Bible Based Movies?

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Bible MoviesWe have been swamped with newly-released Bible-based movies over the past few months.  Hollywood does its homework so don’t miss the implications-people are interested in the Bible.  Most are not in a regular faith community each week so where will they go to figure it out?  The nearest movie theater of course!  Why not?

Have you seen any of these movies?  On the one hand, before you even go, you already know they will raise some serious questions about theology and give some questionable answers about God. On the other, they give us a platform for conversation that we might not otherwise have.  Many leaders are using these movies as jumping-offpoints for discipleship and higher-level thinking.  Regardless of how you feel about the movies, as Christian Leaders we have to notice the hunger people feel for the Bible.  This is what Pastor Rich Nelson had to say about his and his wife’s take on the Noah Movie:

The newest movies, Noah and God’s Not Dead are worth seeing.  The word that Karen and I settled on to describe the Noah movie is “disturbing.” It is disturbing on many levels. It is disturbing in a good way in that it brings into clearer focus the deeper issues of the Noah story such as the depths of humankind’s depravity and the responses the Old Testament reports God made. Whether we can bring ourselves to believe that God ever wiped humanity off the face of the earth or not, the story is there and it’s an important one for us to wrestle with. This movie caused me to wrestle with that story anew.

It is also disturbing in some not so good ways. This movie is getting a lot of bad press from the more literalistic parts of the Christian Church. They are objecting to the name for God that is used (I have no problem since God had not revealed God’s name yet in the Old Testament). They are objecting to the anti-industrialization and environmental agenda of the movie (I have no problem here either since that is also a theme of the book of Genesis – even though God’s judgment against our self-reliance at Babylon happens after Noah, not before). Noah is depicted as a complex man who isn’t always sure what God wants him to do. Even though this isn’t a part of the story is told in Genesis, I can buy it. Doubt and uncertainty is always a part of living a faithful life.

No, my issues with this movie are that it makes some claims about God that I can’t believe and it also draws on many other sources than Genesis (such as midrash, the apocryphal book of Enoch, and the non-biblical tale of Gilgamesh) and mashes the story into one. From an artistic perspective this is great. But if we don’t already know the biblical story of Noah, movies such as this can create a picture of the story so vividly that it replaces the actual story in our minds. And for the thousands of people who will see this movie who don’t belong to a faith community where they can discuss these issues, it can create real spiritual problems.

By all means, GO SEE THIS MOVIE. But leave the kids at home (it’s not for them). And have an adult forum conversation to discuss this together.  Take time to sort out the many layers of the Noah story this movie smooshes into one.

For more views on the Noah movie checkout Bishop Mike’s podcast from April 8 with Dr. Matthias Henze, author and editor of “A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism”, husband of Pastor Karin Liebster at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, and professor at Rice University in Houston.  He holds the Watt J. and Lilly G. Jackson Chair in Biblical Studies and is founding director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Rice University.  He is also the editor of “Biblical Interpretation at Qumran” and the author of “The Syriac Apocalypse of Daniel” and “The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar: The Ancient Near Eastern Origins and Early History of Interpretation of Daniel 4.”

click here for Bishop Mike’s podcasts

Faith communities are great places for dialog about life and faith.  Why not use these movies to spur honest-to-goodness Bible Study?  This is not a new idea but one worth re-claiming.