Culture, News & Events · Theological Reflection

Why Christians Should Watch Noah

NoahAronofsky’s Noah has been out for just over a week, and it’s already stirred up a lot of controversy. Even amongst Christians, there’s been a wide range of responses. I’ve read a bunch of different articles from different perspectives, but really wanted to wait until I’d seen the movie before I could make my own judgement. My wife and I watched it last night, so here’s my two cents.

First of all, let’s deal with some expectations that people have of the film, which has lead to a lot of criticisms. A lot of people are saying things like, “Noah is inaccurate, don’t watch it!”

Clearly, such people went to watch Noah expecting an accurate portrayal of the Christian understanding of Genesis 1-9. And, no surprises, they were very disappointed (and sometimes outraged). But it’s worth asking the question: is that an issue with the film, or with their expectations?

If Noah was trying to be a portrayal of the Christian understanding of the biblical narrative, it certainly would be very inaccurate. But that’s the thing: Noah is not a Christian film.

Noah is not a Christian Film

Let’s lay the cards out on the table. Darren Aronofsky, the director of Noah, is not a Christian. In fact, he has been heavily influenced by Kabbalah, a kind of Jewish mysticism. He’s quite open about this fact, and about the influence that this has had on his movies (both on Noah and his first movie, Pi). Noah is not the biblical story of Noah from a Christian perspective.

Related to this, a lot of people also take issue with the fact that Aronofsky has added a lot of (fanciful) details that aren’t in the Bible. This is very true. But there’s a reason for it. Aronofsky was taking an interpretive approach similar to a midrash, a Jewish method of retelling a biblical story that is highly interpretive and adds a lot of extra content.

Again, if a Christian were to do something like that, it would be a problem. But Aronofsky is not Christian, nor is he claiming that this is a Christian interpretation. If people go in with the expectation of a faithful Christian rendition, they will be outraged. But people need to adjust their expectations.

Let’s make this clear: Noah is not a Christian film. And that’s okay.

Christians watch non-Christian films all the time, no issue. But for a lot of people, Noah – perhaps understandably – is different. I think the reason for this is that we Christians feel like the story of Noah is our story (it’s in the Bible, after all), and so if someone else tampers with it, we don’t like it.

But the thing is, Christians don’t have an exclusive claim over the story of Noah. As one great article put it, “Noah’s story is part of the fabric of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.” And so as a story, it’s fair game for anyone who wants to take a shot at interpreting and re-telling it.

Christians don’t have an exclusive claim over the story of Noah, so to judge it by the standards of Christian orthodoxy is to miss the point. Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I do think Christians should be highly critical in recognising the many ways in which this movie digresses from and disagrees with the truth of the Bible. Obviously we disagree with a lot of what the ideas that the movie portrays (as we should), but why does that mean we should reject the movie out of hand?

If we disagree with a movie, does that mean we shouldn’t watch it? Since when was it a bad idea for Christians to be engaging critically and openly with our culture?

Christians are right to point out the Aronofsky’s Noah is a very different story to the biblical story in a Christian understanding, and it teaches very different things. It’s very important that we’re aware of this. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch movies like Noah.

Three Reasons You Should See Noah

There’s a lot more that could be said, and if you want to read a good article on how Christians should approach Noah, check this one out. It’s by far the best one I’ve found. But as for me, I just want to give you three reasons why I think you should see Noah.

1) It is a great opportunity to engage with non-Christians.

On a simple level, this movie is a conversation starter. It’s a launch pad to talk to a non-Christians about the biblical story of Noah and how we understand it. It’s an opportunity to talk about things like sin, morality, justice, and other issues that just don’t get much of a hearing in normal conversation. That’s a really good thing!

And you can only take advantage of this opportunity if you’ve actually watched the movie. Second-hand regurgitation of what you heard someone else say about the movie (including on this blog post) just won’t do.

As Christians, we shouldn’t take this as an ‘opportunity’ to slam another movie that we disagree with. We need to recognise that the movie represents the beliefs of someone who is not a Christian. We need to thoughtfully engage with those beliefs, and consider how and in what ways those beliefs differ from what we believe.

For most (or all) Christians, this will mean that we need to take a moment to think a bit harder about what we believe, and why. It’ll send us back to the Bible and make us think. That’s a good thing. That brings us to our second reason:

2) It’s thought provoking. 

As mentioned above, this movie wrestles with significant issues and themes: sin, justice, judgement, mercy, creation, God, to name a few big ones. These are important things to think about. And since Aronofsky’s ideas about these things are very different to what Christians believe, Noah is a great exercise in engaging with a different worldview.

It will challenge what you believe about God, revelation, creation, justice, and mercy. You will disagree with a lot of the ideas that are being conveyed. It will force you to think. It will make you ask questions. It will send you back to the Bible to take another look at what you believe and why.

Just as Noah is a great conversation-starter for engaging with non-Christians, it’s also a great movie to go see with some Christian mates. Alex and I had some great conversations about Noah, wrestling with what we liked, disliked, agreed with, and disagreed with.

There’s so much that could be said here, but I’ll have to leave it at that. I might put up a few short blog posts over the next couple of days with some of my personal reflections on some of this stuff.

3) It’s a gripping movie. 

I enjoyed watching Noah. I’m sure I’ll watch it again some day, because it’s engaging, gripping, and powerful. It really got my heart racing at times. It drew me into the story in a way that I haven’t been drawn in by a movie in a long time. Maybe not everyone will enjoy it in the same way, but I did, and I’d recommend it simply for that reason.

Also, straight up, it’s just a cool movie. A lot of people complained about the rock people. I thought the rock people were awesome. There were probably my favourite rock people I’ve ever seen in a movie (granted, I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie with rock people). Anyway, there were some really epic scenes in the movie that I wasn’t expecting.

Well, that’s my third reason why I’d recommend it. It’s just an enjoyable movie.

Check it out for Yourself

So there is my two cents. Grab some mates, whether Christian or not, and go see Noah. Check your expectations, engage with it critically, talk about it openly (afterwards..), and enjoy it!

 

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