The Evangelical Universalist Forum

New film : Noah

I believe he was using the narrative of Noah’s ark to warn of the impending destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. ‘Life seems to be carrying on as normal but can’t you see the sign of the times? A terrible disaster is about to happen’. I think you are being fat too literal here.

I was more pithy, Dick. :laughing:

Indeed you were :laughing:

Tho’ I think you did hit the nail on the head, interpretations-wise.

Personally, I kind of think the whole story of Noah and the flood is BS when you read it on a literal level, and I can resonate with Lotharson’s questions about the story, though I think if you read it as an analogy or a metaphor of something else, I think it can have some value and meaning, which is perhaps how Jesus used the story, like Dick pointed out.

I remember reading a sermon about Noah and the idea of hope by one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner, that was actually encouraging and illuminating, and he didn’t shy away from the controversial aspect of the story either.

But yeah, I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with questioning the flood, or anything else that seems crazy or messed up on God’s part that you read in scripture. I mean, think about it. Abraham stands up to God when God tells him that he’s going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and even says ‘shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ And Moses stands up to God when God tells him that he’s going to kill all the Israelites, and even says something along the lines of ‘take me instead’.

I remember in Jan Bonda’s book, The One Purpose Of God, he pointed out these examples and others of people standing up to God for the sake of others, and he believed that this is the kind of thing God was looking for in people, to want mercy for others rather than judgment.
The term he used for those who don’t speak up about things, even if they may be a little uncomfortable with them, like the flood or the slaughter of the Canaanites or a neverending hell for everybody who isn’t in the Christian club, is acquiescence, which means (I looked this up :wink:) ‘the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.’

But I think God wants us to learn to stand up, even stand up to Him, and protest for others.
Anyone can protest for themselves to be sure, can ask for mercy for themselves, or for those who they are close to and care for the most, and that’s natural and doesn’t need to be encouraged, but not everyone protests for others, not everyone asks for mercy for others, for others who are outside of their inner circle or who are strangers, or even enemies, to them.

Granted, Abraham was asking for mercy for his nephew Lot, and Moses was asking for mercy for his countrymen, but there is a precedent for this.

So what I’m thinking, and this is just my own view on things, is that stories like the flood and the slaughter of the Canaanites are not literally true, though they may have some basis in historical fact (massive flooding in ancient times, the Canaanites were a real people and no doubt the Jews fought with them at some point), and the real God didn’t do all the things in those stories that the God of the Bible (who may or may not reflect God as He really is) did.

I think they’re stories, not made up stories necessarily, but maybe events that got blown out of proportion or had legends built around them or had God’s name tacked on to them, and then people started calling it history… and I think some of the stories in the Bible are more historically true and others are less so, and, I’m being honest here, the reason I think so is some of the stories, if taken literally, simply don’t jive at all with a God of infinite love and understanding, the kind of God I believe in, and so I am very hesitant to believe in their factuality, because they’re just plain nuts, if you take those kinds of stories literally.

I don’t have a problem believing there was a real Abraham at some point, or a real Moses, or even a real Noah or a real Joshua, or that these things are based in some kind of fact, but I can’t bring myself to believe that God would wipe out the whole world, women and children included, and start over, or that God would order genocide, anymore than I can believe that God would throw the majority of the human race into a maximum security prison forever and throw away the key. I don’t think I could trust a God like that, honestly.
But maybe I’m wrong, and maybe God did do these things.
But if He did, then I won’t acquiesce to it. If He did, then He has some 'splaining to do.
And don’t anybody give me any crap about not questioning God, how dare I question God. People did it all the time in the Bible. People like Job, David, Jeremiah, and so on, and God questioned them too, gave it as good as He got it, to be sure, but He never zapped them with lightning or anything.

I believe God welcomes our questions. ‘Come, let us reason together’… :wink:

But anyways, I wonder, if I’m right and these stories like the flood aren’t literally true and shouldn’t be taken that way, maybe they are there in part to challenge us, challenge us to care for our fellow man, even those outside our circle, for all the people throughout the world whom we may never know or never meet, for the people whose stories and struggles and fears and hopes are not privy to us… maybe these stories are meant to evoke cries from within us, maybe they are meant to make us question… could that be what God is looking for? Does He simply want us to say ‘well, God said it, and God did it, so I’m in’? Does God simply want our unquestioning obedience, where if He says jump, we say ‘how high?’

I for one don’t think so. I think God wants us to be a little more free-thinking than that, and for obedience to follow trust rather than fear, and to have mercy and compassion for others as our base rather than acquiescence or apathy.

But that’s just my two cents about that for the time being (I might change my mind, wouldn’t be the first time), and I can agree to disagree with anyone who disagrees. :slight_smile:

As for the movie, I’ll probably be skipping it, as it doesn’t look like my kind of thing, but I found this review by William Paul Young really cool:

Good stuff :slight_smile:

And along the lines of this kind of movie, I’m actually kind of interested in the upcoming movie Exodus by Ridley Scott, which looks to be his take on The Ten Commandments, with Christian Bale (of Batman fame) as Moses. :slight_smile: I’m intrigued, since I’ve enjoyed his other historical epics (Gladiator, Kingdom Of Heaven) so it might be good.

And speaking of Gladiator, that was a good film that Russell Crowe was in. :wink:
Actually, I like quite a few of Crowe’s films, including Gladiator, Cinderella Man, Master And Commander, Man Of Steel, and yes, A Beautiful Mind.
And them’s fighting words about A Beautiful Mind, Johnny. :wink:

I actually found A Beautiful Mind to be quite meaningful and moving, well-acted and well-executed, especially this one scene here, which really spoke to me:

That’s just me though, to each their own. :wink:

And that’s all I have to say at the moment, and I gotta get going to work, so, peace out everyone, and blessings to all :slight_smile:


It’s always the Old Testament that causes people these gut-wrenching problems. I think that it is best understood by looking at the fuller and clearer revelation of God in Christ - in other words, the New Testament. Then let that light shine back on the OT and illuminate it.
I also think is is dicey to build a theology (or challenge a theology) on obscure OT stories and customs, which were written for a very distant people in very distant times, with a different culture than ours and different interpretive methods, but the chances are that we are going to interpret those things by our modern lights and unless we are very careful we will miss the point entirely.

"Our leading principle in interpreting Scripture is this, that the Bible is a book written for men, in the language of men, and that its meaning is to be sought in the same manner as that of other books. We believe that God, when he speaks to the human race, conforms, if we may so say, to the established rules of speaking and writing. How else would the Scriptures avail us more, than if communicated in an unknown tongue?

"Now all books, and all conversation, require in the reader or hearer the constant exercise of reason; or their true import is only to be obtained by continual comparison and inference. Human language, you well know, admits various interpretations; and every word and every sentence must be modified and explained according to the subject which is discussed, according to the purposes, feelings, circumstances, and principles of the writer, and according to the genius and idioms of the language which he uses. These are acknowledged principles in the interpretation of human writings; and a man, whose words we should explain without reference to these principles, would reproach us justly with a criminal want of candor, and an intention of obscuring or distorting his meaning.
“We profess not to know a book, which demands a more frequent exercise of reason than the Bible. In addition to the remarks now made on its infinite connexions, we may observe, that its style nowhere affects the precision of science, or the accuracy of definition. Its language is singularly glowing, bold, and figurative, demanding more frequent departures from the literal sense, than that of our own age and country, and consequently demanding more continual exercise of judgment. – We find, too, that the different portions of this book, instead of being confined to general truths, refer perpetually to the times when they were written, to states of society, to modes of thinking, to controversies in the church, to feelings and usages which have passed away, and without the knowledge of which we are constantly in danger of extending to all times, and places, what was of temporary and local application. – We find, too, that some of these books are strongly marked by the genius and character of their respective writers, that the Holy Spirit did not so guide the Apostles as to suspend the peculiarities of their minds, and that a knowledge of their feelings, and of the influences under which they were placed, is one of the preparations for understanding their writings. With these views of the Bible, we feel it our bounden duty to exercise our reason upon it perpetually, to compare, to infer, to look beyond the letter to the spirit, to seek in the nature of the subject, and the aim of the writer, his true meaning; and, in general, to make use of what is known, for explaining what is difficult, and for discovering new truths.”

Channing, of course. I think if we all read his entire essay on interpretation (a 30 minute read) , and followed Coverdale’s advice:

"“It shall greatly help ye to understand the Scriptures if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth after. ”

…that most of these things would be cleared up.

We did a bit of that here: A Psalm with a kick; interpretation.

DaveB: I am **NOT **challenging this saying of Jesus because I find it fun to do so.

I am genuinely troubled by this passage where the Great Master seems to be endosing something awful, namely the extremely painful death of countless people (including innocent children) because they lived in a hedonist and godless fashion (like modern Europeans do).
This seems utterly disproportionate.

As I pointed out elsewhere, this does not fit at all His central message and would show he was** inconsistent** rather than evil.

I can accept God killing criminals in a violent manner.
There was a terrific movie called "Taken "with a gang kidnapping young women, making them addict to heroin and forcing them to prostitute themselves. During the movie, the father of one of the kidnapped girls (a special agent) killed the members of the gang in a very painful way.

I experienced **Schadenfreude **(do you need a translation? :slight_smile: ) as I watched this.

I expect God to do the same with all evildoers who don’t repent:they will be humiliated and return to dust forever, they will be no more.

But I just can’t accept this with innocent children, and the assumption that ALL adults were guilty is just** statistically unbelievable**.

**Sobornost: **do you have evidence that rabbis at the time of Jesus interpreted Noah or Jonah in a non-historical or symbolic way?

edwardtulane82: Good points! You might like this book:

If the story is unbelievable, if it paints the Great Master as cruel, heartless, without mercy - then the story needs to be studied further, which is why I put Channing’s and Coverdales’ quotes in my post. The story needs to be located and interpreted. It is not easy work, but it has to be done BEFORE we draw horrendous conclusions.

Or put another way:

  1. We can argue from troubling OT stories, uninterpreted, TO the supposed character of God. OR:

  2. We can argue from the clear character of God in Christ in the NT, and THEN try to interpret OT, culturally influenced stories.
    After all, in these last days God has spoken through His Son. In the transfiguration scene, God clearly says to listen to JESUS, not to the essence of the OT as represented by Moses (Law) and Elijah (prophets)

#1 will have us doing mental gymnastics, and attributing all sorts of darkness and shadow and paradox to our loving Father
#2 Gives us a foundation on who God really is, and From that, we have a foundation to do the hard work of interpretation in those strange OT stories.

Jesus here is comparing the flood to the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the heedlessness of the people (the ones who he lamented over like mother hen who would cluck it’s chick’s to come to it if she was able). In comparing this situation with the Flood he is not suggesting that this time round people have incurred the wrath of God for begetting children rather than something really serious – which was your reading (and I think is not supported by the text). He is rather saying that the situations are comparable on two grounds –

One is heedlessness
And the other is that people are about to be overtaken by a ‘flood’ of violence’ in both situations – and if you look at Genesis the waters cover the earth because first violence has covered the earth

I’m not going to get all het about this one Lotharson and for the sake of community here and I’d advise all to keep this a bit low key because we had a very serious time before Christmas when the Forum almost burnt itself out and became scorched over because of this very discussion. I made position clear at the time as someone with Girardian sympathies – namely I do think that Jesus is the revelation of the God who is not violent (and I think that since it turns out that Gmac was obviously so influenced by William Law he would probably agree here, and it probably is a misreading of his writings to think that he ever saw God’s judgement as active retribution as opposed to handing over to consequences from which God is always trying to save and heal us). Also I don’t believe in a universal flood because this is refuted by the evidence of geology. I think the evidence is that there was one terrible flood in the Near East which seemed like a global flood about 25,000 years ago. This entered into the Epic traditions of the peoples of the Near East and elsewhere through cultural and trade contacts. The story of the world almost being destroyed by human violence which meant God unleashed the chaos waters came from there. I’ll not say any more because i don’t want stuff thrown at me from young earth creationist websites again or a fog of war to come upon EU over this – and nor do I want people carelessly slagging off the bible in tabloid fury again. I found it all terrible and it really took the heart out of me last time and I almost left the site over it (and several other key contributors stopped posting too).

I basically agree with Dave about hermeneutical principles and think it unnecessary and unwise on this forum to stir up emotion concerning biblical literalism.

I am (happily) backing out of this discussion, Dick - thanks for the timely reminder of the ‘troubles’ !! I certainly don’t want to ever see that again.
I’ll be :sunglasses:

Yeah, I’ll back off too, as I don’t want to stir things up either, and cause anyone anymore stress than they already have. :neutral_face:

But just to throw this out there, I think all of you guys have ways of looking at this issue that together could bring a kind of balance about it.

Lotharson, you protest about things that you see in the Bible, as I do and as many do, much of it in the OT to be sure, but some of it in the NT as well, and I think there is a place for this, because I believe God understands our struggles and welcomes our questions.
And there is a precedent for this in the Bible itself, where there are many who protest and even argue with God, and God listens to protests and can handle our anger and our confusion or anything else that we throw at Him. So I really think there is a place for our grievances, with the Bible, with God, with life and how things are in the world, etc.

On the other hand, Dave, you bring up really good points about how much of the problem could be our interpretation, keeping in mind that these writings are two thousand years or more removed from us, so the people who wrote them back then may have thought a lot differently than we do, here in the postmodern era, including having a more Eastern way of looking at things than a Western way of looking at things, coming at things from the heart rather than from the head more often than not, using a lot of poetry and symbolism and metaphor rather than just stating things as clear as crystal, or in technical language, using intuition more than logic. So, in other words, we don’t have to take everything literally, and there may be a lot more breathing room on interpretation than we might think, even if interpretation may prove difficult.

It’s almost like the Bible is like some Zen master or something (and Jesus is too, when I come to think of it), who throws oddball koans out there for us to chew on. :wink:

In short, the Bible is a difficult book. Which is the main reason I haven’t really read it for the last few years since finishing it the first time.
The Bible was a really difficult read for me at times, and even sent me into bouts of depression on occasion.
Again, this was more likely than not a matter of my interpretation, and I was bringing all my baggage to it, which probably didn’t help.
Maybe if I read it again, with the revelation of UR in mind and with all the changes I’ve gone through, and tried to look at things differently, I may get more out of it the second time around. I’ve been thinking of doing that.
But it’s also because it’s just difficult, the way it’s all put together.

To put it in another way, for me the Bible is like math. I know it’s very important and has a lot of value, but I’m not very good at it, and often it frustrates me, when it’s not boring me.
But then I remember there was a time in high school when I got with the right teacher in pre-algebra, and I ended up being one of the top two or three students in the class.
Granted, I’ve forgotten just about everything I learned in that class, except what a variable is, but hey, I did good! :laughing:
So, with that in mind, maybe there’s hope yet for me as far as the Bible is concerned.

But anyways, yeah, the Bible is a difficult book to begin with, so I think that you’re right Dave, to point out that it’s best not to jump to conclusions, though I think you’re right too Lotharson, because it’s important that we are able to be honest about how these things make us feel, because by being open about those feelings we can perhaps work through them, much as the Psalmists were open with their feelings and by being open with them worked through them (with that said I should probably check out Cindy’s Psalms thread sometime, as it does look interesting).

But lastly, Dick, I like what you had to say on the historical side of all of this, and I think I lean towards that way of seeing the whole flood thing myself, as far as the history aspect is concerned, but I think you make a very important point too, in that we shouldn’t let these things get us off track, or lead us into lots of anxiety and negativity within ourselves on the one hand, or to heated debate with others, or philosophical/theological bar fights, on the other.

And yeah, with that said, I agree we should probably leave it there, and move on.

However, I still have a bone to pick with good ol’ Johnny about A Beautiful Mind. :wink: :laughing:

Blessings to all and to all a goodnight :slight_smile:


Wonderful post, Matthew! :smiley:

I agree so much with what you’re saying (and I agree with what Dick says about Jesus’ use of the flood story). I think we too often heap theological burdens on OT stories they weren’t meant to bear… The OT is used in ways by people in the NT (including Jesus) that we never would today. Often they are looking for a reasonable metaphor, a “good quote” to lend force to the point they’re trying to make in their situation of trying to explain the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t necessarily mean they see the stories as literal (though some probably did, but that doesn’t invalidate their point if it isn’t).

Dave said way upthread:

Dave expresses this much better than I ever could :smiley: , and if anyone’s interested, is fully in-line with what Peter Enns is saying. :wink: Be careful in laying too big a theological burden on these OT stories!

PS Matt, I enjoyed A Beeautiful Mind as well and I plan to watch it soon to give it my “PQ” score. :laughing:

Speak of the devil! (or "Old Scratch as Dr Beck prefers… :laughing: ) Oh, so you don’t get the wrong idea, I’m a big fan of Peter Enns and his ideas.

Here’s the latest blog post by Peter Enns about the film Noah.

(This is in parentheses because I’ve ‘backed out of’ the thread, and the parens give me a cute way to get around it. :smiley:
Just wanted to add that Bob Wilson has some excellent writing on scripture that has really helped me. One thread in particular:
Is All Scripture equally valid for us?)

Thanks,Dave (and Bob) :smiley:
That is certainly a very thought-provoking paper by Bob. I like it very much!

looks like Peter Enns saw Noah…and **Liked IT! :astonished: ** More

Though I am very biased given where the film comes from, I think if you are looking for a good film on Jesus I think the Son of Man film very much worth a look, though much of it is in Xhorsa there are subtitles, anyway here is a link:

Oh and thank you for your earlier directing me to Peter Enns blog alecforbes in an earlier post on another thread, I am very much enjoying it :slight_smile:

Glad you’re enjoying it, Nightrevan! :smiley: His approach to scripture has helped me tremendously and his blog is informative and entertaining (I think). He’s got a good sense of humor, it seems. :wink:

How cool, Grant! It’s so interesting to see how the story of Christ can make sense within any time and place in political or cultural history. Call me a hippy or something, but I think the ability to touch so many people so uniquely speaks to the Gospel’s divinity. :smiley: Plus, I do not mind listening to a film in Xhorsa at all-- I think languages are best appreciated for their quality when I can’t understand them. :laughing: