This is a guest post from Bradley - a graduate of George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution, who currently works with Outdoor Odyssey Leadership Academy and the Sisters of Charity’s Gift of Peace House in Washington DC. Bradley is also a proud member of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius church in Arlington, VA. You can follow him on his blog and on Facebook as well. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked ‘who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…” Job 42:2-3
I BEGIN WITH JOB, as many think this book is the oldest example of a man documenting God’s interaction with humanity through prose and through poetry, but my focus will be on Noah. Specifically, I am concerned with the Biblical account of Noah versus Darren Aronofsky’s recent film.
For me, watching Noah was powerful. Did I have some theological problems with it? Yes. Did the film deviate from Bible? Absolutely. Did I feel like Mr. Aronofsky’s spirit was less than humble or altruistic in producing the film? His own words lead me to say yes. Do I worry that people will see the film directed by a self professed atheist and be misled about the nature of God? A little, but no more than I worry that I may mislead someone through my actions as a self-professed representative of the Kingdom.
Now, the flipside: would I have expected more from a Christian director? Would I have expected more from Sherwood Productions (Facing the Giants,Fireproof, Courageous) than I do from Regency (Natural Born Killers, Free Willy, and…Bedazzled)? Do I feel like the parts that they got right were amazing? Do I think the influence of the Jewish cowriter Ari Handel--whose faith I am unqualified to comment on—may have shaped the narrative significantly? Am I thrilled that some of my friends of different or no faith backgrounds are asking me questions about my favorite book? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Am I concerned that I am sometimes too caught up in the actions of those that lay no claim to Christ that I cease in challenging my own? Every day.
Some have accused the film of mitigating the role of God in Noah’s life. It has been said that God was not active enough in the story. I would encourage them first to reread the first few chapters of Genesis, then to read Job. The vast majority of Job shows a man and his associates wrestling with the nature of God, the will of God, and what those things mean for us. When God finally does speak—to Noah and to Job—it is big and comes in the form of birds flying into the ark, rainbows filling the sky, and“out of the storm,” God asks in form of song, the question “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38: 1, 4)
I saw a piece of broken artwork about a broken world, produced in a broken world, directed by a broken man, marketed to a broken audience.
I wish with all of my heart that God’s capacity to seek us out lovingly and redeem this brokenness was told more clearly in the film. But for the first time in my life I saw the Ark standing firm against the wickedness of man and against the terrible power of nature alike. I saw Noah confused, scared, and desperate and still, like Job, willing to wrestle with and do God’s will as best as he--and his family--knew how. Am I so different than the Noah portrayed by Mr. Aronofsky's?
As a Christian I believe it necessary for me to glorify God not only in my writing, songs, and doodles but in my vocation, my words, my thoughts, my relationships; the things I consume, the certifications I get, the clothes I wear, and the places where I invest my time. I think art is very powerful in that is an immediately felt expression of a person’s soul.
God could simply have told us - in whatever language He was speaking at the time - that He would not flood the earth ever again. But for whatever reason He decided it was important to show us with a rainbow. David could have said “God is awesome” and would have been right in doing so; but he gave us heart-wrenching psalms about the very heavens declaring the Glory of God. There's gotta be a reason for this. I think our careers and minute actions can and should reflect our values, but I believe that, when it is done honestly, art almost always becomes a manifestation of our deepest held beliefs and yearnings, and we, as the Body of Christ, should act accordingly.
I truly believe God redeems. I do not think we should blindly seek to create or tie ourselves to things that are broken and corrupt so that God can redeem them. But as surely as the Psalms follow Job, rainbows follow floods, Pauls follow Sauls, and resurrections follow tombs, God works with what He has.
I pray that God speaks to Mr. Aronofsky that he may use his incredible gifts in storytelling to not only show the brokenness of man, but the redemption that God is ready to flood the entire earth with.
I yearn for a world where Christians would humbly wrestle with “things too wonderful for me to know,” and produce art as creative and challenging as Mr. Aronofsky’s... as bold and honest as the Psalms of a King... as passionate and loving as a widow washing the feet of the Messiah... and as obedient and righteous as Noah. That the world would see it and hear it, step back, and declare that the God who inspired these things must truly be great.
So for discussion I am honestly asking,how should we as the Body of Christ engage in the consumption of, production of, and conversations surrounding the arts—both secular and religious? I put forth generalities: honestly, faithfully, responsibly, prayerfully, carefully, lovingly and never alone, but what that looks like exactly, I welcome the wisdom of others.