Is It Dangerous? Biblical? Gnostic? Awesome? — Here’s All The Noah That’s Fit to Print

I’m getting piles of emails, Facebook messages, tweets, and interview requests regarding my thoughts about Darren Aronofsky’s massive new movie Noah.

While I’m delighted that anybody would be interested in my response to the film, I have no response yet… not about the movie itself. I haven’t seen it. I’ve been on an island for 10 days studying the art of creative nonfiction, pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. It’s been one of the most rewarding, exciting weeks of my life and the beginning of two years of challenging work. Noah will have to wait. (If the studio had provided Seattle press with a press screening, I would’ve reviewed it for you. They didn’t. Can’t imagine why.)

But fear not — you have some other resources available to you.

In fact, you have a choice.

You could read articles about Noah in which Christians

  1. condemn other Christians who have found aspects of the movie to appreciate — calling them “liars,” “whores,” and “self-loathing evangelicals”;
  2. complain that the movie “isn’t Biblical” (when any imaginative retelling of the story would have to invent things to fill in the picture);
  3. seek to explain away positive reviews by implying that the critics were paid off by the studio;
  4. complain that the movie doesn’t mention God (my trustworthy colleagues testify that it does) (UPDATE: I saw it. It does. He’s called “The Creator” and “Him” and “He” … over and over and over again);
  5. complain that the film contains mystical creatures (even though the Bible includes reference to some rather mystical creatures and fallen angels and giants, just as it suggests that the “wildlife” of the ancient world was mysterious and strange in ways we’ll never understand); and
  6. accuse the filmmakers of being part of some Gnostic or atheist conspiracy intent on mocking Christians… when in fact the artists demonstrate enthusiasm for their subject, remarkable historical research, a rich understanding of how the myth-like tales of ancient oral tradition mean things, and an impressive respect for the religions of the world that embrace this great story as sacred tradition.

I’m not going to provide any links to such articles. Why waste anybody’s time? These writers fulfill the worst cultural caricature of the Christian whose stance toward art and culture is one of scowling and scolding, the pious authority who claims to have the only acceptable and righteous judgment of a work. As ways of engaging art, culture, and our neighbors go… that way is a dead end.


You could read explorations of the film that focus on

  1. what’s actually in the movie;
  2. weighing the pros and cons without disrespect or anger or slander or cynicism or name-calling;
  3. highlighting whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy;
  4. pointing out the weaknesses of the film with insight, grace, and respect;
  5. thoughtful criticism rather than condemnation and ridicule of their peers.

I’ve seen plenty of examples of both approaches to this film.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I will, because the critics who I have come to find most trustworthy, respectable, scholarly, and gracious in their manner have been fairly enthusiastic about the film.

Here are the reviews I’ve found to be most respectable, thorough, and enlightening.


“Some have complained that Noah is mostly environmentalist propaganda, to which I say: not propaganda, but environmentalist? Absolutely. The Noah story is one of the clearest calls in Scripture to environmental stewardship. In this fantastic sermon on Noah, Tim Keller notes that the Noahic covenant calls us into three great relationships: with the earth, with all the people of the earth, and with the Lord of the earth. God is in covenant with the whole earth (Gen. 9:13), committed to renewing nature as well as man. Resurrection for all. … The creation God has made has an important role to play, after all: it declares His glory.”

Did you hear the one about Noah being Gnostic? If so, watch Peter Chattaway (here and here) and Ryan Holt (here) take that idea apart.

Ask yourselves: Do these reviews appear to be written by people who were tricked into writing what they wrote? Do they sound like people who were “bought”? Do they write like sellouts?

These are the writers and moviegoers that a certain prominent Christian media voice labeled as “liars.” Are they all lying?

If you come across more examples of the latter, please share them in the comments. If you come across examples of the former, I’d encourage you to save us all from wasting our time and pay them no attention at all.

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26 responses to “Is It Dangerous? Biblical? Gnostic? Awesome? — Here’s All The Noah That’s Fit to Print”

  1. I keep meaning to come over here and thank you for including a link to my blog…and then forgetting when I get to the computer!:-) Thank you so much…kind of a full circle moment for me to be listed on your blog because it was your blog that really started to change my approach to film years ago. Thank you!

  2. To me it seemed big, dumb and loud; the liberties taken with the Genesis narrative (handing down the snakeskin, the magic Ark forest, etc.) seemed more like the embellishments DeMille added to Exodus and didn’t really bother me (“The Ten Commandments” was also big, dumb and loud, but it was fun, and very little in “Noah” was much fun).

    But I also found large-scale battles and battle-like scenes (Nephilim vs. Tubal-cain’s army, floodwaters sweeping hordes of people away), characters added solely to meet what today’s movie audiences expect to see in a story (Tubal-cain as The Villain, Methuselah as The Wise Guru Magician), and so on. These were more troubling to me; they struck me pretty much as you have mentioned Peter Jackson’s similar changes to Tolkien’s stories have struck you. I’ll be curious to see if I hold a minority view.

  3. 13 things to know about Noah
    by Nathan Campbell

    Why ‘Noah’ Is the Biblical Epic That Christians Deserve

    A Biblical Review Of Noah

    Will Paramount’s Noah Sink or Swim?

    Noah director Darren Aronofsky on rocking the boat ( 20 min. interview)

    “Noah” – Christian Movie Review

  4. Jeff, just want to say thanks to you and everyone else here for making the extra effort in compiling links to some of the more thoughtful and useful feedback on the film. Having finally seen the movie yesterday, I have tons of reading to do now, but I can’t remember the last time I was this intellectually and spiritually engaged with a movie of this scale. Maybe Fellowship of the Ring? It’s been a long time. Really amazing that this even got made, or that it exists in it’s current form.

    • Excellent! Thanks! I’m a big fan of both Chattaway and Morefield. And as I’ve said, I haven’t seen the movie. I’ll have just as much respect for a gracious, eloquent, level-headed *negative* review as a gracious, eloquent, level-headed positive one.

    • Thanks for finding this. Cathleen Falsani is a friend and a provocative journalist. I’m glad she shared this conversation with Aronofsky.

  5. I found Pluggedin’s review of Noah to be very fair and balanced: In the conclusion of their review they first note the negatives of the film and acknowledge the changes made, but finish with recognition of the movie’s lessons and themes that are quite poignant. (For fear of this comment being marked as spam, I’ve left out the link to the review, you can find it on pluggedin’s home page) An excerpt:

    And sometimes it’s even in the things the film changes that spiritual
    lessons emerge. One example: As Noah drifts into the idea that he’s been
    tasked with ending all human life on earth, he comes to believe that
    the Creator is calling on him to kill his own granddaughters. He’s
    desperately determined to follow through … until it comes time to
    actually complete the terrible charge.
    “I looked down at those two little girls,” he confesses, “and all I had in my heart was love.”
    It’s poignant that Noah, the last righteous man, felt such love in that
    moment. Because that’s what God feels when He looks down on us. We are
    sinners. We constantly fail Him. We deserve death, He tells us. But in
    His eyes, we’re also beautiful. And God’s love for us—His mercy and
    grace—ends up saving us.

    • Good for PluggedIn! I was imagining they’d be more on the panicky end of things, but they, like a certain Master Baggins, are full of surprises.