Comment: Misunderstandings and over-reactions...

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Misunderstandings and over-reactions...

...seem to plague a bunch of the reviews such as Michael Snyder's and others I have read regarding this film.

I went to see it last night, and while I can certainly see why some aspects of the movie would be controversial from a traditional reading/Sunday School visualization of the biblical narrative, I also think that it was very moving and thought-provoking in many positive ways and is also being misrepresented in a lot of ways as somehow sinister.

First of all, yes, fallen angels being reconciled somehow back to the service of the Creator is definitely a controversial idea; but it is hardly alien to Christian thinking and extends back to some of the early church fathers such as St. Gregory of Nyssa, who believed in apokatastasis, or ultimate reconciliation of all things in Creation back to the Father through the Son (which is actually what I believe as well as an Evangelical Universalist, and which, I believe, has scriptural support). Gregory was involved with establishing the early creeds and was never considered by the councils to be outside the fold of Christianity for these views (although Origen ran into trouble with some of his other views on things such as transmigration of souls, and by extension some of his particular universalism). So while I admit that it is highly speculative to include the Watchers in the Noah story, the Bible certainly doesn't rule out such involvement or some ultimate mechanism of redemption for fallen angels. I don't believe in a God of Love hating any fallen creatures, human or angelic, but rather desiring all to be restored to Love. And I believe that will be achieved, however much other Christians may view such ideas of reconciliation to be horrible.

Furthermore, there are many Christians who don't take the whole passage of 'sons of God' mating with 'daughters of men' as fallen angels procreating with humans, but rather as the line of Seth (those who walked with God) as mingling with the line of Cain and having relations. This seems to be the tack the movie takes, with the Watchers not really being the kind of Nephilim offspring that people often speculate about, but rather angels that sided with Adam in the fall and were cast to earth and mired in earthy substance as punishment.

As far as the idea that Noah turns into some psychopathic killer, let me just say that I think it very unlikely that Noah was Mr. Perfect all through his life, through the Flood, and then BAM, suddenly he's the bad guy drunkard after the Flood. It is a fundamental misunderstanding to take the 'blameless' description of Noah as generally 'sinless', rather than pointing to his particular faith and obedience to the Creator as being 'credited as righteousness' -- just as with other imperfect people like Abraham, Moses, David, us. So the idea that Noah struggled with moral dilemmas and misunderstandings and outright sinful failures in his life is not really an absurdity. The movie is actually very good at pointing out that Noah and his family were in the same boat of sin as all the rest of humanity, despite their particular faith and selection for this mission of a reset. They, too, were still to die and move beyond this earthly phase, despite being temporarily saved by the Ark.

Also, I think Aronofsky is pulling in elements of stories from some other Biblical patriarchs back into the Noah character, in order to present some of these types of moral struggles and tests he might have faced, himself. To those who are in shock that Noah might misunderstand the Creator to be wanting him to slay his unborn grandchild if it is a girl, I find it ironic that they are perfectly ok with the idea that the Creator actually did tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. To those who are in shock at the portrayal of Noah's wife trying to go behind his back and secure a future for her sons, I find it ironic that they are perfectly ok with the idea that God would bless the efforts of Rebekah and Jacob in securing the rights of firstborn, through plotting behind the back of a misunderstanding Isaac who would rather go with an Esau. The idea that a Noah would misinterpret something is not really so far-fetched.

It's important to note that the movie explicitly shows in visions the things that the Bible actually does say God told Noah, but that it never shows a vision in which He tells Noah to kill his unborn grandchild -- it's left as a plot tension device, with the audience wondering whether that was really the instruction or not. And there are plenty of subsequent signs that it was not, and the story becomes a very moving portrayal of love and mercy in the midst of judgement. The Creator is portrayed in a good light by the movie, not a bad one as some claim.

As to the whole 'Darwinian' creation imagery, Aronofsky actually kind of blurred that in a fence-straddling move, so you lose sense of how much actual time has passed while the narrative still calls it 'days', or whether any creatures actually die in a survival of the fittest environment. It doesn't actually portray any death before the Fall, which you would think six-day creationists would note. It seems Aronofsky is respectfully side-stepping that whole discussion and leaving it up for people to understand that in the way they want to.

There are other blogs out there finding fault with the idea of the serpent's skin from Eden being passed down as a token of blessing through the line of Seth, as if it is some kind of Gnostic endorsement of the serpent as the true good agent, enlightening humanity. While the snakeskin is a bit of an odd, unexpected thing in the story, it is clear from the presentation that this skin was shed by the originally-good serpent before it emerges as a black serpent and then proceeds to tempt Eve. This skin is a symbol of Eden, Creation as it was meant to be in its unfallen state, of the good the Creator intended -- not the subsequent evil nature of the serpent.

I could go on. My point here isn't to scoff at people for finding the movie controversial in some ways; I understand why they would. It's just that in reacting to it, they often go overboard in their specific claims, without carefully checking whether these claims are in fact a valid representation of what the movie is meaning. Some things are claimed to be intentionally sinister, when a more careful examination shows that not to be the case at all.