Noah, The Biblical Story, and Stuff Christians Fight About

I don’t usually blog about controversial topics, but I’ve seen so much about this and I have some thoughts, so I figured I would get them out. I think many (not all) of the issues some of my fellow Christians have about the new Noah film are much more telling about a problematic understanding of scripture within the modern day Church than about some evil, maniacal filmmaker twirling his mustache and trying to dismantle Christianity as we know it. Russell Crowe as Noah

It’s not as if the book of Genesis is the sole intellectual property of Christians and it’s also not as if the movie (or any of the press surrounding it) ever states that it is intended to be an accurate representation of the biblical story. It’s exactly what it’s marketed as, a big budget action film loosely based on the story of Noah. I mean, would so many Christians freak out if it were named Gilgamesh? (see more: here)Look at any of the most popular action movies in the last year. What is one thing they have in common? They’re explosive, violent, and without your willing suspension of disbelief, are absolutely over-dramatized and ridiculous.

I see and have talked to Christians who have never taken an interest in anything remotely theological start to protest the flawed biblical epic in Aronofsky’s film. In fact, this story reads more like a midrash than a “based on a true story” blockbuster. A midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. This has a rich history in Judaism, where rabbis would tell stories that were slightly different, stories that utilized the imagination rather than only what they had written down. Fact and fiction meeting to reveal truth about God. Obviously, I’m not Jewish so this method is foreign and strange to me and doesn’t quite resonate with me theologically. But the midrash taps from wells other than Christendom, something those up in arms about this tend to forget.

(UPDATE: To clarify, I’d like to say that I’m not calling the Noah movie a midrash by any stretch of the imagination, simply stating that there is this tradition in Judaism and in the world in general and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a take on this practice. The comparison has been made before and will be made again. The media culture is always about repackaging and retelling the same stories over and over. And Aronofsky had an agenda, for sure, but the concern shouldn’t be on what that was but how Christian people can use the film itself to start a conversation about the truth.)

And to see people who would otherwise not care about deep theology freaking out because they feel like their faith is being attacked…it’s just a lot more complicated than that.

Also, it seems like there is some surprise that the biblical story is portrayed as dark? It is dark. Very dark. And we can’t wrap it up in a nice little bow and make it pretty if we are ever to really understand the depth of our failure and sin in the face of a holy God.  It’s easy to remember the murals in our church nursery and go back to Kindergarten Sunday School days and believe that Noah himself was perfect and without sin, but this simply doesn’t reflect.

I saw on one Facebook page someone complaining about the movie and a comment that read something like this. “What’s next? They’re going to make Noah a drunk?” and I desperately hoped they were being sarcastic. In fact, we have part of the biblical narrative that is rarely talked about (Genesis 9:20-25) in which Noah does get drunk after the flood, as well as lots of other awkward things that, for the sake of this blog post, I will leave a mystery.

But I think that Noah’s depravity post the flood is meant to teach us something. It’s to show us that even the best of us are not without sin. Even those of us who God uses to do a great work are desperately in need of something outside of ourselves to come in and save us from our wickedness and God’s wrath. And that is where the story of Noah becomes overwhelmingly and emotionally jarring for me, because it points to my own sinfulness and my own desperate need for a Savior.

Yes, I intend to see Noah when it comes to redbox. Yes, I go into it with no delusions. It will be flawed, it will not reflect my Christian faith. But I know the biblical story. Which means that when I talk to people who do not, and who may be “led astray” by the movie, I can speak to the true character of God. I can bring out how the story of Noah points to the justice and holiness of God and the overwhelming grace of God in sending his son Jesus to atone for my darkness and sin.

Christians are the only people in the world who are not without hope for the future. So share Jesus, not anger. Whenever you have something to complain about, think of ways to turn it around and use it for God’s glory. This world is too full of brokenness for us to waste time not living out the gospel in all we do.

Peace. ΑΩ



107 thoughts on “Noah, The Biblical Story, and Stuff Christians Fight About”

  1. Why do we argue with material that is in the air. Accept it and ride on. No one wins the disagreement and the truth of the matter will always be in the way one reads the words.

  2. As someone who was raised in Judaism, I’m well aware of the midrash, and honestly it made parts of the Bible easier to understand. If you look at the story of Abel and Cain, it’s kind of vague why Abel got killed. Midrash helps to fill in the blanks and make it easier to understand.
    Of course, I’ve no idea if Noah can count as a midrash. I feel it’s just an imaginative movie based on a well-known story. I wish people would get more upset over other issues, like families trying to live when they don’t have enough to feed children or something.

      1. Basically the idea is that while the Old Testament is the spoken word of God, He left it for humans to interpret it. Sometimes interpreting the Old Testament requires a little bit of help and the rabbis filled in the blanks with stories.

        For example, in the story of Exodus all the Old Testament says is that a new Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph and who decided to enslave the Hebrews lest they rise up against the Egyptians. The rabbis explain this by saying that there was a revolution of a coup, and a new dynasty arose (historically, this may relate to actual events in ancient Egypt with the ousting of the Hyksos invaders). Because the Hebrews were close to the old regime, the new regime enslaved them.

        If you want to know more, there are plenty of rabbis and scholars who I’m sure could do a better job of explaining this than I could.

      1. Like educating our children for the future, teaching them the skills they need in careers and to be good people. Or feeding and clothing the homeless or those in poverty, getting healthcare to those who can’t afford it, and reducing violence at home and abroad.

  3. I saw this movie and as a Christian, wasn’t offended. Given how little of the Bible is devoted to Noah’s story, I knew that the filmmakers would have to add something. I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion though

  4. What if it was a story based on the Koran? I would imagine that the Muslims would take exception to such a loose interpretation.

    Then again, when I want to learn about God, I read the Bible.

  5. The key point is that the story of Noah was one of a group of narratives that would have been told from one generation to the next to convey some deeper truth. Today that truth could well be God’s concern not just for humans but all living things; a point that can’t be lost on a world facing global warming and species’ extinction.

  6. God can use anything and anyone to get done what he wants. He knew this day would come and it will be turned around for his glory. We may never know it but the person who was meant to be affected by it will. Gods thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. He uses the foolish to confound the wise. Good post.

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this, because if you didn’t I would have. Good work, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Your exactly right, Christians need to have a real and close relationship with the Author and Finisher of our Faith. We can not pretty up thing just because someone can’t stand to look at the real darkness in the history of mankind. O I could go on and on, but will stop here. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him…” This movie is just that, a movie. This should be a reason to seek to study and know His Word, this is the reason for all the chatter, people don’t really know, nor do most care about Him or His Word.

    1. People that say that this has too much darkness has obviously not read the bible. So much despair and sadness happens. You can’t ignore it. It is part of our history.

  8. Thank you for a well written, straight up blog on Noah, the movie and the story. For literary reasons, I personally prefer to read the Old Testament to the New, and I am a Christian. The OT reads more like a novel and engages the reader; it doesn’t pull any punches in its portrayal of the human race. Some people place novels on a lower tier than so-called non-fiction books, but Truman Capote proved that a true story can be cast in the novel form. With possibly the exception of the Gospels, the NT tends to be more like some academic treatise, precise, rational and dry. I suspect the gospel writers foreshadowed the method later adopted by Capote.

  9. I saw it and strongly encourage you not to wait until it comes out on dvd to see it. One thing I don’t understand is why “Christians” are making such a fuss over it. This is from the Old Testament and does nothing to shed anything negative on God or Christianity. I’ve heard people talking against it who haven’t seen it, saying “Pastor So-and-So said it was evil, blah, blah.” I wonder if Pastor So-and-So saw it? If you didn’t like it, all you have to say is “the book was better.”

  10. Does it bother anyone here that the Noah story is a tale of divine genocide? Imagine what it would have been like if this had actually happened. Think about all the men, women, and children drowning… the old people and nursing mothers, plus all the animals, everyone screaming in terror. And now picture all those otherwise good-hearted believers over the centuries hearing this story and saying to themselves, “Yeah, but they all must have *deserved* it!” Thus, even the most spectacularly evil act imaginable is “good” as long as it’s attributed to God–isn’t that the moral of the story?

    1. It is something to think about for sure, and any educated person must ask themselves if God as portrayed in the Old Testament is a loving Father who pursues and gives mercy or is a genocidal maniac. You bring up a good point. The same could be said of Joshua’s conquering of Canaan. But what about those in the city, why would God command absolute slaughter? I was challenged by a close friend when I had these questions in college. He told me to think about what I believe a loving God would look like and try to read the story through that lens.

      It helped, but did not completely answer all of my gnawing questions. And, if I am honest, it still challenges me. But I won’t write off something simply because I don’t understand it. And the qualities of God as revealed in Jesus Christ in the New Testament still transfix me. Christ is the standard that provides sufficient answers for me about the nature of God. The story of Noah may not fit into the paradigm of love I have constructed, but I have been wrong before. Maybe my idea of love is insufficient in lieu of an omniscient God who sees all the things, who knows a future that I can’t see and loves with an abandon that I do not have the capacity to understand.

      And I realize that my answer is probably insufficient for you, as it’s not really an answer but instead is a declaration that my faith allows for mystery and I will admit that there are many things I don’t know. But I thoroughly appreciate your comment and can accept and appreciate that we see the world in different ways.

      1. What an honest and humble reply! I wish more people in the blogosphere had such a gentle approach… people could disagree without screaming at each other.

        I would only suggest that we have difficulty with the Bible’s cruelties not because we don’t understand them, but because we do. For all our problems today, we’re still a lot more humane than our Iron Age ancestors. We wince at their easy acceptance of slavery and massacre and theocracy and hellfire. As a result, many people of faith try to find alternate interpretations. They try to rescue the Bible’s cruel passages from what has long been regarded as their obvious meaning. This is a good thing, in a way, and reflects well on the humaneness of the people who do it.
        But after wrestling with these issues myself, I finally concluded that we’ve simply outgrown a lot of these stories. At some point they become more of an impediment to our moral growth than an inspiration.

  11. I saw the movie Noah and loved it. I am starting to reconnect with Jesus and just finished reading Genesis. I also saw “God is not dead” which was another great film. I think it is amazing that all these christian based faith movies are coming out all at once. Yes the movie Noah had a lot of darkness associated with the story but it is God being fed up with humanity and how it turned out. He wiped it out and started fresh. We are not all perfect. It is obvious. We need to try to follow God to our best abilities. With that we will learn so many new things that will make us such better people. If Christians are really complaining about how the movie was made-they should think twice. We were not put on this earth to judge. Take it for what it is.

  12. Allow me to disagree with one sentence in here:
    “Christians are the only people in the world who are not without hope for the future.”
    Sorry, this is just not true.

  13. Well said. Don’t wait until it is out in DVD. Much better on the large screen. I had no problem paying to see this movie. Who says No Biblical truth can come out of a Biblical movie made by people who aren’t Christians? Since God is the Creator, as the movie emphasizes over and over again, why is it impossible for God to speak through any person he created? Christians have hope, yes, but we don’t hold a monopoly on God. I like your review.

    1. Me waiting to see it in Redbox isn’t an ideological stance as much as it is a financial one. Fresh out of college and waiting to hear back about a job, so no movie-going for me for a while. Haha.

  14. “…But I think that Noah’s depravity post flood is meant to teach us something. It’s to show us that even the best of us are not without sin.”

    After I read this passage from your thoughtful post, I thought, “And all ‘sinners’ deserve love and forgiveness.” There’s too much finger-pointing going on these days. There are too many Christians hurling the weight of the bible around and manipulating scripture to suit their hidden agendas. There’s too much fear and anger, not enough love and compassion and the words of Jesus and the intent in his coming is getting lost in all of the noise. Thank you for reminding me of God’s grace and the comforting knowledge that I am one of His children.

  15. Great post! Sometimes I think we forget that just getting people talking about scriptural things is a starting point. It helps us in getting the message out there, even if it isn’t perfect in its delivery.

  16. Really interesting article and take of the religious lessons of the film. For me, I suppose the let down in again with this film is the fact that the bible is set (for want of better terms)for the most part in the Middle East, North or East Africa and yet this is never reflected in casting or mainstream retelling.

  17. What a fantastic and well written post. Congratulations on the Pressing!
    Interestingly enough, I felt I would be passing this film by. Not because it’s ‘based on’ the biblical story of Noah, or that it is directed by Aronofsky, whom I consider to be a brilliant film maker, by the way. I simply figured it would be one more over – the – top Hollywood attempt at action/money-making I could do without.
    It is a film generating friction out of the release gate and to me, this is good. It will cause conversation for good or ill, but conversation nonetheless.
    Let’s hope of the many who read your post, those who previously forgot they have it within them to help ‘right wrongs’, somehow remember they came into this world so blessed?


  18. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but when I do, I think I know what to expect of it – a lot of stuff written for entertainment and “wow”s. See, that’s a big part of what a majority of movies are about these days, and Sunday school stuff is a whole ‘nother genre altogether. Peace 🙂

  19. I loved your post! My friend and I are both in seminary. She went to see Noah this past weekend and was saying how many people left because the story wasn’t “Christian”. Well this is a no-brainer. People who claim to know the bible who walk out of a film based on the Old Testament which was written before the birth of Jesus obviously don’t know the bible at all.

    I also loved that the movie is gritty and that Noah is a bit gruff. Like you said, God sometimes picks unlikely people to do epic things.

    Great post!

  20. I agree! The Bible says the world doesn’t love Jesus. Why are Christians so surprised when this proves to be true? Let’s just show ourselves to be followers of Jesus in everything we do!

  21. It’s about what your believe in your…um, belief. To wit: if Jesus is indeed God in man’s form (which is the form of God…whoa, weird), then isn’t a painting of Him a “graven image”of sorts? Isn’t that statue of him on the cross at church surely a “graven image?” Cartoons of Jesus on “South Park,” that crucifix around many necks, the painting of God in the Cistine Chapel? If so, then all of film’s biblical depictions are against the Word of God, and therefore as blasphemous as the other “graven images.”

    But it’s not even something to take seriously for crying out loud. When Russell Crowe is Noah, stop caring immediately. Nobody thinks of the Gladiator when they read the Noah story. Grain of salt? Taken.

  22. I’m a christian, but I haven’t bothered to see the Noah movie. My assumption is that if a bible story is made into a movie in Hollywood the likelihood of it being like it is in the bible is about 10% most likely less… It’s Hollywood, and Hollywood will do what Hollywood wants. 🙂

  23. I am troubled by the idea that something outside of us will save us. We, the collective us, is comprised of individuals. Our lives emanate from us. We have the ability to do the right things to create a great world, no matter how flawed (full of sin) we are. It is irresponsible to abdicate that responsibility for any reason.

  24. I guess I am one of those Christian types who would see the movie and actually view it as being something made by the “entertainment industry”. Which means that a lot of creative licensing will happen when stretching a short segment of a chapter in the bible out to be a long film.

  25. My only question is how Noah got so buff. It’s not like they had steroids around back then.
    But I agree your main points about Jesus and Christians in general.

  26. Thanks for explaining the term “midrash” which is completely new to me. I haven’t been to see the new film yet but I was a bit surprised by the comments on the web about Noah being portrayed as a drunk. I also don’t get why Christians are so against taking an artistic license with the Bible. Lots of Christians I know love “The Ten Commandments” but there’s a heck of a lot of stuff Cecil B. DeMille put in there that the Bible leaves out. People should give it a chance before condemning. Maybe if we turned out, Hollywood would make more…. just saying.

  27. Reblogged this on Well O' Faith and commented:
    As a new Christian, and someone who hasn’t seen the movie, this is a refreshing take on it that makes a lot of sense. After all, it is Hollywood, and nothing there tends to be real anyway. -Sare

  28. If you are not sure about this movie. Then read the bible and make your opinion based on Gods word not mans..

  29. Classic post and good comments, so true that it’s crazy people would get so caught up in a movie and bother arguing about it when there are so many more real issues going on every day. Like why would a Christian waste time arguing about some Russell Crowe movie with people on a website in this world, where injustice is so common you can pretty much take your pick of real issues to argue about?
    We are a new podcast that explores all this type of stuff, we don’t shy away from controversy and encourage discussion and all view points. I think (hope) some readers of this kind of article might be interested in checking us out and helping us grow, I’ll wack in a link it that’s ok you can listen from our site or download mp3s – tx and keep up the interesting blog.

  30. I like your viewpoint. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard that it really has more of just an “adventure” movie feel. We have to get our Scripture from Scripture. Not from the movie theatre. That’s for entertainment. Like most movies based on books, it sounds like they completely changed the story. And I am 100% sure that the book is better 🙂 We can only hope that it will encourage someone to read the *true story* that the movie is based on. I love love love the last paragraph of your post. I really want to embrace that idea more often in my own life.

  31. The problem I have with Christians is that they fail to define what it is they actually believe in. Some give various definitions of God, different interpretations of the Bible, and almost no one agrees how much of the Bible should be taken literally versus figuratively. So how can you know the ways in which the movie is different than the biblical story, if that story has been rewritten and retold countless times?

  32. Well said! Plus Aranofsky really went out of his way to market the film as one that was NOT trying to tell the biblical story… leave it to bandwagon jumpers to blow the whole thing out of proportion. I saw a film on television last night that attempted to resume all 66 books of the Christian bible into a 4 hour long film production. Obviously the film had to glorify some details and leave others out. It’s par for the course in storytelling if you ask me.

  33. I’ve not yet seen the movie, but have heard a lot of hoopla about it. I am very glad that you have brought up Noah’s imperfection as a man. Few of those chosen to do God’s work were perfect people. Would a perfect and good person get the attention required to spread God’s Word? Frankly, I don’t think so. Think of Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul of Tarsus. Dude was out there going SWAT on early Christians before his conversion. He violently persecuted those who would follow the Lord. Place his story in the current context of celebrity status: We become so used to seeing certain celebrities acting in a particular way, that when they go contrary to expectations, it becomes headline news. Surely everyone talked about Saul’s conversion and wanted to see what it was all about. Had Saul/Paul been an ordinary person who regularly did good deeds, it’s not likely a conversation would have been started. In retrospect, had this movie not been made, the conversation about salvation might not have gotten a reboot.

  34. Reblogged this on On My Crystal Stair and commented:
    I’ve not yet seen the movie, but have heard a lot of hoopla about it. I am very glad that this writer has brought up Noah’s imperfection as a man. Few of those chosen to do God’s work were perfect people. Would a perfect and good person get the attention required to spread God’s Word? Frankly, I don’t think so. Think of Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul of Tarsus. Dude was out there going SWAT on early Christians before his conversion. He violently persecuted those who would follow the Lord. Place his story in the current context of celebrity status: We become so used to seeing certain celebrities acting in a particular way, that when they go contrary to expectations, it becomes headline news. Surely everyone talked about Saul’s conversion and wanted to see what it was all about. Had Saul/Paul been an ordinary person who regularly did good deeds, it’s not likely a conversation would have been started. In retrospect, had this movie not been made, the conversation about salvation might not have gotten a reboot.

  35. I still think these type of things are done to troll fro straw men with which to lambaste Christianity in the “conversations” that follow these releases.

    This might be anecdotal on my part, but not a single Christian friend of mine who found the idea of grinding Noah’s story into an a pseudo-gnostic environmental screed objectionable ever did anything other than bring it up as a matter of discussion.

    This, to me bespeaks debate, not pathological derangement. But it allows the media template to flourish–and after one discussion of the movie goes viral, the press (a LAZY and MYOPIC press) sits back, and writes narratives about Christians “freaking out.”

    In fact, it appears that “freaking out about a video” is a common tool used by politicos and their buddies in the press to keep from getting to actual facts about anything.

    If we’re going to understand the idea that Jesus in the fullness of who he is, will always be the derided model:

    1. The Last temptation of Christ–Christians objecting are the problem.

    2. Da Vinci Code–Christians bothered by a takedown of Christ’s majesty are the problem.

    3. Passion of The Christ–Christians supporting a movie that DOESN”T assault Christ’s legacy are the problem.

    And on and on and on. It just turns out that it’s more fun to sit back in the coliseum for NOW and watch “enlightened” Christians take on an undefined constituency of refuseniks in their own ranks. And if all it takes is a phony “controversy,” to get them fighting each other, that much easier.

    This film,and its “discussion” is a classic case of them trolling us. That’s it.

  36. Thank you for writing this insightful piece. You have expressed eloquently what I have been struggling to form into coherent words. A great movie that should not be taken as an all encompassing representation of the essence of the biblical story but rather one that does provoke thought and discussion.

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