It’s amazing how well an atheist movie director can preach when he has the right story to tell.
I say that because of something my dearest professor, L. Reginald Barnard, taught us in seminary in the 1980s. “Preach the great themes of salvation gentlemen. Topical preaching is mostly psychology, which we love today, but the great themes of salvation are eternal.” That’s what struck me when I watched Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH: It preached the themes and it preached them well.
I liked the movie on many levels. If you think thematically there is much to like. If you want a platform from which to launch a great discussion on the nature of man and the justice and mercy of God, Aronofsky & company just gave it to you.
If however you want a literal retelling (that probably wouldn’t have sold tickets to a secular audience) then this is not your film.
Here’s a checklist of theological themes that the movie gets right: God’s good creation – check; Adam & Eve’s ability to choose – check; The fall – check; The depravity of man – check, check, check; The image of God in man – check; Justice – check; Mercy – check; Redemption – check; Love – check; Providence – check; The certainty of judgment for man’s evil – check; The importance of generational blessing – check; Miracles in service of salvation – check; The dignity of righteousness – check; The preservation of a righteous remnant (Noah’s family as the re-birth of the human race) – check. There may be more that I missed.
I also appreciated how Aronofsky & company answered some of the questions of the curious: like how the ark got built, how the animals stayed calm in the ark and what the Nephilim might have been (good old Industrial Light and Magic comes through again). Yes, they took literary license to create dramatic tension, but none of that diminished the power of the great themes.
As with any film of a Bible story, there were some problems. Here’s a checklist of things they got wrong or left out: Man’s dominion over the animals and the command that they are for our food (they put this in the mouth of the bad guy); The sacrifice of thanksgiving after the flood is missing; Noah’s confusion about his family’s role in the new world; Ham as a kind of Edmund Pevensy character (see Narnia); God’s covenant with Noah is illustrated (see rainbow) but not explained.
Most of all I identified with Noah as a man of God trying with all of his might to do the right thing and wondering if he had failed God, wondering if he had erred on the side of mercy, or justice. That was very powerful, very moving. I know, I know, it isn’t in the text. It is literary license. But any pastor worth his salt will tell you he has struggled with the same things.
Bottom line: NOAH gets most of the themes right. It is, as a Facebook friend has said, “a thinking man’s movie,” and well worth your time and money.