Scoffers Versus Noah
By Wayne Spencer
From the March 2014 Creation Answers newsletter
The recently released movie called “Noah” with actor Russell Crowe has focused people’s attention on the Biblical story of the Flood. I would not recommend the movie to Christians. I would further say it is not appropriate for children. Hollywood does not have a good track record in producing movies about Noah’s Flood. Even Christian movies on the Flood story have been lacking, in my opinion. The movie also tends to reveal some things about how nonbelievers view the Old Testament, and people who believe the Old Testament. I would recommend at least considering the following before going to the movie.
In the New Testament, in 2 Peter 3:3-7, Peter writes something that sounds intended for 2014. (From the NIV.)
”3Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
In this passage, the term “scoffers” represents people who are antagonistic toward faith in the God of the Bible. A modern term for this might be “skeptic.” In the New American Standard Bible it uses the term “mockers” rather than “scoffers.” But the point is that they scoff at God’s word. They are the type who actively work to persuade people not to believe the Bible. Christians have always had to contend with people like this.
The verses above indicate that in the last days people will deny three important things, 1) the second coming of Jesus Christ in the future, 2) the creation account from the Bible, and 3) that God judged mankind in a great Flood. This certainly sounds like our day, in that many people consider the Old Testament book of Genesis to be mythical, not historical. The God who shows mercy and grace in the New Testament is the same God who judges in the Old Testament. In fact, the greatest judgements described in the Bible, are not in the Old Testament, but are still future and are in the New Testament. God has never let the world “off-the-hook” for its evil. The world may have forgotten God but God has not forgotten the world. He still has the right to judge as our Creator. But he has provided a way of salvation and forgiveness through Christ.
Many today also take the view that God never really spoke to human beings, ever. People do not believe that God would or could speak to mankind and give inerrant written revelation. The Bible says God spoke to Noah. It does not explain how he spoke to Noah. God speaking to people in the Old Testament happens in a variety of ways. But consider this. Humans can communicate, therefore is it logical to believe that intelligent creatures like us, who communicate with spoken and written language, would aquire this ability by accidental mutations and natural selection? No other creatures have the language capabilities we have as human beings. Why? I am aware of some of the things that Chimpanzees and whales do and it doesn’t change what I’m saying. We have the ability to communicate because we were created by a God who can communicate and he made us somewhat like himself (in His image according to Genesis). So you see it is not God who cannot communicate effectively, that is actually our problem.
The Noah Movie
The recent Noah movie focuses on the experience of Noah’s family in the Flood event. Some have described the movie as true to the book of Genesis in most respects but as adding extrapolated detail not in the Bible. I can tolerate a lot of artistic license if the important aspects of a Biblical story are held to. There are many aspects of Noah’s life not explained in detail in the Bible and so there really is room for some artistic license. But when you portray the individual the story revolves around as a very different kind of person than the Bible does, that is just out of bounds. More than that, it is really an attack on Christians, Jews, and Muslims who take the account seriously. The question I think we should ask is “Does this movie portray the Biblical Noah, or does it portray a scoffers view of Noah?” I would say it gives a scoffers view of Noah. Genesis 6:9 in the NIV says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” The movie gives a very distorted view of Noah and of God. I think it also makes a disrespectful statement about people like Christians, who believe in the God of the Old Testament. It implies people who believe an Old Testament story like this are being like the Noah character in the movie. This is the wrong idea.
It is true that sometimes Christians can get holiness and compassion for people out of balance one way or the other. That could be a valid point to be made, but not by insulting the character of the real Noah, who was “blameless among the people of his time.”
In the movie, it’s interesting to note what did come close to matching the Genesis account and what did not. For instance, it does portray the Ark as very large, and the Flood as a global event. This is better than some movies have done. But it does not have a good concept of God and it twists the character of Noah into someone who is of questionable judgement, and who almost kills his newborn granddaughters. It presents Noah as someone who gets into his head some irrational ideas about God and then he holds to those irrational ideas to the point of obsession. His “obsessive” behavior goes to the point of being harsh at times. Thus he ends up alienating his family to a degree. The movie also invents an incident not in the Bible which makes Noah’s son Ham very angry with his father, thus driving a wedge between them. There was some issue between Ham and Noah but the Bible does not tell what started this, unless perhaps it was the incident in which Noah gets drunk. That incident is also portrayed in the movie and is similar to how Genesis describes it but not exactly the same.
There are several odd departures from the Biblical account on how the movie deals with Noah and his sons. In the movie Shem is the oldest, Ham is the middle son, and Japheth is the younger (this is possible but not certain). At the time the Flood rains begin, Shem seems to be a fully grown young man, Ham is a few years younger, and Japheth looks to be in his early teens. Thus there is only one young woman to be a wife for one of Noah’s son’s (Shem), at the time the Flood begins. Ham and Japheth seem to be too young to marry and there are no wives for them on the Ark. Noah does have a wife on the Ark. So the movie does not follow the Bible because it does not have 8 people on board, until the girl gives birth to twins. Also Tubal-Cain does not belong on board at all. The movie does not mention how old Noah is, as far as I remember. But the Bible says that when God spoke to Noah about the Flood, that all three sons had wives (see Genesis 6:18).
In the movie Noah seems to get all his “input” from God in the form of dreams. So his understanding of what will happen in the Flood comes from interpreting dreams and discussing it with Methuselah. But Genesis is clear that God spoke to Noah, including giving Noah specific instructions on the size and overall construction of the Ark.
One of the more Biblically accurate aspects may be the way the other people in the movie, who live away from Noah, are portrayed. It presents other people as barbaric and violent. Tubal-Cain is portrayed in the film as a villain who can make tools and weapons of iron and who tries to kill Noah and take over the Ark. Tubal-Cain actually manages to get on board the Ark and manages to manipulate young Ham into assisting him. Tubal-Cain becomes almost a mentor to Ham. Tubal-Cain explains to Ham his view of being human, which is a sort of humanistic “man determines his own destiny” type of attitude. I think this relationship between Tubal-Cain and Ham is an addition that has some value in the story but it is taken too far.
Though early in the movie Noah, while talking to Methuselah, mentions people being able to “start over” after the Flood, later Noah comes to believe that God wanted the Earth without people on it. This made Noah come to the terrible conclusion that he could not allow a girl baby to live. A righteous man would not think like this. Thus he didn’t want his children to have children and he thought this was God’s will. It seems like the movie may be aiming this as a criticism of Christians morality perhaps. But it actually seems more like certain unreasonable extremist environmentalists who have the idea that the Earth would be better off if humans did not live on it. This is not a Christian concept at all. This is reinforced by other environmentalist-like ideas in the story. The green land before the Flood is ruined by some sort of fires caused by people, so that there are few places where food can be grown. Yet somehow Noah and his family are vegetarian. Noah’s family being vegetarian is a good point in the movie. But animals are described as the innocent, so the Ark saves the innocent animals. Actually the Biblical way to look at this is that God created the animals for man’s benefit, so when God provided a way for mankind to start over after the Flood, he provided for the animals also.
Then there are the fallen angels. The movie has a completely bizarre concept of the fallen angels. It says they were cast down to Earth by God and they tried to protect Cain and his descendents. But they became giant rock creatures people feared. They discover Noah and then decide to help him build the Ark. So, like many other Flood movies, the movie does not present Noah as someone who could build the Ark himself, he had supernatural help. Then the fallen angels fight off an attacking crowd while Noah and his family get ready and board the Ark. Then, as the Flood rains begin and people kill the fallen angels, the angels get taken back to heaven. The Bible actually implies there is no hope of redemption for fallen angels. It is not such an objectionable thing to me that the fallen angels were shown as rock creatures. But their role does not make sense in the story and it is important to realize this is a very odd idea that has nothing to do with the Bible.
The fight over the Ark is totally unlike the Biblical account. In Genesis 6 there’s nothing suggesting there was any fight with people over getting in the Ark. In fact, Genesis 6:7-10 sound as if Noah’s family boarded the Ark a week before the Flood started.
There are other things in the movie that depart from Genesis. While on the Ark, Noah goes through a description of the Creation story with his family. But he begins this with the statement, “In the beginning, there was nothing ....” But Genesis 1:1 starts with “In the beginning God ....” As this segment continues, if you pay attention the graphics displayed on the screen are not like the creation week in Genesis but they are the Big Bang followed by the formation of Earth and the Moon as secular science says, except shown in a fast-forward manner. So it is not clear how Adam and Eve were created. It seems to allow for Adam and Eve somehow evolving from lower animals, though it doesn’t really show this.
There were also elements that seem like magic brought into the story that do not really belong. This is a common misunderstanding that nonchristians have of God. When God does something miraculous, it is not magic. Also, magic, Biblically, is not from God. But Methuselah seems to use a potion or drug of some kind to induce a trance in Noah, so Noah can get insight into what his dreams mean. Then Methuselah heals the girl that Shem ends up taking as his wife. But the problem is there is no credit given to God in this healing. It just seems like a silly old man who is suffering from some dementia. You cannot explain away divine revelation to human beings as being due to taking a drug or being some sort of magic.
Returning to 2 Peter 3. It is uncomfortable to think about a holy God who judges sin. But if God did not do something about evil in the world, would he be worthy of our worship? The God of the Bible has a track record through history of judging evil in the real world. Many nonbelievers think of this as harsh or cruel, such as Richard Dawkins, who wrote the book, The God Delusion. I think this misunderstanding stems from not realizing the seriousness of our own sin problem as human beings. We are not what we should have been because of our sinful nature. Facing that is the first step to getting right with God. It isn’t really surprising that God wiped out mankind when people had become violent and evil all the time as Genesis 6 describes. What is surprising is that God saved Noah and his family and allowed humanity to start over. God chose who got on the Ark, not Noah. God’s sovereignty is somehow not undone by man’s bad choices.
God’s plan is often not intuitive to us, but he has a good plan. The old assumption that because everything has just gone on the same way for thousands of years, we can now be sure that God will never intervene, is just incorrect. It does not disprove God in some sense just because we haven’t seen him in person for a long time. There are many misconceptions people have about the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament teaches about compassion and God’s mercy also. So we can’t dismiss the Flood account just because of the catastrophe it was or the amazing story it is. There are reasons to believe it. There is now even genetic evidence for the story of Noah, the Flood, and what the Bible says about his family. CLICK to see an article about this. This can be bad news about a God who is ready to judge. But it does not have to stay as bad news because we have a choice. The God of Noah is the God who sent his Son into the world to suffer in our place so that we could be forgiven of our sins. Instead of deliberately dismissing the story or avoiding the uncomfortable things in the Bible, we should try to understand it better. It is still a unique book and authoritative in all it says. The God of Noah is still worth knowing.
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