For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do We Expect Biblical Accuracy From Hollywood?

What a stupid question, right?  I mean, of course we don't.  I mentioned in my last post about the tendency for us to "romanticize" historical events because of what we've seen from Hollywood.  The movies always make things look so much better, or in some cases worse, than the actually were. And we're used to that.  We know it.  No big deal.

But what about when the historical event is a biblical event?  Should we support, encourage, go see movies about biblical events, even though we know those events are not going to be portrayed accurately?  The question comes up because of the hype over the upcoming movie about Noah and the Flood.  Check out the official trailer. 

Now, apart from the fact that this looks like a very exciting movie, it should be fairly obvious that some liberties are being taken with the story line.  Again, we know this happens, and we're used to it.  We've seen the same liberties taken with such well known stories as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  Tolkien fans everywhere are divided about some of the overwhelming commitments to the true story, but also some of the glaring departures.  But it's storytelling, so we let it go. 

But is that ok when it comes to a biblical "story?"  Ken Ham has written a nice blog post about some of the dangers with the new Noah movie.  Some folks who were privileged to see a "rough cut" of the whole film mention some really bizarre plot lines.  

For example, Noah doesn't see this whole Flood thing as God's redemption/salvation plan for man.  He seems convinced that God doesn't intend for the man to repopulate after the flood.  The purpose of the ark is simply to preserve the "innocent animals" and star over with Edenic perfection, minus man.  In fact, he's so convinced of this fact, that when his son tells him that he and his wife are expecting, Noah supposedly says that if it's a boy he can live, but if it's a girl they'll kill her because God doesn't want man to reproduce.  Wow!  Noah seems a bit confused. 

In fact, he's so confused that he apparently alienates himself from the family after the flood and lives as the crazy old drunk guy in the cave.  Now, we all know of that little drunken episode in Noah's life, but this seems to carry it a bit far. Read Ken Ham's blog for more of the strange elements introduced into the story.

Again, we expect Hollywood to take some "artistic license" when telling a story.  But where do draw the line when it comes to biblical themes that are dumped, destroyed or degenerated?  Can we still enjoy the film as entertainment?  I for one have always loved Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments.  I mean come on.  When you think of Moses, admit it, you think of Charelton Heston!  But there are some obvious departures from the biblical storyline there as well, right?  And yet, even with those changes I don't think the overall purpose of the Exodus is changed by the movie.  The biblical themes are still accurate.  Where do we draw the line?

Obviously the Ten Commandments was a completely different treatment of the biblical text compared to, say, The Last Temptation of Christ.  I won't even go there! But again, where do we draw the line in what we view ourselves and what we promote to others?

Ken Ham's concern is that so many Jewish and Christian leaders are already on board with the new Noah film, promoting it. He fears that we are being "conned" by Hollywood, with the trailer seeming to be fairly accurate (apart from the number and types of animals), only to be bombarded with unbiblical themes and images when we get to the theater.  And if the content he reports makes it to the final cut, he would be right.  But it's just a movie, right?

We've always struggled with these issues.  What movies are ok?  When is it ok to let our kids view material that is unbiblical, or at least seems to be in opposition to biblical truth?  We're big sci-fi fans.  But face it, most sci-fi is decidedly humanistic/evolutionary at its core.  Should we avoid that?  I love fantasy as well.  But by definition, fantasy isn't real, so I overlook some of the stuff there because, well, it's fantasy.  For the record, Tolkien's stuff, while based on some biblical themes, is fantasy and includes many questionable elements, but I not only gave the books to my kids to read, but couldn't wait to see the movies with them.  But isn't that different than a movie that purports outright to be telling a biblical story? 

I guess you can see by now that I have a lot of questions about all this.  I just glanced back and found that this post already has more than a dozen question marks.  So I guess I'm just asking for a little help here?  When is it ok to take liberties with a biblical storyline?  How far should we let folks go? Is it wrong to support and encourage movies like this, or should we shun and run?  When is art, art; and when is it dangerously messing with biblical doctrine?  

Well, maybe you all have some answers for me.  Or maybe I've just encouraged you to start asking a few questions of your own.  Either way, I hope our time together has been profitable. 

(Addendum:  I wrote this on Tuesday morning, scheduling it for Thursday since I had already posted another article that morning.  About two hours later, I found this article by Trevin Wax dealing with the very same issue.  My first reaction was to say "Shoot" and delete this post.  My second reaction was to say "Wow, great minds think alike."  My third reaction was to realize I had nothing else to say, nothing else to post about, and so I decided to leave this post intact even if it seems late now thanks to Mr. Wax.  Thanks!)

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