Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 27th, 2014 by Joel Watts

#Noah is unapologetically theological (first thoughts)

Noah is the first major, at least modern, representation of the tragedy, the horror, the genocide that is the Great Deluge enshrined in our biblical text. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson, Darren Aronofsky’s personal epic details the unknown, archaic past in such a way as to throw all of the bloody details about an adolescent god in your face.

In the lead up to this release, Ken Ham and other fundamentalists went on a bender, arguing and urging their followers to not see this movie. It was even banned in some countries. Yes, there are moments of real science-turned-myth, but I suspect the real reason Ham and his ilk wish to avoid this movie is not the nebula that becomes our sun, but the very real, and plain sense, portrayal of a God who creates a wonderful world, but after a series of misfortunes — actions he could have helped his creation to avoid — he simply abandons them to their own free will devices. After ten generations, he decides it is time to judge them. During the meantime, he has no contact with the line of Cain and only spotty, questionable contact with the line of Seth.

Believers are often faced with the questions we so avidly see displayed on screen. How could this wonderful creator, without cause — and indeed, he is more guilty than his creation — cause such destruction? In what little dialogue there is, it is not Noah that defends the murderous God, but the equally repugnant Tubalcain who maintains that he as a man was created in the image of God. It is only from the antagonist we hear the familiar refrain. Therefore, he will take what he wants and he will decide who lives and who dies. He is, after all, created in the image of the very Creator who is now deciding who lives and who dies. Noah, for his part, is pictured as a caring man, full of compassion for plants, animals, and his family. Noah, filled with compassion, defends God, even to the point of complete annihilation of the human race — by his hand.

In one stark image we are allowed to see the true horror of the story. Underneath the oceans of water there lies the whole of humankind, including women and children. We are reminded near the end of the movie that many who died were “good.” Yet, it was not these who were pulled to the surface and saved, but the animals. And Noah. The same Noah who spends many months plotting to kill the innocent in the name of his God.

It is not the actual science of our creation, overlayed with the myth of Genesis 1, that will startle the earnest believer. Rather, it is the poignant reminder that God forsook his Creation for 10 generations (according to Scripture) only to murder even the innocent.

The sources used in the movie does include Genesis, but so too the apocryphal along with some added Hollywood flair. There is a gritty feel to the movie, as needed. The dialogue is sparse; however, it is not so much the amount of dialogue in the movie that is important as the amount of dialogue from the movie that will remain.

But, even with all of this, there is a message we can grasp and it is just as powerfully deep as the other message is repugnant. It is that God will provide if we find the love hidden in us. Further, and something that warms my heart, the writers get eschatology correct.

There is no end, there is only a (new) beginning.

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


6 Responses to “#Noah is unapologetically theological (first thoughts)”
  1. Just Sayin' says

    Nice review. Thanks.

  2. Know More Than I Should says

    God as a big screen psychopath isn’t conducive to filling the pews on Sunday.

  3. How timely! My wife got a call from a fellow church member of hers (my old church, thank goodness). She told my wife that the new movie was unbiblical, and she is not going to see it. Funny how this stuff spreads like wild fire through the fundamentalist’s chain of communications. They have better networks than NSA. I mentioned to my wife, “how could a STORY, about mass murder, be made more biblical?” I don’t get it. Needless to say, I should have kept my mouth shut. No use attempting to use common sense on fundamentalists.

    • Know More Than I Should says

      It just goes to show that supposed houses of worship are often little more than houses of gossip. That grapevine only becomes a problem when the preacher can’t control it. Otherwise, it is serves as a behind the scenes propaganda machine.

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