by Kirk Spencer
In recent weeks, several God movies were in the top ten at the box office this week (Son of God, God is not Dead, and Noah)… and another is “coming soon” (Exodus). It seems that Hollywood is becoming a little more “holy.” The Gladiator (Russell Crowe) is now Noah and The Batman (Christian Bale) is Moses in the latter two big budget feature films. And each of these movies has an ensemble of top of the A-List actors condescending to play Biblical characters—a rare thing in our generation. Here are two possibilities for these rarities. First, the many hundreds of millions of dollars made by The Passion of the Christ might have given the studios the passion to invest in Biblical stories. And second, these big budget Biblical blockbusters have attached to them top of the A-List auteurs (directors), who will certainly practice their artistic license to co-opt Biblical characters. In other words, Batman and Gladiator know that these directors will present Noah and Moses as, well, Batman and Gladiator—what Holywood calls “authentic” characters, which, in Hollywood speak, means unauthentic modern characters (skeptical, ambivalent, conflicted and obsessed with modern obsessions).
Over the last several weeks, I have heard the advertising for this Noah movie over and over again on almost every Christian radio station in town. The blurbs always end with this statement: “Though artistic license has been taken, we believe this movie is true to the values and integrity of the Biblical story.” I’m not sure who the “we” is in the above statement, but, if I had to guess, I would say the “we” is the people who are trying to get a large number of Bible believing Christians to pay to see it on opening weekend. So I’m not sure that I trust that particular “we.” There seems to be a clear conflict of interest. I fear that if I were to discover (as often happens) that these “authentic” Biblical characters are being made to carry modern water (or maybe I should say, strange fire) it will be too late; my money will already be locked in the box-office lockbox.
However, I must admit, that if many Christian scholars working in Christian seminaries have long since determined that the Bible stories were written as fiction to express the particular values of that particular culture at that particular time, then why should we be so particular when our secular directors continue the tradition and adapt the sacred stories to mirror our particular modern soul? For instance in 1999, there was this made-for-television serial movie about Noah’s Ark. I watched it with my wife in one sitting. When I saw Moses in a rowboat and Lot as a pirate on the open global sea, I knew this particular movie was not going to be true to the values and integrity of the Biblical story; and it wasn’t. Not even close. I was watching it with my wife and she was shouting at the television. About halfway through, she had had enough, stood up, and stormed out of the room.
I have noticed that when Hollywood is about to say something that Christians might agree with, they usually do something really offensive to clear the room of any Christians (they don’t want to hear the I-told-you-sos). Such was the case with this Noah movie. While on the ark, everyone begins to progressively lose their minds. The sequence from quirkiness, to neurosis, to psychosis reminded me of the trajectory of cultural pathology of the late modern world, especially as displayed in the arts. In the end, everyone on the ark, turns to God in prayer and He answers them and they regain their sanity. Noah says something like: “When we thought You left us, we began to lose our minds…” I could not imagine a truer summary of what has happened in late modern culture in the West… or a better prescription. When we turn from God, and trust in our mind alone, we lose our minds. When we unmoor from Faith and following our own logic and reason all the way to its logical conclusion, we eventually lose ourselves in skepticism, then doubt, then naturalism, then materialism, and finally determinism and the eternal return of the same… It is the old stoic dead-end, where Friedrich Nietzsche found himself just before he lost his mind. If everything is a part of the clockwork universe with nothing beyond, then we too are slaves of natural law, destined to do what has always been done before. Life becomes a queue of meaningless reruns… and there is no hope of a sequel.
However, this is the message of reconciliation. There is hope and life and peace in Christ, separate from the meaninglessness and death of law. There is a creative newness of the spirit of God that rescues us from the old redundancy of the letter. The reruns show us how trapped we are in our own sin. Doing what we learn to hate. Over and over. Reruns. Sold under sin.
Who will redeem us from this life of death? Not The Batman. Not The Gladiator. Or even Noah or Moses. Only Jesus Christ the Son of God, for God is Not Dead, He is surely alive!
 Pun intended.