My Review of Noah (2014)

While I’m normally not too vocal about movies, media and culture, I was asked by several people to post my opinion of the movie Noah released just this past weekend.  So, here it goes.

When I first saw the preview for Noah, I’ll admit, I was excited.  When done well, I think media is a powerful way to portray the stories from the Bible.  Remember The Passion?  I mean, who wasn’t moved by that movie?  Noah, on the other hand, was disappointing.  I was hoping for some redeeming qualities in the movie, but the truth is, the positives simply don’t outweigh the overwhelming creative liberties taken in this movie.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with using some or even lots of creativity to produce some filler content to the few paragraphs that we have in Genesis.  Sight and Sound Theater’s “Noah”, for example, takes lots of creative license in portraying what Noah’s life was like before the flood, and what it may have been like being on a floating vessel for such a long period of time.  The difference, however, is that the musical aligns itself with the Bible.  Let me explain…

Some critics have commented that everything in the Biblical account is in the movie.  I don’t agree with that statement, and a quick reading reveals details like the fact that all three of his sons were married in the Biblical account, while in the movie, only Shem boards the boat with a bride.  It begs the question, why go through so much trouble to accurately create the ark according to the Biblical record, but yet botch details of Noah’s daughter-in-laws?  The latter seems to be a critical piece of earth repopulation.  But I digress…

My biggest problem with the movie is its portrayal of Noah and of God.  In the Bible, Genesis 6:9 says that Noah was a righteous man.  It seems that as a righteous man, Noah would have some joy in his life, while in the movie, I’m not sure Russell Crowe smiled even once.  Okay, so he had a lot on his plate with the destruction of the world and what not, but the real problem is that in the movie the viewers are actually pushed to fear and even despise this “righteous” Noah towards the end.

On the other hand, God’s attributes are skewed as well.  He is made out to be the silent force of creation who is only filled with wrath towards the human race that has rebelled against him.  God’s mercy and love are left out of the story.  This is a huge problem of contextualization.  While the creators of this movie may have attempted to create an accurate account of the story of Noah based on what we have in the book of Genesis, the failure to produce that account without the context of the rest of the Bible results in a twisted interpretation of God’s character that is all too common.  I’ll admit, the Biblical account of Noah from Genesis 6 through 8 is a story of God’s righteous wrath.  But, the Bible is one book, and in the context of the rest of the Bible, the account of Noah becomes a testimony of God’s redemption, mercy, and love.   These are characteristics not seen in the movie.

Despite the above, there are a couple of things that I did like.  For example, at one point in the movie Noah explains that evil is inside all of us and that he and his family were essentially no better or more deserving of being saved than anyone else.  This was encouraging to hear in our postmodern culture which would argue that mankind is generally good but is occasionally capable of evil.  The evil side of Noah and his family is portrayed quite well while on the boat.   This subtle explanation in the film actually fits very well with the main theme of the Bible: that righteousness comes through faith alone.  The account of Noah in Genesis foreshadows the cross of Jesus.  Noah wasn’t saved from the flood (God’s wrath) because he was good, he was saved because he had faith in what God told him (to build an ark).  The same is true for believers in Christ.  People are saved from God’s righteous wrath on the account of faith in what he tells us.  We’ve all rebelled against God; we’ve all turned away from him, and we all deserve to have his wrath poured out (like a flood) on us as a result of that choice.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we deserved death because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.  (Ephesians 2:4-5)  It’s natural for us to think that our “goodness” can save us from the punishment we deserve.  But even a righteous man like Noah wasn’t good enough to save himself.  Neither should we think our own goodness is enough.

So what’s my recommendation?  Should you see this movie or not?   I would say don’t waste your money on a movie ticket.  If you do decide that you want to see it, I’d wait to redbox it or rent it on itunes when it comes out.  At the very least, a viewing of the movie can be helpful in preparing to explain its shortcomings should someone ask.  That being said, a study of the account of Noah in Genesis will give you the best preparation for such a conversation.

Again, overall, I was disappointed with the film.  I wanted to see God portrayed as loving and redemptive and that simply didn’t happen.  Am I worried, however, that this movie will give the enemy the upper hand?  Of course not.  God is a god who is in the business of bringing good things out of seemingly bad situations.  One of my other favorite stories from Genesis is that of Joseph.  (Genesis 37-50)  If you are unfamiliar, I won’t spoil it, but it ends with Joseph saying this: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  (Genesis 50:20)  I believe that God can use even an off-base movie like Noah to somehow aid in the expansion of his kingdom.

And that, my friends, is all I’ve got.  Thanks for taking the time to read my review.  As always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments below.  I’d love to hear what others think!

Chapter 29

If the life-themed chapters of my blog were anything like a Hobbit movie, my readers would undoubtedly be a little upset with the release dates.  Waiting years (3 to be exact) for the next release was certainly not my intention, but to those of you that have been patiently waiting (hi mom), here it is.  While, I could blame time or motivation or inspiration (or the lack thereof on all accounts), I will not.  Rather, I will blame the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL).  Oh yes… there is something modernly american about sitting in Starbucks with a macbook, white earbuds, and sipping a PSL.  These variables, when combined, produce what I will call the holy trifecta of blogging.  (Should you wish to experience this scenario for yourself, may I also recommend an overcast, fall day with Eric Whitacre’s “October” playing through your headphones.  It may just change your life.)  So why blame the PSL?  Well, it’s not that the PSL is directly responsible for the lack of blogging.  But, as you may imagine, creating the quintessential conditions for sharing the inter-workings of my life in the form of the written word doesn’t happen very often.  And while my intentions of writing to you (most honorable Theophilus) were good, the timing never felt right.

So here we go…  But how does one even start to explain the last three years of his life?  I mean, really?  For one thing, I can’t remember what I wore to work yesterday.  Needless to say, much of the the last 3 years is lost in memories of the previous 6; but I’ll do my best.  And while, I’m not going to go into any kind of detail, I’ll hit generally on the highlights.

If I had only one word to describe the last 3 years of my life it would be grace.  Life is messy, and if we’re talking about mine in particular, messy becomes an understatement.  I can safely say that Paul hadn’t met me when he wrote the words, “Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.”  But as a good friend of mine told me a few weeks ago, “God is a redemptive god.”   How true is that?!?  God has done so much for me in the last 3 years.  He pulled me from a pit in which I wasn’t even aware I was swimming.  He allowed trials into my life that divinely placed me into the middle of a church body that has been nothing shy of an underserved blessing.  If I’ve learned anything over the course of the last year, it’s that God is way more faithful than I am.  He has answered prayers that I had forgotten that I even prayed.  He has stretched me and grown me.  He has stretched and grown people around me.  He has proven that his word is trustworthy.  He has changed the priorities of my life.  And, he has taken my plans and showed me that his are better.

It sounds like the perfect 3 years, right?  Well, believe me when I say that while I am thankful for what God has done, it hasn’t been an easy road.  The last 3 years have been filled with greater loss and greater hurt than I had ever previously experienced.  Times that seemed to be high points, were met with challenges and decisions that the enemy used to remind me of why I wasn’t good enough.  Good news in one area of my life was met with equally devastating news in another.  Just like an actual roller coaster, it seemed that the biggest highs were followed by the biggest drops.  And though not everything has gone the way that I would have wanted it to go, I  have no reasons to trust that God won’t work it all for good… because he is good, and I’m excited for what he has planned for the future.

So, what does my future hold?  I don’t know, but I’m fairly certain that I don’t need to.

I know this post wasn’t terribly insightful, but if you’re still reading, thanks for hearing me out.  If you want to know more… just ask.  I’m open to share.  And, until next time, keep it real out there (or whatever the cool kids are saying these days).




Random Photoshoot

Here’s a few photos that I took with Austin and Dave the other day.  Nothing great.

Williamsport Winter Photo Shoot

I had a little photo shoot in Williamsport tonight.  The conditions were perfect.  Sure, I felt like a nerd carrying around a tripod downtown.  But it was worth it for some of these shots.  This was the first real shoot with the new D600.

Lightroom 4

I downloaded the trial of Lightroom 4 last night and was playing around with it.  This is what I came up with.


Jesus is the Good Shepherd

While studying Mark 6 in Bible study the other night, we were looking at the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  In verse 39 he tells the people to sit down in the green grass.   I was thinking to myself that it was really weird that Mark specified the “green” grass.  Then Psalm 23 popped into my head.  In verse 2 it says “He makes me lie down in green pastures”.   That’s pretty cool.  Then I began to think about the two passages even more…

In Mark 6:34 it says that Jesus had compassion on the crowd of people because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  Psalm 23, starts out saying “The Lord is my shepherd” !!

The parallel between this passages is quite clear.  I liked the symbolism that Mark uses in comparing the people to sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus then displays his good shepherd qualities by telling them to rest and by feeding them the same way a shepherd would his flock.

Check it out for yourself : Psalm 23 and Mark 6:30-44

By My Own Strength

photo by: Ian Britton

photo by: Ian Britton

I’ve been thinking a lot about the message I heard in church on Sunday.  Pastor Mike continued his messages through Galatians.  This week was on Galatians 5:7-15.  The message was a good one, and like so many times when I feel like God is trying to get through to me, it touched close to home.  Galatians chapter 5 is on the freedom, or in some translations, the liberty that we have in Christ.

Paul, writing to the church at Galatia, was concerned that legalism was working it’s way back into the gospel.  Legalism, was the attempt of the church to gain righteousness by its own merit.  In question here was the act of circumcision.  Paul essentially says in verse 3, “If you insist on being circumcised for justification, then you’re also saying that you’re seeking justification by trying to keep the law, and if that’s the case, you’d better keep the whole law.”  This thinking clearly troubled Paul because this thinking was a step backwards for the Galatian church.  In verse 7 Paul asks,” What happened?  You guys were doing well.  You were running the race.  Why now are you stumbling?”  He goes on in verse 11 to explain, “If I were still teaching you that fulfilling the law was important, then why am I still be persecuted for the message i’m preaching?   If the message of the cross was all about living a good life, then it wouldn’t be offensive to those who hear it.”

It’s important to remember that Paul used to be on the other side of this argument.  When Paul was Saul there is no question that he was zealous about circumcision and the fulfillment of the law.  Paul was the one doing the persecuting.  However, as soon as Paul entered into ministry his persecution for the gospel began (2 Corinthians 11:32).  His point here is that if the gospel of Christ was all about trying to follow a set of rules, people wouldn’t find it offensive and he wouldn’t still be persecuted for his message because it would essentially be the same message he was so zealous about when he was still known as Saul.  But here, Paul’s message is very different than his younger years.  Verses 4-6  read:

You you are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirt the righteousness for which we hope.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcised has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Did you catch that last part.  THE ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  But what does that mean?  In verse 14, Paul says this: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself””.  Wait a second, didn’t Paul just say not to try to fulfill the law.  Now he’s trying to command us to love other people?  And didn’t Jesus say that the most important command is to love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength in Mark chapter 12?  Let’s take these one at a time:

In this passage, I don’t believe Paul is in any way commanding us to love our neighbor.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t.  Just stay with me.  In Mark chapter 12, when Jesus explains that the two most important commands were to first love God, then to love your neighbor, I don’t believe He was, in any sense, commanding us to do either of those things either.  Remember, Paul writes in verse 6, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” .  The key word here, is “faith”.

As Christians, we are nothing without our faith.  Hebrews 11:6:

And without faith, it is impossible to please God.

The Galatians were trying to please God through fulfilling the law through circumcision.  It wasn’t going to work.  If Paul were commanding us to love our neighbor, that would just be one more thing for us to “try”, and like everything else we try to do by our own strength, we will fail.  That’s not going to work either.  The solution?  Faith.

As humans, we can do nothing by our own strength.  We can’t try to follow a list of rules or we will fail.  We can’t try to love others or we will fail.  I submit, that we can’t even love God by our own strength.  If we try, we will fail.

We love because He first loved us.  — 1 John 4:19

The only reason we are even capable of loving is because God first showed love to us.  It’s through faith in Jesus Christ that we have the empowerment to show love to both God and to our neighbor, but not by our own strength, rather through the strength we receive through the Spirit.

Romans 13:10 says this: “Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”  Do you see?  It all falls together so perfectly.  It’s only through our faith in Jesus that we even have the capacity to love the Lord.  (The greatest commandment).

…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  — 1 John 4:12

When God lives in us, we have the ability to love others (The second commandment) .  It’s for this reason that Paul tells us in verse 14 that the entire law is summed up in the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Paul knew that if the Galatians would focus on the message of faith, the “expression” of that faith would be the love they have for each other.

I was convicted about this message.  There’s no question that God is trying to teach me something here.  How many times do we as Christians resolve to try and be better, and then end up failing?  Or how many times do we resolve to give up a sin, only to fall right back in?  And how many times to we resolve to love someone, only to let that someone down?  I know this has been true for me.  The key here is that we can’t try.  We can’t keep trying to do things by our own strength.  It’s impossible to please God by our own strength.  We need to be faithful and we need to let Jesus live through us by the Spirit.  For it’s “…by faith that we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (verse 5)