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Noah – Not a Movie for Christians to Watch

I don’t think it’s a very religious story. I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film.”

It’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist.” ~ Darren Aronofsky, director of the Biblical film, Noah.

Beloved young people, the movie Noah, produced and directed by Darren Aronofsky and released this past March, is not a movie for us Bible-believing, truth-loving, God-honoring disciples of Christ to watch, either for entertainment or education or evangelistic outreach. Nor is any Hollywood drama depicting sacred Biblical history for that matter. I hope to convince you of that in this article. My focus in this article is on “religious drama.” More specifically, my focus is the dramatic depiction of events in sacred Biblical history, which seems to be rather trendy in Hollywood as of late with the 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ, now the 2014 movie Noah, and still others in the works.

But first let me clarify my topic. I am not addressing the matter of drama itself. The question of whether or not drama itself is sinful, and whether or not the Christian may ever watch any drama, is not my topic in this article. That broader topic would demand a whole article or series of articles all by itself. But let me just say that whether or not we condemn drama itself as sinful, we must admit that almost all drama today, at the theater and on the television, is incredibly wicked, and we must not watch it. Almost all drama involves the acting out of horrible sins. Most even involves the repeated committing of actual sins such as blasphemy of the name of God and sexual sins with actors or actresses who are not one’s real spouse. But perhaps worst of all, most drama involves the outright glorifying of sin. Sins against all the commandments are exalted and promoted, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly. Evil is portrayed as good, and good as evil. Lies are preached as truth, and truth is condemned as a lie. This is clear: the makers of drama, producers and actors, commit and promote all that is abominable to our God in their sitcoms and movies. Therefore this too is clear: if we watch and enjoy them, we partake in their sins. As Paul writes, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which do such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32). By watching we lead ourselves into temptation to commit the very things we see on the screen. Not least of all, we become desensitized to the horror of sin. Beloved young people, I beseech you to follow the example of David who wrote, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Ps. 101:3).

But as I said, my focus in this article is on “religious drama” with particular emphasis on the movie Noah that was recently released. I contend that this too is something we should not watch. Many if not most Christians will disagree with this statement. Many watch these Biblical films and sing their praises. Many view them as evidence of a common grace of God producing good works among the unregenerate, which we may enjoy. Many churches show them in their Sunday services and use them as tools of education in their schools and colleges and even for evangelistic outreach. Some raise concerns about certain wrong aspects or emphases in these films. But they rarely conclude that we ought not to watch them. [1] I do make that contention.

I hope to convince you not to watch Aronofsky’s Noah, and by implication other Biblical movies of the past or in the future. Let me give some reasons not to watch Noah.

  1. Noah is produced by an unbeliever with a secular agenda.

Noah is a Hollywood film. Hollywood is not Christian, but anti-Christian. Hollywood is the lair of the devil and the heart of the wicked world. Therefore we must be exceedingly wary of everything that comes out of it, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John. 2:16). Noah was not even produced by a nominal Christian, as some Biblical films have been, but by a thoroughly secular Jewish man named Darren Aronofsky. He did not produce Noah to teach the sacred history of the flood as a real event of the past, or to refute the claims of evolutionism. Quite the contrary! He made it to earn a lot of money by entertaining millions and to push a secular agenda. Therefore he did not bother to tell the Biblical story faithfully, but he made use of extra-Biblical writings and extravagant “creative license,” and thereby came under the curse of God, for “if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18). Aronofsky has seized this significant event in sacred Biblical history with unholy hands. He does not even believe that it ever took place. He is quoted as having said, “I don’t think it’s a very religious story. I think it’s a great fable that’s part of so many different religions and spiritual practices. I just think it’s a great story that’s never been on film.” Unlike Noah, who was a hero of faith (Heb. 11:7) and preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), Aronofsky is an unbeliever and false prophet.

Noah was produced in part to push a secular agenda on the Christian community. Aronofsky is a secular environmentalist, that is, he worships the creature more than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). He has been fascinated with Noah since he was a child but views him as “the first environmentalist.” He said about the history of the flood, “It’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist.” Aronofsky thinks much of mankind is evil, not because of its hatred of God, but because of its abuse of the environment. He portrays this in the movie as the great sin of mankind for which God destroyed the world with the flood. We are told that he goes wild in his fanatic promotion of this agenda. He twists Noah into a man-hating, animal-loving figure who becomes psychotic while on the ark and plans to kill off his whole family because it would be best for the world if mankind were eliminated. As some critics of the movie have already said, Noah is portrayed as an animal-rights activist and environmentalist wacko, not unlike Aronofsky himself.

We ought not to support this agenda by watching the movie. We ought not to think that we can watch it “with discernment” and be unaffected by the twisting of scripture and the forceful preaching of a false gospel which is no gospel. High-budget films like this one make use of powerful tools, special effects, and emotionally manipulative music to get across their message. We must listen to the warning of our Lord: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matt. 7:15–17). Aronofsky is a corrupt tree. Beware!

  1. Noah is a profane dramatization of holy men of God by unholy men.

Noah is a profaning of the sacred. I admit that it is a hard question whether we may watch the dramatization of fictitious people and of acts of piety by fellow Christians. But it ought not to be a hard question whether we may watch the dramatization of real men of God, in scripture no less, and of their acts of piety, by men of the world! I cannot watch that. My conscience cries out against it.

Just think. Noah was one of the greatest men of God in Biblical history. He was not perfect, of course, as became evident in his drunkenness after the flood. But he was a man who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). He was one with whom Jehovah established his everlasting covenant of grace (6:18, 9:8–17). He was one in whose heart God worked strong faith so that he “being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7). He and his family were the only ones left of the seed of the woman in those days, and they valiantly lived in the midst of that crooked and perverse generation as the people of the living God over against the world. Noah is in heaven now in his soul, and we will join him soon. He was an outstanding man of God.

Now think. Would you dare to pretend that you are Noah and act out his faith, his piety, and his preaching? Maybe you would. Maybe a child would do that on a small scale. Maybe a catechism or school teacher would do that on a small scale to bring the story alive for the children. But would you dare to watch an unbeliever doing it? Some will say that Russell Crowe, who plays Noah in the movie, is a Christian because he talked about getting baptized a few years ago. Some might say that Anthony Hopkins, who plays Methuselah, also found God while fighting alcoholism. [2] But this is absurd. No, Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, and the others in Noah are men and women of the world. These people are acting out sacred Biblical history? Russell Crowe is Noah? Anthony Hopkins is Methuselah? This is a mockery of the faith and piety of the holy men of God whom they are pretending to be. It is a profaning of the sacred work of Jehovah God in the lives of these men. As one of our ministers once wrote about acting out the holy life of anyone, “To pray, repent of sin, love your wife, or any other calling of God, is too serious to pretend, aside from any good motive. For entertainment, it is blasphemous.”[3]

Add this. If you watch the movie, from that moment on you will have the image of these ungodly actors burned into your mind. When you open your Bible and read Genesis 6-9, the image of Russell Crowe with long, shaggy hair and a beard will leap into your mind, as if he is Noah! When you talk about the man with the longest lifespan in history, the image of Anthony Hopkins living in a cave will come to mind, as if he is Methuselah! That is no small objection to watching the movie.

  1. Noah is not the way God wants us to be taught the scriptures.

Noah is a motion picture. It involves images. There is nothing wrong with making images, or even motion pictures. The Heidelberg Catechism clarifies that when it says that creatures “may be represented” (L.D. 35). We do not condemn art. We do not condemn the making of images of creatures. We celebrate good art. We seek to glorify our God through it. But God condemns the making of images as a means of worshiping him. That is the second commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Ex. 20:4-5). Therefore, as the  Catechism teaches, we must “in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word” (L.D. 35). That is why the 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ was so objectionable. It was image worship. Christ is God. To make an image of Christ is to make an image of God. This too is why we must not watch Noah. Note well: If God is brought into this film, it is a sin! If the voice of God speaks to Noah in a dream, for example, that voice is an image of God, a representation of his voice, and that is blasphemous. On the other hand, if God is not brought into this film, that too is a sin, a gross distortion of the true history in which God has the central role.

God does not want us to be taught the history of scripture by means of images and movies. This is the same old controversy about icons. The Reformers rejected the Roman Catholic use of icons, or images, as a means of teaching the people. Our Catechism asks the question, “But may not images be tolerated in the churches as books to the laity? No; for we must not pretend to be wiser than God, who will have his people taught, not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of his word” (L.D. 35). We may add: God will not have us taught by speaking images, actors and actresses on the movie screen. God will have us to be taught by the lively preaching of his word. To the Greeks living in Paul’s day the preaching of the cross of Christ was foolishness. They wanted oratory and drama, philosophy and theater, but Paul assured the Corinthians that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). He added: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:21–25).

Maybe you reply that you still plan to go to church and hear the preaching on Sunday. You do not plan to put aside the preaching in order to learn about Noah through this movie. But that misses the point. God will not have us taught about him by images. God forbids it. God has commanded us in his word how we are to worship him and learn about him. His way is not visual, but verbal. He wants us to learn not from images, but from words.

In conclusion, I encourage you, beloved young people, to think hard about this matter. Movie-watching is a widespread problem in the churches today. Too many Christians watch movies, and I fear that they do so with little or no discretion. The temptation is very strong. I feel it too. But we must remember that we are pilgrims and strangers in this earth. We must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them. We must walk as children of light. We must not set our affection on things of the earth. We must do everything that we do to the glory of God. I pray that we might be given grace not to indulge in this worldly entertainment.

 

[1] One example is Christian movie critic Brian Godawa who gives a critique of the Noah script in an online article: http://godawa.com/movieblog/darren-aronofskys-noah-environmentalist-wacko/. I found the quotations from Darren Aronofsky and gained some insight into his agenda for this movie from this article. See also: http://h.tanalepy.net/?p=2568.

[2] Note that in another (R-rated) movie, this same Anthony Hopkins plays a cannibalistic serial killer named Hannibal Lecter.

[3] Barry Gritters, “Renewing the Battle: Drama, Television, and Movies.” Standard Bearer. Grand Rapids, MI. Vol. 69, No. 19, p. 448. This series, found in volumes 69 and 70 of the SB, issues a strong and still timely warning against the powerful allures of drama. The series was written under the rubric “The Strength of Youth.” I highly recommend it to you young people who, along with me, were not old enough to read it at the time it was written!