I’ve read several reviews of the upcoming movie ‘Noah.’ All I have read confirms exactly what I thought would be the case, that is that the movie does not at all convey the Scriptural story of the historical Noah, the story of the Ark God commanded him to build, or the story of the flood that occurred in his day. This news has not shocked me one bit.
I have seen knee-jerk Christian reactions, bashing Hollywood and the film’s writers, producers, directors, actors, etc, angrily calling for Christians to boycott the film. I have also read more level-headed Christian leaders who present the film with the reality that it is, namely a piece of fiction adapted from a story from the Bible. So far, I have not read anyone associated with the film even suggest that the film depicts the Scriptural story of Noah. In fact, I have read where the director has stated that the film is absolutely not a biblical presentation of the Scriptural story at all. I am very thankful, at least, for his honesty in that way.
With all that said, I do find it hard not to believe that part of the film’s motivation includes drawing from a biblical theme to attract Christian viewers. The motion picture industry has seen very well the number of Christians that flock to see biblically themed material, and I do believe that the several movies due out this year containing biblical themes attest to the fact that the industry seeks to tap into that portion of potential viewers.
So the question that besets us, “Should Christians go and see the film?”
I have wrestled with this question. Quite honestly, for my family at least, we simply do not have the financial means to go see a lot of movies in the theater. This makes us fairly picky in the movies we actually decide to see. Normally ‘Noah’ would not make that cut, not necessarily because it so badly skews the biblical story of Noah, but because the reviews I have read are less than glowing. The movie just doesn’t appeal to me enough to motivate me to feel as though I have to see it in a theater. However, I have begun to change my attitude towards the movie recently.
Just because the movie doesn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean that many, perhaps even most, of the people around me will be going to see it. It is for this reason that I have to decided to go see the movie in our local theater, and I am urging other Christians to at least consider doing the same. Let me explain why. Rarely in our day does the culture around us supply opportunities for such overtly relevant gospel conversations. Because most people will go see this movie, the biblical character and story will already be on the minds of lost people around me. Few people will go to this movie without some thought as to how it matches up with the biblical story. I am a Christian who knows that story well. But I do not only know that story well, I also have spiritual insight and understanding of the greater story behind that story. This is the story I want with all of my heart to share!
As Christians, we desperately want to find ways to open up gospel conversations in meaningful and non-abrasive ways. What can fit that mold better than by simply asking someone if they have seen a current, popular movie? “Hey, have you seen that new Noah flick?” Only if I have seen the movie can I go on to discuss it with someone who answers “yes” to that question. Not wanting to immediately jerk the conversation to the Bible, I can go on to discuss elements of the film I liked or disliked, being careful to listen as they share as well. However, the subject matter itself allows a beautifully smooth transition question such as, “Have you ever read the actual Noah story from the Bible?” Again, this is not a transition to espouse my anger toward film-makers who so badly marred the biblical version. Ultimately, this is a transition to talk about Jesus, not the historical Noah. “Isn’t it crazy that a story that took place hundreds, even thousands of years before Jesus was born–and is recorded for us in Scripture–really is a picture of the Messiah Jesus came to be!? Did you know that the story of Noah and the Ark is really a picture of Jesus?” How compelling a question is that??
If the conversation allows, I can then go on to explain how Jesus is really our ark. The parallels in this story are really remarkable!
Just as Noah lived in light of a coming destruction through God’s judgment, so do we in our day. The difference is, God brought destruction through a flood then, but has said that this next judgment will be through fire (Gen 9:11).
Just as the people in Noah’s day were utterly sinful and deserving of such judgment, so are we in our day (Gen 6:5).
God made gracious provision for Noah and his family to be spared from that judgment through the ark (Gen 6:17-18). The entire time he built it, God commanded him to extend that gracious invitation to everyone else around him, inviting them to find salvation in that exclusive way. Yet everyone rejected him.
God included only one door to enter the salvation of the ark (Gen 6:16), and when the appropriate time came according to his plan, he is the one who shut that door (Gen 7:16). That one door provided the only means of salvation for people from the judgment to come. All those who refused to enter that door died, which is the end result of sin (Rom 6:23a).
This really reminds me of Jesus, who said of himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Anyone who does not heed the words of Jesus and seek refuge in the only gracious means of salvation that God has once again provided in him alone, will die in God’s coming judgment, just as in the day of Noah.
Part of me doesn’t want to contribute to any success of this movie, thus perhaps causing more and more movie makers in Hollywood to exploit biblical themes for box office success. But, I also think we should capture every opportunity afforded us by the culture to contextualize the gospel. With this movie, and others that will come out this year, we have been gifted wonderful packages that are meaningful to folks all around us, in which we can present the great story of Jesus and his gospel. May we be faithful in continuing to dialogue with the culture, allowing the gospel that shapes the lens through which we see the world a voice in the darkness of our society, and calling people to repent of sin and find life in Jesus!