Noah & God’s Justice

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NoahThis week, I was able to get to see Noah. I had high expectations going into the film because I am a huge Aronofsky fan. His ability to delve into the psyche of a character is fascinating. That’s what drew me to the film.

Before watching it, I had read a majority of the “controversy” surrounding it. I say it like that because I am pretty certain that at any given time, we, as the church, will pick a wrong battle to fight. We tend to make mountains out of molehills. Since Aronofsky is an atheist, we began preparing our rebuttal for whatever film we saw from him. Even if the film was 100% accurate, we were ready to make our case as to why the film was not 100% accurate. Most had their minds made up before the film was even released.

And then we wonder why people claim Christians are full of hate?

I’m not going to dive into a piece by piece dissection of the film. To do that to any kind of film does a disservice to the work of art. So I tend to steer clear of those kind of reviews of films. Most people who write those kinds of reviews are usually the kind of people who do not appreciate art or culture as much as they want to be right and want to make sure that everyone knows that they are right.

Instead, I want to highlight what I think this film displays beautifully: the justice of God. After Noah receives the vision from God as to what He is going to do to the world, you begin to sense in him a disturbance. But wouldn’t you be disturbed if you knew what was going to happen to the entire world?

As a child, I think I misread Noah. I read it as this wonderful story of happiness and singing animals. There was even a rainbow at the end. In reality, it is this horribly destructive story that shows the justice of God. That should disturb us. That should shake us to our foundations. That should cause us a sense of uneasiness. Because God’s justice will never be comfortable to us. We will never fully comprehend His justice because we will never fully comprehend Him.

In my mind, I could never understand why a mass genocide would be necessary. No matter what kind of evil takes place. Try as you may to put it in your own words, but it will never sound right. And we need to be okay with that. We need to understand that there are parts of the Bible that will cause us uneasiness and disturbance. If we read through the Bible and do not have those feelings, I don’t think that means that we’ve finally understood the justice of God as much as it means that we have tried to justify it in our minds (and that is never a good idea).

God demanded justice be served for the way people treated one another, nature, the animals, and ultimately Him. If you’ve heard anything about the film it is probably that Aronofsky works from a position that Noah was the first environmentalist. People were immediately upset because obviously God never said to look after the earth…well except that was His first command to man. What I loved about this element was that it showed that God’s justice demanded a verdict for all of creation. Not just mankind. Everything.

God’s justice is much larger than we can ever comprehend. In the film, it drove Noah to insanity. He was disturbed by everything that had just taken place. And he should have been. God’s justice is not an easy pill to swallow.

So why have we made it that way?

Christ is ultimately the fulfillment of God’s justice. But I fear that doesn’t disturb us as much as it should. A living man, the son of God, had to be killed in order for the justice of God to be fulfilled. I can give you answers as to why this makes sense. I can show you in the Bible why it is the way it is. But in my heart, it is harder for me to comprehend. Maybe that’s a lack of faith. Maybe that’s a lack of understanding. Or maybe that is the difference between mankind and God. We can say the words that make perfect sense but that doesn’t necessarily mean we truly understand and comprehend. And for that, there are no words.

This film helped me see that. It helped me see a glimpse of God’s justice. Is it hard to watch? Yes. Is it disturbing? Yes. And it should be. The more it disturbs and upsets us, the sweeter His mercy and grace is to us. The harder it is for us to explain why things had to happen like that, the more powerful Christ’s sacrifice is to us. We will not fully understand it, but that does not mean that it is meaningless. Far from it. I think the things that we cannot fully understand are the things that are more meaningful.

So yes. Go and watch Noah. It is an incredible film with a powerful story. I mean…it’s not as funny as Evan Almighty, but Russell Crowe is no Steve Carell. Wrestle with God’s justice and wrestle with God’s mercy. Be uncomfortable and at a loss for words. Not everything will be able to be explained. And even if it can be explained, that doesn’t mean we will understand it.

*Oh — and the Nephilites are awesome. Believable? Unlikely. But still, they are awesome.*

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2 thoughts on “Noah & God’s Justice

  1. Somer

    Caleb,
    I truly appreciate your take on the film. I am happy to see a Christian finding the good in a film that seemed to many of us historically inaccurate, although it is something we should have expected. I never thought to be okay with the discomfort of God’s justice. What I worry about though is how will people who do not know God pick up this theme and find meaning in it? In fact, I feel that this sort of unfairly feeds into the misconceptions about God that we spend so much time trying to explain better.
    It is hard to make a movie about God. If God is a character in the film, as He is in Noah, how can one depict his dynamic and powerful nature so accurately? Especially an atheist. Yes, perhaps he depicts very artistically and beautifully his own struggles with the concept of God but that projects onto all those who watch it. For instance, Aronofsky may depict His discomforting justice but what about his love for Noah and his family? And what about God’s heartache at the evil of the people? And what about the strength of His promise to Noah? These are the discomforting parts of the movie for me. What was most discomforting to me as a believer seeing the movie, is that God’s leadership appears confusing and distant. This is not the way we learn about God’s leadership from the Word and in our own lives. As Christians, we are leaders in our community. It is awesome to see what you can take away for the movie but I am not discomforted by it for myself because I know the real story. I am thinking of how I will talk about the movie with my unbelieving friends and family.
    I hope that I don’t leave you with the thought “Okay, so you are worried about the lot of extra work you have to do and think about,” because it is not us who does the work. It’s just that my heart breaks when I think about how many people won’t choose God and how relevant we are trying to be to all of them at this time in our culture.

  2. Somer —

    You raise some really good points. Maybe I overlooked them. You are right: God’s love for Noah and his family is overlooked in the film. I’m sure that some will see the film and see God as an eternally angry being. That is heartbreaking to think about. At the same time, however, I believe that the overall response from Christians creates an atmosphere of animosity. Instead of looking at the film as objectively as possible, we exclaimed “foul play!” Christianity and art is something that no longer coexists. Whereas the Church used to be heavily involved in the arts, we know separate ourselves. I think that’s why I gave it an overwhelmingly good review. It was refreshing to see something well done…even if it isn’t not completely accurate. That’s where I want to be able to have conversations with people who walk out of the film seeing God as an angry being who hates all of humanity. This is the perfect time for that conversation. Good art should cause conversations. I fear that we, as Christ-followers, don’t want to join in that conversation unless the art is on our terms. Does that make sense?

    Good thoughts. I appreciate them! You gave me some things to think about!

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