Movies & Messages: What To Do With Bible-Based Films

photo credit: erin m via photopin cc

photo credit: erin m via photopin cc

According to a recent survey, 98% of Christian movie viewers have problems with Noah.

But this research asked people, 99.98% of whom have probably not seen the movie yet, if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed movie – designed to appeal to you – which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?” Push-poll much?

But this actually brings up an interesting question, how can you explain Christians love-hate relationship with Hollywood? It is even more interesting after noting the response to Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech.

His speech, complete with questionable theology, was quickly praised and adopted by Christians across the country because he said “God.” Yet, biblical movies like Son of God and Noah are frequently criticized by many of the same Christians for not being biblically accurate.

We seem shocked to learn that Son of God is not the Gospel of John, Noah will not be the book of Genesis, and Exodus will not look like the biblical book reads.

Can I just say, it’s OK if they’re not? We should not expect them to be for two reasons – our standard is too high and our understanding of art is too low.

Movies will not obtain perfection.

I have no problem holding to the position that God’s word is perfect. I believe it to be infallible and inerrant. This does not mean, however, that I believe biblically based movies should be the same. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

When we use the inerrancy of Scripture as the measuring stick for movies drawing from biblical sources, we demean what we claim we are protecting. To say that those movies must be just like the Bible, we are insisting fallible humans recreate perfection apart from God’s inspiration.

How unique would God’s word be, if humans could duplicate it in a different medium using our own abilities?

It is completely unfair to these films to judge them on an impossible standard of perfection. No movie or any other work of art would ever be deemed worthwhile. But then, what would that mean for us, as sub-creators made in the image of the Creator?

If only things that perfectly reflect and relay the message of Scripture should be allowed, where does that leave us as fallible, fallen humans? Let’s not hold these films to a standard that we could never meet ourselves.

Movies will be pieces of noteworthy art.

The film Noah is not the book of Genesis projected on to a screen. It is a piece of art from director Darren Aronofsky inspired by the story of Noah in Genesis. That is a big difference.

Art has a different objective than the Bible. While we turn to the Bible for answers, art is often used to raise questions or highlight certain concepts or themes.

Art, by its very nature, cannot be a “perfect” restatement of its inspiration. Is a painting of a sunrise, the same thing as the sunrise? No, it’s something different, something unique. The painting stands alone as distinct from the scene that inspired it.

This is the case even when art draws its inspiration from another piece of art. No movie inspired by a book can be the same as the written text. Why would we expect it to be otherwise with the Bible?

Every presentation of a biblical narrative is an artistic retelling of the story. Pastors often summarize scriptural stories, and in doing so they use artistic license to present some details and not others. They highlight certain compelling aspects, which is the same as what a filmmaker does.

So what do we do with biblically-inspired films?

In some ways, we treat them exactly like any other movie. We judge them based on their artistic merit and how truthful they are to this world. Is it done well? Does the film ring true about a facet of this life? Is there something worthwhile and redeemable we can draw from the movie?

But also, we can view them somewhat differently in that they present us with an opportunity. How many people will be curious about the real Noah after seeing the film version? We will be presented with an opportunity to have conversations about sin and salvation in a culture that often refuses to believe in the existence of the former or a need for the latter.

Even more than 98% of Christian should welcome that.

3 Comments

  1. Ros

    Great post! Will be sharing

About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.