Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I recently went to the theater to see the movie Noah which has been creating quite a stir among conservative Christians in the U.S. Many Evangelical Christians I have talked to since the movie's release have wrestled with whether or not to go see a movie which they have been told by others is not factually aligned with the telling of the Flood story in Genesis, thus seeing the movie is akin to allowing yourself to be deceived (so the logic goes). And this is not the only issue they have cited. I have heard others say things like "I don't want non-believers to be deceived since what they see on the big screen is not aligned with the facts of the story in Genesis." or "I don't want my teenager to be deceived by how the story is told in the theater and think that this is how it is told in the Bible." or "I don't want less mature believers to be misled by the story line of this movie."
I think the questioning of whether or not to go see the movie is revealing of what is going on in the hearts and minds of many of my brothers and sisters in faith. We are more concerned about facts and information than we are about truth, wisdom and mission. We are more filled with fear than we are with faith. We are more concerned about getting facts straight than engaging a culture which is wrestling with our sacred text, and in so doing is handing us a God conversation on a silver platter.
The logic put forth in the thoughts I mentioned above also betrays the Evangelical Christian's under appreciation for the gift of the mind. It is as if they believe to watch a movie or read a book means you will automatically agree with it! But, where is the use of the mind?! Where is the process of thinking about the messages portrayed and then weighing those messages against the theology of the historic Christian faith? Where is the willingness to engage the messages of our culture and discuss them with non believers and believers?!
When people say the things like what I mentioned above, and make the choice to not engage the movie at all, they are telling Paul that he was wrong to walk into Athens in Acts 17! They are telling him that it was wrong for him to make his way through the idol filled city of pagan poets and philosophers. They are telling him that it was wrong for him to have read (and memorized) the pagan poetry which he quotes in his sermon on the Areopagus. They are telling him that it was wrong to not quote the Scripture (which for Paul had only the Old Testament). And they are telling Paul that the people who came to faith in Jesus Christ there in the beating heart of the Ancient World's most intellectual city was some sort of mistake and they were probably misguided since Paul was obviously making several huge mistakes by even being in that city. And they are telling Luke that he made a big mistake by including that story in his telling of the early Church's infancy narrative in our New Testament canon!
Cultural disengagement by followers of Jesus, is the death of Christian Mission. What if Paul had not gone into the city of Athens? Several people mentioned by name in that story would not have come to faith in Jesus Christ. What conversations with non-believers are we missing because we are afraid of seeing a movie and allowing ourselves to assess what it presents and if need be disagree with it. What mission fields are we avoiding by neglecting to engage the questions our culture is putting forward? What would happen if the Church were not afraid of culture, but rather so in touch with Jesus that they actively walked into all of the conversations our culture is having and shared how the Good News of Jesus impacted the conversation?
What would happen if we went to see the Noah movie and saw the things in there that are true to the biblical portrayal of God - that He cares about every piece of His good creation, that he hates violence, that sin is in all of us even those he lifts up (like Noah). What if we engaged rather than avoided and chided?
What if we took advantage of a conversation starter like this movie and gave our non-Christian friends freedom to as their questions and we introduced them to the full narrative of the Bible? I can only imagine how God might use his church to speak to our culture if we were less afraid of our culture and more faith-filled such that we could engage messages, movies, music, books, etc. and not fear being deceived but remember that if we are filled with the Holy Spirit than we are being led into all truth by the Trinity itself. Don't avoid movies out of fear, engage the culture, use your minds, and make God the center of your conversations.