The first time I seriously thought about the story of Noah’s ark was when I was in elementary school and I heard a very young Bill Cosby’s classic routine about Noah. [“God: “Noah, how long can you tread water?”] View it here.
But the release of Noah, starring Russell Crowe and Hermione Granger, is no joke. Many Christians are reacting to the film’s departures from the biblical story, the film’s atheist director, and the film’s veiled and confusing agenda. Christian leaders are either discouraging anyone from seeing it while others think it falls into the category of similar religious films and is worth viewing.
The movie opened strongly on Friday ($6.2 million) and has been very strong internationally ($28.3 million total).
So, how should we respond? If we don’t get wacky, this could be another great opportunity God has given us to tell his story to the world.
In an attempt not to say what has already been said, I will make three brief comments.
1. Let’s face it; Christians also take liberties with the story of Noah. The idea of a floating zoo is the kid-friendly version that we tell with flannelgraph characters. But the reality is more akin to the nightmare scene in the film where the water is filled with floating corpses. The scene is terrifying and a sober reminder that this is what really happened.
2. Of course Noah is chocked full of biblical, theological and historical errors. Nobody thought that Darren Aronofsky – who is always referred to as “visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky” – would make a movie about Noah’s ark and merely retell the biblical story. In fact, when has there ever been a movie that accurately reproduced the story from a book? Scenes and characters are added or omitted to make the film work. These changes are debatable with most books; but boycott-bait if it’s the Bible.
The concern about the biblical accuracy of the film reminds me of the controversy surrounding the 1970 release of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the classic example of playing fast and loose with the Scriptures (“he’s just a man. . .” Mary Magdalene sang). I was in high school at the time and was not a follower of Christ. But the songs, the play and the film (1973) made many of us all look at Jesus with heightened curiosity. We bought the book, too. The Bible. And, sure enough, the book was better than the movie. I came to know the real Jesus Christ (supra stars).
The appearance of Noah is already having a similar impact. For example, check out the Chicago Tribune conversation between journalist Eric Zorn, a secularist, and theologian Bryan O’Neal, dean of the faculty at Chicago’s Moody Bible. Take a look: “There’s something about Noah”
This ongoing substantive conversation would not be taking place in such a public forum were it not for the film. The same is true for countless other on-line discussions, news interviews and radio talk shows. And it opens doors for all of us, as well.
What an incredible opportunity to tell the true story of Genesis 6-9 and the way it serves as a historic metaphor for God’s salvation through Christ (see 1 Peter 3:18-20).
3. When a book-based movie is released, sales of the book increase dramatically. The availability of the Bible in bookstores and on-line (free!) makes this easy. I pray that they will, as I did, become captivated by the story God is unfolding and want to become an active participant.
God uses anything and everything to reach out with his truth and grace. I heard a man tell how he was sitting in a bar and God used the Beatles’ song, “Rocky Racoon” to reach him. Go figure. I think Noah will be an eye-opener for many and a first step toward faith.
So pray for open and warm hearts. Read some of the good information about Noah, God, judgment and faith so you can be ready to give a good explanation to those who are open. Let God use Noah, once again, to bring His message of salvation to the world.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.