Friday, November 15, 2013

Noah - The Best Outreach Opportunity in 5,000 Years?



I've heard a few things about this movie. Most notably from Russell Crowe, who said something like "Noah wasn't a good guy ... he basically watched the world die." Ummm, yeah. The dirty scoundrel. And if that makes Noah a bad guy, then what's that say about God?

I also read that this movie has tested poorly with Christians, Jews and agnostics. Kind of sounds like they missed their target audience. Or, any audience, for that matter.

The director, alone, gives me a bit of pause. This guy did Black Swan, as the movie trailer points out. I haven't seen the movie. By design. I read about it and decided that it had some really strange sexual issues in it that were not good for my consumption. And I'm not really that into ballet dancers.

Answers In Genesis has been a vocal critic of this film, though they haven't seen it. The assumption being that the director will essentially bastardize the story into some God-is-evil tale in which Noah is the bad guy.

Well, Russell's comments sort of fueled that idea.

Now we have our first look. Here are my thoughts from the trailer. 

What I liked

Noah receives his message from God. His father (I presume) confirms that God is speaking to him. This is all Biblically accurate. Noah's father, Lamech, prophetically announced that Noah would bring them comfort, which is what the name Noah meant. It is believed that Lamech, whose father was Methusela, saw the greatness that God had in store for Noah. They were direct descendants of Seth, the son born of Adam that replaced Abel's line after Cain murdered him.

The story of Genesis shows how Satan sought to destroy God's image by seducing Eve and pulling Adam out of obedience to God. Then, he incited hate and envy in Cain against Abel, resulting in the first murder of the world. Cain's line was wicked and reviling toward God, while Adam's line through Seth, was kept separate and honored God, waiting for the promised redeemer who would remove the curse.

It is supposed that Adam and Eve might have thought Cain was the redeemer, since they might have assumed God would provide a remedy for their sinful state right away. Of course, that didn't turn out. But then, by the time of Noah, over a thousand years had passed, Adam had died a few hundred years ago, and Methusela would have known Adam, due to his long life. Great things were in store for Noah.

In the trailer, the destruction of the world seems to be linked to rebellion against God in the form of wickedness. We see glimpses of the forbidden fruit, Cain killing Abel, etc.

Noah tells the earthly "king" of the people that he's not building the ark for protection from him. Clearly, the ark is protection from the wrath of God.

Probably my favorite line is when the king tells Noah that he's got men at his back and challenges Noah that he's alone. Noah's reply, "I'm not alone."

I think anyone who has repented and stands as a redeemed son or daughter of God can really relate to that scene. How often will the worldly challenge the missionary or the Christian neighbor with the charge that they stand for foolishness alone. We're not alone.

We get a glimpse of what might be the angel with his sword of fire sealing off the Garden of Eden.

We see rapid growth of trees, presumably at the time of creation.

Noah tells his family that it isn't the end when the world is cast into upheaval and destroyed. It's the beginning of all things.

What I don't like

Noah stating that the ark is to protect the innocent. No, the ark was to save the lost who feared God and believed in His salvation (the ark). See, there had been no rain, no storms, no tsunamis at that time in the world. So, when Noah warned people of the need for the ark, he was viewed as a nut. When he started building a large wooden vessel in the middle of a field, he was certifiable. No one listened. No one repented before the promised wrath of God.

That said, I suppose it's a theological quibble. They would be innocent in God's grace through faith in Jesus' sacrifice.

The other couple complaints are joined: Noah throwing a spear at the hoard of godless men charging the ark and the image of Noah watching the water rush up to the door.

The Bible is clear that God shut the door to the ark 7 days before the water came. This would make Noah look all the more crazy, I suppose. The animals all go in to the ark, Noah and his family go in. the door shuts. Then nothing. What's he gonna do with all those animals?

Then the storm came!

So, the movie looks like it might have good points and bad points. But it does look like it captures the overall trajectory of the story. I think it might beat Ted Dansen's Noah movie that had been made for TV back in the 90s, or whenever that was. Will it be the greatest outreach opportunity in 5,000 years?

No. The godless people, perhaps including the star and director, never listen to the message God has for them to repent and believe in the only salvation there is from God's wrath.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Click "Like" and post "Amen!"

We've all seen them, those pithy little hopeful sayings with a blissfully peaceful picture as a backdrop. Or, a little nod and wink with a statement like the following one from MyBible.com:

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Yeah, those stupid men! I think this rankles me because it puts men down, trivializes sin and a cosmic sacrifice of, well, Biblical proportions all in one little quasi-blasphemous postcard. It almost ranks up there with the T-shirts that were going around back in the late 80s, early 90s that had a picture of Jesus on the cross and the slogan, "This blood's for you!" Or, maybe Air Jesus T-shirts which attempted to say you put Jesus on a high pedestal like Michael Jordan.

While I'm all for naming the promises of God, I'm mindful of the fact that they don't apply to everyone. Esau, for instance, would derive no benefit from any of God's promises. Mainly because he despised his birthright, both physical and spiritual. And he couldn't bring himself to repent. He just lived in his passions and appetites.

Sadly, that describes most people. Jesus taught this in Matthew 7. He described the narrow gate (Himself) as the way to life. But the wide gate (personal gratification and an unrepentant heart) as the easy way that most would follow.

So, for those who don't see the horror of their sin before a holy God, for the people who actually recoil when you talk of spiritual things (I'm talking about Biblical spiritual things, not magic crystals, incense and sacred stones), these hopeful little catch-phrases are actually harmful.

Why? Why would I say such a horrible thing! After all, we need to convince the lost of how awesome it is to have all these cool promises to quote with Hallmark pictures to back them up!

I say this because of what Jesus also taught in the sermon on the mount. It's not one of those verses that get quoted with a field of lilies.

"Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." Matt. 7:6. 

Can you imagine? How about a picture like this: 



Yeah, I don't think that would get too many "likes," or "shares," or "amens."

Or how about something more convicting for the lost. After all, before a sick man can seek a cure, he needs to realize he's sick. So, just as God introduced the Law first, to show us our sin, we should help people realize the sickness before we trot out with the promises and hope. Because a sick person shouldn't be celebrating with the healthy until he's received the cure!

Maybe something like this:






It could have the caption, "You are dead in your sins and trespasses! click "like!" and Amen! And Share if you agree!" Or, it could say, "Our good deeds are as grave clothes before God. Click "Like" and say "Amen!""

I suspect that would start knocking down people's "friend" list pretty quick. It might be as effective as Jesus' statement to his followers that unless they drink his blood and eat his flesh, they can have no part of him. That was just too freaky for most of the crowd. And, interestingly, Jesus turned to his 12 disciples and asked, "Are you leaving, too?" Of course they didn't. Peter even confessed, "Where else will we go? You have the words of life!"

Unfortunately, a great many people don't see it that way. They don't care about Jesus being both God and man, living perfectly holy all his life so he could drink the wrath of God that was poured out for all those who would repent and accept His sacrifice in their stead. They trample that wonderful grace underfoot and claim God is not loving because He will require payment for all the sin we commit while conveniently forgetting that they've rejected His loving offer of forgiveness on account of Jesus' sacrifice. Just see your sin for what it is before God. Agree with God that you're a sinner with no excuse. Then repent, and turn from that sin trusting God's spirit to help you leave your sin behind in an ever more powerful way.

But like Esau, many will find it too difficult to repent. And they'll heed the call of their lusts and passions and despise the birthright that could be theirs. They won't "like" God's plan of payment for sin. And they won't say "Amen" to obedience to God's word. And they certainly won't "Share" the good news.