The Noah movie opens today to a confusing chorus of Christian voices. Some say, "Go," while others say, "No." Some say, "Good," while others say, "Heresy."
If Hollywood has a checkered history with biblical movies, Christian responses are equally inconsistent. Partially at issue is whether followers of Christ should expect perfect alignment with scripture when a non-believer is telling the story. Any deviation from the text sets loose howls of "war on Christians" or "war on the Bible."
I cannot for the life of me understand why some pastors–who do not agree among themselves what the Nephalim are–can suddenly agree among themselves what the Nephalim are not. Common enemy and all that I suppose.
The issue seems to be whether followers of Christ should "support Hollywood" or "send a message to Hollywood" regarding biblical movies. Here are a few thoughts:
1. No movie ever gets all of a biblical story exactly right. The most well established biblical epic of all time, The Ten Commandments, does not get it right and the vast majority of Christians have seen and appreciate the (now dated) effort. Expecting movies, many of which are working with scant source material, to stick strictly to the biblical storyline is quite preposterous.
Besides, if Noah went literally by the book, viewers would have to listen to him preach for 120 years, then sit through 40-days of rain scenes, followed by months of floating. Theater preparation would necessitate Dramamine and motion sickness bags. Because of the work of believers Paramount added an "explanatory message" to the advertising:
"The film is inspired by the story of Noah.
While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.
The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."
So, Hollywood makes a movie about a biblical story, includes a statement telling viewers they have departed from the actual story, and explain exactly where they can find the actual story in the Bible, yet this is a bad thing?
2. Too many Christians are like chained dogs that have been living on a diet of gunpowder and pepper sauce. You have met them. You many be one of them. Always itching for a fight. Always critical of every other Christian. Especially where they can find any place of disagreement. They cannot see any view as orthodox other than the echo chamber reinforced theology they themselves hold. Confirmation bias seems to be their spiritual gift.
Constantly angry, critical believers alienate honest unbelievers, even those who are considering the claims of Scripture. Nowhere does Jude imply that "earnestly contending for the faith" means berating anything at all, much less everything in sight.
3. It is far better for Hollywood to explore themes surrounding God and miss by a little, than explore themes surrounding Jesus and miss by a mile. These are two different things. By all accounts, Noah has its hits and misses. But, by all accounts, it is not The Last Temptation of Christ. It definitely is not Bill Maher Religulous style brain death.
4. Religious and biblically themed movies are cultural bridges for the gospel. Whether the movie is Noah, Bruce Almighty, The Village, The Passion of the Christ, Heaven Is For Real, Exodus, Mary, Mother of Christ or The Blind Side the bridge is built for us. Why destroy the bridge rather than walking over it? The gospel travels more easily over a bridge than over a chasm.
5. Why is it so difficult to affirm the good rather than carping on the erroneous?
It is quite ironic how many of these complainers will affirm Christian movies that are poorly made, poorly written, and containing questionable theology. Are Chariots of Fire and Les Mis the only secular made biblical themed movies the majority of Christians can agree on?
We need not be unnecessarily critical of Hollywood's biblically themed movies to affirm and support a burgeoning Christian film segment. Perhaps support will bring an ultimately better product from both directions.
It makes me wonder how different Mars Hill would have been had Paul been like many 21st century American Christians.
"As I look around I see you are very, very religious. This, of course, is a terrible thing. Look at all these altars. You people are blind and you don't even know it! You have altars to cows, horses, and false gods of every ilk!
Look. Here's an altar to an unknown god. What a waste! I cannot believe God has not smitten you all with boils and unimaginable plagues. You ungodly, pagan, unrighteous, rebellious, blind, deaf, dumb, false god worshiping bunch of liberals! You should tear down all these altars including the one to the god who will be named later! Just believe in Jesus.
If you want to find how that conversation really went, take a peek at Acts 17 in the New Testament.
Surely we must be discerning in all movie viewing, not merely those that claim a biblical source code. There is nothing wrong with checking multiple reviews to help come to a personal conclusion. You can read every review written, but if you have not seen the movie you should be slow to criticize. Better to say, "Based on reviews I've decided not to see it and here's why…" rather than, "This is a piece of drivel no living, breathing Christian should see it" when you have not seen it yourself.
And so it goes…