Discussing
Christians don’t own the copyright on Noah

Josh Larsen

Josh Larsen
March 27, 2014

Even though I’m a Christian, that doesn’t mean I own the copyright on Noah or any other Bible story.

Dennis Oh
March 27, 2014

Josh, I think your comments regarding the Noah account "or any other Bible story" assumes that it is just that: a story, a mere artifact of human culture that ultimately points to general principles shared by all humanity and is therefore able to be interpreted through any scheme as long as it speaks to the human condition. Of course the Noah story has those features but it is much more. It is a piece of a wider body of divine revelation that forms a coherent whole and teaches a single message, namely, the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. To be fair there are other flood accounts from other cultures which may have embedded themes that Aronofsky is interested in, but as far as the Noah story is concerned it is to be viewed in a covenantal context highlighting the procession of the semitic people from which Abraham,the Jews, and the Messiah would come. In short, the account comes with its own interpretation as understood by the faith community to whom the revelation is given. So no, interpretation is not up for grabs and there can be genuine deviations in content and intent. I'm all for authentic conversation but this can only happen when both sides take a firm position on the subject matter rather than flattering one another about how far a story can be stretched.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
March 27, 2014

Thanks for commenting, Dennis. I guess my question is why can't a Bible story be both: an "artifact of human culture" that all humans are entitled to wrestle with AND a "piece of a wider body of divine revelation." I don't see how allowing for the former denies the latter.

(And for what it's worth, I'm working on a follow-up piece that deals more with the text of the movie itself and how, as I say here, it calls out for the "atoning grace of Jesus.")

Mark Anderson
March 27, 2014

If this movie is condemned for deviating from scripture, then cam we PLEASE likewise condemn the miniseries "The Bible" and the movie "Son of God" for completely fabricating ninja angels in Sodom; Samson as a black man, Jesus as a white man and whatever that was about Lazarus' resurrection??? (Not to mention the acting, writing,and character/plot development).

JKana
March 27, 2014

Thanks for this brief comment, Josh. I think you've drawn out a key insight that makes Christians seem prematurely close-minded to secular artistry. I'm going to up the ante a little and suggest that when we cling to the "stories" of the Bible as objects not to be violated by so-called "artistic license," we run dangerously close to the sort of idolatrous paranoia that some faiths--Islam, for example, in its extremist varieties--use to justify blasphemy killings. Heaven forbid we become guilty of the kind of response to a filmmaker's (admittedly generous) retelling of a biblical story that Sharia extremists exhibit when they issue death threats to those who dare name a teddy bear after Mohammed or burn a Qu'ran.

*Waiting for the inevitable lightning to strike*

I haven't seen this movie yet. But I will. And you know what? I'm expecting to be less bothered by it than I was by Son of God. Because this filmmaker at least has the guts to admit he's an atheist and feels no compulsion to honor the biblical story as anything more sacred than a "human artifact." I'm far more critical of Christian filmmakers who attempt to minister to others while reworking critical details of the biblical story. In those cases, "artistic license" can become eisegesis.

Thanks again, Josh. I look forward to your follow up on this.

Tami O'Bannion
March 28, 2014

I am SUCH a big BOTH/AND fan... yes, Josh, I believe it can be BOTH. And is. Most of the time we squabble. It's YEP... as it's been said.

Tami O'Bannion
March 28, 2014

p.s. I have found some gems of insight into "inspired scripture" by the fresh perspectives inadvertently offered by my secular/humanist/agnostic/atheist friends. I say let God use them, and keep us "proud" Christians out of their way! ; )

Malinda Long-Copland
March 28, 2014

Wow, where to begin? Right off the bat I'm struggling to follow the analogy of inaccuracies with a church youth production and that of a multi-million dollar movie production with seemingly limitless resources.

Then, there's the whole "acting like we do" comment. How presumptive to assume that the concern over the accuracy of the movie is a reflection of Christians trying to own the rights to the Bible. How is the concern over the accuracy of this movie any different than the negative reaction that many people had to Oliver Stone's 'JFK' movie -- or any other mainstream movie that takes significant liberties under the guise of artistic license? Does that make the critics of the 'JFK' movie defensive or fearful? If not, then that ascribes those negative attributes exclusively to Christians.

It's so disappointing to see fellow Christians perpetuating the myth that we're a close-minded lot that uses the Bible to beat others over the head. Please don't judge us (at all or) more harshly than any other sector of society. Yep, we have extremists and those that couldn't care less -- just like any other tribe. If we don't stop judging one another using society's stereotypes of us then who will?

PolitiJim Rants
March 28, 2014

Really? You think the debate is about the right to make an unbiblical version? No Christian I know is arguing the movie should be "banned" or Paramount doesn't have a right to make such drivel.

Perhaps you don't realize that the ONLY form of biblical education most Americans will have is through popular culture. And NOAH and the Ark is an allegory for the gospel of Jesus. Turning messianic NOAH into a homicidal maniac (assisted by demonic nephalim stone people no less) does nothing to help people find God. However, vociferous objections to this interpretation will AT LEAST (hopefully) save some unsuspecting rubes from thinking this is God's "man" and that God is a hateful, spiteful deity bent on destruction.

Arfronsky (who has constantly used vulgarities against Christians and their concerns the past weeks while trying to get them to enrich his backend take) has a history of nihilist expressions in his art and a devotion to stripping any sense of morality and faith from the worldview of his patrons. So forgive us for not assisting him from getting a larger platform to corrupt more moviegoers by buying a ticket to such garbage.

Jimmy
March 28, 2014

I must admit I struggle with the extreme artistic interpretation of a biblical event meant to point to redemption and play an important contextual role in the covenantal history... Still, this story is one of world history, too. And the fact is, atheists can make good art (they are, after all, created in the image of God.) I think a deep faith will not be shaken by artistic liberties here, and discernment and discussion allow us to appreciate the good in this film, and direct the overall picture back to redemption, back to Christ. Nice piece here, Josh.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
March 28, 2014

This is in response to Malinda. I was mostly being facetious with my opening story, though considering one of the complaints about the film (linked in my article) actually has to do with measurements, it's not that ridiculous of a comparison.

I do apologize if some of my wording struck you as judgmental. Still, I think Christians should be able to question each other and how we're living out our faith. (Perhaps I need to work on doing that more respectfully.) I don't think I'm "perpetuating the myth that we're a close-minded lot that uses the Bible to beat others over the head," however. For real-world evidence of that, simply peruse the comments on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/thinkchristian/posts/10202450933012923?stream_ref=10">our Facebook post</a> about this article.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
March 28, 2014

PolitiJim Rants, could you provide a link to something showing Aronofsky "has constantly used vulgarities against Christians and their concerns the past weeks." I've read several interviews with him and haven't come across anything like that. Thanks.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
March 29, 2014

For those interested, here is my follow-up: http://thinkchristian.reframemedia.com/a-noah-who-needs-jesus

John Joseph Thompson
March 29, 2014

I too am weary of insecure evangelicals acting as if a movie threatens the bedrock of their faith. I too am tired of lame, but obviously "Christian" movies being given a pass for terrible license (Son of God is only the most recent.) And I too am tired of 2nd rate "Christian" movies blowing up the box office for 10 minutes and only embarrassing the Church in the public eye. None of that makes me unique.

What I would like to see, though, is an actual critique OF THE MOVIE. Far too few of those, and the ones I've seen have fallen along 2 lines: A) The movie sucks - the story is laughable - the acting is cardboard - the effects are cool - the tone is preachy and miserable or B) The movie is "important" because it flips the bird to centuries of Jewish, Christian and Muslim interpretation in favor of a more "enlightened" take on current events. It seems to me that Christians either hate the idea of the movie and rail against its very existence, or they fear criticizing it and being lumped in with the Glenn Beck's of the world. So, in the interest of "conversation" we try to remain open and engaged... when really the piece of art at the center is a dud. Am I missing something?

I realize that humans have an inexhaustible reservoir of narcissism, and Hollywood gets a bonus in that regard, but is that really what this comes down to?

I'd love to hear someone from a Christian perspective actually critique the movie, and not just the idea of the movie or the pretense of the movie. I found one pretty well-written such review yesterday, and dozens of reflections whether the movie should exist or not. The whole thing reminds me of The Last Temptation of Christ when I was in high school. It all generated sales and marketing for a movie that would have flopped otherwise. Seems to me that Hollywood is savvy enough to know just what buttons to push to get Christians really ticked off and to drive word-of-mouth through the roof. Are we really that predictable?

That was a rhetorical question ;)

John Joseph Thompson
March 29, 2014

And now I see your follow-up. Fair enough.

Sounds like you are echoing the other critics saying that the movie is just not very good. I wonder if sometimes we feel compelled to endure a crappy flick in order to comment on its theology. I think often I am so starved for "real" films that grapple with the Big Issues I'll engage a blockbuster that really doesn't deserve engagement.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
March 29, 2014

Glad you saw that, John, and took the time to read it. I don't know if it exactly serves the need you were talking about, but it was my attempt to engage the theological elements in the film.

As a critic, it's hard for me to separate that from the entirety of the picture, however. For me, Noah explores some interesting theological notions, just not very well. Most of what I mention in my other piece comes out of long, obvious, shouty dialogue scenes - nothing very compelling in terms of cinema. There is one telling shot, in which Noah sneaks into a nearby camp of desperate refugees, where men are trading their women and daughters to the king’s soldiers in exchange for meat. Noah spots a man crouched and gnawing on a raw animal leg; when the man looks up, he bears Noah’s own face. So it's Noah literally seeing the sin within himself - some heavy-duty theological filmmaking.

Unfortunately, not much of Noah operates like that. Nor do many movies. The Tree of Life doesn't come along every day.

Pablo Gonzalez
March 30, 2014

My two favorite excerpts from the FB page:
Matt O'dell:
" If youre saying as Christians we should look this over because we have no legal rights to what the bible says then you are 100% WRONG. As RESIDENTS of Heaven we have the ONLY LEGAL RIGHTS TO THE BIBLE. And if youre foolish enough to think otherwise, you'll have God to deal with."
John Andrews:
"The story of Noah is not a Christian story. It is a story also shared by Jews and Muslims. In fact, the story occurs at a time when there was no such thing as Christianity."

Thank God for the John Andrews' (assuming he's a Christian) of the world that at least put the followers of Paul AKA "Christians" in a better light than 99% of the insecure bunch that surrounds them.

I have no beef with christianity, but since I spent the first 31 years of my life as a "Christian", I do feel a little embarrassed when very smart people, like those commenting on this forum speak about Noah's story as an "account". You can't engage in a serious conversation if your stuck believing old testament fantasies as facts.

Anywho, I guess Matt O'dell's god will "deal" with me at some point. Must feel good to think of god as your personal thug that people will have to "Deal" with when they disagree with you.
I will watch this movie now that I know there are giant rock characters flinging people around.

JS
May 21, 2014

PolitiJim Rants: "...assisted by demonic nephalim stone people no less."

The movie doesn't depict the nephillim as demonic. It doesn't even give them a name. So, I'm guessing that's your interpretation of the nephillim from Scripture. Is that correct? If so, I'd like to know how you get them as definitively demonic. In my reading of scripture, there have been at least two interpretations. One views them as angels who became sexual with human women. The other is that the "daughters of men" refers to the corrupt line extending from the offspring of Cane. The "sons of God" then refers to those from the less corrupt line of humanity, likely the line that brought about the righteous Noah. So one of these two possibilities is a supernatural explanation while the second is corruption of the human race via natural means.

JonathanWiebe
August 11, 2014

Josh, I'm just curious if you have anything else to back up your statement that Aronofsky is an atheist. The article you cite also asserts this statement as fact but does not give any references. I'm not saying you're wrong but the only evidence I can find on the internet comes from highly biased and judgemental Christian websites that take some of Aronofsky's comments about not being religious and concluding that is the same as being an atheist. I can't find anywhere where he says he doesn't believe in God or a god.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
August 11, 2014

The Chicago Tribune article I link to is my source, Jonathan. He's not quoted as identifying himself as an atheist, but the article itself is an extensive interview with him. If its description of him as an atheist was incorrect, there would have been a correction/retraction, I'd expect.

Add your comment to join the discussion!