5 Insights from Noah (the movie)

In Candid Christianity: The Blog by Antwuan Malone4 Comments

There are quite a few naysayers (here, here, and here) out there concerning latest work, Noah. Most of which are Christians who are outraged that the director did not take a straight-from-the-Bible approach to making the film, and others because of its storyline and themes. Some are not even calling it a “biblical” movie at all.

I profoundly disagree. From my perspective, Noah presents a significant opportunity for us to peek into the mind of God.

I’ve reviewed Noah already, but in that review I try not to tell much of the story in order to preserve the experience for the viewers. In this blog, I will assume you have already seen the movie, and so will discuss five different things I found significant about the film from a Christian perspective.

1. Concerning The Watchers

The easiest target in this movie is the stop-motion, rock titans called “The Watchers.” They are introduced in the first five minutes and most certainly procured the “eye-roll” from the Christians in the audience. I think I rolled my eyes as well. But, as I continued through the film, I understood that the movie was setting us into a very different, pre-flood, Earth.

Darren seems intent on showing this in several ways. Many Christians are familiar with Genesis 6 and its mention of the fallen angel’s interaction (and intermingling) with men. The passage mysteriously lacks thorough descriptions. And yet, when you read it, you get the sense that some hybrid of man and angel not only existed, but was prominent in Noah’s day. They are referred to as “heroes” (ESV) or “giants” (KJV).

I bring this up because no one knows the nature of a creature that is half fallen angel- half human. And, again, the scriptures are not very descriptive. This means that any representation of such beasts might inspire a critical reaction.

That said, Darren’s version of Nephilim (The Watchers) are not even close to what I’d imagine. Their function, as presented in the movie, is a complete fabrication. But they do serve a couple key purposes for the storyline. First, they establish Man, especially the pure line of Adam, as significant. And two, they offer a redemptive picture in the midst of the God’s judgment.

Banished from heaven, they have been stuck on Earth until their purposes are fulfilled. And then, upon asking for forgiveness, the fallen angels shed their earthly trappings to be received into heaven by the very “Creator” they chose to rebel against. All this while the rain of judgement is falling on the earth from that very same “Creator” to wipe away wicked Men from the earth.

It is one of the many places in this story where we see God’s judgment and God’s mercy side by side.

2. Concerning Methuselah

Anthony Hopkins plays Methuselah, the oldest dude ever (literally), and displays what many may call magic, or some sort of power. Again, I must rely on the absence of understanding of life pre-flood and grant the creative license.

I’m not saying it’s a fact that Methuselah had special powers or whatever, but is it really all that difficult to believe that God might work through people in such a way, especially since there were angel/man hybrids running around? Again, it’s hard to fathom because the Bible is largely silent. Then again, the Bible is chock full of men performing all kinds of miracles.

The point of Methuselah (for me) is simple. In all of scripture, there is always a remnant — a select few who in every trying period are devoted to God. Methuselah is such a character in this movie. He is, in a sense, a prophet from God who performs miracles the way Elijah and some of the other prophets performed miracles.

Did the Bible say Methuselah had special powers. No. But extra-biblical research suggests he was the last (besides Noah) of a lineage who followed God through all the wickedness around them. His name literally means “his death brings judgment” which signifies that God allowed Methuselah to live out his days before the flood. After his death, “judgement” comes. Of course, the film shows Methuselah consumed in the flood, but the point of his character is made for a movie like this one, which to me is equal parts parable and historical adaptation.

3. Concerning Noah’s Conviction

Now let’s get into the good stuff. One of the main issues people have with this movie concerns the belief that Darren Aronofsky is trying to attack religion. The evidence of such attacking appears in the dogmatism and fundamentalism shown in  Noah’s conviction. It makes sense on some level, but after more thought, I found something much deeper and profound happening here.

Let’s talk about Noah’s convictions in this movie. Noah believes that Man is basically a virus which has destroyed the earth and disrupted its harmony. He also believes God wants to get rid of man and his sin in order to restore that harmony.

Before we get all riled up about this, let’s acknowledge how easy it is for Noah to conclude this.

Noah’s just witnessed God destroying all human life from the earth. He believes God spared his family for the sole purpose of saving creation, which is why the ark exists. As his dreams revealed to him, the “innocent” (notice they were all animals) rise while the guilty (all men) sink.

In Noah’s eyes, God is judging all men, including his own family. Midway through, he makes this realization when he tells his wife they are no different than the men who died in the flood, that “sin” courses through them just as easily. His task, as he understands it, is to help carry out the elimination of Men. And he plans to do this by watching his family die off, one by one. Man must die for God’s creation to experience true harmony. It is unfair for all of creation to suffer for the sins of Man, thus the extinction of men is just.

Hopefully this explains how Noah arrives to the decisions he arrives to concerning his grandchildren, and wanting to kill the babies if they were girls (who would be needed to “replenish” the earth). It is an uncomfortable (to say it lightly) situation Noah finds himself in, but a necessary one to the story the movie is trying to tell.

In short, Noah did not believe his family were spared to start over again. They were spared to save creation, and to be the last men creation would ever see. To start over (replenish the earth) would be to replace the very thing God has just destroyed — sinful men — which would make all that they’d done for nothing.

4. Concerning Noah’s Confliction

Noah’s conviction turns the audience against him. This is a brave move from the director. Noah almost appears as a madman whose lost his senses. The duty he feels to carry out God’s judgment of man conflicts with his inner being — the part of him that values all life

There is no doubt  Noah loves his family. It’s evident that he loves his wife, his sons, and what will be his grandchildren. And while he feels so strongly about being obedient to God, he feels equally pulled into saving his family.

It’s easy to dismiss this entire situation as situational storytelling mumbo jumbo, but I think it’s more than that. The Bible is full of stories of people having to sacrifice their families for obedience to God’s more grand plan. Noah is given a higher perspective. He is given a peek into God’s perspective, and is presented a fork in the road that leads down two very right roads.

On one hand, Noah understands that judgement is not only just for sin (even those of his own family), but right for the harmony of all creation. And yet, on the other hand, love, mercy and grace is equally powerful, and equally right and good. By the end, he understands that love is worth the existence of sin in man.

To say it more simply, Noah must choose between love and judgement. God is leaving it to him to decide which will define humanity’s ending. Noah chooses love, and God uses the rainbow to express his pleasure with his choice.

5. Concerning God

In many ways, this movies gives us a peek into the character of God. The movie is as much a parable as it is an adaptation of a historical event. The ideals at odds with each other here are not dogmatism vs. freewill as much as it is judgment vs. grace.

Noah is largely unlikable once he begins making decisions based on his perception of the greater good much like God the Father looks largely unlikable in the Old Testament as he doles out judgment after judgment. Similar to Noah, there is a tension between the nature of God that demands justice and nature of God that is love and mercy.

And like Noah, God needed to decide which would define Man’s fate. And also like Noah, God has chosen love over judgment. And because of that decision, man can live on. God found a way to satisfy his judgment (on Jesus on the cross) and his grace and mercy.

Noah is not about the historical facts of the Noah account. It’s about the meta-narrative, being retold in the form of this story. In many ways, this movie give us the gospel of God’s grace, mercy and hope, which to me makes it the most biblical movie I’ve seen in a long time.

What are some insights you took away from the movie?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
3 comments
silica
silica


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Gene
Gene

Thanks for commenting on my post, so I thought I would post on yours. I tried to watch the film by trying to suppress any knowledge of the biblical story (which was hard), and I still thought it was poorly written and told. Cool special effects, and I thought the actual scenes of the flood were well done. I liked the performances of Hopkins and Crowe as usual. The meta-narrative of the film was about the preservation creation, not restoring the human condition, and that didn't capture my attention or interest. Themes like kindness, love and mercy were dealt with in the context of human reason and emotion, and there was nothing new or insightful about "Noah's" choices. Very predictable. God was distant and God's message was confusing. That didn't fit with my experience or understanding.

When I did let the biblical story slip into my memory and tried to connect the Watchers to the Nephalim of Scripture, for example, they were sent in the film to protect creation, became soiled by earth and did not marry human women who produced the "mighty men" of Genesis 6. They helped build the ark and fought the sons of Cain from getting on the ark. They reminded me of Transformers and that storyline of protecting the good people from the bad, and I thought they were not original-unique, yes-or helpful to the story.


In the end I could not get the biblical story out of my mind and what a greater story of redemption and restoration it was over the Hollywood film. I do like well-told stories like Philomena and The Monuments Men based on historical events so I'm not picking on this one just because it claims to be based on the Bible.

Thanks for your continued blogging for the sake of seeking truth and helping others find it. 

antwuanm
antwuanm moderator

@Gene Right on. I know it's been a 'different strokes, different folks' kind of thing with this movie. Obviously for me, the overall theme of mercy overriding justice (Noah's part in it as a parable to show God mercy vs. judgment) felt very Christian, despite not being obvious. The problem is, the "liberties" taken are too distracting to make the point truly visible without a deconstruction. 


BTW, Relevant posted an interview with one of the writers that may interest you. AND, I agree. The Watchers are way off. 


http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/noah%E2%80%99s-co-writer-explains-film%E2%80%99s-controversial-theology

stephanie Landsem
stephanie Landsem

Thanks for your insights. It's good to see another perspective.

antwuanm
antwuanm moderator

@stephanie Landsem Thanks for reading it.