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My wife and I went to see “Noah” over the weekend with a couple we know, much to the chagrin of many of our Christian friends.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen Ken Ham’s reasons we should avoid the movie; heard Glenn Beck’s criticisms; and witnessed the extreme reactions on Facebook, as follows:

“I won’t go see it because Glenn Beck says it’s unbiblical.”

“The film promotes evolution.”

“The director is an atheist.”

“The director drops the ‘f’ bomb over and over in an interview about the film.”

“The film portrays Noah as some kind of green eco-warrior.”

“What’s up with the rock giants helping build the ark?”

“The film portrays Noah as hateful, and no prophet of God would ever be hateful.”

“The film portrays Noah as a drunken, homicidal, child-sacrificing madman.”

“In the movie, Noah says ‘In the beginning, there was nothing.’  The Bible says that ‘In the beginning, there was God.’  This film promotes the idea that there was no eternal God, present before the time the earth began.”

And my personal favorite:

“If you choose to go see ‘Noah’ when you could have gone to see ‘God is not Dead’, then that’s a sign that God truly is dead in your life.”

I’m going to address these one by one:

– Glenn Beck says the movie isn’t Biblical.

I may not be the most well-behaved Christian person on the planet, but I know where I stand theologically, and on the truth of Scripture.  Frankly, I’m not dumb enough to allow someone who is a Mormon to determine what I believe about the Bible.  As badly as David Barton of Wallbuilders and others want to frame Beck as a Christian with Mormon leanings , he’s a Mormon.  Just because you agree politically and morally with the guy does not make him a Christian.  And being a newscaster does not make him a Bible scholar.

Glenn Beck may share the same values that many of us Christians have, but he simply isn’t a Christian.  He’s a Mormon.  Don’t think there’s a difference?  Here’s some thoughts from Christianity Today.

I would never say that Mormons aren’t decent, respectable people.  Their beliefs are profoundly different than those of Christians, though, when you begin to explore the theology, soteriology, and eschatology of the group.

So, to sum up my thoughts, Glenn Beck isn’t Biblical.  Why would I allow him to determine for me what is?

– The film promotes evolution.

In the opening moments of the movie, there is a scene where an animal is killed, and it has a combination of scales and hair, suggesting that an evolutionary process is taking place.  There’s discussion on the internet of snakes with feet in the film, but I didn’t catch that at all.  Maybe I was eating popcorn at the moment.  Or thinking about how popcorn and two drinks costs twenty bucks.  Now that’s unbiblical!  I really didn’t see anything else to suggest evolution.  I think that Scripture is clear that there were creatures in the past that don’t exist today.  We may be quite surprised at what some of these could have looked like.

In one powerful scene, Noah tells his children a story that he states his father told him, and had been passed down for the ten generations from Adam to himself:  the story of creation.  Noah then details a six day creation.  Not six days equals a thousand years.  No gap theory.  No, “Billions of years ago…”; instead, he says that ten generations before him, there was a six day creation.  I would think Ken Ham would have been really pleased with this.  I guess not.

Then again, he wouldn’t have gotten his name in the paper for agreeing with something.

– The director is an atheist.

So are Angelina Jolie, Kevin Bacon, Jodie Foster, Jack Nicholson, Howard Stern, Joaquin Phoenix, Donald Sutherland, and Daniel Radcliffe.  Granted, the same folks who refuse to see “Noah” likely also refused to see “Harry Potter”, but I would bet good money that they at least own the “Footloose” soundtrack, if not the movie.  And let’s don’t forget old Gandalf himself, Ian McKellan.  What????  Didn’t his character represent the resurrected Christ in LOTR?

Oh, and if you’re really gonna take this stance as a reason for skipping the film, I would suggest that you throw out your kids’ copy of “Toy Story”,  take “Agents of SHIELD” off your DVR schedule, and skip the next “Avengers” movie.  Josh Whedon, who co-wrote “Toy Story”, and directed the other two works, is an atheist.

I better go home and edit my own DVR so “The Following” doesn’t record anymore.  Dang that Kevin Bacon.

– The director drops the ‘f’ bomb over and over in an interview about the film.

So choose not to invite him to your kid’s birthday party.  It doesn’t mean he’s incapable of producing art.

– The film portrays Noah as some kind of green eco-warrior.

I am far from “green”.  I firmly believe that the folks who want us to stop cutting down trees should try wiping their behinds with any product other than paper, then let me know how they feel about trees.

There are moments when Noah is portrayed as vegetarian, and being concerned for the environment.  In one scene, he tells his son not to pick a flower, because it is capable of producing seed that will create many more flowers for man to enjoy.  Honestly, I didn’t get a “green” vibe from this…I got the idea that Noah was trying to be a good steward of the world God created.  I admired Noah in the film for trying to live out God’s directive to tend the earth, as Adam had been commanded to do generations before.

– What’s up with the rock giants helping build the ark?

Now, this was a little LOTR-ish.  Aronofsky had an interesting take on the Nephilim, giants mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 and Numbers 13:33.  His idea was that they were fallen angels, encased in stone.  That sounds like a pretty horrific fate for something composed of light and beauty, actually.  I found the interpretation intriguing, but altogether inaccurate.  Made for an interesting sideline in the film, which, as Aronofsky has stated several times, isn’t a re-telling of the Noah story, but a re-interpretation, made for Hollywood.  It intrigued us that saw the film enough to go to Scripture so we could discuss the Nephilim.

– The film portrays Noah as hateful, and no prophet of God would ever be hateful.

This was a point of Glenn Beck’s, who has obviously never read Jonah.  Jonah hated the Ninevites so much, he risked life and limb to avoid ministering to them.  When they repented of their sins and chose to honor God, he pitched a hissy.  He couldn’t stand them.  Jeremiah offended literally every ethnic group he encountered, preached for 40 years, and no one converted.

The Noah character in the film was confused and conflicted.  I would be, as well, if I had to listen to all of humanity screaming for rescue outside of what was apparently the only floatation device available in the midst of a flash flood.  I did not gather from the film that the character was hateful.

– The film portrays Noah as a drunken, homicidal, child-sacrificing madman.

We’re not even going to argue whether the Bible says Noah got drunk, are we?  See Genesis 9:18-23.  Unless you’re so rigid about alcohol that you’re going to throw out the old “Wine then wasn’t wine as we know it…It was fermented grape juice” argument…which is ridiculous.  He got drunk, and he got naked.  This I know, for the Bible told me so.

The potential child murder was one of the points of the film that I really didn’t like, along with a “son of Cain” making his way onto the ship.  The laced tea induced hallucinations and the time lines associated with the building of the ark and the flood were a little crazy.  Facts about the family were off.  Again, though, we must remind ourselves, this film wasn’t designed to be an evangelism tool, a line by line retelling of the Noah story from the Bible, or something we would show in our churches to our discipleship groups; instead, it was designed to be an artistic expression of something the director considers to be ancient legend.

-In the movie, Noah says ‘In the beginning, there was nothing.’  The Bible says that ‘In the beginning, there was God.’  This film promotes the idea that there was no eternal God, present before the time the earth began.

When the statement “In the beginning, there was nothing” was made in the film, it was in a context that I clearly understood was referring to the passage of scripture that reads “the earth was without form and void” (Genesis 1:2).  I didn’t catch any implication that God wasn’t present;  on the contrary, “The Creator” was referred to constantly throughout the movie (The name “Yahweh” would not have been introduced yet during Noah’s time).

– If you choose to go see ‘Noah’ when you could have gone to see ‘God is not Dead’, then that’s a sign that God truly is dead in your life.

Yeah.  I’m gonna file this one right behind, “If you don’t go see ‘Left Behind’, you’re gonna get left behind”, and right before “The DaVinci Code is causing people to give up their faith by the thousands.”  If a movie is the determining factor in whether or not you have faith, you had a shaky faith before you ever bought your popcorn.

If we throw out “Noah”, because it deals with a Bible topic, but doesn’t follow the Bible narrative perfectly, then there are some other things we must dispose of:

Dante’s Inferno:  An amazing, but certainly unbiblical, description of Hell.

Evan Almighty:  More popular amongst Evangelicals than “Bruce Almighty”, because it had less swearing, and we like to watch “The Office”.  If Noah had been a weatherman, he probably would have missed the forecast of 40 days and 40 nights of rain altogether, and the Ark would’ve never been built.

Oh God:  God would never smoke cigars.  If He did smoke, it would have been a pipe, because CS Lewis smoked a pipe.  He also wouldn’t need to wear glasses, because perfection wouldn’t be nearsighted.

It’s a Wonderful Life:  The phrase “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” is most certainly unbiblical.  Angels don’t earn their wings based on whether or not some human rings a bell.  They are created beings.  Works based theology won’t get you anywhere but the place that Dante so inaccurately described, brotha.  Maybe the 8th or 9th circle of H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks.

Every Veggie Tales movie ever made: In their retelling of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, the Veggies portray the Israelites, and the people of Jericho are French peas.  We all know from the Bible that France wasn’t even invented in the time of Joshua, so French peas could not possibly have existed.  The French peas throw milkshakes at the vegetables of Israel as they march around the city walls, which is just not in line with Scripture.  Milkshakes didn’t exist until Chik-fil-A came out with the hand-spun cookies and cream shake in 2007.  Can I get an anathema, anybody?

So here’s what’s good about the film “Noah”…

–  It prompted discussion among us about the Noah story from Scripture.  I probably haven’t had a conversation about Noah since I sang that song about the “arkie, arkie” when I was a kid.  It was good for us to examine the Biblical narrative of Noah from an adult perspective.   It challenged us to examine Scripture, so we might know details of the story better for ourselves.  One person in our group remarked, “We were only taught the Sunday School version of Noah, the kids’ version.  I think we need to know, as adults, how awful that period in history was, and why God did what he did.”

My overall grade for the film: C-

I found the movie troubling, mostly because of the violence, but honestly, I think this gave me a new lens through which to view the time of Noah.  We just think things are bad today…Imagine what it must have been like when God thought mankind needed destruction.  What is portrayed in the movie in regard to human behavior is gruesome, but I think probably mild, compared to what Noah’s time was really like.  This film gave me a powerful visual which I lacked before, much in the same way “Passion of the Christ” did years ago.

I won’t be adding “Noah” to my DVD collection, and I won’t go see it again, but it’s not because it offended my Christian sensibilities.  I just didn’t like it that much.  I guess I’m just not an artsy-fartsy dream sequence kinda guy.  Also, ever since “Gladiator”, Russell Crowe has been ruined for me.  I want him to be Maximus in every film he’s in.  I won’t say he did a bad job in the “Noah” film, because I think he acted the script, portraying a complex character well.

“Noah” didn’t change my belief system or make me question the validity of Scripture.  I wasn’t changed for the worse because I saw it.

And God isn’t dead in my life, just because I went to a movie.

 

 

 

 

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William and Rebecca VanDoodewaard wrote that Young Evangelicals are Getting High on their blog, The Christian Pundit; my friend from the world wide inter-web, Fr. Matt Marino, wrote about the phenomenon on his blog, The Gospel Side, in posts entitled What’s so Uncool about Cool Church and Solving the Millennial Catastrophe; and most famously, Rachel Held Evans, who is fast becoming the voice of young, restless, evangelicalism, wrote about it in a commentary entitled Why Millenials are Leaving the Church for CNN’s Belief Blog, and in her own blog with the post 15 Reasons I Returned to Church.

All of these posts have a common theme: Young adults are leaving contemporary, seeker-friendly church settings for a spiritual setting that they feel has more depth and substance. I wrote about the future of the American Church a while back in a post entitled Return to Liturgical Practices: Here to Stay? and The Evangelical Response to Growth in Orthodox Denominations, making some predictions, particularly stating that I believed that worship was going to have a more sacramental/liturgical/historical flavor over the next twenty years.

I agree with what the VanDoodewaards, Fr. Matt, and Rachel Held Evans are saying, not because I’ve studied the statistics…although the stats do back up the idea that millennials are seeking out deeper spiritual waters, and finding them in liturgical settings. I agree because I’ve seen it in practice. I see it in myself, and in others I know. I read and taught the CEO, John Maxwell model of “doing church” and the Andy Stanley “Seven Checkpoints” method for “doing Christianity” for years, but it was Robert Webber’s “The Younger Evangelicals” that spoke to my heart. He saw this coming 30 years ago, but the church growth consultants and Christian leadership gurus looked the other way, and ignored his voice, in favor of selling a neatly packaged, palatable, systematic, comfortable brand of worship that was designed to entertain us.

Many people have come to know Christ because of the post-modern, seeker friendly brand of Christianity. I won’t argue that. I fear that many have also made an idol of music, building programs, and the “bigger is better”, numbers-driven mindset. The SBC became so concerned with the idea that it’s the packaging that matters most, they even changed their name, now calling their organization “Great Commission Baptists”. In recent years, they’ve developed an idea called “church-replanting”, where they take a failing church, change its name, get a younger pastor who doesn’t tuck his shirt in and wears that microphone thing like Usher that runs from his mouth to his ear, even though we can hear him just fine without amplification, and call it “re-imagining church”. The message is, “We’re not church for old people. We’re young, hip, and we get you. We look like you, talk like you, and we’re not stuck in the red hymnal from 1978. But we’re not doing Beer and Hymns, okay? Don’t push it too much.”

The problem here is, what will the Church do when the fads change? Shift again? As we exit the era of bleached blond spiky haired youth pastors, worship dance, and song leaders prescribing our emotions to us during the slow song portion of their set, and we enter into “the next big thing”, where we throw out our outdated projectors and video screens in favor of a 2D or 3D absentee pastor, church via Tumblr, or worship twerking (I haven’t seen it, but I promise you, there is a youth pastor out there who is thinking about it…), are we going where we should be as the Church, or are we missing the point altogether?

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Church is  sometimes a painful beast of which to be a part, mainly because it’s filled with people.  Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it…”, and it’s most definitely a true statement.  Being a leader in a church, whether you’re a pastor, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, or even the groundskeeper, can be stressful even on the best days.  I sat last night talking with my wife, reflecting on my life in ministry, and frankly, if you measure by the world’s standards, I’ve experienced a great deal of failure in that realm.  Now, when I stated that last night, my wife pointed out that I am very sensitive to criticism, and that when you’re leading a ministry, you have to have a tough skin.  She’s right.  She’s always right.  The other night, I told her that there was no way she could make homemade doughnuts out of canned biscuits, and dang if she didn’t do it.  The girl is never wrong.

Because many leaders in ministry don’t have a spouse who can steer them as well as mine does me, I thought I would take a few moments to steer away from my usual favorite topics…liturgy, sacramental theology, Church history, etc…and give a few points of practical advice to those who are, or are aspiring to be leaders in ministry.  Please note that some of these are areas in which I’ve seen other leaders either excel or lack woefully; some are areas where I’ve personally  struggled; and finally, there are some points at which I think I may have achieved a passing grade.

All that being said, let’s go for a walk down the dirt road, and talk about leading in ministry…

1)  Good leaders are accessible and available leaders.

Good leaders not only return phone calls, but they have multiple means by which they can be contacted.  For all you pastors who are convinced that the world wide inter-web is the debbil, please note most of your parishioners, even the ones in my little rural church, are on Facebook.  Even several folks aged 70-80 years old spend time there.  And they check it daily.  They also send messages on Facebook, Twitter, and through other social media outlets.  They send email, and you should read it.  Don’t blame your wife for not teaching you how to text message, and stop saying you don’t have time to get on the computer. And God almighty, stop living in the myth that “I just don’t think that many people in our church use the internet.”

Don’t have your secretary read your email for you.  People may send you things that they prefer to be kept confidential.  I know that there’s a rumor you’ve heard that “Everything on the internet is public information.”  It might be easily accessible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sensitive.  If an employee sends you an email, they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, under the law.  For personal matters, however, individuals do have a right to confidentiality.  If you’re going to have someone else viewing your emails for you, you must inform the potential senders of this.  Never share any personal information from an email.  Miss Myrtle might have been the church secretary for the past 42 years, but when she puts Deacon Burns on the prayer list for his hemorrhoids that he emailed the pastor about, and she read it first because the pastor can’t remember his passwords, you are gonna get yourself in a heap of trouble.

And don’t preach about the evils of Myspace.  Myspace isn’t cool anymore.  Half of your teenagers don’t even remember it.

Responding to people in their preferred modes of communication says to them that you are paying attention to what they’re saying, that it matters to you, and that they as individuals matter to you.

Do I really need to say what message you’re sending when you don’t respond?

I’m a fan of the clerical shirt and collar, along with albs, stoles, chasubles, maniples, and a lot of other things that are better left for discussion in a future post.  The clergy shirt sets the pastor/priest apart, and sends a message:  “I’m available.”  If I’m wearing my clerical collar out to my favorite Mexican restaurant, then I should not be surprised or offended if I’m approached by someone in regards to a spiritual matter.  As a spiritual leader, the expectation of your followers is that you are both available and accessible.  Your sheep shouldn’t have to fight through layers of secretaries, associates, and personal assistants to get to you.

2) Good leaders don’t let their mouth get ahead of their head.

A good leader should have a solid filter on their mouths.  Blurting out your initial thoughts on a subject can be damaging to relationships.  A while back, a pastor I served under offered some commentary on a class that I was teaching.  I had developed the teaching series, wrote it, and was teaching it to a small group.  He suggested that I should have made the series shorter, saying that “You can teach anybody everything they need to know about that in an hour.  Your group probably isn’t growing because you’re boring people.  You need to remember that this isn’t a seminary class.”  After letting loose of my own tongue a bit, and making some remark along the lines of, “If you want to keep your discipleship group in the shallow end of the Jesus pool, that’s okay with me…”,  I reminded him that he had never actually attended the class, and invited him to visit the class.  After he did, I was more willing to listen to constructive criticism.  Well, maybe not, but it sounds spiritual for me to say I was.

We both spoke without thinking.  Shame on both of us.  Having control of your mouth is a spiritual discipline, backed by Biblical reason…

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.  (Proverbs 21:23)

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. … (James 3:2-10)

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)

(There is ) a time to keep silence, and a time to speak… (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

So, to sum up, learning to keep quiet will keep you out of trouble; draw you toward perfection; make you seem wise and prudent even if you’re not overly bright; and shows you have discernment.

Now here’s the opposite end of the spectrum…

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

Ouch.

If one has the ability to control what comes out of their mouths, they can discipline themselves in any aspect of life.  This I know, for the Bible told me so.

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