Noah is Worth Seeing, Even if You're a Christian
I enjoyed Noah; it was entertaining. It not only made me think about the “big moral questions” of the Flood, but it also made me love the Creator more. The basic elements of the Biblical account were left intact, and most importantly, God was uplifted as a good God. Given the worldview of the director, I thought that the artistic liberties were legitimate when properly understood. After all, an atheist doesn’t need to adhere to Christian/Jewish sensibilities in order to make a film about Noah. We can’t expect every detail of a Biblical film to align with Christian expectations when it’s not even made to be a “Christian film.” Darren Aronofsky simply saw the story of Noah as an ancient account that would make an epic film. Regardless of his atheistic stance, though, I was pleasantly surprised at the film’s view of God; it was consistently one of a good, provisional, just and merciful God. It reminded me that Noah was a human, not an emotionless superhero on a Sunday School flannel-graph.
The Bible doesn’t describe the inner turmoil that Noah endured throughout this epic experience, so any projection about his actual constitution is a mere guess, since all we know from the Bible is the basic, flat storyline. The Bible simply tells us that he was righteous. Given such mystery surrounding the character of Noah, then, we should not fret about artistic liberties taken by Darren Aronofsky. Who are we to withhold him an artist’s rights? Besides, even if we disagree with various liberties in the film, that doesn’t mean we can’t let the film teach us. Further, it’s dangerous to fret over a film’s details if we forget to remember that God is sovereign over the film and its effect on society.
One lesson this film teaches us is that Noah was human. The film portrays Noah as one who had faith in God and desired to follow him--he was righteous. Does righteousness mean, though, that one cannot feel doubts, fears, or burdens? I’m sure the real Noah felt burdened; I’m sure he was afraid. This film does an excellent job depicting a very human Noah trying to process very real emotions. Even if Noah’s humanness was all a deliberate artistic liberty (i.e., his madness for the middle segment of the film), there’s no reason to throw out the whole film.
Partway through the film, Noah had a glimpse of the wickedness of the world. This wickedness, which he knew to be the reason for the flood, is what caused him to realize his own frailty. Indeed, he considered himself, and his family, to be wicked along with the rest of the world. From a Biblical standpoint, this is spot-on (Rom. 3:23). [**SPOILER ALERT**] In seeing the sinful frailty of everyone, himself and his family included, he decided to “play God” and let his family die off without propagating the next generation. He considered this decision to be from God, yet no dream/vision was given to him telling him to let his family die; he self-convinced himself.
We see a very human Noah reacting in a very human way by making a rash decision. After all, Noah is akin to us here; how often do we simply assume that we “know” what God wants us to do? How often do we decide what God’s will is without actually knowing? This blatant artistic liberty (Noah’s misdirected decision) isn’t disgraceful to the Biblical account if it simply reminds us of Noah’s humanness. Like a bony piece of meat, we can pick and choose what we consume in a film, including the subtle lessons it teaches.
God is Good
We see a need for justice in the film’s grisly portrayal of people. Aronofsky portrayed humanity’s sin as the self-proclaimed entitlement it held towards the world and others (see Prov. 16:5). They considered themselves to be gods, essentially, taking whatever they desired and doing whatever pleased them. They took God’s mandate, “Subdue the earth and have dominion over it” (Gen. 1:28), way out of context. Truly, “Every intention of the thoughts of [humanity’s] heart was only evil continually” (Gen.6:5b). In many respects, I believe that the film fell short of the actual extent of wickedness in pre-Flood society. Still, it made me cringe to think of living in such a world, and the film made the flood a legitimate response to its deplorable condition. I was glad that there wasn’t a disconnect between the sin and the judgment because that would have made God into an overreacting maniac. God was seen as a sober judge who knew exactly how to renew humanity, without completely obliterating it.
As I mentioned earlier, Noah considered everyone, himself and his family included, worthy of judgment. This is perhaps the what defines him against the world. He didn’t have a calloused heart, unable to recognize one’s own shortcomings. It was this view of himself that allowed God to mold him back from his madness. God chose Noah for a reason (as characters say in the film). He knew Noah would be the new beginning that humanity needed, and the film doesn’t deviate from this point. The malleability of one’s heart is what gives humanity hope (Psa. 51:10; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 11:19; Matt. 5:8), and Aronofsky portrayed it whether he intended to or not.
Few films grapple with such universal morality as Noah. This film forces us, the audience, to grapple with the world around us, and to even grapple with our own morality. It poses questions of hope, justice, mercy, goodness, evil, faith, trust and God’s provision. Aronofsky crafted a film about humanity’s wickedness and God’s justice, and regardless of his intentions, it effectively brings the Biblical account, along with its moral questions, to life (albeit with creative liberties).
If an atheist is able to make a film about a Biblical account and still maintain the Biblical traits of God in such an account, I believe it to be a blessing. A film’s view of God is ultimately what matters. Christians should only have an issue with a film if it deliberately attempts to dishonor God. I’m convinced that Noah honors God, and therefore should not be condemned. A Biblical film doesn’t need to be perfectly accurate to the Bible to be glorifying to God. We can’t expect filmmakers to cater to the Church’s desires, so why worry about creative liberties if God is uplifted anyway? Noah offers a clear and powerful portrayal of God’s goodness, provision, justice and mercy, and this view of God is ultimately what gives hope to humanity.