Now that we’ve got the problems with Aronofsky’s film out of the way, let’s dive into the parts he and the other script writers got right.
Let’s talk about the title and main character Noah, played by Russell Crowe. Many people felt that Noah was too much of an environmentalist and or too blood thirsty. And I would agree with those sentiments. He rebukes his son for picking a flower because it looked pretty, left a girl caught in a bear trap to die, and threatened to kill his granddaughters. This was a version of Noah I had never thought of or encountered in the Bible. And I didn’t like him at all. My friends who saw the movie with me thought the same thing. Noah was a jerk and several other derogatory words. But after thinking back on the film, I realized this portrayal wasn’t that bad. I mentioned the environmentalist factor in my other post, Noah-The Bad Stuff, so I’m not going to discuss that at length here. I will say the flower scene was not horrendous or preachy about conservation. It made a good point that few of us ever think of. The moment we pick a flower, it dies. And unless you’re able to retrieve its seeds, it won’t be able to reproduce more beautiful flowers. Yes, it is just a flower and there are hundreds like them in the world. But didn’t we use to say that about the buffalo, wolves, alligators, and other animals that we’ve nearly drove to extinction because of overhunting or thought their skins looked pretty? We get so caught up in how we feel now or what we want right now that we forget that our present actions can have negative consequences in the future. Also taking from nature what you need is a very compelling lifestyle that many early Christian fathers took up. So I don’t see that as a weakness for this interpretation of Noah. I see it as a strength and compliment to the righteous man.
As for Noah’s cold-hearted behavior, let’s look at it from Noah’s point of view. You’ve grown up in a world where death is literally everywhere. Except for your family, everyone is utterly wicked and not above killing, cheating, stealing, and lying to each other on a daily basis. Now God has just revealed to you how you and your family can be saved from the impending judgment that is to come. As you’re building the ark or, as in the movie, you go looking for wives for your two youngest sons, you ask yourself, “Why will my family alone be able to escape?” And that’s a question which is rarely asked in Sunday School. We just assume that it is because Noah is righteous and, as the Scripture says, blameless. But wait moment. We’re also told no one is innocent of sin except Christ who hasn’t died yet. In fact, as Russell Crowe points out in the movie no one in Noah’s family is perfect. Shem is easily side tracked by physical beauty and sexual desire. Ham is rebellious. And Japheth is both a pleaser and desirous of pleasure. Even Naameh, Noah’s wife, has a dark streak in her. Knowing this as Noah, you probably would come to the conclusion that God not only wants to cleanse the world of mankind’s wickedness but wants to restart the garden of Eden without the humanity. Also, you realize it is because of the fall of mankind that led to the destruction of Eden. Therefore humans are the problem and your family only serves one purpose: help establish a new Eden and die without corrupting it.
This is a harsh, brutal, and mean view of life and God. But it isn’t far-fetched. We don’t know what was going through Noah’s mind because the Bible is silent on this subject. However we do know that he was human complete with human emotions and finite human understanding of God’s purpose. With that in mind, it makes those really dark scenes with Noah plausible and relatable. Think about it. Could you relate to an old man who could do no wrong or never became depressed with the state of world? No, you couldn’t. Yet many of the critics would want Noah to be exactly that: a person neither the actor nor the audience could relate to. As dark and despicable as Noah was in the film, he is what we needed to see. We needed to see what a devoted person, who hasn’t been told of salvation through Christ, would react when God decided to judge mankind’s sin. And Aronofsky hits the nail on the head with this interpretation. If the flood was to rid the world of sinful people, then why let Noah and his family escape? It’s a question that surely haunted the man of God during those forty days and nights of rain and death.
“God will provide.” As the animals are arriving, Ham notices that they’re coming with their mates. He then notices that he and his little brother are lacking their own mates. So he then asks his father about future wives for him and his brother Japheth. Noah is reluctant to go to Tubal-Cain’s camp and get women from there to be his new daughters-in-law. It would not only be dangerous for him, but there is no telling if the women he brought back would have the same values that his family held. Ham pushes his father by pointing out that Noah has his wife and so does Shem. Why then should Ham and Japheth be left out? And Noah’s response is perhaps one of the hardest lessons believers can learn: God will provide. God had already given them food, water, protection, and the materials needed to build the ark. He had even brought them the animals needed to restart Eden. Therefore, it is reasonable that God would provide for Ham’s needs as well. The quote recalls Abraham’s answer to Isaac about the lamb for the burnt offering. It also echoes Jesus’ command not to worry about tomorrow, the next meal, or clothes because God already has it taken care of. Because of these implications, I believe Christians will be drawn to this scene and find many ways of sharing the gospel because of it.
The major premise of the movie is that mankind’s decision to spoil the earth is the reason that God flooded the world. The Bible on the other hand says it is because humans were wicked and violent. And this is one of the biggest problems critics have had with this film. What I don’t understand is why these two views are completely exclusive. When Noah goes to Tubal-Cain’s camp to find women to be wives for his younger sons, he finds mankind at its worst. There are animals being torn apart alive as starving people eat the flesh raw. Children are being sold for food and drink. And people are killing each other for a place to stand or sleep. While this is supposed to be a result of over industrialization, it doesn’t contradict how the Bible describes the state of humanity at the time. In fact to help emphasis what Noah is seeing, we witness him having a vision of fire and despair consuming the people around him. He takes it as a sign that humanity is totally depraved and not even his family will be spared from God’s wrath. The audience I believe sees it as hell and the punishment for those who have blatantly disobeyed God. Again, this isn’t anti-Christian or unbiblical. While we don’t know if God every forgave anyone who died from the flood, we do know that their wickedness was deserving of divine wrath which can only be truly experienced in hell.
“Fire consumes. Water cleanses.” After his drugged vision of the flood (yes, I thought was stupid too), Noah reveals why God intends to bring disaster upon the world via water. He isn’t wanting to destroy it which could be done through supernatural fire, that is God’s wrath. Instead he wants to wash it clean and purify it. And that is such a Christian idea that many believers have designated it as a sacrament called baptism. When the Hebrews went through the Red Sea, the Israelites through the Jordan River, and the people participating in John the Baptist’s ministry, they were symbols of baptism. As we enter the water we indicate that we have acknowledged our sins and taken the necessary steps towards repentance. When we come out of the water, we are made clean symbolizing that we are now reconciled to God. The flood was in a way a global baptism. By God’s mercy we were not destroyed but cleansed of our unrighteousness. Yes, God will come with fire to see if we are found worthy of salvation, but it is by water that we publicly declare our decision to obey the Lord and make our relationship right with him.
There are other parts of the movie that really stand out and maintain a biblical message in this film like the snake skin or the moment Noah realizes he can’t carry out God’s judgment on mankind. So I would recommend Christians to go see it. Yes, there are problems with the film and I doubt it will become a classic among Christians or win any big movie awards. However, I don’t believe it was blasphemous, pagan, and utterly unbiblical. It was a story created by an atheist who was inspired by it at a young age, which I think many of the negative reviewers have sadly overlooked. Instead of taking this as an opportunity to witness, they decided to bash a film that could have helped open the floodgates of grace into the film industry. And that is probably the biggest tragedy to come from this film. Not the incorrect interpretations of Aronofsky. Not the environmentalist message. And not the cruelty of Noah. The fact believers decided not to make this an opportunity to be a part of a national dialogue on this film and share the message of Jesus Christ is the saddest part of this film. I can’t tell you how many of my friends or random people who said they were compelled to read the actual Genesis account because of this film. It has literally opened the Bible for hundreds if not thousands of people. I understand that we need to be respectful of what is in God’s word, but I think we got in our own way doing that with this movie. Perhaps this will be a learning moment for believers everywhere.