Appraising ‘Noah’

633081cd-0426-3136-b274-745304ebca7cWith Noah coming out and setting all sorts of records this weekend, Christians have entered into a strange era in the history of popular culture in America. We are in a season when the entertainment world is trying to tell (and sell) us our own story.

The huge success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ set a new precedent in Hollywood. The industry found a mother lode in faith-based entertainment. $600 million is not going to go unnoticed in Hollywood. Whenever a big success like this happens, moviemakers study what happened and turn it into a formula for a rash of other movies that try to hone in on the success. The Passion created a new market. It brought people into the theaters who had hardly ever been there before. Churches went nuts. One church in Georgia has gotten into the act making its own widely successful movies. Facing the Giants and Fireproof have paved the way for Blindside, God’s Not Dead and Heaven is For Real, just to name a few.

Something about the world telling our story seems backwards. They’re finding parts of our story they’d like to tell; they are consulting with us on how to tell it; we debate about their chances of getting it right; we all go to the theater and judge their efforts. I remember when we were going to save the world with our guitars. Now the world is singing our song and I’m not sure anyone’s getting saved.

I think we need to look for a silver lining here. What can we get out of this?

If we are going to get anything meaningful for faith out of a movie like Noah, we need to get way beyond the “Did they get it right?” debate. Of course they didn’t. Christians wouldn’t be able to get it right either. Creating a two-hour dramatization of a story that takes up a few paragraphs in the Bible is going to be full of creative interpretation, whoever tells it. The value of dramatizing a biblical story is to help the story become more real and the characters more human.

Numerous times in my own work I have attempted to capture a biblical story in writing as a novelist would. In doing so, I place myself in the story – let’s use the Last Supper as an example – and I imagine myself at the table thinking and feeling with the disciples. What does it look like, what does it smell like, what does it taste like, what are the sounds I hear, and what must have been going on in the mind of a disciple? Will I be right? Of course not, but I’ll be close, and in the process, the story comes alive. The point is to identify with the characters and allow a one dimensional story made up of words on a page to become real in my imagination. The end result of this exercise is always to have my faith enriched as the reality of what had to have happened comes home to me. If it wasn’t exactly what I imagined, it was certainly something like that.

The other value of having a biblical movie like Noah get the media attention it’s getting is that the subject came up. The story of Noah is now a cultural event. You can talk to just about anybody about it, and when you do, the main themes of judgment and salvation are the ones that are most prominent. Imagine that: Hollywood giving us the opportunity for a cultural conversation about judgment and salvation. If God judged the earth once, He can do it again, but, just as in Noah’s day, the important thing is that He always provides a way out. Yes, He is a God of judgment (who would want a God who wasn’t?), but He is also a God of mercy, and He always provides a way to Himself through faith.

Like all Bible stories, this one, too, ends up with Jesus, and that’s where we all want to be.

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12 Responses to Appraising ‘Noah’

  1. Did it really happen? That’s the debate that is going on. I suggest not getting caught up in the debate but discuss what the story tells us about God.
    It didn’t have to happen to have biblical truth. As you suggested God is a God of judgement but if he really killed the population of the earth I think that’s pretty sick. I prefer to see it as a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. Christ being the boat saving us from condemnation. Genocide, even ordained by God is not something I could ever accept, Salvation, however is good news.
    Will people be lost? I suppose, I just hate it Christians seem so happy about it. Turn or burn!! 😉

  2. Joey says:

    I’m not sure what records it broke this weekend….which ones are you referring to? And you didn’t mention whether you saw the movie or not. Just curious 🙂

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    Wanted to thx you Pastor John 4 what I thought is a good, also fair and balanced reasons to at least discuss & consider seeing the movie Noah…
    PS I’m going to forward today’s Catch to a friend that we’ve exchanged a few emails about this movie – in the 1st he told was he wouldn’t go see it because God is not mentioned in this movie – I asked him then what about a whole book out of the Bible that God is not mentioned – the book of Esther..? Now he’s telling me because the director is an atheist – I was going to ask him, well plz tell me what reflection does that have of you and your believes? Yet I didn’t, yet think I’ll forward this to him.

  4. rdugall says:

    Great comments John…I basically tried to say the same thing on my blog. many don’t want to hear it…if it doesn’t fit in the “literalist” box, it is open for attack. I LOVE what you wrote about the fact that hollywood has served up an opportunity for the whole culture to talk about God and His nature. That is amazing…and a true gift! I can’t imagine how many people are dusting off or buying bibles just to see what the real story says…that is praiseworthy!

  5. Steve says:

    Depicting Noah as a crazed psychopath being driven first by a self-commitment first to a world genocide and then extend / depict that passion into even wanting to kill his grandkids was some gross rendering or interpretation of the story. Why would Noah even build the Ark if God’s intent was to wipe-out all of mankind as the movie tried to reinterpret the motives of Noah’s crazed actions. Worst rendering of the “Noah” story ever!

  6. Linda from Texas says: – This is an interesting website. I recently watched the video. And I also think anything that gets people talking about the Bible is good.

    • Mark Seguin says:

      100% agree w/ you, my friend from Tx Linda in this: “…also think anything that gets people talking about the Bible is good.” 🙂

      As far as the web site you gave, only very briefly had the chance to look into it, yet I watched on the History channel the other day and that aspect of finding Noah’s ark and that site (the one w/ the pic in the first web link) as been discredited because the researchers claim it could be the ark, because they found metal which was used to join the timbers together in the ark construction, yet iron wasn’t ‘invented,’ or discovered centuries latter.

  7. Pingback: Links – March 29, 2014 | Bob's Recommended Web Resources

  8. lwwarfel says:

    Well said. At least, it opens the door for conversation. At most, more people will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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