Written by Dr. Susan BoothProfessor of Evangelism & Missions at CSBS&C
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Don't Miss the Boat! Discussing the Gospel in Noah
Spoiler alert: The following reveals information about the movie Noah. If you plan on viewing the movie with someone and discussing it afterward, you still may want to continue reading in order to be able to articulate significant biblical themes other than “That wasn’t in the Bible!” Below are some points of discussion of the movie, followed by the overarching Story of the Bible.
Actor Russell Crowe as Noah in Paramount Pictures’ 2014 film Noah.
To view or not to view? Most of the discussion swirling around the movie Noah seems to be missing the boat—literally. If believers are going to theaters simply to compare the cinematic story with the biblical story, then they probably needn’t bother. The director, a self-proclaimed atheist, has already asserted that the two accounts do not square. However, although the movie diverges widely from the biblical text and some have noted strong links to gnostic ideas, Christians who choose to see the movie should be ready use the resulting discussion to point viewers to the biblical gospel. Noah provides an excellent opportunity to discuss truly biblical themes with those outside the faith because the movie suggests touch-points for most of the elements of fourfold plotline of the Bible: creation, fall, rescue, and restoration.
Creation: The movie raises the question of God’s purposes for his creation and repeatedly mentions that man is made in “the image of God.” Use this opportunity to explore God’s purposes for his good creation and what it means to be made in “the image of God.”
From Scripture: Because God created humanity, he has authority over us. We belong to him, and he has a purpose for us. At creation he gave humankind an incredible gift. He made us in his own image in order that we should be his representatives and care for his creation. It also means that the Creator made us to know him and love him and to display his glory by reflecting it back to him in worship.
Fall: The movie repeatedly pictures the story of the fall (Genesis 3) and graphically depicts the resulting wickedness of humans. The cinematic version of the story portrays the wholesale judgment of the flood in indelible scenes of realistic horror. Somewhat strangely, the movie adds a stowaway on the ark: the unrepentant murderer Tubal-cain, who boasts that he is like God and vows to take over the earth after the judgment of the flood. The makers of the movie rightly recognize that sin unchecked would destroy the renewed earth. They also show that even those whom God placed in the ark still carry the sin “virus” and pass it on to all their progeny. Noah the actor discovers that evil is not just in others; it’s inside us all. His failure to remove the root of sin results in a drunken depression post-flood. Likewise, Ham’s sullen departure from the family lays the groundwork for future dissention and strife.
“Noah the actor discovers that evil is not just in others; it’s inside us all.”
Discuss the essence of the original sin and its consequences across the ages—for humanity and for all creation as well. Sin always results in death and judgment. The blatantly unrepentant stowaway underscores the truth that, “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). Similarly, Noah and his descendants demonstrate the abysmal failure of even an “I-just-try-to-be-the-best-that-I-can” attitude. The post-world flood is no paradise; humanity and the fallen world still stand in desperate need of a rescue.
From Scripture: Tragically, the very first humans rejected God’s authority over them. They wanted to take the place that only God deserves; they wanted to decide what was right and wrong for themselves. Their sin had disastrous consequences for all of creation. Although humanity still bore the image of God, it was fractured and all creation was in some sense broken. According to Romans 3:23, ever since then, every single person born of human parents has inherited that same broken sin nature. This includes not only the outward symptoms—violence, lying, anger, etc.—but also the underlying disease of putting anything else in the place that only God deserves, including self. Romans 6:23a tells us “the wages of sin is death.” So not only do we have sin in our lives; we also have the payment for sin, which is death. Sin always results in judgment. The Bible explains that death is not just physical, but it is also spiritual separation from God, or hell.
Rescue: Noah the actor comes to the mistaken conclusion that God has given him the task of building the ark because God wants to rescue only the animals and to destroy all humanity. This brings him to the brink of sacrificing the lives of his own infant granddaughters—an imaginative addition to the Genesis account, but also an echo of the biblical story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac. Contrast this interpretation of the movie with God’s redemptive plan to rescue humanity.
From Scripture: From the beginning, God’s plan has been to redeem both humanity and his creation. Even the account of God’s judgment after the fall contains hints of a coming rescue. Genesis 3:15 promises that a descendant of the first woman will one day crush the head of the serpent. In order to provide more adequate clothing than fig leaves, God himself provides the first couple with garments made from skins, a foreshadowing of animal sacrifice. From Genesis 4 on, worship involves the substitute sacrifice of a clean animal as a continual reminder that the wages of sin is death and that sin must be atoned for in order to commune with God who is holy. (The movie omits the detail that clean animals—those appropriate for sacrifice—entered the ark not by pairs but by sevens. Unfortunately, it also fails to show that when all the inhabitants disembark from the boat, Noah immediately worships God by sacrificing one of every clean animal and bird.)
Throughout the rest of the Bible, an endless parade of animal sacrifices anticipates the day when Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Amazingly, God himself did what is merely foreshadowed by the cinematic Noah and the biblical Abraham: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ once-for-all perfect sacrifice is our only hope of rescue because it dealt with sin at its root (see 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). By his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus not only paid for our sin and conquered death, but he also makes it possible for us to share in his righteousness and right standing before God.
Restoration: Although the post-flood earth is not paradise, the movie expresses a longing for a world in which there is no sin; a world where all creation lives in harmony with its Creator. Point out that this universal longing for a “happily-ever-after” ending anticipates the future reality that the Bible describes in its final chapters.
From Scripture: One day the risen Lord Jesus will return and usher in just such a kingdom. At that time the old serpent Satan and all his followers will be cast out of God’s presence into everlasting punishment—along with all of humanity who refuse to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, populated by the redeemed and perfected people of God, and God himself will dwell in their midst and wipe away their tears. There will be no more sorrow or suffering; there will no more sin or death. The redeemed people of God will worship the one who rescued them by his grace, and God Almighty and the Lamb will reign forever. (Read Revelation 20–22).
A Biblical Response: Offer a biblical response to the story of the Bible. Like Noah, we must acknowledge our brokenness and desperate need for rescue. We must turn away from our sin and the desire to rule our own lives, and instead turn toward the God who made us for himself. We must place our faith in the final and perfect sacrifice of Jesus, who died on the cross to pay for our sin and rose again from the dead. By faith, we receive his forgiveness and his Spirit that gives us spiritual life and makes us part of his new creation. In gratitude, we surrender control of our lives to his leadership. After all, we were made for this: communion with the God who created us for himself and who loved us enough to rescue us. Thanks be to God for his glorious grace!
“Like Noah, we must acknowledge our brokenness and desperate need for rescue.” [tweet this]
The Bible acknowledges that while some will scoff at the proclamation of Jesus’ return, the judgment of Noah’s flood should be a lesson to them of the coming judgment in which the present heavens and earth will be destroyed by an intense fire—a prophecy placed on Methuselah’s lips in the movie but spelled out clearly in 2 Peter 3:3–13: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (v.9).
Regarding the timing of his return, Jesus himself taught:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:36–39, 44).
Just as in the days of Noah’s flood, most people sitting in theaters have no idea that the judgment portrayed before their eyes on the big screen will one day pale in comparison to the dreadful reality of the coming final judgment. While Christians must decide for themselves whether or not to view the movie Noah, let us at least reflect God’s same love and concern for those around us. Let us commit ourselves afresh to sharing the good news of God’s amazing rescue. That is the one boat that they must not miss.
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