I tiptoe, with some trepidation, into the current debate surrounding the newly released film “Noah.” Others, perhaps more qualified than I, have shared a variety of opinions with the predictable responses from supporters and detractors.
As seems fairly typical for most topics, we find arguments on both sides of the issue – see the film or don’t see the film because of this or that. Sentiments and suggestions abound. In some cases they sound more like edicts.
Knee-jerk reactions in public discourse seem the modus operandi these days, sadly all too common, regardless of the subject matter. Unfortunately that appears to be as true for Christians as for anyone else.
I have not seen “Noah”. Understand that my comments here are not based on seeing or not seeing the film. This is not a review. I am proposing a mindset – one which should apply regardless of having seen or not seen a particular movie, or whether or not you like it, or any other attributes related to a specific media event.
Certainly an individual may hold strongly held convictions which inform one’s decision in such matters. Convictions are good, except when they’re not. I’m a big believer in convictions. All too often they seem to be missing in our culture so I applaud those who live by them.
I would, however, like to urge caution in how we arrive at, and implement, our beliefs.
Some points to consider:
- What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to reach others for Christ or do you want to win a theological debate?
- If you vehemently argue that no one should see the film, does that apply only to Christians or to everyone? If to Christians, why? Are you afraid they will be corrupted by the message of the film, that their faith isn’t strong enough to withstand it? If to non-Christians, why should they listen to you?
- If you are so inclined, what do you believe railing against the film will accomplish? Will you prevent Christians from seeing it? Will you prevent unbelievers from seeing it? Or will there be unintended consequences?
- Do you believe it is possible for Christians to have genuine and valid opinions about, and reactions to, a film that differ from yours?
- Do you believe the opportunity to witness to unbelievers is greater if they see or don’t see the film?
Criticisms of “Noah” range from mild disappointment to hysterical condemnations. Some reviewers would have liked to see less of this and more of that while others are virtually apoplectic, seemingly waiting for Hollyweird to drop into the ocean. (With the earthquake activity the past couple of days who knows – the weekend isn’t over.)
Among the various complaints, including downright poor filmmaking in general, by far the most fundamental is how the film deviates from the theme and message of the story of Noah in scripture: the film isn’t faithful to the Bible. Of course it isn’t. In the first place this is a Hollywood film from a major studio. I’ll wait a few moments while you let that sink in.
Given the presumed demographics of the powers that be in Hollywood, why would you expect them to “get it right” with a story from the Bible? For that matter, how often do they do so in any movie on any topic? The art / science / business of filmmaking is complicated by too many factions fighting for control which, more often than not, invariably delivers a product less than it could have been. And that’s without considering any ulterior political motives. And you want to throw in a Biblical or Christian emphasis?
Seriously, are you surprised if a Hollywood movie isn’t as accurate as you would like? If you are, you may want to reconsider your expectations and thought process.
On the other hand do you really expect a major studio to produce a film just like you want, if only you demand loudly enough? How’s that working out for you?
In the second place, as some have pointed out, the story of Noah in the original text in the book of Genesis is fairly short. Needless to say one couldn’t fill out a full length film without adding a fair amount of content.
In fact, you will find I did exactly that in Chapter 3 of my new book Timeless Tales: Bible Stories for Adults – “Noah Plans a Cruise.” I fleshed out the characters, added dialogue, filled in action in scenes and provided commentary.
Now what I did not do is radically change the fundamental story.
To the degree the “Noah” movie does change the story, we can and should absolutely call that out. But let’s do that in a winsome manner. We know the truth. We know the author of our faith and of the book upon which the film was based.
And that is what we can share with our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
The film has been made and released. People are going to see it. That won’t change. So what do we do at this point?
Whatever it is, it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to discuss the real story of Noah with those who need to hear God’s truth about salvation and his plan for us.
It’s an opportunity for each of us to brush up on the story ourselves. How much do we really know about the Noah narrative and all that it means? When was the last time we actually read it, pondered it, prayed about it?
It’s an opportunity to build up one another in the faith as we grow together in knowledge and wisdom.
Did you like the film? Wonderful. Share that with others. Tell them what you like and why.
You say the film is fatally inaccurate? Great! Show your friends how and why. Preach the gospel. As Christians we are called to be salt and light. Do it.
If we are to be of any earthly good (or heavenly good) to others, we must engage in the culture. That means at least being aware of, and educated about, a popular film, whether or not we’ve seen it. Obviously if we have seen it we gain the potential for greater credibility when discussing it with others. Not only do we remove the all too easy to use accusation that we have no right to comment on a film we haven’t seen, but there is the simple pragmatic value of witnessing it ourselves.
If someone said the following to you, how would you respond?
“I’m not going to read the Bible. I don’t need to read it to know what’s in it. I’ve heard other people talk about it.”
I’m not saying anyone or everyone should see the film. It may be appropriate for an individual to pass. But if you are a Christian concerned about the lost, I would exhort you to find some way to engage with those in your sphere of influence in a manner befitting the one whose name we bear.
A Christlike attitude and genuine interest in discussing the film, its weaknesses and strengths, and how it holds up to the truth of scripture can go a long way toward winning souls and building the church.