version. I certainly believe that many people will watch this film and decide to check out the biblical story. At least, they will if encouraged to do this together with loving Christians who can help be their spiritual guide.
And believe it or not, many of the additions or filling in the gaps in the Noah movie are at least attempting to be based upon some fragment of Scripture or history of biblical interpretation--even some of the far out stuff. Take, for instance, Genesis 6:1-2: "When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose."
While the theme of overpopulation might not be explicitly found here, certainly the text points towards the increase in human beings on the earth. And there are interpretations of the "Nephelim" or "sons of God" that say that these were angels or angelic-like beings. Not all interpreters agree with this, of course, but there are both Jewish and Christian interpreters who have posed this as a possibility. The fact is, we don't really know what this verse means. If the director chooses a far out possibility like this, well, let's talk about it, see how he got there and why, and go back to the Bible and examine it again. Isn't that what we are supposed to be about?
There are enough biblical elements in the film for a great spiritual dialogue, and it may even cause some to examine their lives.We have done various movie outreaches at the churches where I have been, including the Narnia film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Passion of the Christ, and the recent Son of God movie. And God has used these to spur spiritual dialogue, invite people to Bible study or worship, and yes, resulted in baptisms and conversions. We currently have about 5 families in biblical study from the recent Son of God movie outreach--which took some creative licenses in telling the story of Jesus and filled in certain gaps as well.
Noah is an apocalyptic film in which God destroys humanity because of its wickedness. That certainly can make some people examine their lives. It may make some consider the path our nation is on, which is a path of increasing violence, self-reliance, and rejection of God. That could be a good thing.
I studied once with a teen who was not raised in the church, but who watched the Left Behind series. This apocalyptic series caused him to think about his life, seek out God, and start coming to worship and bringing along his mother. I was able to study with them both and baptize them both. Now, I don't think that the Left Behind understanding of Revelation is correct with the Rapture and all, but frankly, no one understands the end times perfectly, no matter what they might claim, and clearly God used this imperfect telling of the end time story to touch this young man's heart.
Finally, in examining how we should approach this film, I would point towards Paul's approach in Acts 17 in Athens. There in a pagan culture, he found a way to compliment the Athenians ("I can see that you are very religious"). And he found truth in a pagan poet when he talked about God, saying, "In him we live and move and have our being." This was not a quote from the Old Testament. It was a quote from popular culture. He then found an altar to the "unknown God," and used that to talk about the God of heaven. He did NOT attack them, attack the pagan poet and his "movie," or get onto them about their language.
What if we approached this film as a tremendous opportunity to engage our unchurched and atheist or agnostic friends about God? What if we invited them to look at the biblical account of Noah and see how it compares to the film? What if we talked about God, why he created humanity, why God destroyed all of humanity except Noah and his family, the faith that Noah had, the biblical analogy of baptism and the waters of the flood in 1 Peter 3, etc.?
Or we can just trash the film. Be reactionary. Attack the film maker. Tell our unchurched friends not to watch it. Gripe about the director's language. Attack people on Facebook. And miss a golden opportunity to engage people in a conversation about God, the Bible, the end of the world, and salvation.
What do you think is the best approach for individuals and churches for the Noah film? How can we approach popular culture more like missionaries? Can God use a film like Noah?
"Misaki I love I love everybody hope to see y'all soon keep hope alive and Bishop will see y'all in the future PS y'all take care of them young girls down there may God be with you all may God's face shine upon you and be gracious…"