I keep thinking and blogging about the movie Noah and have found it to be an appropriate exercise throughout Lent. If you are just stopping in, welcome and consider this your spoiler alert. If you’d like some earlier context, check out earlier posts “Presuppositions and Expectations – Post 1″ & “The Complexity of Calling – Post 2″ and “Justice, Mercy and the Awkward Moment with Ham – Post 3.”
I remember the first time I saw the trailer for Noah and seeing the incredible special effects of the water and destruction. My next thought was something like: “Oh no, now I have to process why God drowned humanity again.”
My second thought was they got Russell Crowe to play Noah so either Kirk Cameron just led him to Jesus or this is probably not going to be Biblically consistent. This is not intended to judge Crowe, nor do I know anything about what he believes. I only know he is a serious actor and he’s not going to be in a movie that is flat and uninteresting, you know, the way that 90% of Christian movies are. Then later I would learn more about who wrote and directed it.
Before some of the backlash against Noah, there was a lot of excitement for the movie. Christian leaders were excited, Facebook friends posted trailers and a friend of mine even told me he saw the trailer at a Hillsong concert. Most Christian leaders (and I imagine, the Hillsong types too) now say they never saw the full movie or the same version that was released in theaters.
Ok, maybe that’s true. But for me, though interested, I wasn’t excited, I was anxious, because this story is a problematic for me. God drowns the world.
One might wonder why has this matter not been settled by this point in my life. Well it has and it hasn’t. The short answer is while I have studied it, I understand the theology behind it, I think I can even provide an adequate explanation to most – I just don’t like it.
If you’ve ever had to explain the concept of death to a 4 year old who can’t stop asking questions about it, you know what I mean. You understand it, you can explain it, you just don’t like the whole thing.
It’s a timely question to consider as we are in our last stretch of Lent.
Why does God allow everyone else to perish in the story of Noah? Further, why does God punish the wickedness of the world and then later choose to become a man and perish for the very same wickedness? Or even better, why doesn’t Jesus come during the time of Noah? Why go through all this? Why drown the world and then save the world? Was the post-Noah human population that much better? We’re the updated 2.0 version and this is what we ended up with? Drown us again.
No wait. Don’t do that.
Redemption is by far a greater solution.
But why doesn’t God foresee all this?
Then there’s the context. It’s difficult to conclude when Noah lived, what the global population was, and how far that population had spread out across the planet. This inevitably leads us to consider other theories including the idea of a more regional flood. Keeping all the super-natural in it, God drowning the entire Middle-East population and not those who may have settled in other parts. It’s tempting but feels weak. But who really knows?
I’m sure a better answer awaits us when we are reunited with the fulness of God in His domain but until then, here’s what keeps me going:
The theological answer is that God drowns the world because humanity is hopelessly wicked. This doesn’t mean that we are committing wicked deeds 24/7. We often think of wickedness as merely an action, but it’s a condition. There is no way of getting rid of this condition.
Humanity is capable of great good and capable of great evil.
God gives us the free will to choose between the two.
It’s God’s job to judge.
It’s also God’s job to save.
I confess I often think of this from the human vantage point, as opposed to God’s, you know because I am human and not God.
In short, God given His sovereignty chooses to judge the world by destroying it. He’s the Creator, He’s the Judge, He’s not an elected official. This and more is what makes Him God. For the most part, I’m ok with this brutal summary.
God being all-knowing foresees human wickedness. He knows after the flood, that Noah and his descendants will follow the same route. He knows He can repeat this story a thousand times and ultimately still have the same outcome.
God knows this, we don’t really.
From our human perspective, eventually some of us might be convinced that no matter what we do, we cannot save this world by our own inniative. We cannot cure the wicked condition and be made whole, even with an entire system reset and restarting with our most virtuous human examples, we are doomed to our inevitable wickedness. It’s the design flaw of our humanity and free will. And we must have free will in order to have love and freedom.
At the end of all this, I start seeing that God drowns the world to demonstrate that regardless of what we do, we are corrupt and hopeless. And so we need divine intervention.
Which brings us back to the movie Noah and the different interpretations we have.
Does Noah reject the plan of the Creator when he chooses to not kill his grandchildren or my interpretation. Some have speculated that this is Aronofsk’y's trojan horse: Noah defying the Creator to save humanity.
Personally I reject this interpretation. For me and many I prefer Noah discovering what it’s like to wrestle with the tension of justice and mercy (as discussed in the previous post). And I love that Aronofsky sees this too (Christians/theists and atheists/agnostics probably have more in common than we all realize but that’s another story).
Noah realizes the love he has in his heart for his children is more powerful and though they will be inevitably be wicked, he wants them to live, to know them, to love them. This is the very same way the Creator sees us. He must let them live, because God lets humanity live.
God drowning the world is both judgement and a demonstration that regardless of what we do, we will be wicked. We must be saved because again, He wants us to live.
I still don’t like any of this. I don’t like the question, I don’t like the answers I’ve found, I don’t like the reality, the wickedness, all of that.
To follow my logic and my heart, I realize it’s not a wicked humanity that I want to save. Rather, I want to be part of a humanity that loves and takes care of each other. I want to be part of one that shares, supports, builds, celebrates, and grows. We all want meaning, love, purpose, beauty and experience the collective goodness of it all.
This is what God has always wanted too. It’s why He created us in the first place, it’s why He went to the cross to redeem us. This is the promise of heaven. This is what the rainbows should remind us of. Which brings us to the meaning of Easter.