How Should Christians Respond to the Noah Movie?Wednesday, November 20, 2013
This trailer came out recently...
When I first heard that a movie based on the biblical story of Noah was being made, I figured it would be some low-budget film along the lines of the television travesties we’ve seen about the Great Flood. The trailer reveals that much more time and money has gone into this film than I would have expected.
Whenever Hollywood takes a biblical story as its basis for a movie, evangelicals tend to respond in one of two ways.
1. THE CRITICS
First, there is the group that is primarily concerned with biblical accuracy. Taking any sort of dramatic license is akin to tampering with the text, which can lead to the solidification of errors in the minds of the viewers.
This group gets on blogs or comment streams and points out all the flaws and errors in the director’s vision for the film.
- If it’s The Nativity Story, they point out that we don’t know the wise men were kings, or that there were three of them.
- If it’s The Prince of Egypt, they point out that it was Pharaoh’s daughter, not his wife, who discovered Moses in the river.
- If it’s The Ten Commandments, they remind us there is no biblical record of an Egyptian princess saying “Moossseeeess, Mooosseeeess!” so many times.
- If it’s the History Channel’s Bible series, they point out the Bible does not attribute ninja moves to the angels who helped Lot flee Sodom.
You get the gist. This group wants biblical accuracy, and all movies are judged based on their ability to get the details right.
2. THE CELEBRATORS
Second, there is the group that is flattered to see Hollywood pay any attention to the Bible at all. No matter what Hollywood does with the sacred stories, it’s “getting the word out,” or “making the Bible seem cool.”
This group hosts preview screenings as a witnessing tool for the Lord (and a marketing tool for the moviemakers, of course). They find the good in any semblance of spirituality coming from Hollywood.
- If it’s Bruce Almighty, they start a group discussion about how God may or may not be like Morgan Freeman.
- If it’s The Passion of the Christ, they invite their lost friends and neighbors over for dinner and a bloodbath.
- If it’s Spiderman 3, they do a sermon series on revenge and the spirituality of superhero movies.
No matter how bad the movie might be, it’s better than not engaging it at all. Make the best of a good Hollywood film!
What’s Right and Wrong in These Approaches?
I’ve deliberately caricatured the worst aspects of both these groups, but I don’t want us to miss the fact that there is something to be said for both reactions.
The critics are right to maintain a high view of the Bible and to judge everything by its standard. They’re also right about a movie’s ability to solidify mental pictures and details in our mind, whether they reflect the Bible well or not.
The celebrators are right to see an opportunity whenever Hollywood jumps on a biblical bandwagon. It’s easier to talk about spiritual things with your friends and neighbors when millions of people are flocking to spiritually themed films on the weekend.
Where these two groups go wrong is in they tend to overplay both panic and promise.
The critics overplay the danger of a biblically inaccurate film, tending to see all artistic license as sacrilegious.
The celebrators overplay the promise of a Hollywood blockbuster, expecting spiritual fruit to come, not from the Word, but from pixels on the big screen.
That brings us back to Noah. It looks like 2014 will be interesting for having an epic film based on a Bible story.
No matter what Hollywood does with Noah, we should recognize the backhanded compliment in having biblical source material as the basis for a film. The reason Bible stories are appealing is their built-in familiarity, plus their emotional resonance.
So, the jury is out on this film.
How will Noah be portrayed? As a righteous man or a pragmatic dealmaker?
How will God be portrayed? As a righteous judge purging the world of wickedness or a bloodthirsty tyrant who can’t wait to destroy the earth?
What kind of conversations will come from this film? Will we have the opportunity to talk with people about the nature and character of God? About the nature and character of righteous faith?
I recommend Christians watch this movie the way we watch any movie – with discernment and wisdom. We shouldn’t overhype the movie’s flaws and miss the bigger opportunity. Neither should we see the movie as the most promising method of evangelism to appear in recent days, as if the Word of God needs visual representation in order to maximize its power.
What about you? How will you respond to Noah the movie?