|Posted on August 22, 2014 at 1:20 PM|
I finally saw Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. After reading all of the reviews, I decided I wasn’t going to give him a dime of my money. I’d watch it on Netflix. Turns out, we were able to watch it for free from Redbox, that is, until I told my wife I wanted the Blueray. She said, “But that’s not free, it’s 32 cents! Is a Blueray really worth THAT?” “Yes,” I said. So, I guess I ended up giving Aronofsky a little over a quarter. I’ll pretend it is going to Redbox instead.
At any rate, the movie was a visual feast, though I was a bit let down after having watched 2012 again (on Blueray) this same week. Will anything ever top that movie for special effects? But Aronofsky’s Noah isn’t about the CAD (Computer Animated Design), for him or for me. Brian Godawa is right, this movie is about subversion. Take someone else’s story and tell it in your own image. That’s exactly what this director has done.
Now, I’ve written books on Noah’s day with the giants, and I’m also a Christian in the Reformed tradition. That makes me (along with Brian), one of three Reformed people I’ve ever seen to have taken the view we do (James Boice being the third). So I’m in pretty small company. Going in, I thought what would bother me the most is his mistelling of the giants, or perhaps the Gnostic worldview that I’ve read about. Turns out, that wasn’t even close. As fun as the giant topic is, there are fouler things than Nephilim in the deep places of the earth!
I like to think of myself as a person who is willing to grant a lot, no make that giganotosaurus amounts of poetic license when telling historically based stories. If a story only has a three pages, and you are trying to fill three hours, then you should have a right to fill in the gaps, so long as you remain relatively faithful to the heart of the story you are telling and the few things we do know about it. I do want to be entertained after all.
So I’m fine with (here comes the spoilers, but hey, its been several months, so that's OK by now, right?) ... Noah and Tubal-Cain becoming enemies, with Noah meeting the Watchers, with Methuselah living alone in a cave, with Noah being a little “off his rocker.” I also found that I was willing to live with, shall we call them, certain historical liberties: Somehow fallen angelic Watchers become giant rock Golems; Tubal-Cain manages to get on the ark, God seems to have destroyed the world because not enough men joined Green Peace (this isn’t worthy of getting angry because it is so absurd, sort of like the same ideas in The Day After Tomorrow), Shem’s daughter giving birth to a couple of babies on the ark that Noah thinks is God’s will for him to kill (because God obviously can’t stand mankind anymore).
Then there were the basic ignorant theological miscues that so many others make: The confusion of Watchers with Nephilim (they aren’t the same); the Watchers are never punished by being chained in Tartarus (even the Greeks got that right), they are redeemed by saving Noah and sent back to heaven; Ham didn’t see a naked Noah, he slept with Noah’s wife; it didn’t happen in a cave, but in a tent; Noah never curses Ham’s son, because Ham never has a son. Even the Adam and Eve as Gnostic figures of light I was willing to swallow for the sake of a movie. These were much more disturbing, because I know that the goal is subversion.
But there was one thing that really, really bothered me about this movie, one thing that I’m just not willing to let slide. That one thing may in fact be at the heart of Aronofsky’s subversion. It was something that actually wasn’t in the movie, and there is no way this was an oversight. It is too central to the biblical story to be “missed.” “Oops! I completely forgot about that part.” No. Perhaps it is my Reformed bent coming out, but perhaps it is also that this happens to be the heart and soul of the Noah story in the Bible.
This is the idea of covenant. And Christ.
There is no covenant in Aronofsky’s Noah, because there is no God who speaks. The God portrayed in this movie is not the God of the Bible, but the God of deism and Islam. (Yes, he is probably also the evil-Yahweh lower-level archon god of the Gnostics, a warrior god bent on nothing but death, but in my judgment, this is so utterly unknown to almost everyone, that it is not yet all the subversive, it just goes over people’s heads altogether). This Noah’s God is utterly, deafeningly silent. Noah’s only reason for knowing anything at all about the future is that he has vague intuitions that are brought on by waking visions and drug-induced trances (perhaps he was actually a Mayan priest?), and magical things happen all around him to confirm his intuitions .
But the biblical portrayal of these events is that God walks, speaks, and talks to Noah. I wonder, how many Christians even see this? Or do they just chock it off as anthropomorphism, due to a basically Unitarian reading of the OT? But in Genesis, this God gives Noah clear, specific directions for how to make the ark. He tells him with words how he and his family are to be saved. And most importantly, he makes a covenant with Noah confirming it all. The covenant is the means by which God’s promise is insured. It is the way relationship is built in the Bible. Is the warp and woof of redemptive history. At the end of the biblical Flood story, God reconfirms this covenant, Noah offers a sacrifice, stipulations and arrangements are made for how God is going to keep his covenant, and the rainbow—which in the movie is just sort of there for no reason (one could, I suppose, interpret it through some gay-pride grid and not take it out of context, because there is no context for it in the movie), just sort of hoverings there like the credits that immediately follow it, as if its purpose is to introduce you to the Magnificent Aronofsky—whose name immediately follows, of course!
One thing that I think even many Christians miss in this covenant making is that in order to have a covenant, there has to be a person on the other end of it. It isn’t like Noah is toasting the sky in the Bible. Nor would he look like a raving lunatic talking to himself. Rather, there is a Person there, walking and talking to Noah and others with whom he makes a covenant. This person is none other than God’s only-begotten Son, who in the NT takes on human flesh, assumes human nature, is born of a virgin, dies for our sins, and is raised from the dead.
But perhaps at just this point, too many Christians have a rather Islamic view of the covenant God of the OT. Is there room for Christ in our own theology? Has our silence of him in this story kind of given Aronofksy a pass on this? Is not the Angel of the LORD, the uncreated being who bears the very name Yahweh, who covenanted with Israel (Judges 2:1ff), forgives her sins (Ex 23:20-21), and is called “I AM” (Ex 3:2, 14), is he not the same God who covenants with all of his people, from Genesis to Revelation?
Certainly there is no room for him in Darren Aronofsky’s subterfuge movie Noah. This is the one thing I can’t forgive him for (unless, of course, he repents). Because this is the heart and soul of everything the Bible tells me to believe. This IS the story of Noah—the only Mediator between God and man, not yet in human form, but nevertheless taking the form of God’s Messenger, comes to Noah, tells him of an upcoming disaster, explains to him how to escape it, and gives him his sure and certain promise that it will be so—through a covenant. This covenant was “cut” when all flesh was “cut off” of the earth, and the animals were cut and bloodied in the pleasing aroma that went up from Noah’s altar after the crisis was over.
This covenant is a type of the greater covenant made in Christ’s own blood when he was cut-off from the land of the living, so that he might make a way for sinners to escape the floody-judgment of God’s wrath, because Christ took that same wrath upon himself so that anyone who trusts in him can be hidden inside of Christ—the New and Greater Ark who saves all inside from the wrath to come. This is the love of God in Christ. This is the Noah movie I still await.