We just finished visiting the 6th floor museum of the Texas Book Depository where the assassination of JFK was historically depicted. I stood next to the window where Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president. We stood on the infamous grassy knoll where conspiracy theorists believe a second shooter took aim and shot at the President. As I stood by that 6th floor window and on that grassy knoll, I was emotionally moved. After all, my generation lived through it. But the theories still abound as to what really happened. Of course, we will never know. But it did make for another Oliver Stone movie. Speaking of movies that create confusion through implication and conspiracy theories, Noah takes the spotlight this month.
I'm a little late to the party, blog posts on the movie “Noah,” abound and conspiracy theories are everywhere. For example, many Christians have taken offense at the liberties taken by Darren Aronofsky in the blockbuster “Noah.” Is he trying to change the way people view the Noah story or just taking innocent creative license with the biblical account? I am not a movie critic so my thoughts are pushed through the grid of my calling as a preacher. The movie only resembles the Biblical account of the story of Noah in that there was a flood, Noah existed and God destroyed the world and saved Noah and his family. But what did you expect given the fact that Aronofsky is not a believer? Besides, how can one possibly portray this event given its magnitude without taking creative license when there is very little in the scripture about Noah?
What disturbs me most about Noah is not that it took liberties with the Genesis account and pawned it off as the Biblical story of Noah. However, to my knowledge, Aronofsky never said it was a reenactment of the Genesis account. I would have been happier if he had included a disclaimer, as in, "Any similarity to real people or events is purely coincidental!"
What disturbs me most is Christian leaders were used as pawns to “get out the vote.” The foundational text for the movie was not the Bible but the 2nd Century apocryphal book 1 Enoch. In fairness to Aronofsky, he never said he used the Bible as his text. He implied it but he never said it. Enoch is (pure and simple) rooted in the theology of Gnosticism, one of the greatest threats to the theology of the early church and the theology of the modern church. A simplified outline of the tenets of Gnostics looks like this:
· Gnostics believe that all flesh is evil and the spirit is good. The flesh must be escaped via greater and greater levels knowledge (gnosis).
· Since all flesh is evil, the “Creator” of the world, the god of the Old Testament was vindictive, harsh and judgmental. After all, he created this evil world of flesh. In the film this god is always referred to as the “Creator,” but never as the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is why Noah felt a need to kill his grandchildren. This evil god, the Creator, must be appeased. With this as his premise, Noah concluded that ll flesh, including Noah and his offspring must die.
· Redemption comes as one escapes the flesh via the acquisition of deeper and deeper spiritual knowledge. In the film the lava monsters, which are really the fallen angels or demons, actually are redeemed after serving their penance as lava monsters. Their spirits soar into heaven at the end because they aided and defended Noah. Noah chooses not to murder his grandkids and thus he too begins to escape the curse of the flesh with greater gnosis. This is the heresy of Gnosticism.
· The early church had to combat Gnosticism (the root of Aronofsky’s movie). Two forms of Gnosticism as it pertains to the identity of Jesus emerged in the early church. The first taught that, since Jesus was God, and God is spirit, and the spirit is good and the flesh is evil Jesus could not have really died on the cross. His death was a mirage, an illusion. This meant that Jesus was not really a man since nothing good dwells in fleshly form,. The second taught Jesus was not really God but a sinner whose flesh had to be destroyed so that his spirit could be released to his Father. This is why the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 affirmed in their Creed (see http://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm) that Jesus was and is both God and man, that He lived a sinless life as a man and that He truly physically died and was buried and rose from the dead, thus affirming both His deity and His humanity.
If one were to carefully assess the various plots of “Noah” you will see that the film is rooted in the 2nd Century heresy of Gnosticism. As we sat in an Outback restaurant after visiting the JFK museum, I asked our 20-something waitress if she had seen Noah. Her response was that she had not seen it but wanted to. I asked her what she expected to find in the movie. She said, “I expect to see the account of the story in the Bible.” I then asked her if she thought that the movie would accurately represent the Bible and she responded, “Oh no.” And then she laughed. That is what you should expect when you see Noah. I highly recommend that you not waste your money UNLESS you attend in order to visit the themes of Gnosticism and thus to become better informed as to how the media truly sees our faith. If you go expecting a biblically based movie, you will be disappointed.
For those of you who are not afraid of some deep thought on the relationship between Noah and Gnosticism visit this blog. It is outstanding.
Son of God
Now lets move on to the “Son of God” movie. Producing any movie about Jesus is doomed to come up short. After all, Jesus is God. How can one accurately portray God? This movie is a two-hour edit of what the producers aired in eight hours on TV under the heading of “The Bible.” I am not a movie critic. Certainly, there were some good features and some bad ones. It would have been more realistic for this Jesus to be anything but the Euro image they made him out to be. Jesus was dark-skinned and spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. Sub-titles would have been nice. But a British Jesus with blue eyes and handsome as can be is not what Jesus looked like. Isaiah tells us he was ordinary (Isaiah 53:1-6). He would not have stuck out in a crowd. He was a carpenter, rough and rugged not weak and soft. Some other glitches include the Lazarus scene and the visit of the Magi. Other scenes were borderline Biblical as well.
The crucifixion scene is vivid and hard to watch. Although Pilate ordered 40 lashes, it is likely Jesus was beaten with more since Roman executioners whipped according to how long someone was to remain on the cross. They knew Jesus would be there until 3:00 PM to appease the protocol of the Passover. A body could not be on the cross once the Passover arrived at 3:00 PM. So Jesus would have literally been beaten to within a few hours of his life. Not a big point but please note it. Also, there is considerable Catholic tradition in this movie. The stations-of-the cross, although not specifically Biblical, are included. Thus, Jesus falls three times. Some woman, allegedly Veronica, wipes His face. He carries the entire cross and not just the cross bar. These are not major concerns but I found them interesting.
My greatest concern with the movie was this – the Jesus of the movie is never declared to be the Creator God of the universe. A Mormon and even a Jehovah’s Witness would be happy with this movie. In other words, it is not Christo-centric. In fact, the first half of John 14:6 is quoted no less than 3 times in the movie. That passage states…
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
But, the second half of the verse, No one comes to the Father except through me is never quoted. That is problematic. Jesus is the ONLY way one can be saved.
I did appreciate that the movie did not sugar coat the miracles. It took them literally, such as the feeding of the 5000, the healing of the lame man, the miracle of fish catch and Jesus walking on water. The raising of Lazarus from the dead left out many pertinent Biblical details such as a decaying stinky embalmed body and the fact that Jesus did not work this miracle behind closed tomb doors. He shouted it so that everyone could hear. The Lazarus of the movie came out of the tomb looking like he just came out of GQ magazine.
All in all it is a movie that has to settle for mediocrity. After all, how does any movie accurately portray God?
God is not Dead
The “Answers in Genesis” organization has a great assessment of this movie and the apologetics used by the freshman. Take the time to read it. Here is the link.
While I am not a film critic, I found this movie at times over dramatized. The creators seem to go overboard to demonize the opponents of the Gospel. Some of the scenes rubbed me the wrong way. For example,
· The main character’s girl friend comes off as snobby and unreasonable. I was thinking he was well rid of her!
· The profession of faith of the daughter of the Moslem while being hit by her dad is forced although I appreciated that the dad was portrayed as broken hearted over his daughter’s conversion. A good reminder of the humanity of those who oppose the gospel. They genuinely believe their faith.
· The deathbed profession of faith by the professor is a little hokey although God can and does soften the hearts of His elect.
· The rental car problem, although a little forced, does illustrate the sovereignty of God who orchestrated the many delays so that the pastor would be on the accident scene the moment the professor is hit by the car.
· The reporter with cancer is played very well. Her conversion via the News Boys is a little forced.
· The cameo appearance of the Dynasty Duck dude and his gorgeous wife is totally unnecessary but entertaining.
Having said all of this, the absolute BEST part of this movie comes in the credits. That’s right, I said the credits. There is where the reality of what the movie intends to portray comes into vivid focus. The world does hate us for what we believe. I witnessed this first hand when I stood before the legislature and gave testimony of why I am opposed to same-sex marriages. The balcony was packed out with the Gay community and the legislators on the floor were laying for me. I could only smile as I thought about Jesus telling His disciples, “If they hate you, you know that they hated me before they hated you.” (John 15:18)
In the credits at the end are page after page of pending and settled lawsuits that involve universities from all over the country persecuting Christians for their faith. This movie encourages students to stand for their faith, rightly portraying the price they might have to pay. And for a student in this situation, it is a crisis. However, I also thought about persecution around the world where the persecution of believers makes this American problem seem like Disney World. Believers are being hanged, imprisoned, beheaded and even crucified for knowing Jesus. God is Not Dead in our culture speaks to the educational crisis in America, but really in comparison, we should think twice about calling it persecution. On the other hand, I'm grateful for the "watchers" who are standing guard over our liberties, those legal organizations that are ready and equipped to support and argue in court that our rights are trampled when professors and any educational institution tries to limit expression of our faith. The right to speak freely must be protected. And this movie demonstrates in the credits how critical it is to be on guard.
Supporters have touted all three movies as tools to engage the unbelieving world. They say we are to be thankful that Hollywood is hearing our cries. Really? Or, is Hollywood using believers as a means to an end – MONEY? I wonder how many Christians will engage their unbelieving friends with these movies. Or, are we more interested with pontificating on FB or Twitter. After all, where have we been the other 11 months out of the year and where will we be when these movies go the way of “The Da Vinci Code” into the dust heap of memory?
In His grip, Chuck