Noah, the film, has stirred controversy long before it was released. People complained that the director strayed too far from the biblical narrative and “hollywoodized” it. I intentionally did not read reviews because I wanted to watch the film and judge for myself.
I noticed that many crucial elements of the biblical narrative are included. Some of them are actually surprising considering that Noah is a big-budget film directed by an atheist. For example,
- God created everything.
- God hates sin.
- God decided to obliterate humankind from the earth, except for one family.
- God told Noah that the earth would be destroyed by water.
- God told Noah to build a vessel to save himself, his family, and all the animals on the earth.
- God wiped everyone and everything from the earth but saved Noah’s family and the animals.
- God showed his love and mercy to the righteous.
- God promised never again to destroy the earth with water.
The film got these things right. Paramount studio even added a disclaimer:
“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 far so good? The film rates very high if one were watching it solely for pure entertainment value. The special effects and computer graphics of the ark, the storm, and the water are exceptional. The acting is also top-notch.
I did discover extra-biblical additions that are not found in the text. There were also many important facts from the biblical narrative that are not mentioned at all in the film. And, the producers certainly exercised creative license.
However, the film captivated me with its attention to spiritual metaphors. Below are three of the themes that I observed.
1. God’s Providence. Noah believes that the Creator has clearly revealed his will to him. He says, “The Creator chose me because he knew that I would complete the task.” And he unfalteringly accomplishes many things. However, Noah’s faith is based on his limited understanding of God’s providence. In the climax of the film he is faced with a paradox: he can follow God’s will but lose his loved ones or he can disobey God and save his family. At first, Noah’s faith convinces him that there is only one choice, but inwardly he struggles. After resolving the problem, Ila, Noah’s adopted daughter, tells him, “The choice was put in your hands for a reason.” Noah realizes that there is more than one way to discern God’s will.
This is a lesson for us today. Our initial assessment of God’s will for us may be incorrect. After listening we may realize that there is another choice. Who can fathom his providence with certainty? The apostle Paul said in Romans 11:33, “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!”
2. God’s Mercy. The film naively suggests that created beings know what is best for themselves and that their decisions lead to personal fulfillment. For example, Noah’s choices bring about his redemption and The Watchers are restored by their decisions. But depending only on ourselves negates the power of God’s mercy. He was as active in Noah’s time as he is in modern times. God could have justly wiped out humankind from the face of the earth, but he didn’t. He chose to be merciful with a remnant of people. God is just; but he is also merciful.
Rather than viewing God as some ogre in the sky who delights in our misfortune, we need to recognize that he wants the best for us. He created us in his image and desires to bless us—not through our own volition—but voluntarily because of his great love for us.
3. God’s Sovereignty. The film accurately conveys that God sees the big picture but human beings do not possess this ability. Noah makes immature decisions; Ila resigns herself to be barren, and Ham is devastated that he cannot take a wife. At the time, these problems can seem insurmountable, but God is bigger than our human frailties. He is like an enormous weaver who is weaving an intricate rug. The colors, fabrics, and patterns represent our actions and lives. When we make a mistake, God does not give up on us, he simply weaves it into the pattern. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The Good News is that God is sovereign over all creation but he cares intimately for each person on the earth. He heals our hurts, restores our hearts, and repairs our broken spirits.
Noah is far from a perfect film; but, it compelled me to revisit the biblical account. All the believers I have spoken with that have seen the film echoed this. Anything that drives us back to the Word is a good thing. My main regret is that I wished I had taken an unbelieving friend with me to get their reaction. It would be excellent fodder for spiritual engagement with unbelievers. Perhaps if I see it again…
If you are seeking a film based on a literal rendering of the Bible, you will not enjoy this film. However, if you are open to alternative interpretations of the text that initiate spiritual dialogue with your family and friends, you may benefit greatly from Noah.
Fair warning: the PG-13 rating is accurate. It is not a movie for young children.
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