Yesterday I went and watched “Noah”, and thought I’d share a little about it. Not that you probably want to read another review about it, that was one reason I went in the first place, I was sick of reading about what it was like and should’ve been like, with scathing and vitriolic reports and mixed reviews from anyone and everyone, all of which just made me want to see it for myself!

Right from the outset, when I knew who the director was when I knew the movie was being made, I knew it would not be a faithful depiction of the biblical account, and if anything, would be slightly ‘weird’. A couple of Darren Aronofsky’s other films, ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘Black Swan’, were films I haven’t seen, but knew enough to know his work is a little ‘out there’ and bit too ‘arthouse’ or just plain immoral for my liking.

In interviews regarding Noah, he quite clearly stated that this would be ‘the least biblical movie ever made’ and went to use an expletive about what he thought about what people thought about that fact. And again, another expletive in telling people to put aside their expectations of what the film would be like. ( Huffington Post 11/3/14).

This made my mind up about the kind reverence he would be giving to the biblical account, and I decided I probably wouldn’t be watching it in the cinemas…

What changed my mind was another interview I read. In this interview Aronofsky stated that a big part of the movie was he and his co-writer trying to narrow in on the term used in Genesis 6:9 that Noah was a righteous or just man. They set out in writing the script trying to answer that question. They came up with the ‘idea’ that to be ‘righteous’ is a perfect balance of justice and mercy. For them it was a story about finding the balance between God’s justice and His mercy. ( Christianity Today 25/3/14)

With that in mind, I wanted to see this played out from the perspective of non-believing directors, actors, and Hollywood in general. How does the world see God’s righteousness? And do they think it’s attainable? This was the question on my mind as I went to watch it. Not to critique the obvious and blatant misinterpretations of the biblical account. I’m not sure why we would expect non-believers to accurately portray what the Holy and Inspired Word of God says. They don’t believe, and are only interested in making art of a story they see as myth. It is not true for them, so they are not held captive to It’s ( The Bible’s) inerrancy, and we cannot hold them to what they are not convicted by. I think the criticisms leveled against it not holding to the biblical account, although true, are pointless arguments against people who couldn’t care less what the Bible actually says. So we take it for what it is, a movie made by secular Hollywood for secular entertainment, not for the edification of saints or upholding of biblical truth. That in mind, I also think some the critics have even been too harsh in that respect – it wasn’t a boring movie at all. The characters were well cast, and the script and plot were well written from an artistic perspective. It was well directed, and the best Aronofsky work I’ve seen – not that I have that much to compare it to admittedly! The special effects were spectacular – the ark is wonderfully ( & biblically!) depicted in it’s size and scale. The arrival of the animals is very well done, I loved that part especially.The flood itself ( clearly presented as global!) was visually enthralling, especially with the ‘fountains of the deep’ breaking forth. If I were scoring it as a ‘normal’ movie it would be 6.5 out 10, just purely basing it on quality of acting, directing, and effects without considering the contentious content!

Do we as Christians have to watch this? No, but we don’t have to watch any movie, but that’s another subject entirely! I think the main point to this whole thing is – how should Christians react to the movie’s message itself, seeing as it is portraying a biblical character, biblical themes, and God? Do we dismiss it entirely on the simple basis of it’s lack of reverence with handling the Word of God, or do we engage with it, seeing this is an opportunity to have discussions with those around us that are talking about it? People are talking about this movie. Non-Christians as well as Christians. I think this presents a unique opportunity to be honest, in being able to dialogue with unbelievers about not only the facts that are misrepresented, but even the themes that are clearly underlying the whole movie’s premise, that we are seeing the unbeliever’s perception of God’s righteousness, and to be honest, the writers/director did follow through with both ‘promises’ and premises mentioned in the articles above. It was an unbiblical movie about a character and story in the bible, but they also presented ( from an unbelievers’ perspective) a view of God’s justice and mercy.

***Spoiler Alert!!! Spoilers will follow for those who haven’t watched the movie & would like to!!******

Man’s wickedness and perversion is clearly presented. There is never any doubt left in your mind as to why mankind is being destroyed/punished. God’s judgement is clearly presented. They do not back down from either of those themes in the movie.

Noah is called by God build an ark {-with the help of ‘The Watchers’, because, apparently, it’s much more believable to have fallen angels who are effectively rock monsters aiding Noah and his family to build than to have Noah taking 120 years to build it….} to save the innocent. His struggle throughout the rest of the movie is in his definition of who/what is really innocent. Part way through you would think Noah was model for all modern green activists, ‘Save the animals = saving the planet’. Further along you will become increasingly disturbed as he takes a position of saying his family’s only responsibility was to protect and care for the animals in their care, then they would die out also.To the extent, when Noah discovers Shem’s wife is pregnant, he vows to kill the child if it is a girl. It’s twin girls***, which leaves him with quite the dilemma, and makes the climax of the whole movie, and the climax of Noah’s struggle of figuring out the balance between justice and mercy, and defining innocence and love.

***The wrong number of people get on the ark, ie, Noah, his wife, Shem and his wife ( who is barren but ‘grandfather’ Methuselah works some ‘healing’ for her and she conceives), Ham, Japtheth, and of course, appearing with full poetic license – Tubal-Cain, who smuggles his way into the ark and plots with wifeless and bitter Ham to do away with Noah out of revenge…Ham helps him survive and he eats some of the animals – one of which looks like a small reptilian creature ( dinosaur anyone?? -credit to one of the guys I watched it with picking that up!), but the right number get off the ark in the end.The manifest on the ark at arrival at destination listed – Noah and his wife, Shem and his wife, their twins daughters, and Ham and Japtheth.***

The perception I gleaned from their perceptions was that they seem to portray God as distant, inactive, and silent to questions and doubts and cries for Him to reveal Himself. They paint a picture of God being made up of mostly judgement and justice, and just a little hint of mercy thrown in. In the end of the movie, I would say that mercy does indeed triumph over judgement, but there is so much left open for interpretation and misinterpretation in this also, but again this is only because these are unbelievers presented God through their lens of unbelief.

Shem’s wife and Noah have one of the closing scenes about him not choosing to kill her daughters because he looked at them and ‘only love filled his heart’. He feels he has failed God in not fulfilling all He desired, allowing them to live, and having his family hate him for even thinking of doing such a thing. This burden of thinking he has failed, but also that he built an ark that ultimately only saved himself and his family while so many were destroyed for nothing because wickedness is in all men, and would now live on because he has had grandchildren, this leads him to the drunkenness ( here the movie suddenly gets ‘slightly’ biblical! the only way to work in the nakedness into a hollywood movie I guess! Genesis 9:20-23). Shem’s wife points out to him that God clearly chose him, knowing he ( Noah ) would complete the task, and knowing he would choose innocence and love over destruction and personal vendetta. That God has meant for the only beings made in His image to continue as a race and to start again with them.

All these themes give us a unique and timely insight into our ( western) culture’s perceptions of God and how He relates to mankind. If you watch this movie, watch it for these themes alone if you must, and you will glean some helpful insight.

It’s an opportunity I believe for us as believers to dialogue with this starting point they have given us, a way to speaking into the questions people have in regards to God and answering them in Jesus. Here is a ‘blockbuster’ movie that people are going to watch in great numbers that explicitly speaks of God as Creator, as mankind being accountable to Him, and that He requires righteousness of His created beings in order for them to be accepted into relationship with Him.

A great conversation you could have with someone in regards to this movie, or even for your own heart, it to ask….Do you really think God is silent and inactive, just a distant judge who doesn’t interact with His greatest Creation? Both Noah and Tubal-Cain plead with God to answer them, and act based on their own drive for power and control ( Tubal-Cain), or on their own instincts and interpretations of personal righteousness ( Noah) when God doesn’t answer. Even ‘The Watchers’ are on earth because they thought God wasn’t involved enough with mankind and they wanted to ‘help’, but they were cursed by God and they were bound by the very earth they came to ‘save’.

Well,the God of the Bible, and the God of our own lives, has revealed Himself. He is not inactive or silent. He has spoken. We have His Word. He has acted. He did get intimately involved with His Creation. He saw it’s predicament, and provided a way for it’s redemption. For perfect righteousness to be attained by all those made in His image. He sent Someone to help and to deliver, Someone Who came willingly, and couldn’t be cursed by what He what He would encounter, but at the same time, would become the curse for all who would look to Him. A Saviour. A Deliverer, Who not only saves us, but buys us back to make us what we were made to be, children of God, living in His mercy and love, declared innocent despite our guilt. How? Who? Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who came down for us. More than this, we don’t just have the Word of God, we don’t just have stories about God, we have The Word of God made flesh. His truth came and lived among us.This is another story in the Bible, but it is THE story that all the other stories point to. We know Noah’s story is true because the story of Jesus and the Gospel is true, and Noah’s Ark points us to the Cross of Jesus, and the new life of mankind after the flood points us to the new life we can have when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose again from the dead to grant us redemption and peace with God.

God’s judgement is a sure as His mercy. There is not just a ‘little bit’ of mercy with God. It is abundant, steadfast, immeasurable. The truth of it all it that God’s justice and mercy meet perfectly in Jesus Christ, and the result is righteousness for those who believe in Him and profess Him as Lord.

“Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from the heaven. Yes, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before Him; and shall set us in the way of His steps” Psalm 85:9-13 KJV

Yes, as many have said, rightly so, that good old line when it comes to movie adaptions of books, – “ The book was much better”. It is certainly true with Noah. But Noah’s story is more than just in Genesis, and we shouldn’t leave people there either. Not only can we lead them to considering the Gospel of Jesus, but the direct testimony of Noah in another New Testament scripture – Hebrews 11:7.

“ 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 faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” ESV

We can follow Noah’s example. (The biblical Noah, that is!) Listen to what God has said and revealed to you through His Word, and His action in your life. Listen to His warning. Be reverent in fear and awe of Him, and choose to accept His salvation that is available rather than following the world to destruction and condemnation. Noah was made righteous by His faith in God and God’s Redeemer. We can also have that kind of righteousness. Not by spending our lives trying to figure out if we are living the right way, making the right choices, and constantly second-guessing ourselves as to whether we have the right balance of justice and mercy in and of ourselves. Just believe that Jesus has provided all that you need for access to righteousness that doesn’t need your own efforts.