Many folks are pretty upset by this movie. Following are excerpts taken from an editorial review of it by our pastor, Adam Hamilton, that appeared in the Huffington Post. Click here for the whole review.
But there's something more that makes this particular adaptation of the Noah story not work, and it is possible that it dooms every film adaptation. Portraying or reading this story too literally often obscures the point of the story. The earliest stories in Genesis were not written to tell primeval history. They were written to tell readers about themselves, and about God.
Reading the Noah story as an historian's account of ancient history leaves Christians needing to prove that it was really geologically possible for water to cover the earth to a height 20 feet above the tallest mountain. They find themselves wondering precisely how many species of animal could fit in the ark, or how Noah managed to get them all in there. Or, as Maher pointed out in his shtick on the film, how a good and loving God could choose to kill every man, woman and child on the planet.
The primeval stories in Genesis were told and retold around the campfires for hundreds if not thousands of years before being written down. For an oral culture with no books, no television, no radio, no sports and no movies, stories were the vehicle both for entertainment and for teaching truths about humanity, morality and God. The story of Noah was likely rooted in catastrophic floods of the ancient past (perhaps the end of the last Ice Age when catastrophic floods were seen across the northern hemisphere which would explain why flood stories show up in far-flung cultures around the world). Yet the point of telling the story was not to report ancient history. It was to teach hearers, and readers, about themselves and about God.
Am I suggesting the Noah story of the Bible is not true? No, quite the contrary, I'm suggesting this story tells us deep and profound truths about God, about humanity and about life. But while it is rooted and grounded in the ancient memory of massive floods that had been passed down for millennia, its point is not to tell us about a man named Noah who lived long ago, but to tell us the truth about ourselves, and about God's grief over human violence, God's concern for his creation and God's willingness to give humanity a second chance.
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