Aronofsky’s portrayal of the Noah narrative goes much deeper than Hollywood, atheism, and money. The philosophical underpinnings of the film, which I discussed in yesterday’s post, paint a picture of God. This picture of God, while biblically erroneous, is logically consistent with Aronofsky’s worldview. As an atheist, Aronofsky maintains that there is no God, and if God were anything like Aronofsky presented him I would be thankful to know he was simply a figment of ancient, superstitious imaginations. I am however, grateful, that the God of the Bible stands in stark contrast to the god of Aronofsky.
But how should the Christian community respond to Aronofsky’s portrayal of God? Should we become angry? Should we ban the movie? Should we travel to our local theaters with picket signs and engage in protest? Should we spend money producing elaborate documentaries that expose the deceptions of Aronofsky and his fraudulent film? Should we attack Aronofsky himself and ramble on about his character flaws, irreverent words, and satanic worldview? Or, should our response be different? Should we take the opportunity to analyze how we as Christians may have contributed to Aronofsky’s picture of God? Should we, rather than demand Aronofsky change, seek to change ourselves?
In her book Christ Object Lessons, Ellen White says, “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love” (415). The last days of human history, according to Ellen White, will be marked by a final merciful appeal—one which will be characterized by a revelation of Gods character of love. Aronofsky’s film did just the opposite. Rather than reveal Gods character of love it presented him as vindictive, distant, and arbitrary. But where did Aronofsky get his idea? Where did he develop such a twisted picture of God? There is only one logical answer: the church.
As Christians we are Gods representatives on earth. Unfortunately, the history of Christianity is lathed with vindictiveness, violence, and intolerance. If the followers of Jesus are so oppressive and arbitrary, then it follows that their God, whom they revere, must be their role model. But history alone is not our problem. The real problem is our present experience. This experience can be summarized in two subheadings: our doctrine and our life style.
Doctrine is a fancy word that simply means teaching. In the Christian sense, doctrines are teachings about God. To be more precise, doctrines tell the story of God. As such, when seen coherently and corporately doctrines tell a story—a God-story. This God-story is therefore influenced by the many doctrines that form a part of it. These doctrines ultimately determine what kind of God we believe in. If your doctrines are twisted, then so will your picture of God be. Many Christian doctrines clearly paint a picture of a vindictive and tyrannical god. Take for example the doctrine of Supralapsarianism. This doctrine teaches that before creation God arbitrarily chose who to save and who to send to hell. He then created man and caused them to fall into sin. Those elected for salvation have nothing to fear, but those whom he elected to go to hell will burn there forever, not because of their choice, but because of Gods choice! This picture of arbitrary election with no hope for those elected for hell is present in Aronofsky’s Noah. The end result is a picture where mankind is fighting against God and God against man. Mankind is desperately trying to save itself from this unjust judgment but God, being more powerful, is able to crush his opponents. However, the Biblical picture, as we saw in yesterday’s post, is one of God fighting for man, not with him. He constantly reaches out to save them and give them an opportunity for life, but man rejects the invitation. According to scripture then, the only ones doing any “fighting against” are men, not God. Men fight against God and all the while God fights for them.
The doctrine of eternal torment is, also, much more damaging to the character of God than Aronofsky’s Noah ever could be. It is the one doctrine the repulses the human heart above all other, that for the sins of a temporary existence God will torture a sinner throughout eternity without end. And while Adventists may be feeling a bit cozy at the moment (we do not teach Supralapsarianism or eternal torment) we have, through our own lack of understanding, presented a picture of God that is equally, if not in many ways, worse. Take for example the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. While I fully believe in this doctrine I am also aware of how terribly it has been preached and misrepresented by many in the past. Clifford Goldstein captured it best when he said,
My wife [was taught]… ‘that the judgment is going on in heaven right now, and that our names may come up at any time. We can’t know when that happens, but when it does, our names are blotted out of the book of life if we are not absolutely perfect. We are lost. We won’t know it, and we may keep on struggling to be perfect, even though probation has closed for us and we have no hope.’ Cliff went on to say, ‘Such a teaching is not good news… Take such a doctrine and add to it the doctrine of perfectionism taught in many conservative Adventist camps, which basically teaches that in order to be saved at last Gods people must reach a point of sinless perfection. This doctrine, often referred to as Last Generation/ Final Generation Theology, has done more to ruin sincere Christians than any other. A commenter on a post I shared said, “I… have struggled with trying to be perfect in my walk with God. In so much that I almost went insane trying to keep every thought under control, keeping a lowly spirit, feeling miserable [all the time!]” Countless others have written me with similar experiences, and one even confessed a failed suicide attempt after losing hope under the theology of perfectionism. Thankfully, neither one of these concepts represent true Adventism, but they are nevertheless believed and espoused by many. It is therefore, both hypocritical and insulting to attack an atheist for presenting a bad picture of God when we, the church, have done much, much worse both in history and in our current standing.
And do I really need to elaborate on our life styles? Ask any person on the street to describe Jesus and they will most likely describe a lovely man. Ask any person on the street to describe Christians and they will most likely describe a band of ogres. Why the difference? Protestants may gleefully point at the crusades, inquisition, and persecutions and say “look at those Catholics!” But they are also responsible for severe intolerance toward one another, including the murderous and merciless protestant persecution of the Anabaptists. Adventists may smirk as they think of how we alone have never sunk to such depths, but what about our long history of narcissism, legalism, and insensitivity? Where do we find the nerve to accuse Aronofsky of blasphemy? Last I checked, it was the religious people whom Jesus rebuked the most, not the pagans. And we must always remember, before we attack the pagans and infidels, that “the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God's household” (1 Pet. 4:17, NLT).
Mankind fell into sin. But have you ever wondered why? Why would mankind turn their back on someone as wonderful as God? Read the story again and you will see. The serpent (Satan) deceives Eve by telling her lies about God. He maligns Gods character. He makes him out to be a dictator who cannot be trusted. “Did God really say…?” He asked, throwing doubt at Gods word. “You will not certainly die…” He said, effectively calling God a liar. He then proceeds to explain how God has forbidden the fruit because he wants to keep Adam and Eve oppressed. Lies. Lies about God. That’s how it all began. And the meta-narrative of scripture is centered on how God has set out to tell the truth about himself and dispel the lies of the devil. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of that truth. He ministered for 3 ½ years in our world in order to restore the right picture of God. Then shortly after he left, the little horn, a religio-political Christian power, under the same deceptive power of Satan, took control for 3 ½ prophetic years and sought to once again distort the picture of God—and it did. We call those years the dark ages and it was the church, not the pagans, that painted the most tyrannical and vindictive picture of God yet. But it hasn’t ended. Today the picture of God continues to be maligned. It is maligned through our characters, it is maligned through our teachings, and it is ultimately maligned in the way we treat others.
So what is Aronofsky’s challenge? Ultimately it is this: It points out our hypocrisy. How many well-meaning Christians protested this film who never took the time to question how they, in their daily lives, do more damage to the truth of God than Aronofsky could ever do? How many well-meaning Christians criticized the film that effectively does in 2-3 hours the very same thing they do every day of their lives through their attitudes, characters, and intolerance toward others? The lies about God continue. They continue in our false doctrines, our miscomprehensions of God, and worst of all—our lives. All of these add to the God-story the world sees, and I am appalled to announce that far from “Gods character of love” what the world sees in us right now is a perpetual character of bigotry, hatred, and judgmentalism.
The Great Controversy is real, and it is being fought every day. It’s a war against Gods government and Gods character. Satan has artfully and cunningly perpetuated a God-story that is nothing short of a meta-deceit. Millions of Aronofsky’s go through life hating a God that does not even exist, never truly coming to know the love and intimacy he has with humanity. And the worst part is that the medium by which Satan works most effectively to tell his lies is the church. Better said, it is the life of the individual Christian. What are you doing to help? How does your life reflect the truth about God to those who do not know him? Do sinners feel loved in your presence as they did in the presence of Jesus? Do the broken find healing, hope, and joy in your company? Do they see the love of God in your words and actions? Equally important is the question, what does your religion consist of? Rules? Regulations? Or does it consist of an intimate relationship with Jesus? A daily coming closer to him and reflecting the rays of his mercy and love for a world inundated by sin.
This, I believe, is the real issue behind Noah. Of course Aronofsky was going to rewrite the micro-narrative. What else could we expect? But the sad part is that Aronofsky did not rewrite the macro-narrative. He did not redefine the God of scripture as vindictive—we did that. Aronofsky is, in many respects, simply portraying the picture of God he sees and it is a picture that he has acquired mainly through the lies about God that the church keeps telling, and the lies about God that church members keep living. But Ellen Whites words ring true, “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.” God will clear his name of every false charge that has been laid against him and while he doesn’t need us to do it for him, he wants us to be a part of the story he is telling about himself. He invites us, through our lives and relations with others, to enter into his meta-narrative and be a part of his self-vindication. What a high and holy calling that is.
While there is a lot about the movie Noah I did not mention I think the issues I have raised are significant and relevant for Christians today, and specifically for those who preach the three Angels messages of Revelation 14. Our doctrine determines our ability to love for it determines the picture of the God we daily behold. And our ability to love determines how the Aronofsky’s of the world picture God, for our lives form a picture of what he is like. It is my prayer that Noah will be a wake up call to us, that we would take it as a call to love like Jesus and present the last message of mercy to a dying world—a revelation of Gods character of love.
Image Source: http://christiannews.net/2013/11/17/new-noah-film-starring-russell-crowe-flooded-with-controversy/