“Noah” will be released in Japan on June 13, 2014
Controversy has swirled around the “Noah” epic with many Christians denouncing it. While the film takes liberties, there is good reason to take your Japanese friends to see it.
1. “Noah” includes one of the best portrayals of the creation story on film. Years ago retired TEAM missionary John Schwab said to me, “when you teach Japanese the Bible, start in Genesis!!” This makes perfect sense as Genesis is the beginning of the story. The first three chapters of the Bible are pivotal as they provide crucial background on God, the creation, the source of sin, and the promise of redemption. For a person with no exposure to the Old Testament narratives starting with the New Testament is like walking into a movie theater half way though a film and trying to figure out what the story is about.
Starting in Genesis provides the context needed to understand who God is and why Jesus did what he did on the cross. The portrayal of the creation story in “Noah” is a way for Japanese — who often know nothing about the Biblical narrative — to “get” a crucial part of the story.
2. Throughout the film “The Creator” is a phrase that is used many times. Noah prays to “The Creator.” Noah and his family follow “The Creator” who warns them of coming catastrophe and tells them how to build a vessel that will keep them and the animals safe. Noah and his family are in relationship with “The Creator.” They communicate with him. He cares about them and is shown to stand for justice and goodness. “The Creator” is portrayed as wise and powerful. The caveat is that we don’t know how this will be translated in the Japanese version of the film.
3. Any film about the Bible is an opportunity to start a conversation. “What did you think about the film” works fine as an opening question. “What did you think about the “Creator God in the film?” is a good question to ask. Almost any open question can lead to important conversations (don’t fail to listen!).
There has been strong objections to a lack of Biblical accuracy in “Noah.” Many Christians react to “Noah” because it is not the kind of film that they expected. For most of us Noah is a cute Sunday School story while “Noah” is a violent, complex tale with conflicted characters. What was Noah (the man) really like? We simply do not know. It is possible that he struggled with fear and temptations like we do. While the movie isn’t perfect — the ridiculous Rock Giants are particularly hard to accept — “Noah” does get many of the main elements of the story right.
I know a man who followed Christ after seeing “Ben Hur” while in prison. He was there for terrorism. Now this man is a missionary to Japan and a chaplain in prisons. Was “Ben Hur” completely accurate to the Bible? No. And, neither is “Noah.” Apparently, Hollywood has two Moses films and an epic about Cain and Abel in the works. While Hollywood seeks to cash in on the popularity of Bible stories, I pray God will use these films to draw people to himself.
1.3 million “likes” on the Japanese Facebook page for “Noah” indicates a great deal of interest in the film.
If you see “Noah” with Japanese friends, please post about how it went.