The movie Noah recently opened in theaters amid a flood of controversy (see what I did there?). The $130 million epic, starring Russell Crowe as the title character, was directed by Darren Aronofsky, an outspoken atheist whose godlessness led him to “make my God, and my God is narrative filmmaking.”
Reviews for Noah have been mixed. Predictably, many Christian critics have slammed the film. Scriptwriter and blogger Barbara Nicolosi unsubtly branded it as a “terrible, terrible movie.” Brian Godawa, writing a guest review for The Christian Post, blasted Christians who defended the movie as “tools,” calling Noah “a subversion of the Biblical God and an exaltation of environmentalism and animal rights against humans.”
Other reviewers have praised the film for its bold reimagining of the well-known biblical tale, calling it “intermittently powerful” (A.O. Scott), a “daring venture in mainstream entertainment” (Joe Morgenstern) and “a movie to wrestle with and talk about” (Mick LaSalle).
I haven’t seen the film, so my intent here is not to pan or praise it, but to remind us again of the power of Story. As evidenced by the reactions to Noah on both sides of the fence, a story has the power to enthrall, anger, arouse, provoke, inflame and inspire. In his essay On Stories, C.S. Lewis notes, “The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat, otherwise dull to him, by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savory for having been dipped in a story.”
The Bible has been dubbed “The Greatest Story Ever Told”– and for good reason. History has raised up such literary titans as Homer, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and Faulkner, but none of their works have impacted civilization like the Bible. The Holy Scriptures have inspired sublime pieces of art and music; poured the foundation of Western law and philosophy; impelled great scientists like Kepler, Pascal and Newton; energized missionaries to build churches, open orphanages and schools, feed the hungry and heal the sick; imparted hope and strength to untold populations across the planet.
Jews and Christians believe the scriptures aren’t just a collection of interesting stories, but One Story–the grand tale of redemption implemented by the Creator of the heavens and earth. Beloved teacher and author Henrietta C. Mears wrote that “the Bible is one book, one history, one story, His story. Behind 10,000 events stands God, the builder of history, the maker of ages.”
As a seasoned filmmaker, Aronofsky understands the power of story. As a Jew raised in Brooklyn, he was exposed to the tales of the Bible, including Noah, at an early age. For an English assignment in 7th grade, he wrote an ark-inspired story called “The Dove” which he was invited to read at a United Nations convention. In Noah, he explained that he was trying to dramatize the awful decision that God made when He decided to sweep away most of humanity in the Great Flood. “At the beginning of the Noah story, everything is wicked and God wants to start over,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The pain of that, the struggle of that, must have been immense. To basically go from creating this beautiful thing to watching it fall apart, and then doing this horrible thing where you have to try and start again.”
When I get around to catching Noah, I don’t for a moment think that I will agree with everything I see on the screen. After all, the director and I have differing worldviews. But I will be open to a snatch of dialogue that might impart truth, a scene that could move me to think deeper about a Bible story that has, admittedly, become all too familiar.
Have you seen Noah? If so, what are the reasons you liked or disliked it? Can God use people ‘outside of the faith’ for His glory? Is there any example of this in the Bible? Have you seen this play out in your own life?