Hey, did you hear anything about that recent Noah movie?
Ha! Of course you did and are now probably suffering from NMF (Noah-Movie Fatigue). Wow, evangelicals had a lot to say about the movie. To characterize the evangelical reaction as diverse would be a huge understatement. There was Gregory Thornbury’s more positive take on the Noah movie, to Brian Mattson’s argument that it’s a thoroughly Gnostic retelling of the Noah narrative, to Peter Chattaway’s response that “No, Noah is not Gnostic,” to R.J. Moeller’s creative open letter to Darren Aronofsky, to Joe Carter’s unimpressed review of Aronofsky’s “mediocre midrash,” to Barbara Nicolosi’s MMA takedown of all things Noah. Evangelicals certainly had a lot to say.
So last week, in response to all the Noah noise, Roberto Rivera over at Breakpoint asked, “Why are Christians fighting so hard about Noah?” His answer:
“Missing in all of this is any consideration about why Christians should be so invested in what comes out of Hollywood. Maybe it’s age or depression, but I think that part of being part of the peculiar people is not looking to Hollywood for validation... In our desperate desire to seem ’relevant,’ Christians are clamoring to join this vacuous conversation. We are sold to Hollywood as a great untapped market that Hollywood can’t afford to ignore... Now, I like watching movies at home, although not as much as I used to. But in looking to join the conversation, we are unwittingly accepting the premise that the ’Life Questions’ can be answered by reference to what’s onscreen. They can’t.”
Sorry, but I think this is a pretty uncharitable take on the Christian response. Yes, there are corners of the evangelical world looking to Hollywood (and acadeimia and politics and the media, etc., etc.) for validation, but I don’t think that impulse characterizes the larger movement, and certainly one example like this cannot establish such a claim. Does any Christian really think the big questinos of life will be “answered” onscreen? And does joining the conversation about what Hollywood produces entail that we do “unwittingly” think such a thing? No and no.
Let me suggest a different explanation for why Christians made so much noise surrounding the Noah movie: we care about ideas. We understand that ideas have consequences. And we care. Notice the kind of response evangelicals gave. For the most part, they were thoughtful reviews (whether you agreed or disagreed with the conclusions), engaging the intellectual content of the movie. Generally, there were not simplistic dismissals or calls for a Hollywood boycott.
We understand that the ideas that come to dominate our culture will have a huge impact over time. We understand that what J. Gresham Machen said almost a hundred years ago is true today:
“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of a nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.”
And we understand that a prominent tool to diseeminate ideas in our culture is the screen. Movies, TV shows, YouTube and Vimeo videos, and other visual media are tools that can, over time, take our minds captive by false ideas (Colossians 2:8). So we care. We realize it’s important to engage those ideas, wrestle with them, debate them, and ultimately equip the Body of Christ to see everything in the light of God’s truth.
You know what would’ve been much more concerning to me? Apathy. If Christians just yawned and said, “Whatever.” “Who cares?” That would’ve been a much greater cause for concern. So I’m glad Christians made some noise about the Noah movie. I’ll take passionate engagement over apathy any day.