Noah

Noah: Movie Review

Finding God on the Big Screen

Noah

Two blog posts in one day? Yes, well, you see, I’ve just finished watching Noah, the film starring Russell Crow, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins. The movie is jam packed full of symbolism, and I intend to write a proper review soon. But for tonight, I just wanted to encourage any Christians who haven’t seen the film to simmer in the moral and spiritual complexity of it. This movie definitely serves as a catalyst for conversation and some deep, heavy thinking about the human experience, as well as Who God is and what God does.

One thing I find very interesting and surprising about the movie, Noah is the outrageous loathing people feel over the main character, Noah:

Albert Mohler “sociopathic monster… a madman… a murderous sociopath”

A.O. Scott “gone crazy… terrified, humorless… a genocidal lunatic… monster… righteousness pushed to the point of murderous, monomaniacal rage”

Christopher Orr “a knowing accomplice in an act of global genocide… whose zealous conviction is here taken to the brink of madness”

Paul Asay “a bit of a madman for a while… a fearsome figure of death, glowering with his unsheathed blade”

John Anderson “on the edge of mental collapse… passionate, obsessed, even homicidal…”

Robert Denerstein “goes off the deep end, turning into a zealot who goes too far…”

Alynda Wheat “obsessive bordering on psychotic with a willingness to inflict cruelty… monomaniacal… the picture of ruthlessness… God’s bouncer…”

Ken Ham “psychopath… bloodstained…”

Barbara Nicolosi “a completely unsympathetic character… intractable and insane in his conviction…”

If you’ve seen the movie, then you’ll understand why people say what they say about Noah, expertly portrayed by Russell Crowe.

noah-russell-crowe-

But that’s not what surprises me.

Stop and think about it.

The Creator is a distant and silent character, nevertheless a constant presence in the film. The Creator drowns all of humanity, minus the people in the ark.

Noah is a conflicted character who wants to do the will of the Creator. Noah kills in self-defense, and then later, in defense of the ark. He considers killing his granddaughters, because he believes that the Creator’s will is that humanity, including Noah’s family, should be wiped off the face of the earth. Ultimately, Noah can’t bring himself to do it.

There’s plenty of violence in this film.

Who does the most violence? The Creator or Noah?

Why are people not referring to the Creator as a sociopathic, murderous, humorless, passionate, obsessed, homicidal, psychotic, bloodstained, completely unsympathetic monster? How is it that the Creator can drown almost everyone, yet Noah is the one people focus on as the genocidal lunatic, the fearsome figure of death with a willingness to inflict cruelty, the picture of ruthlessness who is intractible and insane in his conviction? Whose righteousness is pushed to the point of murderous, monomaniacal rage?

Please don’t read into what I’ve written here. Remember, I’m referring to the Creator as a character in a Hollywood flick.

Who is God? What does God do? I believe this film has plenty to say in response to these two questions. I’ll expound more on this in another blog.

In both the movie and the biblical story, humanity has become altogether wicked and violent. The Creator, or God, reacts with an exceedingly wicked and violent response. Is it wicked to drown someone? Is it violent? How about everyone? Is it wicked and violent to drown everyone? Your comments are most welcome.

noah movie

In the previous blog post, What People Say About Aronofsky’s Noah, I wrote,

 

Who is God? What does God do? I believe this film has plenty to say in response to these two questions.

 

But before I do, let’s take a look at what people say about the Creator (as a character in the film, Noah).

 

Think Team  “a sovereign creator… in control and, in the jaw-dropping standout scene of the year so far, the creator of everything we see”
 
Michael Schuermann “far off, raining down justice from the heavens and yet remaining inscrutable and silent…”
 
Chris Sosa “with the power of life and death, but perhaps not much else. He seems unable to interfere beyond wide actions of either propagation or destruction. Even communicating with Noah seems a struggle. This leaves the Creator widely defined to a point that makes assigning him ethical agency little more than conjecture.
 
Peter T. Chattaway “[sends] the Flood, the visions and the animals”
 
Eleanor Ringel Cater “tells Noah a world-soaking deluge is on the way”
 
Graham Heslop “is palpably distant… tending towards silence, gives Noah dreams… Noah is not lead by God but left by him… is vague and unclear… akin to Dawkin’s ‘blind watchmaker’ or George Lucas’ ‘Force’… either has no qualms with being completely misunderstood and misrepresented or is simply incapable of making himself known…”
 
Albert Mohler “is spoken of in the movie, but he does not speak… appears to be driven by an essentially ecological fervor… [the film] distorts the character of […] God”

 

As you can see, what people had to say about the Creator was far more tame and uncritical than what they said about Noah. There is no talk of the Creator as some ““sociopathic monster… a madman…” etc. In order to avoid confusion, let’s name Aronofsky’s Creator, Creator A. And let’s call the Creator in the Bible, specifically in the Genesis account of the great flood, Creator B.
 
Of the 15-20 blogs I read, most writers based their assessment of Creator A on:
 
creator-A
 
or they based their assessment of Creator A on:
 
creator-B
 
Now, if one wants to examine Creator A as a character with his own merits and nothing else, then only the first diagram applies. Creator B and the second diagram are only relevant if one wants to compare the Creator A character to the Being upon which he is based, that is, Creator B. There’s nothing wrong with comparing Creator A to Creator B. In fact, I’ll do that in another blog post. Like I said, I believe this film has plenty to say in response to the two questions: Who is God? What does God do? But that’s not what this blog post is about. Now that we’ve got an understanding, I’ll proceed. Let’s take a look at those comments again.
 

Think Team  “a sovereign creator… in control and, in the jaw-dropping standout scene of the year so far, the creator of everything we see”

 

Think Team says that Creator A is “creator of everything we see,” but how does Think Team know Creator A is sovereign? Perhaps the reason is the “jaw-dropping standout scene.” Here’s the script:
 
140217noahscript3
 
There are two sources of information here. The first source is, of course, Aronofsky. Movie audiences are willing to overlook implausibility. If they weren’t, they would constantly be reminding themselves — these are just actors playing the parts of fictional characters, those are just computer-animated monsters, none of this really happened, etc. Movie audiences suspend judgment and believe the fantastic tale. In other words, in the movie theater, the movie directors are gods. We temporarily accept the “truth” of the world the director creates, the world over which the director is sovereign.
 
The second source of information is Noah. If we have assumed the movie-going mindset, then Aronofsky’s visual narrative compliment’s Noah’s verbal narrative. And we believe. Creator A’s sovereignty is apparent, not because we have seen Creator A, but because Aronofsky demonstrated to the audience that Noah’s words were true. With this in mind, parts of Schuermann’s comment make more sense:
 

Michael Schuermann “far off, raining down justice from the heavens and yet remaining inscrutable and silent…”

 

“Far off” and “silent” are descriptors that seem to ring true of Creator A, in my opinion, but “inscrutable” and “raining down justice” need to be examined further. For now, I’ll hold off on “inscrutable.” How does Schuermann know Creator A is raining down justice? Raining, yes, that’s quite obvious to everyone. But justice? What if it’s just raining? How do viewers know that this flood is motivated by a sense of justice?
 
There are two sources of information from which Schuermann draws his conclusions. The first is a scene in which Noah ingests hallucinogens and has a vision of Eden, the serpent, the violence between Cain and Abel, and finally, a massive flood. The flood is not something Noah could have known about, unless he had the ability to see the future. Since there was nothing else in the movie to indicate he had the ability to see the future, we can safely assume that the flood portion of Noah’s vision did not originate with Noah. But what about the history lesson? Noah would have been very familiar with the old stories of Eden, the serpent, and the violence between Cain and Abel. He could have produced this portion of the vision from his own psyche. We can know with certainty that Creator A warned Noah about the flood, but we can’t know with certainty that the flood was an act of divine justice.
 
Think about it.
 
As a little boy, Noah witnessed his father being murdered by Tubal-Cain. Noah is haunted by visions of the flood, but it isn’t until after he drinks Methuselah’s potion that Noah makes the connection between the violence of humanity and the idea of divine justice. What if Noah’s own desire for justice plays a part in how he interprets Creator A’s warning?
 
creatorperception
 
Now back to “inscrutable.” Is Creator A impossible to understand? Heslop thinks so:

 

Graham Heslop “is palpably distant… tending towards silence, gives Noah dreams… Noah is not lead by God but left by him… is vague and unclear… akin to Dawkin’s ‘blind watchmaker’ or George Lucas’ ‘Force’… either has no qualms with being completely misunderstood and misrepresented or is simply incapable of making himself known…”

 

Let me ask you this — since Creator A gave Noah visions or warnings about the flood and then provided (via Methuselah’s seed from Eden) all the materials Noah would need to build an ark, or hundreds of arks for that matter, shouldn’t we consider this clear direction? How is Creator A inscrutable? It seems pretty simple to me. A flood is coming. Here. Have a forest. Survive the flood. Oh, and don’t forget about the animals. Chattaway and Cater don’t see to take issue with this:

 

Peter T. Chattaway “[sends] the Flood, the visions and the animals”
Eleanor Ringel Cater “tells Noah a world-soaking deluge is on the way”

 

Yes, Creator A is distant and silent in the most literal sense, but Creator A makes his point, a point that only becomes vague and unclear after it has been filtered through the mind and worldview of Noah. Regarding Heslop’s idea that Creator A “either has no qualms with being completely misunderstood and misrepresented…” we have no way of knowing for sure. That Creator A is misunderstood or misrepresented is certainly a possibility. But Heslop’s idea that Creator A could be”…simply incapable of making himself known” is highly unlikely. After all, Aronofsky the director-god of the world he created, clearly established Creator A’s sovereignty. To deny Creator A’s sovereignty is to be like the movie viewers I mentioned earlier, who are constantly reminding themselves — these are just actors playing the parts of fictional characters, those are just computer-animated monsters, none of this really happened, etc. If you have accepted the “truth” of the world the director created, if you believe the fantastic tale, then saying Creator A is “incapable” is not an option. If, in fact, Creator A is completely misunderstood and misrepresented, we can’t assume that Creator A has no qualms with it. He may have a big problem with it.
 
I’ll explain by using a personal example. The other day, a friend said something on Facebook about me and some others (without using names, but nevertheless, clearly about us) concerning what we should have done but didn’t do. My first instinct was to react defensively, to point out reasons why I should not be included in this group of should-haves-but-didn’ts, but I remembered that my only judge is God. God approved of me and my choices in that circumstance. And since God’s authority is the highest authority, why should I worry about what other people think about me? I chose not to defend myself.
 
Did I have the ability to respond? Yes. Did I? No. There’s a big difference between can’t and won’t. Heslop doesn’t seem to understand this, and neither does Sosa:

 

Chris Sosa “with the power of life and death, but perhaps not much else. He seems unable to interfere beyond wide actions of either propagation or destruction. Even communicating with Noah seems a struggle. This leaves the Creator widely defined to a point that makes assigning him ethical agency little more than conjecture.

 

Viewers recall Methuselah “blessing” Shem’s wife. Because of this blessing, her childhood injury was healed, and she was enabled to conceive not just one baby, but two. I don’t know about you, but to me, Creator A was interfering with Noah’s genocidal interpretation of the visions. And this interference can’t be classified or limited to as in Sosa’s words, wide actions of propagation. These are very personal actions. One woman, miraculously healed. Not just any woman, but the one woman who should NOT have been healed if the Creator’s intentions were as Noah assumed.
 
Take a look at this chart one more time:
 
creator-A
 
Notice how the innermost layer is the only one where the “truth” of who Creator A really is exists. Aronofsky directed the movie in such a way that Creator A’s intentions were inferred (correctly or incorrectly) by the next two layers. From what I gather, the outermost layer reveals three things:

 

  1. Blog writers have a hard time analyzing Creator A without also comparing Creator A to Creator B.
  2. To infer Creator A’s intentions, blog writers tend to rely on Noah’s interpretation of Creator A’s intentions (genocide) or other character’s interpretations of Creator A’s intentions (near-genocide, sparing Noah’s family only) more than they rely on Creator A’s action or inaction.
  3. Blog writers seem to accept Creator A, despite their assumption that Creator A is genocidal or near-genocidal. Yet, blog writers have strong feelings against Noah, who is obviously genocidal or near-genocidal (no assumptions necessary there).

 

How can this film help us understand Who God is and what God does? The next blog will cover this question. I’ll close with this thought about Mohler’s comment:

 

Albert Mohler “is spoken of in the movie, but he does not speak… appears to be driven by an essentially ecological fervor… [the film] distorts the character of […] God”

 

God’s character cannot be distorted. Only our perception of God’s character can be distorted. Aronofsky’s film, Noah, demonstrates how easily our perceptions can be influenced.

Who is God? What does God do? I believe Aronofsky’s film, Noah, has plenty to say in response to these two questions. Please read the two previous blog posts in this series, if you haven’t already: What People Say About Aronofsky’s Noah and What People Say About Aronofsky’s Creator

In case you completely disregarded my suggestion, here’s a quick overview of something you should know in order to understand the rest of this blog post. Creator A is Aronofsky’s character. Creator B is the Creator presented in the Bible.

Creator A, according to the twenty-something blog posts I read, is or does the following:

  • Sovereign or in control
  • Creator of everything we see
  • Far off or distant
  • Rains down justice from the heavens
  • Silent
  • Inscrutable
  • Holds the power of life and death, but not much else
  • Unable to interfere with wide actions of propagation or destruction
  • Struggles to communicate with Noah
  • Sends the flood
  • Sends visions
  • Sends the animals
  • Warns Noah about the flood
  • Gives Noah dreams
  • Can be compared to Dawkin’s ‘blind watchmaker’ or George Lucas’ ‘Force’
  • Has no qualms with being misunderstood and misrepresented
  • Incapable of making Himself known
  • Does not speak
  • Driven by ecological fervor

From the above list, I agreed (only in the most literal sense) with the following regarding Creator A:

  • Sovereign or in control
  • Creator of everything we see
  • Far off or distant
  • Silent
  • Sends visions
  • Sends the animals
  • Warns Noah about the flood
  • Gives Noah dreams
  • Does not speak

The “truth” of who Creator A really is or what Creator A really does can be inferred by what Creator A does or does not do. Anything outside of that, for example, what Noah or other movie characters say about Creator A’s intentions, may or may not be accurate. The same reasoning applies to blog writers. Movie goers should not trust blog writers in order to determine Creator A’s intentions; instead, they should see the movie for themselves and considering factual only what Creator A did or did not do in the movie.

In What People Say About Aronofsky’s Creator I wrote,

God’s character cannot be distorted. Only our perception of God’s character can be distorted. Aronofsky’s film, Noah, demonstrates how easily our perceptions can be influenced.

Let me expound on this idea in order to demonstrate that Aronofsky’s film, Noah, has plenty to say in response to Who God is and what God does.

The “truth” of who Creator B really is or what Creator B really does can be inferred by what Creator B does or does not do, and anything outside of that, for example, what people throughout the course of history say or write about God’s intentions, may or may not be accurate. We should look at what Creator B does or does not do in order to determine Creator B’s intentions.

Now, here’s the tricky part…

One of the things God does is communicate directly, silently, and personally with individual people. Suppose Johnny says “God told me, ‘Sell all you have and give it to a certain charity for children in war-torn countries.'” In addition, suppose Suzy (Johnny’s wife) says, “God told me, ‘Withhold your normal donation to the charity for children in war-torn countries, because I disapprove of the idea that they want to let homosexuals volunteer in their organization.'” Obviously, something is amiss. We need to think of this situation as a filter. I’ll call it the Johnny and Suzy Filter.

Just like a real filter, the Johnny and Suzy Filter removes unwanted material. If we want truth, then we need to consider all the possibilities and eliminate the ones we find erroneous.

There are 6 possibilities* to consider, assuming that God does personally communicate with people.

  1. Johnny misinterpreted God’s message
  2. Suzy misinterpreted God’s message
  3. God likes confusing people with mixed messages
  4. God didn’t actually communicate with Johnny
  5. God didn’t actually communicate with Suzy
  6. God didn’t actually communicate with either Johnny or Suzy

*If you think of more possibilities to add to this list, please do leave a comment at the end of this blog post.

What should we do when we clash with one another about how we perceive God’s intentions?

In the Noah movie, Noah, a frightened little boy, witnessed his father being murdered by Tubal-Cain. It is possible that Noah’s own desire for justice plays a part in how he interprets Creator A’s warning and how Noah makes the connection between the violence of humanity and the idea of divine justice.

The same rings true for us. We are like Noah.

We are shaped by our experiences. Our own desires play a part in how we interpret personal communication with God.

And here’s what’s even more tricky…

Most Christians turn to scripture to correctly interpret personal communication with God. Again I say, we are shaped by our experiences. Our own desires play a part in how we interpret scripture. Even scripture itself warns us:

double edged sword

We need to think of this concept as a second filter. I’ll call it the Double-Edged Sword Filter. Keep this in mind as we continue to consider Creator B in light of both Aronofsky’s film and scripture.

In the Noah movie, Creator A is the sovereign creator of everything we see, who warns Noah about the flood. In this way, are Creator A and Creator B alike? What does the Bible say?

  • God was fed up with the sins of humanity and sent a flood to destroy everyone.
  • God chose one righteous man to build an ark.
  • Instructions for the ark included sealing it with pitch, including one door and one window, and compartments for various animals.
  • A handful of other people entered the ark with the man.
  • The flood came, and it rose up over the mountains.
  • The man sent out birds to determine whether dry land was available, twice the birds returned, but not the third time.
  • The ark came to rest on a middle-eastern mountain
  • After the people left the ark, they sacrificed an animal.
  • God was pleased with the smell of their sacrifice and blessed the them.

Oh wait. That’s the Epic of Gilgamesh, written a full millennium before the Genesis account. (Although in that account there were gods, plural, not God, singular.)

That there are so many similar flood accounts speaks volumes about the idea that there was, indeed some sort of great flood. I don’t dismiss the flood story as fiction, but I also do not embrace that the story is entirely accurate. There is scientific evidence to both support and refute a giant cataclysmic flood. And the truth is that not a single modern person on God’s green earth witnessed ancient history. Those who claimed to be eyewitnesses and put the account into writing were sure to include their own ideas about why the gods or God sent the flood. Assuming that there really was a world-wide flood, we still need to apply the Johnny and Suzy Filter as we read what they wrote. And then after we do that, we need to apply the Double-Edged Sword Filter.

Here’s what the Bible says about who Creator B is and what Creator B does (for real this time):

  • God saw that the earth was corrupt and full of violence.
  • God told Noah, someone He considered righteous, His plan to destroy the earth and everyone in it, because of the corruption and violence.
  • God told Noah to make an ark with a door, a window, and compartments for the animals. Noah was to seal it with pitch, etc.
  • God gave instructions about who and what should enter the ark.
  • The flood came, and it rose up over the mountains.
  • God remembered the ark and its inhabitants and sent a wind so that the waters receded.
  • God told everyone to come out of the ark.
  • God smelled the sacrifice Noah made and was pleased.
  • God said to Himself, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done…”
  • God blessed Noah and his sons.
  • God told them that the animals would fear them.
  • God said they could eat animals in the same way they had eaten plants.
  • God told them not to eat the meat of animals “with lifeblood still in it.”
  • God said He would demand an accounting for lifeblood.
  • God said He would “demand an accounting from every animal.”
  • God said He would “demand an accounting from each human being… for the life of another human being.”
  • God put a rainbow in the clouds as a sign of His promise to never again send a flood to destroy everyone and everything.

If we use our Johnny and Suzy Filter, then here are the possibilities:

  1. Noah misinterpreted Creator B’s message
  2. The people who wrote Genesis misinterpreted Creator B’s message
  3. Creator B likes confusing people with mixed messages
  4. Creator B didn’t actually communicate with Noah
  5. Creator B didn’t actually communicate with the people who wrote Genesis
  6. Creator B didn’t actually communicate with either Noah or the people who wrote Genesis

Now, I’m sure there are some of you who are chomping at the bit to add some possibilities to this list, such as:

  1. Noah correctly interpreted Creator B’s message
  2. The people who wrote Genesis correctly interpreted Creator B’s message
  3. Creator B does not confuse people with mixed messages

Let’s look at these one at a time. First, let’s suppose Noah correctly interpreted Creator B’s message. What are the implications? Well, to start with, we can wholeheartedly conclude that Creator B, the character portraying God in the Biblical story, is not God. How so? Because He makes ungodly decisions and mistakes.

If Creator B were God, then Creator B would have been able to see the future from Noah’s time until today. Creator B would have been fully aware that sending a flood would not rid the world of corruption and violence. If Creator B were, in fact, aware of the futility of His actions, then why would He knowingly proceed to drown millions of people and animals? Was He having some sort of divine temper tantrum? Either way, Creator B can’t be God, because God is neither ignorant nor evil.

Furthermore, if Creator B were God, then Creator B would have been able to see the future from Adam and Eve’s time until Noah’s time. Creator B would have been fully aware that in creating people and placing them in a garden with a tree from which they should not eat and a tempter who would eventually convince them to eat, then the world become full of corruption and violence. If Creator B were, in fact, God, He would have been aware of the future and not at all surprised or disappointed with the outcome of His decisions. Creator B proceeded to create the people and the tree and the tempter, knowing the world would become filled with violence and corruption and knowing He would then send a flood that would fail to eliminate violence and corruption. Either way, Creator B is not God, because God is neither ignorant nor evil.

Some people might argue that because the people of Noah’s time were violent and corrupt, they deserved to die, and since Creator B is God, He has every right to send them to their horrifying deaths. Let’s just suppose that this is true. Is it righteous and good to kill millions of animals, unborn babies, infants, toddlers, and young children because of the sins of the grown-ups?

Answer the question, if only to yourself. Answer the question, if you dare.

How did you justify Creator B? More importantly, why? Is it because you want the Creator B of the Noah story to be God? Why would you want that? Is it so the story in scripture can remain in your thoughts as part of the literal, infallible Word of God?

We must consider the possibility that Noah or the Genesis writers made correlations where there were no correlations. In other words, they observed what was taking place in the world around them and then assumed that it must have happened the way it did because God was showing favor or disapproval, grace or judgment, etc.  And then they based their own spiritual schema, decisions, and actions on those assumptions.

For example, Creator B gave Noah instructions about who should enter the ark, namely, “you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” Creator B planned ahead of time to save Noah’s family only.

I’ve heard preachers and teachers claim that Noah pleaded with people to make the right choice and enter the ark. In order to have a choice in the matter, they would have had to have been informed. Did Noah inform them?

noah jesus

Matthew recorded the words of Jesus concerning whether people knew a flood was coming:

…they were, in the days before the flood, eating, and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, till the day Noah entered into the ark, and they did not know till the flood came and took all away…

What are the implications?

First, Creator B told Noah who would board, then Noah kept his mouth shut, because he believed Creator B. But what if the Bible Noah is like the movie character Noah?

In the movie, Noah was adamant that Creator A wanted genocide. He had the drug-induced vision, and he witnessed the horrors of the corrupt human condition, and he became convinced. But in the end, movie goers learn that Noah had gotten all mixed up about what Creator A really wanted.

In the Bible, Noah believes that he understands exactly what Creator B wants. Is this why Noah didn’t bother to tell anyone? Did Noah figure it was pointless to tell people, since Creator B had already told him who would enter the ark? What if Noah, seeing the corruption and violence in the world, assumed that Creator B’s intentions must be to destroy everyone, when in reality, God wanted Noah to warn people?

Another example of the possibility that Noah or the Genesis writers made correlations where there were no correlations is the sacrifice Noah offers to Creator B after the flood.

Perhaps when Noah killed the animal and then saw a rainbow in the sky, he assumed it must be a sign that Creator B was pleased. But what if the rainbow was just a sign of “an optical and meteorological phenomenon that is caused by both reflection and of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky (Wikipedia).

Creator B may have been smiling on Noah, because Noah sacrificed to Creator B. But was God smiling on Noah? Did God desire to smell the burning flesh of a dead animal, as if all the carnage of the flood were not enough?

The prophet Isaiah wrote these words, which he believed were the very words of God:

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” Says the Lord; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”
Isaiah 1:11-15

So who do we believe? The Genesis writers or Isaiah?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote what he believed were the words of God:

“For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jeremiah 7:22

Jesus, the Word (Logos) of God, said:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Noah’s and the Genesis writers’ perceptions were fallible. That they were fallible doesn’t necessarily mean they were erroneous, it just means that as human beings they were capable of error. Knowing this, we should examine that portion of the text that isn’t as subject to erroneous perception. In other words, let’s use the Johnny and Suzy Filter:

  • Noah made an ark with a door, a window, and compartments for the animals. Noah sealed it with pitch, etc.
  • Noah and his family and some animals entered the ark.
  • A flood came, and it rose up over the mountains.
  • A wind caused the waters to recede.
  • Everyone came out of the ark.
  • Noah sacrificed an animal.
  • The animals feared people.
  • People began to eat animals in the same way they had eaten plants.
  • A rainbow appeared in the clouds.

Now, let’s apply our Double-Edged Sword Filter to analyze what remains

Your Double Edged Sword Filter might not tell you what you want to know about Creator B, but it will tell you what you might not want to know about yourself.

How could Noah have known a flood was coming? People don’t have the ability to see the future. So one aspect of this story requires divine intervention. We don’t know how Creator B told Noah a flood was coming, whether an audible voice, a dream, a vision, or in some other manner. Regardless, Noah correctly interpreted that part of the message. Of all the story elements listed, that is the single story element that we can safely attribute to both Creator B and God.

So, what have we learned about Who God is and what God does from the Noah movie?

We’ve learned that our perceptions about Who God is and what God does can be influenced, for better or worse, by the sources of information from which we draw conclusions about Him. Among those sources, we must also examine ourselves as a source. Yes, God communicates with people. But people also have a way of hearing from Him only what they want to hear.

The only real anchor we have, in this giant ocean of subjective deconstructionism, is the Word (Logos) of God, Jesus Christ.

Strongs defines the Greek word, logos in this way:

3056 lógos (from 3004 /légō, “speaking to a conclusion”) – a word, being the expression of a thought; a saying. 3056 /lógos (“word”) is preeminently used of Christ (Jn 1:1), expressing the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit.

[3056 (lógos) is a common term (used 330 times in the NT) with regards to a person sharing a message (discourse, “communication-speech”). 3056 (lógos) is a broad term meaning “reasoning expressed by words.”]

There is something that is alive and active and sharper than any sword, the Word of God. The Word of God is the thoughts of God, expressed by Christ through the Spirit. The Bible is most valuable in that it contains a long and detailed record of the human perceptions of God. Like the Noah movie, people can walk away from stories in the Bible curious, disgusted, amazed, confused, or disinterested. But no matter what the reaction, they always take with them a very personal image or concept of Who God is and what God does. What does that image or concept look like?

Does it look like Jesus Christ? Does it do what Jesus Christ did?

dog swimming

 

Our dog, Jane, was afraid of the water. Against her will, I made her sit on the pool steps. I wanted her to be able to enjoy the cool refreshing water on a hot day. I hoped that she would realize she was safe on the steps. Eventually, the fast pace of her little puppy heart slowed, and she decided the water wasn’t so bad after all. And then, she just started swimming, all the way to the deep end. Suddenly I was the one with the racing heart.

Jane would not stay on the steps, once she knew she could swim. For the remainder of the afternoon, she swam so much, I worried. “What if she is in the middle of the deep end and gets tired and can’t make it to the side? What have I done?” I said. I regretted my decision. I never expected her to go swimming all around the pool for hours. I thought she would stay on the steps.

My brother assured me, “We’re right here. Nothing is going to happen to her.”

When it comes to God’s Sovereignty and the free will of humanity, I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory place to plant my flag. Not because of doubting God’s Sovereignty, but because of doubts about the nature of so-called free will. But when it comes to God’s Omniscience and the free will of humanity, that flag was planted a long time ago and hasn’t budged an inch. One of the regular blog readers and commenters (Mary) suggested in a comment on the blog post, What the Noah Movie Says about God, that God’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) might not be a prerequisite for His omniscience. I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject since writing the three blog posts about the Noah movie. And since I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about making idols out of planted flags, I’m letting the concept simmer for a while.

With Jane, I regretted my decision to make her sit on the pool steps. In the Genesis story, Creator B (the Genesis writers’ version of God) regretted creating human beings.

With Jane, the cause for my regret was that she chose to leave the safety of the steps to go swimming in the deep end. With humanity, the cause for Creator B’s regret was that people chose to be violent and corrupt.

With me, I did not know the choice Jane would make. With Creator B, it seems He did not know the choices humanity would make.

If Jane were about to cause any of the three kids swimming in the pool to drown, or if she were to begin to drown herself, I would intervene. When humanity made choices that resulted in pain or death for themselves or others, Creator B intervened.

The outcome of my intervention would be that no one would drown. The outcome of Creator B’s intervention was that everyone (except eight) died by drowning.

My intervention would have been to remove Jane from the pool so that the pool would be a safe and happy place for the kids to swim. Creator B’s intervention was to remove people from the world so the world could be a safe and happy place for people to live.

The reason I know that removing Jane from the pool would resolve the problem is that Jane is a puppy who is inherently prone to stupidity and recklessness, whereas the kids who were swimming were responsible and smart. Could Creator B not have examined the hearts of Noah and his family and seen that they were as prone to violence and corruption as those who died outside of the ark?

Let’s just suppose that God can be omniscient without knowing the future. For argument’s sake, I’ll entertain that thought.

If the first few generations of the descendants of Noah were violent and corrupt, there is no mention of it in Genesis. In contrast, they were united. They had rational discussions and cooperated with one another. It seemed like Creator A’s plan was working. The world appeared to be a safe and happy place for people to live in community:

And the whole earth was of one language and of one accent and mode of expression. And as they journeyed eastward, they found a plain (valley) in the land of Shinar, and they settled and dwelt there. And they said one to another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” So they had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth.”

But then Creator B does something that is in complete opposition to the purpose of the flood in Genesis:

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confound (mix up, confuse) their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city.

Creator B, in confounding their speech, essentially created an environment that is more conducive to corruption and violence, a world of cultural differences, a world of the “in-group” and the “out-group,” a world of territorial “selves” and “others.”

There is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate that Creator B was exercising any kind of righteous punishment against a particular sin. Once again, we have the opportunity to examine the text as it is presented and allow the Sword of the Spirit to penetrate our own thoughts and motives in how we choose to interpret it.

The Tower of Babel story marked the end of universal monotheism in the Old Testament. Creator B eliminated the “threat” of cooperation and ushered in the age of idolatry in which Creator B regularly pours out his wrath in various violent ways on the “others.”

I’m still examining the possibility (however improbable) that God’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) might not be a prerequisite for His omniscience, if, for example, God created a universe of multiple possibilities in which He remains Sovereign and accomplishes His purposes regardless of which possibilities come to fruition. There is so much we don’t know for certain about God.

Sometimes it’s easier to discover Who God is and what God does by identifying Who God isn’t and what God doesn’t do. The drastic difference between what Creator B does in the flood story and what Creator B does in the Babel story, to me, demonstrates that Creator B’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) is irrelevant. Creator B drowns millions of people and animals to rid the world of violence and corruption, and then once the world is repopulated with people who have learned from their mistakes and changed their ways, Creator B stomps a divine foot in the cosmic ant pile. Creator B is omnisomething other than God.