Why Christians Should Go See the Movie, “Noah”

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Noah

You’ve probably heard the controversy about the upcoming Paramount Pictures movie “Noah.” In the last few weeks, I’ve seen numerous blogs, social media posts, and commentaries on the movie – usually criticizing it and detailing how far it strays from an accurate Biblical portrayal.  But I’m one of only a handful of people who’ve actually seen the movie. Which is probably why I’m a bit bothered at the condemnations and protests from Christians who have never actually watched it. That’s why I felt compelled to write this post. Is the story an exact Biblical representation? No. For one thing, the Noah story in the Bible is remarkably short. We don’t know what happened inside the ark during the voyage. We don’t know what Noah was thinking. We don’t know the family dynamic. So the filmmakers added to the story. And honestly, there are “extra-Biblical” elements in the film. These are things that don’t line up with the Biblical account at all. If I had directed the film, I wouldn’t have added them, but this isn’t my film.

Last week, at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, three people who have seen it – NRB President Dr. Jerry Johnson, John Snowden, who was the Biblical advisor on the film, and myself (as an NRB board member) showed never before seen clips from the movie and led a discussion with hundreds of NRB members. This is Dr. Johnson’s response, and here’s John’s take. And from my perspective, in spite of non-Biblical elements in the film, and obvious reasons of concern for Christians, in a capsule form, here’s why I think Christians need to see the movie:

1. I’ve been on the set.  I’ve talked to the Chairman of the Studio, as well as the producer, director, set designer, and even the star – Russell Crowe. Not once did I ever get the feeling they were anything but serious. They didn’t mock the story, went to great lengths to get the ark built to exact Biblical measurements, and did an amazing amount of research.  In fact, writer Ari Handel and director Darren Aronofsky have been working on this script for 16 years.

2. This week, Dr. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters made an appeal to Paramount Studios to use a disclaimer on the film.  He suggested that (like Dreamworks did in “Prince of Egypt“) they add a disclaimer to say that this was INSPIRED by the Bible story rather than a film of the story itself. Paramount agreed with the idea without hesitation (I was on the phone calls), and here is their joint announcement. While it was too late to add it to the film, they readily agreed to add the disclaimer to the movie posters, website, digital promotions, as well as all radio and TV commercials that haven’t already been distributed. This tells me that Paramount values the Christian audience and wants to work with us.

3)  It’s an epic film.  I’ve always wondered about the places where the Biblical account of Noah was silent.  In this version, the filmmakers made Noah a complex character, and helped me see possibilities I’d never considered for how details in the story could have happened.  This isn’t the Sunday School sanitized version of the story, and for that I’m grateful.  After the screening, I thought of novelist Flannery O’Connor - one of my favorite writers.  Although she died in 1964, the movie’s unabashed look at sinful, grotesque humanity, and the extraordinary saving grace of God reminded me of how she might have looked at the story.

4. For at least a decade, we’ve been asking Hollywood to produce movies based on the Bible.  Now that they’re doing it, let’s be more encouraging.  So far, they’ve proven to be serious in the effort, whether they miss the target or not.  So let’s support it, not stifle it.

5. Our expectations may be unrealistic.  Paramount Pictures is a business – a secular film studio.  Should we really expect every Bible based film to be 100% accurate? I’m thrilled that Mark Burnett’s “Son of God” is much closer to the text. But to assume every movie out of the chute will be as accurate, is simply not realistic.

6. Whatever extra-Biblical elements there are in the film, that doesn’t overcome the fact that Paramount Studios is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and promote a Bible story.  This will be a national conversation that millions will participate in, and Noah will be water cooler conversation for the next 6 months. What an opportunity for the Christian community! Instead of condemning it outright, let’s join the conversation. Rarely does an event come along that begs us to present our side of the story. But if we don’t see the movie, we’ll be wasting the opportunity.

7. This is a powerful opportunity to share our faith.  If you’ve felt awkward witnessing to a friend or co-worker, then what could be easier than taking them to a movie? Then go out and discuss what the Bible really says about the story.

8) It’s only a movie.  As pollster George Barna remarked after Mel Gibson’s blockbuster “Passion of the Christ“: “Less than one-tenth of one percent of those who saw the film stated that they made a profession of faith or accepted Jesus Christ as their savior in reaction to the film’s content.” That was the biggest religious film of all time, and yet it didn’t spark a revival. Likewise, chances are a movie about Noah that deviates from the scripture won’t drive Christians away from the faith.

9) Do we as a Christian community really need to “protect” ourselves from a movie that isn’t 100% Biblically accurate?  Would the Apostle Paul have run from the challenge? Rather than withdrawing from the discussion, I suggest that we seize the moment, turn the tables, and use this to our advantage. Pastors should be preaching messages on the Noah story. Let’s use the film to share our faith with friends and co-workers. Like the Old Testament’s Joseph, who rose to remarkable heights in an alien and hostile culture, let’s not shy away from these opportunities, rather, let’s use them to demonstrate the power of God’s Word.

Finally - remember that there are hundreds of serious, dedicated Christians working in the entertainment industry every day.  These are professionals who – like Joseph – are working from the inside. When we launch attacks, petition drives, or boycotts, we’re damaging their ability to make change happen. As the Hollywood Prayer Network recommends, instead of making Hollywood the enemy, let’s consider Hollywood a mission field.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves:  When was the last time we prayed for a Christian professional (a “media missionary”) trying to make difference in Hollywood – the most influential place on earth?

Maybe it’s time to start.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have decided to close the comments on this post. Plenty of disagreement has been voiced, which we welcome. Plenty of personal attacks, accusations, and rather uncivil comments have been deleted as well. Personally I regret that we see such venom over something that isn’t essential to our faith or practice, but such is the trend in an age where it’s so easy to sling mud at people we don’t know from behind the keyboard. Even if you strongly disagree with Phil’s points, there is a godly way to offer admonishment and we’ve seen too little of it here. Meanwhile, this has become one of the most liked and promoted articles published on this site.


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Phil Cooke About Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a media producer and strategist. His new book for church and nonprofit leaders is "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Branding and Social Media." Find out more at philcooke.com.

  • JOHN

    What a lame excuse from R. Warren … really??? Simply because Hollywood is cranking out this tripe we should give thanks that they are at least trying ???
    I personally think the term “COMPROMISE” is more fitting … after all We wouldn’t want to offend an atheist by confronting him with something as simple as the TRUTH ! Rick says there isn’t much in the scriptures about the Noah account … the same could be said for Gen. 1 …. should we treat CREATION the same way Rick?
    Rick should write a new book “COMPROMISING CHURCH the NEXT STEP”

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.reynolds.5667 David Reynolds

    Soo…you’re a fake?

  • Patom

    Makes me wonder about Rick Warren’s discernmnt level!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      This isn’t written by Rick and wasn’t published by Rick who has not promoted the film. Just to clarify.

  • http://ccnasd.org/ Wayne

    After reading this and also reading other detailed accounts of the flick (confirmed 1st hand by friends that saw it) I can only say… If I wanted to make a satirical “Top Reasons to See Noah” it would not be much different than what Mr Cooke has written:
    1. They didn’t mock the story, went to great lengths to get the ark built to exact Biblical measurements 2.There’s a disclaimer that says it was INSPIRED by the Biblical account. 3.It’s an epic film. 4. For at least a decade, we’ve been asking Hollywood to produce movies based on the Bible. 5. Our expectations may be unrealistic. etc…
    It’s as if the most important thing is that Christian support this film because the NRB supported it. Doctrine or any semblance of accuracy is not an issue – Go see it, it’s epic!

  • Mark B

    This is horribly embarrassing.

    Discernment is officially dead.

  • Daniel Martinovich

    Movies that do not represent the Bible accurately are one thing. Ones that go out of their way to misrepresent it and push the regressive agenda of pagans and the Democrat party is an entirety different matter. Perhaps this one is just testing the bounds of how far a “faith or family” movie can “stray” and and still get that big money from the faith and family movie audiences. Everybody I know who has seen it says it totally sucks. Pastors aren’t exactly the brightest light bulbs in the house, unfortunately, for all of us.

  • Aaron

    I didn’t see my comment I posted earlier so I will post again, This is a movie!! is it going to be just like what the Bible states? Of course not if it was then it would be a 10 minute movie because I am sure I can read the story of Noah in ten minutes. The majority of the Bible is told from one side. The Gospels tell a story from 4 point of views. If you truly think that people were not fighting to get on Noah’s Ark you are insane. Do you really think that people just sat down and allowed the water to overtake them and drown? Just because the Bible doesn’t talk about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Common sense would say it did. Do you really think that Noah had the only boat in the world? Most likely there were hundreds of boats but they either were taken out by a wave, or a shark or a whale or they stayed in their boat and starved to death. Open your mind people and think. The story of Noah shows God’s grace to allow humanity to live and also shows his Righteous anger killing millions of people. I know Rick Warren is out there telling everyone what a terrible movie this is and no Christian should watch it but Rick Warren has so deluted himself and fallen away from the truth of God’s Word that until He can read the Bible again and actually get back to following what the Bible states he should just sit in the corner of his million dollar house and shut his mouth. And Glen Beck… your Mormon so we don’t listen to you anyway.

  • Debbie

    I so disagree with the above article. I did learn one thing tho…Whomever Phil Cooke, Ph.D is, I will not be reading anything else of his :)

  • Veritas

    Do we as a Christian community need to protect ourselves from something that isn’t 100% Biblically accurate? depends on if you want the 100% honest truth. Lies are subtle, destructive things, and I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be taken captive by lies, and a false representation of who God is and what the Bible says is not what I want those we are trying to reach to hear. That pulls them further away from the faith, not closer. IF I bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and I mix a bit of dog poo into it, who is going to eat it. If I give it to you and say it is a chocolate chip cookie, that is true – though not the whole truth. Will you thank me for giving you something that resembles a chocolate chip cookie though that is not the 100% truth? Don’t compromise on truth, or you just might compromise on your very soul.

  • RxCowboy

    I didn’t see a single compelling reason for me to see this movie in the above blog post. Our expectations are unrealistic? Really, that’s why I should spend my money? It’s only a movie? That’s it, I’m sold.

  • cutglass57

    This ‘review’ is made for only one reason, and that is about how good and Christian a bad and anti-Christian movie is to see. This review is a money maker for the movie. Propaganda. Nothing less. One of the men mentioned is John Snowden, who was the Biblical advisor on the film and you expect to get an unbiased opinion from him? Phil Cooke says it’s ‘an epic film’ and ‘our expectations may be unrealistic’. I hope Phil Cooke doesn’t have very many people under his sway. Because they are all being lied to what ever the subject may be. ‘Epic film’ says Cooke. Who cares? So are a lot of other movies. Epic in Hollywood only means one thing- a mighty injection of dollars. That’s all. ‘Expectations are unrealistic’ says Cooke. Really? Is anyone else out there aware of the fact that buried somewhere deep in the Bible is something that a lot of people don’t know but really need to know? It’s simple, it says to the effect that anyone changing even one letter of the Bible will see the fires of hell. Why would it say that? To keep Gods message clear and unadulterated through the generations that have followed. Has it been changed? Unfortunately yes. And a lot too. That’s why Christians expect Christian movies to be realistic and truthful to scripture. Not some brainfart from an athiest director in Hollywood who decided to make an ‘epic’ full of baloney film about a Christian subject without a word of scripture or a real and true reference to God. But meanwhile, back the at the Ranch Noah we still have Cooke here telling Christians to accept slights and insults to their religion just for the sake to get them into the movies and generate cash. I wouldn’t believe Cooke if he told me it was hot at high noon in the Sahara. This makes me wonder where Cooke stashes his cash. Perhaps in a Hollywood studio heavy fund?

  • Opus

    Talking rock people and a homicidal Noah? There’s more Harry Potter in this movie than Bible. The Word of God speaks on it’s own. This is just another money grab at the growing Christian movement.

  • Robert

    I would have to disagree, it is almost like we as believers invite non Christians to mock our beliefs. I do believe Noah was a righteous man not homicidal or suicidal. Was Noah an environmentalist? Why give money to an industry that seeks to undermine Biblical values. I am all for supporting good movies if this is a form of entertainment you enjoy but as with all junk I believe discernment should be used. With that said it is our individual freedom and our conscience before God is this a good use of the money he has entrusted to us.

  • Matthew

    So…. we should support Babylon because it pretends to honor God, while honoring nothing but itself instead? This movie, its advertisement, and the hype/controversy it engendered is all a very clever money making ploy. What did Christ say about having to choose between God and mammon?

    I saw the movie last night. It was terrible, and it left me feeling spiritually dark inside. This is a far more accurate review: http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/03/29/im-a-christian-and-i-think-noah-deserves-a-four-star-review/comment-page-4/#comment-153956 .

    • Matthew

      I should note that, although I am named Matthew, I’m not Matt Walsh. Lest anyone get the wrong idea with me linking to his review here.

  • Ron

    if this is a Bible story where was God why do you and Hollywood want to remove God from everything are you a nonbeliever

  • free2say

    I hope that now that the movie is out that all Christian leaders send out a written apology for actually recommending that money was wasted on this trash. “It’s only a movie” is ok when they’re slaughtering a great novel, not when you’re talking about the Word of God. Shame on all of you.

  • Joseph E.D. Huckaby III

    Never say that a movie is just a movie. Cinema is an important and influential cornerstone of our society, and affects more than we realise. It sets the standard for how we think and act. The mindless droves that go to the theaters don’t care about anything other than being entertained. But just because a movie is entertaining, does not make it a good movie.

    And you are right. The story of noah is very short and you would have to add things in to make it a movie length feature. However, there is a diffrence between adding some plausible aspects that could have taken place, and defacating all over scripture. How upset do we as a culture get when we see a movie that is supposedly based on a true story about something we love, and it is so wildly inaccurate to what we know happened that it only faintly resembles the truth? The same should be multiplied exponentially when applied to scripture. These people have decided to make a film about something that we as a Christian community have based every choice we make on. And what do we get? A disrespectful, propagandic, load of garbage with an agenda. The director of this movie is a self proclaimed atheist, and you think that he would make a good movie based off of scripture? Isn’t this the same guy that directed Black Swan? And he had Noah recieve the prophecy via hallucinogenic drugs? And you still have the audacity to say that this movie is worth seeing?

  • theBiblestands

    “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17

    “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

    God has not called us to be like the world to reach the world, instead, He calls us to come out of the world and to stand out from the world. I would definitely call anything that distorts the image of God and faithful men of God worldly and we don’t need things like this to reach the world. We simply need the Word of God. The Bible, God’s Word, is still as powerful as it was from the beginning and it can change lives.

    “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12

    We don’t need Hollywood movies to reach the world. We need God’s Word.

  • Sandra_Montgomery

    Are you kidding me???? I can not believe what I just read. NO ONE who calls themselves Christian should support this movie by going to see it. NO ONE. It is a travesty. A mockery of God, a dishonour to a righteous man who walked with God – Noah, and should be abhorrent to all who follow Christ. As for the claim that we’ve been asking Hollywood for Biblical movies so we should support this — you have lost your mind. This is NOT a Biblical story… it is the re-writing, re-inventing, and re-purposing the story in the Bible to push an agenda that God is evil, and the followers of God are evil and crazy.

    • Cathryn Sullivan

      Did you SEEE it? I doubt it!

  • Dana Robertson

    The problems with this film isn’t the inaccuracies, it is the open irreverence to the subject matter. Two of the greatest films about Christ ever made were totally fictional, “The Robe” and “Ben Hur”. Had they shown reverence to the topic, people of faith would be a lot more forgiving to this film. The Ten Commandments being an prime example.

  • John

    By this reasoning, we should all buy Tofurkey because 1. I’ve been in the Tofurkey plant; 2. It says right on the package it doesn’t contain any meat; 3. It’s made by a big company; 4. For decades we’ve been asking for healthy meat; 5. Our expectations of soybeans may be too high; 6. People who tell us meat is evil spent a lot of money to make us think their product tastes like meat; 7. We can tell people why we prefer meat; 8. It’s only one meal; 9. Do we really need to avoid eating anything that isn’t meat? And also, as an afterthought, some of the people who make Tofurkey eat meat at home, so. . . .

    Phil Cooke, Ph.D., It is not possible that someone with the intelligence to earn that doctorate of philosophy came up with a single one of the arguments in your article and I hereby demand you divulge the source you plagarized when you published this piece.

  • mr bean

    Dr. Cooke. This is the worst movie I have ever seen. From a non theological standpoint, the characters and dialogue was shallow and the CGI looked like it was from a low budget two bit film from 1998. From a theological standpoint this did way worse than take “literary licence”. It completely defaced the character of GOD. Noah didnt preach for repentance, he killed people. God was so evil and vindictive that there was no need for a devil. Not even an angel that had pity on mankind was safe from God’s merciless wrath. Utterly ridiculous.

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  • Christine

    Phil, you should be ashamed of yourself for promoting such a blatant misrepresentation of the one true God. They didn’t use artistic freedom to fill in the blanks, they completely changed everything in order to mock our God and here you are encouraging believers to go see filth that can never bring God the glory. Your lack of discernment and insensitivity to filth tells much about you.

  • dougie

    Shame on you Phil Cooke for even recommending this steaming pile of cow dung. I like your ridiculous comment about them “working on the movie script for 16 years.” 16 years and this is the best they can do?

    Your review reminds me of James 4:4 – Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

    I guess some people will grasp at anything faith related, no matter how wrong it is biblically. You’re profile says you’re a strategist……of what? deceiving people?

    Hollywood is only concerned with “how much” they make on Christian films. If it becomes unprofitable, they won’t make them anymore.

    By the way, there are a multitude of ways to witness to people, without having to cave in to Hollywood propaganda. Most Christians have gotten lazy with their faith though.

  • Juan Silva

    Matthew 18:6 my friend

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