I don’t write movie reviews, but I do love movies, so forgive me if this doesn’t fit the form. It’s not hard to find a spoiler-riddled review of ‘Noah’, so I refrain here. Rather, I want to review ‘Noah’ against the background of evangelical Christian ‘filmmaking’ because it’s critics are wrong. ‘Noah’ is a better spiritual film than evangelicals could’ve made, and it truly grapples with justice, mercy, sin, innocence and faith.
Just a warning, I might offend you with my criticism of what I’ll call evangelical Christian Hollywood, or ECH.. exactly. Honestly, I cringe every time I see a trailer for an upcoming ‘spiritual film’. Most of the time it’s sappy, heavy-handed moralistic preaching that looks and feels irrelevant to our times. The last good one was ‘Passion of the Christ.’ Poor taste isn’t the real problem though. The sin of ECH is that it often sacrifices honesty for the ‘truth’. Truth, to ECH, is equivalent to Biblical literalism, and art’s goal is simply to convert the sinner and reinforce the faith of believers. So ECH attacks movies like ‘Noah’ because if every jot and tittle of the Bible isn’t followed, then somehow the gospel and faith in God is unravelled and the faith of many is destroyed. Whoa, calm down.
‘Noah’ IS Biblically inaccurate. That’s just a fact. I’m not concerned… Jesus is still risen, the Bible and God’s Church still exists to speak the truth… it’s gonna be OK. If a person walks out of ‘Noah’ thinking it’s the real story, they probably thought the same of ‘The Da Vinci Code’. They need prayer, clearly. ‘Noah’s inaccuracy is besides the point. What ‘Noah’ does that a Biblically accurate film would’ve failed to do is be honest to the themes underneath the text the Evangelical would try too carefully to preserve.
I have read the Noah story plenty of times, heard it in Sunday school, puzzled over the ‘Nephilim’ reference in Genesis 6, and understood Peter’s allegory in his first epistle. ‘Noah’ managed to take a story familiar to us all and re-tell it in a way that puts its themes into stark relief. I left having no choice but to grapple with the complexities of faith, mercy, justice, sin, and what it means to be a son of Seth/son of God. Let’s be honest, few Sunday sermons have the same effect.
When you see ‘Noah’, and you ought to, take with you the truth that God has revealed himself in all things (Romans 1) and that a seed of truth can be picked out by the discerning. My mother put it this way in her warning as I went to college: “eat the meat, throw away the bones”. Here’s the meaty parts:
- ‘Noah’ will reinvigorate your faith and humility: I loved how the Creator speaks to Noah, I found it far more realistic to actual experience than white light and a loud voice. The stark contrast, but also troubling commonality, between the sons of Seth and sons of Cain reverberate in how we live as Christians; we are set apart, yes, but the crack of evil runs through us all.
- ‘Noah’ grapples hard with justice and mercy: Noah had to decide how to be just before God when it was hard to do so, when it hurt, and in a cloud of unknowing, though I won’t ruin it by telling you how. I found it a realistic portrayal of faith — following God is hard: evangelicals don’t like it when you say this because it turns people away from following Jesus. Well, it is hard and Jesus said so, and people turned away (see Luke 9:57-62).
- ‘Noah’ was very relevant: It’s mythological veneer made it accessible to my modernity, surprisingly. Women are the moral center of the film, and it has an environmental message that is actually in the Biblical text but glossed over. What does it truly mean to have dominion over creation? Do we do what we please with it? Or do we care for it and live in balance with God’s creation? Assume you’re wrong and grapple with the questions.
I am glad Evangelical Christian Hollywood didn’t make ‘Noah’. I would have left thinking, “I could’ve just spent 15 minutes reading it in the Bible, rather than 2 hours watching.” This isn’t your Sunday school presentation of ‘Noah’, and thank God, because I guarantee if you watch it and look for how God might be speaking to you, what the story is truly saying, you’ll be challenged AND entertained.