Not Your Flannelgraph Noah

Russell Crowe as Noah

If you have yet to hear of the latest blockbuster hit, Noah, then I am going to assume that you live under a rock.

It seems that everyone, especially in Christian circles, has an opinion on the latest Biblical epic to hit the big screen regardless of whether or not they have seen it. Many Christians are boycotting the movie because of its “unfaithful” portrayal of the character and story found in Genesis. Many Christians claim that it is blaspheme to take a story from the Bible and make such drastic changes to it. Others are saying that said Christians are being overly sensitive — after all “it’s just a movie”.

Now, to be fair, when a film comes out that is based off of a bestselling novel, we all know that the avid readers of the book will be quick to call foul when the film director and writer make changes to their beloved story. It should not surprise us, then, to see people of faith call out a director who makes such changes to a story they love.

But are the “artistic changes” worthy of all the uproar they have caused? After seeing the film, I have a few opinions in regards to that question. (Minor plot spoilers will follow).

First off, as the title of this article says, this is not the flannelgraph story of Noah’s Ark that you may have heard in Sunday school. This is a dark film portraying a dark time when desperate men and women do desperate things. This is no film for children.

Nor should it be. The biblical account of Noah tells of a world gone adrift from God. The wickedness of humankind is so bad that God decides to destroy the world — yes, to kill every man, woman, and child with the exception of Noah and his family. If one is to take scripture seriously then one is going to understand that this is, in fact, a dark story. Making light rather than dark of it would be the greater offense.

But it is not just the tone and violence that the film contains that have surprised and angered many — it is also the changes to the story itself (such as adding rock giants known as The Watchers — a loose interpretation of the Nephilim found in Genesis 6). To this, I must admit that the film does add a great deal of material that is not found in Genesis; however, what I found surprising was that the filmmakers took little out of the story. Yes, they certainly added a great deal of things, but very little was subtracted from the original story. The film begins with Noah being told about the flood and ends with a rainbow. In fact, hypothetically speaking, if the Noah account had happened historically as depicted in the film, the account found in Genesis could be seen as a mere summary of the events (not finding it important to mention the fact that Noah may have questioned in the end if he had failed God or not).

The end reality is this: film and scripture are two entirely different things that have an entirely different purpose. A movie is primarily trying to tell an entertaining story (though this films’ ambitions were far more than that).  Scripture, on the other hand, attempts to teach us about God and how we can have relationship with Him.

The problem that I find with arguments that urge Christians to stay away from this film is that it misunderstands what the movie is trying to do. Noah is not trying to be scripture. It is not trying to say, “this is how it happened”. It is not trying to undermine scripture in any way, shape, or form. All this movie is trying to do is tell us an entertaining story that, in the process, teaches viewers some powerful messages about God, justice, love, and mercy. This particular movie just happens to be loosely based on a relatively brief portion of scripture.

Honestly, I must admit that this story made some pretty interesting interpretive moves that do not line up with scripture. That said, the God depicted in the film very much resembles the God of the Bible. A God who is both loving and just. A God who at times seems very present but at times very distant. A God who at times shows his wrath but is always seeking to offer redemption. A God who shows grace to the one’s who are desperately seeking His will (even if they don’t always get it right).

So, if you are wondering whether or not you should see this movie, maybe I can offer a little advice. If you want to see the movie to see how well it lines up with the Bible, then save your money. You will be disappointed by the changes and probably thus be distracted from the heart of the film. If you can’t handle violent films, then you should probably also stay away. Although the film is PG-13, it is on the closer end of the spectrum to R than PG. But, if you can handle the violence, and are wanting to see a story with strong Christian themes about God, love, justice, and grace — then Noah is a film for you.

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4 responses to “Not Your Flannelgraph Noah

  • ksinift

    Thanks for the thoughts, Andrew. 🙂 I “heard” that there are some new age/mother earth/”Noah as the first environmentalist” elements in this movie. Did you see those things come out in the movie?

    • Andrew Sinift

      There were certainly environmental messages and themes in the film — but most descriptions I’ve read by others about such things were over exaggerated. That is simply one aspect of the film rather than the core/central message. Also, there is nothing overtly “new age” or “mother earth” either. All the miracles are clearly the work of “The Creator”.

  • fencingwithink

    I like the thought that it’s not trying to be scripture. I said the same thing about Prince of Egypt. My father in law can’t stand that movie for being unbiblical when the first shot is a bunch of text saying “This ain’t the exact story.”

    • Andrew Sinift

      Yeah, this debate really isn’t new with Noah — it’s every biblical film. While it is fair for Christians to ask for film to stay true to the source material (as any fan of any book does), the anger that results in these cases often comes from a misunderstanding about what a movie is trying to do.

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