By Tom Snyder, Editor, and Diana Tyler, Contributing Writer
The new biblical epic NOAH presents several challenges to Christians who might want to use the movie as an evangelistic tool.
As MOVIEGUIDE® noted in its review of the movie, the filmmakers have added extra-biblical changes, twists, spins, and additions to their version of the story of Noah and the Ark. Most of this extra-biblical material is apparently designed to stretch the Bible’s short description of the Great Flood into an exciting three-act adventure movie with more tension and more jeopardy.
Some of this material is very speculative in that it tries (according to the filmmakers themselves) to give a reason for why Noah gets drunk in Genesis 9:21 of the biblical account and why Noah curses his son Ham at that point (in the Bible, Ham is Noah’s youngest son, but in the movie, Japheth is the youngest son). To do this, the movie only shows Noah receiving vague visions from the Creator about the flood and the ark, which Noah must interpret. This leads to a nearly fatal misunderstanding on Noah’s part of God’s intent in allowing Noah’s family ride out the flood on the ark. Eventually, however, everything turns out well by the end of the movie. A seemingly miraculous turn of events helps the movie’s conflicted Noah see that the Creator is a God of mercy and love as well as justice.
Other parts of these extra-biblical changes are more likely to offend, such as the movie’s refusal to mention the word God and only use the words “the Creator.” NOAH also adds an environmentalist twist to the biblical story, but the filmmakers justify this twist by citing God’s instructions to Noah in the Bible to preserve two of each kind of animal and seven of his livestock (Noah has no livestock in this movie version).
As Dr. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), noted, “It is hard to reconcile this character with the “righteous” man described in Genesis 6 or the man of “faith” described in Hebrews 11.” (The NIV Bible Study’s note on Genesis 6:9’s mention of Noah’s righteousness says, “This description of Noah does not imply sinless perfection.”)
Dr. Johnson adds, however, “From beginning to end, NOAH takes sin and judgment seriously. The guilt of mankind and the righteousness of God’s judgment are consistent throughout the film.”
The movie also puts a line in Noah’s mouth that God is using the Great Flood to cleanse the earth of the sinfulness of man. Also, as noted above, Noah’s inner turmoil and conflict with his wife and sons eventually leads to a happy ending where Noah learns that the Creator is a God of mercy, not merely a God of justice.
In addition, the movie clearly shows that God created everything ex nihilo, out of nothing. It also says God created everything in six days. In the movie, Adam and Eve are depicted as real, as is their Temptation and Fall from Grace. Finally, the Great Flood is seen as a global event in one spectacular image, and the Creator God performs miracles throughout the movie.
Thus, although some Christian leaders, such as one of our admired friends Creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, have denounced the movie, calling it altogether unfit for Christian and non-Christians alike, MOVIEGUIDE® and Dr. Johnson take a more balanced approach to NOAH.
Christians can, in fact, use the movie’s overall depiction of temptation, sin, and judgment, accompanied by cleansing, deliverance, salvation, love, and mercy, to point to Jesus Christ, the only Name under Heaven by which we are truly cleansed and mercifully delivered from sin.
In this way, NOAH can indeed become a powerful evangelistic tool.
That said, NOAH is by no means a successor to The JESUS Film, which, in stark contrast, was praised for its refreshing faithfulness to the gospels. However, Paramount Pictures, the studio that produced NOAH, can be commended for providing a disclaimer to the movie which states that that the movie is “true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide,” and adds that the “biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”
What rings the most true in Paramount’s disclaimer is in the last sentence – the truth is always waiting for us within God’s inerrant Word.
Whether you decide to oppose, support, or respond apathetically to NOAH, we encourage everyone to dedicate some time to revisit the true Genesis account so that you will “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). You never know when someone might ask.
Sources: Christianity Today, 03/03/14, www.movieguide.org, and The Hollywood Reporter, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/rough-seas-noah-darren-aronofsky-679315.