Biblical Speculative Fiction: Noah

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Yesterday, I sat down and watched Noah. I really loved the first half. It’s incredible. I loved all the original ideas and explanations that went into the story, like where they got the wood for the ark, how the animals turned up in pairs (but not all at once!), and why the animals were docile for all the time they were in the ark.

I thought the character development was wonderful – each character has their virtues and flaws, is unique, and memorable in their own right. They felt like real people, particularly Ila. The barren girl who doesn’t think she has a place on the ark because she can’t contribute to the new life … wow, that was profound. I also liked what they did with Methuselah. I know a lot of people are claiming he uses witchcraft, but that’s not it. He merely retains some of what C.S. Lewis would call “the deep magic” from the Garden of Eden.

We’re fallen creatures, less than we were once, and we have grown less with each generation. Methuselah lived for hundreds of years! Now, we’re fortunate to make it to ninety! Isn’t it reasonable to think we lost more than longevity with time? That Adam and Eve, being the first humans made in God’s image, would better reflect Him than we do? They knew how to communicate with the animals in ways we don’t – otherwise Eve would have been startled at the serpent speaking to her. What other gifts might they have had? Is our collective yearning to be more than we are indicative of our unconscious awareness that we’re less than we ought to be? Methuselah is not a sorcerer. He is Gifted.

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What the writers did with the concept of Old Testament blessings was mind-blowing. I’ve never thought about looking at the blessings in that way, as actually passing on something tangible; I always assumed it was just a prayer ritual, but it’s really neat to think that it might be an actual blessing that has real-world significance. I liked what he did with it too. God provided for all their needs.

The Watchers are a major hiccup for a lot of people and I can see why. But a lot of the objections to them go away if you choose to look at them not as “fallen angels” but as spiritual beings neither angelic nor demonic. (Then too, this raises an interesting question — could demons be redeemed if they asked for forgiveness?) However you see it, their story is important because it establishes the character of God. The Watchers reach a point where they humble themselves and ask for forgiveness. He gives it to them, just as He gives it to us. It’s one of many allusions to the gospel written into the film’s subtext.

Some people quibble over the “environmentalist slant,” but I don’t see it as contradictory to Christianity; we’re the custodians of earth and the original “greenies”! The original animal rights activists! Humans do more damage to this planet than animals do! We’re higher beings and therefore capable of much greater destruction and cruelty than animals. He forgives us, but that doesn’t mean we shirk our duty!

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The only discomfort I had with the film was in the second half, but the longer I think about it, the more comfortable I am with it. It got shaky for me once Noah went off the rails in his belief that God intended for none of them to live, and thought he’d have to kill his grandchildren to end the human race. (I will add, though, that he couldn’t do it – and that builds into an incredible pro-life moment on its own terms.)

I tend to be fine with changes to a story provided it is in keeping with the spirit of the original. I’m sensitive toward misrepresenting real people so I care very much that “the truth” about them is told. Noah was a “righteous man,” not a crazy one… but he was also a sinner, and the Bible doesn’t give us very many details about him. Who can say he didn’t have periods of doubt, or survivor’s guilt? Who can say whether God answered all his questions? Deep down, I wanted to be comfortable with Noah, and that was impossible. Worse, he forced me to confront some ugly truths that I’d rather not talk about (periods of silence from God, self-doubt about purpose in life, fanaticism).

But the more I thought about it and tried to put my finger on what bothered me about this representation, the more I realized that Noah’s meltdown illustrates the point the entire movie is making – that we’re sinners who don’t deserve redemption or salvation, but we receive it anyway if we’re willing to ask for it.

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Some of the sensitive points the movie raises are hard issues to talk about and deal with as believers, like when Noah and Tribal Cain both cried out to God and got no response. Like Abraham, Noah held true to what he believed was the right thing to do, and in the end, was spared having to do it – Abraham was freed, but Noah made that choice himself. It was the right one, but he still felt as if he was too weak to do God’s will. He thought he had let God down. It humbled him mightily. Maybe that was the point of his journey in the film, to remind him that he isn’t as strong as he thought he was.

I’m not either. Maybe that’s why this representation of a very human Noah made me uncomfortable. I want to think I’m strong in my faith, and strong as a person, but deep down, I question what He wants me to do. In the end, Noah reconciled with his family, built an altar, and saw the rainbow – not a rainbow over the remnants of the ark like we so often see in children’s storybooks, but colors vibrating across the entire sky. It gave me chills. I can battle through the storms of life, scream questions to the heavens and for a time, get no answers, but rest in the assurance of the promise God made of my salvation.

Here’s my official review.

10 Replies to “Biblical Speculative Fiction: Noah”

  1. (Additional thoughts on Noah’s inability to kill his grandchildren, gleaned from an IMDB discussion.)

    In the film God doesn’t not explicitly tell Noah what to do. By the visions, he has a pretty good understanding. After seeing the evils of men when he goes to Cain’s camp he believe that because men are evil and because God did not explicitly send females for his children (except for Watson’s character who he knows to be barren) that God does not want to have man to continue procreating. Therefor, Watson having children is against God’s wishes.

    The reality (in the film) actually is that God left it up to Noah to decide as a test of humanity. If he can murder his own grandchildren, then yes, man is beyond saving and should be extinct. If he shows his grandchildren mercy than humanity is worth saving.

    This concept also is a complete condemnation of fundamentalism and the way they interpret how God works. A lot of people use his word to hurt others. In the film, we see a God who never speaks and his message is unclear but ultimately Noah decides to see what God wants as something positive. It’s a rejection of the hate that religious wackos try to indoctrinate into others. Pulling from that, we then realize maybe not everyone else on Earth had to die. Maybe Noah could’ve saved more people. He was so hung up on the literal nature of his visions that he condemned everyone else to death. He didn’t think for himself and blindly followed what he thought was the righteous path.

  2. From the previews, “Noah” doesn’t really pique my interest. Maybe it is because I am biased and have heard too many negative reviews. I don’t know- I’m pretty soured on Hollywood making “Christian” movies. They always disappoint me. My only hope is for this movie is that folks will look deeper, read the Bible and start to think about God and His love. If “Noah” or “Son of God” does that, then more power to them. As for me, I’m just going to pass. Glad to hear that you were able to enjoy the movie though.

    1. I try to go into “Hollywoodized Christian movies” with low expectations; that way the good can impress me, and the bad doesn’t offend me as much as it would otherwise. =P

  3. Yes, I believe that if the devils asked for forgiveness, it would be given them, but we already know none do. God would not be a God of forgiveness is He only forgave humans.

    I still don’t think I want to see this movie, but I really appreciated your insights. Plus, it’s like something I read recently. This is a secular retelling of Noah. If we expect the world to do everything the way we as Christians want, we’re fooling ourselves.

    Another point I read in this same article is that by being so ugly in our arguments against this movie, we are not showing Christ, nor are we doing any favors for actual Christians in Hollywood.

    1. Exactly. The entire point is PRIDE — Satan is much too proud to ever ask forgiveness of God. Pride is what separated him from God’s will in the first place!

      I’m not recommending this to anyone simply because it is so polarizing… however, I’m really starting to get frustrated by those who a) assume that Christians who see it and enjoy it are “deceived,” and b) condemning it without having seen it. It’s fine if they saw it and were offended, and want to state why they were offended, but it’s not fine to chime in with a negative opinion on something they haven’t seen and basically imply that others who see it are falling into Satan’s trap. That’s PRIDE. That’s “I’m holier than you are, because I felt bad vibes off this and you didn’t.” (Or, on the contrary, “I’m holier than you are, because I’m more open minded about it than you are!” …. which is what I’m struggling with right now.)

      This… paranoia and overreacting is precisely what makes us look like a bunch of nutjobs to the rest of society. Who wants to be part of a group that is afraid of a movie?

      1. Exactly. It’s the Harry Potter books all over again. And Frozen. What I think people should do is see the movie and judge on their own. And if you decide you don’t like it or it’s unbiblical or deceptive, outline your points rationally. Use Scripture, if you will (though don’t use it out of context; that’s a huge pet peeve, and another way Christians are shooting themselves in the feet). But don’t bash it just because everyone else is, or because you don’t like the trailer.

        1. Yup. I dunno about you, but I never lost my salvation for reading Harry Potter!

          You can go into any movie looking for what you want to see, and find it. I went in looking for truth and found it. Others can go looking for flaws and find them. The way people interpret Noah has very little to do with spirituality and everything to do with attitude. Even if I could convince all the anti-Noah believers to see it, they’ve been tainted by others’ opinions, have already made up their minds to disapprove of it/take umbrage at the changes; very few, having seen it, would change their mind… because they’re going in searching for reasons to validate their preconceived opinions.

          We all do this, but that doesn’t make it right, and I dislike it very much when someone tries to assert holier-than-thou dominion over other believers by making statements like “all Christians will hate this movie,” or “no Christian should see this movie,” implying that TRUE BELIEVERS must share their opinion. That’s rubbish.

          1. Very true. There are so many other movies that Christians should never see, and yet you never see them attacked quite as badly.

          2. This was well-put. I am of the firm belief that God can use anything to teach me truth, be it a novel or a movie or music. Truth is universal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this to discredit or demean the Bible in any way. The Bible is ultimate truth, or pure truth, if you will. These various forms of fiction present a more diluted form of truth that, while not holding the power that the Bible contains, can still change us for the better.

            One of the best example of this in my life is when I was about ten years old. I have always grown up in church and have been blessed with a solid family life, but that was when doubts about what I really believed began to set in, especially whether or not God was real. Around that time, I was introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia. While those books never explicitly mention God or contain anything theologically heavy, I believe God used those novels to affirm my faith in Him.

            Anyway, thanks for your movie review. I’ll have to see it now and get my own opinion. 🙂

          3. I might go further into heresy and add that some portions of the Bible hold more significance than others — I am much more angry if someone tampers with Jesus than if they tamper with the Jewish history of the Old Testament. If you tamper with Jesus, you tamper with the GOSPEL, which is the most important message in scripture. Messing around in the Old Testament has less impact on the gospel, so it bothers me less.

            Your story about Narnia influencing your faith is awesome! It did the same for me, to a lesser extent — as a child, I didn’t doubt (that came as an adult!) but I came to be able to believe in an approachable, frightening but also kind God by seeing him as my precious Aslan. A tiny part of me still hopes that when I reach heaven, I’ll find Aslan there. 🙂

            I hope if you choose to see it that you enjoy it — or at least, that it doesn’t offend you too much!

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