Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review of "Noah"

As I said at the beginning of my review of “Son of God,” it is important to realize that any movie based on a book of any kind must, of necessity, take a few “artistic liberties,” such as supplying dialog, filling in unknown details, compressing parts of the story, combining events, etc. Otherwise, a movie made based on three chapters of a book would be extremely short and would probably become a documentary, and a movie based on a long book would be far too long.

Moviemakers are free to embellish and change stories to make them work on the screen. Even movies based on the Bible are subject to such treatment, but it is important that changes not be made that change the entire meaning of the Scriptures. It is quite easy to move from “artistic license” to blasphemy without much effort at all. Even though I tend to notice distortions from the original account when the Bible is portrayed on film, I generally overlook certain things as long as violence is not done to important truth. It is vital that biblical doctrine not be compromised in the name of artistic license and that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up and magnified. With those things in mind, I attended both films earlier this week.
“In the beginning there was nothing.” This is how “Noah” began, and it went downhill from there. The Bible clearly begins, “In the beginning God…” While it is true that all created things had a beginning, there never has been “nothing.” The eternal, self-existent God has always been there. "In the beginning there was nothing" smacks of the big bang theory:  "Nothing exploded and here we are."
It is interesting to note that the name of God was never mentioned in the film. Instead, reference is made to “the creator,” a term which is accurate to describe one of God’s attributes, because He is our Creator. However, it is quite revealing when it is used as it was in the film. It is a reminder of the “creator” of Gnosticism – the one who is demented and evil and who created the material universe, which is itself evil. Only the spiritual is good. Yet the Scriptures tell us that God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Genesis 1:31, NKJV). God did not create an evil universe. Instead, all of His perfect creation fell under the curse when man sinned in the Garden of Eden.
There were a few, very few, biblically correct elements to this film. There was a man named Noah. He had three sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth. He built an ark. There were animals on the ark. There was a flood, and surprisingly, it appeared to be a global flood, but perhaps that was just an illusion to appease those who believe the Bible. Beyond those facts, there is little, if anything, to commend this movie as being even close to truth.
It was made quite clear fairly early in the movie that “the creator” intended to wipe out the entire human race and most of the animals with a flood. The Bible tells us why God determined to bring the flood: Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Genesis 6:5,11-12 NKJV). Man was in rebellion against God, and God basically said, “Enough!” However, the film makes it seem that, while there were vile and evil people on the earth, the major transgression was hunting animals and using the earth’s resources. This was a not-so-thinly veiled statement on “animal rights” and extreme environmentalism, with Noah being the chief environmentalist. The barrenness of the landscape in the film underscored this bias. It is not reasonable to believe that Noah and his contemporaries lived in something that looked like a post-nuclear war wasteland. It probably looked something like that after the flood, but certainly not before.
The implication of the film was that Noah believed the ark was built to save the innocent animals, but that all humans were evil because of their lack of taking care of the earth and were to be destroyed. This is in direct conflict with the Word of God, which states, By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7, NKJV). This does not sound anything like the fake “Noah” in the film.
The film showed a not-so-thinly disguised visual of animals that could only be interpreted to be evolution. This was just a slam at the Genesis account of God’s creation of all things, including life forms. It was not surprising to see this. Evolution is thought by many to be the unifying truth of science, although a biblical and common sense approach to science reveals just how absurd this idea is.
The Bible tells us that Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). This is because Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8, NKJV). 2 Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. The Noah in the film is presented as an angry, human-hating, homicidal maniac – certainly nothing like the biblical Noah.
An almost comical part of the film was the presence of giant rock creatures called “watchers,” who were fallen angels. The Bible does tell us that there were giants on the earth in those days (Genesis 6:4, NKJV), but it most certainly does not tell us they were fallen angels who morphed into “Transformers” or “Gobots.” The relationship between fallen angels and giants is a topic of much debate among Bible scholars, and it likely will never be settled until we find out in eternity. Even though the Bible makes it abundantly clear that fallen angels are demons who do evil, these “watchers” did good by helping Noah in many ways, including building the ark. Ultimately, they protected Noah and his family from the evil line of Cain. Fallen angels doing good is a bit much to swallow. Their reward for this was that they returned to heaven. There is a theological problem here. Not only is there no salvation for fallen angels – they are eternally doomed – but even if there were salvation for them, it would not be on the basis of good works but on the basis of the grace of God.
If the film had shown Noah hiring people to help him build the ark, I would not argue about that. Such is quite possible and would have been a reasonable use of artistic freedom. The Bible does not tell us how he went about the building process. It is quite reasonable to think it is possible that he got help from the community. Obviously, there are those who will accept a job even if they think the outcome is pointless. If they are paid enough, they will do the job. We don’t know that he did or didn’t do this. It is not worth fighting over. However, this is far different from from the help he received from giant “watchers” of the film.
In the Scriptures, Noah walked with God and God spoke to him. In the film, Noah seems to be in the dark, only finding out what “the creator” wants through very unclear dreams and a visit to his grandfather Methuselah where they shared some hallucinogenic wine which helped them see what “the creator” had planned.
There are some interesting things about Methuselah in the film that no one ever got from the Bible. The film presents him as dying in the flood, yet his name means "when he dies, judgment." There is every reason to believe that Methuselah was a man of God, and his death was a warning that the flood was coming in a very short time, perhaps within only a few days. In addition, he presented Noah with a seed from the Garden of Eden that magically grew a forest from which Noah got the wood to build the ark. This is one of many events in the film than indicate the Bible was not used as a source for the story. Instead, it was simply made up. It would have been much more productive for the filmmakers to simply ignore the Bible entirely, including the name “Noah,” and just make up another science fiction story. That is basically what they did, but I suspect they tried to make it sound a bit biblical in order to pull in some Christians into their audience.
The film makes it appear, based on the ages of Noah’s sons, that it only took about ten years to build the ark. However, it is clear in the Scriptures that it took much longer.
There was a mysterious religious talisman in the form of a snake skin that appeared to be very important to the characters in the film. It is interesting to note that the serpent was the animal that Satan inhabited as he tempted Eve, and the serpent is generally thought of as a symbol for evil. God’s people do not need such objects. Noah would certainly not have valued such a thing. This makes Noah and his people appear to be pagans rather than the people of God.
As Noah and his family were boarding the ark, the evil army of the descendants of Cain attacked and attempted to kill Noah and take the ark. If it hadn’t been for “the watchers,” those giant rock creatures, they would have succeeded. In reality, Noah had all the protection he needed. God took care of and protected him and his family. When it came time to board the ark, we are told that the Lord shut him in (Genesis 7:16).
What could be more clear in the Scriptures than the identities of those who went aboard the ark? So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood (Genesis 7:7). This obviously tells us that eight people went on board and specifically who they were. Yet the film shows Noah, his wife, his three sons, and Shem’s wife going on board. Ham and Japheth did not yet have wives.
Why was it necessary to distort the Scriptures in this way? At first I thought it was just another way for the film to stick a finger in the eye of Christians and of God Himself by changing His Word. Then I realized it was a way of furthering the agenda of saying Noah wanted all humans destroyed. Shem’s wife was barren (another blatant change of the truth of Scripture), the other sons were without wives, and we can presume that Noah and his wife were beyond  the age of childbearing. As a result, the human race would die off in the years following the flood.
Of course, Noah was unaware that Methuselah had used his magic to fix the problem that caused Shem’s wife to be barren, so when he found out she was pregnant, he determined that if the baby was a girl, he would immediately kill her as soon as she was born. Shem and his wife attempted to leave the ark to prevent this, but Noah prevented them from leaving. When it turned out to be twin girls, everyone was in turmoil. In the end, Noah could not go through with taking the lives of his grandchildren, and I imagine we are supposed to assume that the little girls grew up to become the wives of Ham and Japheth, and that is why the human race is still here. After the ark landed, Ham left the family to go and live on his own without a wife. Maybe in a few years he got lonely and returned to take one of his nieces as his wife. Who knows? This film was utterly foolish and convoluted.
By the way, the film also shows a stowaway on the ark:  Tubal-Cain of the line of Cain. While on board, he was killing and eating animals, which means some kinds of animals were made extinct during the voyage. Ham was in cahoots with Tubal-Cain in a plot to kill Noah because Noah had prevented Ham from getting a wife prior to the flood, but in the end, he couldn’t go though with it and killed Tubal-Cain instead. In addition to being unbiblical and idiotic, this added nothing to the story. What nonsense!
Noah ended up considering himself a total failure because he did not allow the entire human race to be destroyed as “the creator” wanted. In reality, if God had wanted to wipe out the entire race, He, as the omnipotent one, most certainly could have done so. It is only because of His love, mercy, and grace that he did not. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23).
There was talk of “the creator” seeing “goodness in all of us” in addition to the evil. This is typical of the view of unbelieving man, which says, “I don’t know if there is a God, but if there is, He will weigh my good against my bad, and if my good outweighs the bad, I will be OK.” This all-too-common philosophy always reminds me of the Scripture that says, There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). The philosophy presented in this and other allegedly “biblical” films is deadly to the human soul. Salvation is by grace and grace alone, and no amount of doing good can ever deal with the fact of sin.
In reality, we cannot expect unbelievers to make a movie based on the Bible that even comes close to truth, because the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned  (I Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).
Does this film have any redeeming value? Can it be a tool for Christians to use? I can say it has redeeming value if one is a fan of idiotic science fiction movies. Filmmakers can make any kind of movie they want, based on any book they want, and modified from the book as they see fit. I would say that if the book they are using is the Bible, they are doing a great disservice to God's Word when they change it to the point of making a perversion of the truth in order to fit their agenda. Believers should most certainly have the discernment to know truth from error. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.  They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6).
The only positive thing I can see from "Noah" is that it very well could drive people who have never read about Noah to actually open their Bibles and read the true account for themselves. Opening up the Bible and being exposed to the actual Word of God is always a good thing, and it can be the first step to seeing the truth and coming to the Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple  (Psalm 119:130, NKJV).
"Answers in Genesis" has addressed the issue of "Noah." The most recent article is found here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review of "Son of God"

A number of reviews have been written of “Son of God” and “Noah.” Because of the negative tone of most of the reviews, I at first determined not to see either of them. Both films have been out for several weeks, and after a number of questions and discussions, I finally decided that I should see them and write my own reviews.
The combination of previous negative reviews, as well as the general negative view I have of allegedly “biblical” movies coming out of Hollywood, made it a bit difficult to be totally objective. However, I determined to watch each film with an open mind, be as fair as possible, and give credit where credit was due. My reviews are based on what I observed in the films rather than just taking thoughts from other reviews.
Any movie based on a book of any kind must, of necessity, take a few “artistic liberties,” such as supplying dialog, filling in unknown details, compressing parts of the story, combining events, etc. Otherwise, a movie made based on three chapters of a book would be extremely short and would probably become a documentary, and a movie based on a long book would be far too long. Moviemakers are free to embellish and change stories to make them work on the screen. Even movies based on the Bible are subject such treatment, with notable exceptions such as “The Book Of Acts - The Visual Bible,” which is a word-for-word treatment of the book of Acts.
Even though I notice distortions from the original account when the Bible is portrayed on film, I tend to overlook certain things as long as violence is not done to important truth. It is vital that biblical doctrine not be compromised in the name of artistic license and that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up and magnified. With those things in mind, I attended both films earlier this week.
“Son of God” started off in a very biblical manner, quoting specifically from John 1.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3,14, NKJV). This very clearly established the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ from the beginning of the film.
Surprisingly, baptism was pictured in the proper, biblical form of immersion. So often, it is pictured in a way that tries to keep everyone happy by not really showing the method used.
The fact that God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, could and did do miracles was made clear in the film. This is refreshing, in that the miraculous is often either missing or explained away when the life of Christ, or any biblical topic, is considered.
I must also mention that the film included the resurrection. So many treatments of the life of Christ either ignore or minimize the truth of the resurrection. Of course, without the resurrection, there is no salvation, and the Christian message becomes less than meaningless. Any film about Christ that ignores the resurrection ought to be totally ignored by believers, no matter how well-made it may be.
All of the events that make up the gospel were included – the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. While the gospel events were there, the gospel message is not there. A very key point is left out. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1,3-4, NKJV). (Emphasis mine.)  Those words “for our sins” are an important part of the gospel message, and without them, there is no reason for His death, burial, and resurrection.
Sadly, it was not very far into the film when the whole purpose of the gospel message was misstated and minimized when Peter asked Jesus what they were going to do, and Jesus responded, “Change the world.” That is nonsense of the highest order. Jesus did not come into the world to “change the world.” He came, in His own words, to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10, NKJV). Paul later emphasized this same truth when he wrote, This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15, NKJV). As a matter of fact, some day Jesus will judge the world and destroy the world. It has never been the purpose of God to make the world a better place to live. Rather, his purpose is to call out a people for His name by saving sinners.
The film does not in any way make it clear why Jesus came into the world and why He had to die such a horrendous death. The concept that He died “for our sins” is missing.
When announcing the coming birth of the Savior, an angel of the Lord said to Joseph, And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21, NKJV). Saving His people from their sins is not mentioned in the film.
At the Last Supper …He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”  (Matthew 26:27-28, NKJV). The words, “for the remission of sins” are conspicuous by their absence from the film. This leaves the viewer to wonder why His blood was spilled and why He needed to die in such a manner. It even could make one wonder why He needed to come to earth in the first place.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV). That message is totally missing from the film.
If an unbeliever were to see the film, devoid of any biblical knowledge, he would likely conclude that Jesus was a good man who thought He was God and who was executed for being a threat to the established religious order of the day. The parts about His deity, the miracles, and the resurrection would likely be lost on the unbeliever, because if the fact that He died “for our sins” is missing, the other things mean little or nothing. It all just seems to be the sad story of the persecution of a good man.
Obviously, everything Jesus ever said and did cannot be included in a film. All of those things are not even in the Scriptures. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (John 21:25, NKJV). While recognizing that filmmakers must, of necessity, leave some things out, it must be said that WHAT is left out is of great significance. The entire message and emphasis of the film can hinge on what is included and what is left out. If the meat of the message is missing, a film loses its value as a representation of truth. Leaving out the whole issue of Christ dying to pay the penalty for sin is to soft-pedal the gospel by making it more palatable to sinful man. Sin is not a very politically correct issue these days, but that does not mean it should be ignored. As repulsive as the thought is to the human mind, sin is a reality that must be dealt with if people are to avoid condemnation. Following is an excerpt from another post I wrote:
"Sin cannot be ignored. Believers need to be reminded of the terrible state from which we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and our response ought to be, ‘I will praise Him.’ Unbelievers need to be warned of the terrible results of sin and the necessity of coming to Christ as the only remedy for that sin. Churches that want to emphasize ‘the positive’ and ignore ‘the negative’ are doing a great disservice and really have no function of any eternal value. No matter how much a person’s life is improved here on this earth, it means nothing if the reality of sin and its consequences are ignored. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36, NKJV)."
There is the usual list of inaccuracies one can expect, and they only deserve to be mentioned in passing, because many of them do little to destroy the important truths. However, it does seem that accuracy in dealing with the biblical text is more important than filmmakers consider it to be. For example, anyone who has ever read the account of the birth of Christ knows that the wise men did not appear at the manger to see an infant but instead came several months later to a house where they saw the “young child.” Is that important? It doesn’t do violence to the gospel message, but it certainly speaks of sloppiness in the area of accuracy. We need to get our truth from the Scriptures rather than from Christmas cards.
Was one of the original disciples a woman named Mary (presumably Mary Magdalene)? Of course not. Why was this made a part of the story? I can only assume it was a matter of political correctness. This is not a way to do any kind of scholarly study of the Scriptures. Changing the story for PC purposes is not acceptable.
One event which clearly establishes the manhood of Jesus is what is called “the cleansing of the temple.” In the film, He turned over a few tables, but in reality, He made a whip, drove the moneychangers out of the temple, poured out their money, overturned their tables, and generally took charge of the whole corrupt situation. Perhaps this too was a little too much for the politically correct mind of the twenty-first century. I believe that Jesus was a tough guy. Portraying Him as less than that proves nothing.
Just as the cleansing of the temple was portrayed incorrectly, so was the feeding of the 5,000. The Scripture makes it very clear that the whole process was quite well organized. The film made it look like pandemonium. Is that important? Maybe. Maybe not. But why picture it in an inaccurate manner?
It is not made clear that Peter was not, in fact, the “rock” on which the church was built. Peter was a small pebble. The Lord Jesus Christ is a giant boulder. The church was built on the rock, not on the pebble.
During the second half of the film, there was far too much face time on screen for Mary, the mother of Jesus. I can only conclude that this was to appease those who would make it about Mary rather than about Jesus. Some exalt Mary to a position that she herself would never think to hold.
It is interesting that Judas was portrayed as some sort of victim who was coerced into betraying Christ. This seems like another attempt to minimize the whole sin issue. Judas was an evil man, a thief, a vile traitor, and a pretender. He was never really a true believer. He faked it, and Jesus knew it. He is called “The Son of Perdition.” Judas was not the poor, innocent, misunderstood individual the film shows.
Jesus looked surprised that Judas was going to betray Him. The truth is that Jesus never has been nor will He ever be surprised by anything. Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him, and He knew Judas was not a true believer.
When Jesus was praying, He said, “Spare me!” This is a bit much. What He actually said was, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39, NKJV). This Scripture shows a willingness to submit to the will of His Father. The film shows Him begging to be let off, as if He were trying to escape the cross. He never tried to escape the cross, as shown in John 12:27, where He said, Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
If I were to watch “Son of God” again, I’m sure there are many more things that would catch my eye and my ears. However, I believe I observed enough to write this somewhat mixed review of the film.
Could this film be used as evangelistic tool? Absolutely… if an unbeliever whose mind is being opened to truth were to attend the movie with a believer who is ready to explain the truth, the film could be a very valuable tool in presenting the gospel. However, we can only hope that there is not a flurry of activity with study guides, etc. using “Son of God” as the basis for Bible study in churches and Christian schools. Such sometimes tends to be the case, and it is always detrimental to replace the Scriptures with other things. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God  (Romans 10:17, NKJV).
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There are a number of reviews of “Son of God” online, both positive and negative. My review of “Noah” is found here.