The Noah Movie is presenting a great opportunity for the Church to be missional and once again she seems to be failing the test… but I’m jumping way ahead so let me start with a framework on why you should see the Noah movie… and follow that with how you can be missional.
Why you should see the movie
If the only reason you aren’t seeing the Noah film is because you don’t think it will be Biblical, then you may want to start throwing out your Christian music (CCM). A movie with biblical precision would be quite short given the brevity of the text. The characters would be flat and the plot too simplistic. Instead, the screen writer as an artist, was faced with the challenge to fill in characters whose failures and successes are cohesive and believable… into a story which is engaging and satisfying. In this case given the breadth of the Biblical account, the movie had to extend beyond the text. But that’s where the artist comes in.
Artists, I believe, have a prophetic nature where they see beyond and fill in a story into something visual, whether that’s a stained glass window, the Sistine chapel or a painting. A good Christian artist thinks theologically to capture the emotion and theme of the Biblical narrative or concept… but they think beyond to challenge the masses. I believe this can also be done by a secular artist.
I remember one painting at a secular gallery in Dallas. The painting title referenced the garden of Eden. A business man was laying back disheveled with some liquor, a questionable woman was an influencer. The coloring was dark, the painting was massive 5’ * 8’ if memory serves me correctly. It was so big we were part of the painting participating in the darkness of the fall though in a contemporary context. That is theological accuracy. (Though it wasn’t biblical of course because Adam never wore a suit.)
The state we are in
The surest way to see if an organization is in decline or growth is to observe its level of protectionism. An organization focused on protection is in decline. I remember that is how our consulting firm responded during the economic downturn of 2008-2009. Sadly, it is how our churches function today. We take a protectionist stance railing against anything that messes with our scriptures. If we are truly missional, we would want more people to mess with our scriptures – not to rewrite them – but to engage with them.
Sadly, the movie industry moves with cultural option and money. We can’t fault it for following the money. That’s just business. We have no reason to expect more from them. But here is where, to be missional, Christians can be supportive of the money making industry to support a framework for movie producers. Instead, ironically, the producers credibly provided that framework for believers. For, if we are too demanding and fickle with those who tell our stories we risk having our stories forgotten
The church should be helping believers think missionally: How do you train a movie producer to tell your story. What is the criteria (especially when you have less than a chapter of text). The movie’s theme needs to be theologically accurate – the flood was not due to global warming but to sin. Salvation was through God and His revelation. If they have that right, they should be commended. The rest can be entertainment, realizing, as the Rich Mullens stated – ‘if you want good theology go to church, if you want to be entertained come to my concert.’ It’s the same with movies – ‘if you want an exegesis of the text then go to church, the movie is entertainment.’ But it is more.
Let’s think more about being missional. I believe being missional means living as a missionary in your own context. It’s easy to go to a 3rd world country and give them stuff and share the Gospel but often times we attempt evangelism in another country in a way we would never risk doing in America.
As local missionaries we need to build bridges – bridges of communication. I think a Biblical movie is a great opportunity since a) the content is in a neutral social space and b) it covers a biblical narrative which can promote conversation. Far too often our evangelism requires people to come to a religious event which is radically culturally different than anything they can relate to. A movie theater is safe for unbelieving friends. Showing the same movie in a church is not. If Christians will not go to a movie theater, that proves my point from the other perspective. Physical spaces are rarely neutral.
Secondly, conversation is a good thing. Far too often we think that the key to evangelism is to package information to be distributed and immediately accepted. We expect far too much of the Holy Spirit. I believe it is the norm for conversion to take time. It is the repeated and developing exposure to revelation which has impact and which the Holy Spirit can use. The Noah movie isn’t required to be the be all and end all. But it can be the beginning… of a good conversation.
I believe this movie will raise a lot of good (yet difficult) questions about the nature of man (Are we naturally good? Broken? Bad?), of the influences of society (How are we affected by society? How do we respond to unhealthy influences?), and in intervention of God (How does God intervene? What is the nature of his intervention?). I believe there are really good questions that this movie could raise.
Good art should make people think… perhaps this movie is revealing that this is a task Christians find too burdensome.