MORE Thoughts on “Noah”

This morning a friend on Facebook forwarded this link to me.  Read it before reading my post below:

http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

People are sure talking about this movie...

People are sure talking about this movie…

I don’t know Brian Mattson, but his take on the film “Noah” is fascinating.  He may be onto something.  Mattson certainly gets the broad strokes of ancient Christian Gnosticism correct.  I know virtually nothing about Kabbalah, so I’ll have to take his word there.  Mattson’s take on the zohar mine is tantalizing.  I wondered throughout the movie why Aronofsky had invented such a weird element.  Whenever the characters are in darkness and need light, they crush zohar, and it illuminates like phosphorous.  This symbolism certainly contributes to Mattson’s interpretation of the movie as the revelation of hidden Gnostic light.

There are some problems with Mattson’s interpretation of Aronofsky’s movie as Gnostic.  The fallen angels say they are being “brought home” by the Creator.  They do not distinguish between the Creator (as the “bad god” in dualistic Gnosticism) and a good god (the force of redemption in Gnosticism).  Secondly and most importantly, in Gnosticism the creation itself is bad.  The entire point of salvation in Gnosticism is for the beings of light (who are trapped in corporeal bodies) to escape the creation.  But the overriding theme of Aronofsky’s movie is the redemption of the good earth from the ill effects of humanity.  That theme is absent in ancient Christian Gnosticism.

The overriding theme of Aronofsky’s movie is the redemption of the good earth from the ill effects of humanity

The overriding theme of Aronofsky’s movie is the redemption of the good earth from the ill effects of humanity

As a side note, Mattson quotes Adolphe Franck’s (with whom I’m also unacquainted) description of the redemption of demons in Kabbalah, “Nothing is absolutely bad; nothing is accursed forever—not even the archangel of evil or the venomous beast, as he is sometimes called. There will come a time when he will recover his name and his angelic nature.”  There are strains of Christian universalism—outside of Gnosticism—that affirm this same thing.  The early Christian father Origen believed even Satan will be redeemed.  It’s a minority view, to be sure, but it’s there.  It’s also something, I’d suggest, we should hope for: that ultimately all things will be reconciled to the God of love.

I’ll add this: If Aronofsky has indeed produced a sophisticated and subversive Gnostic film, it makes “Noah” all the more important as a Christian conversation piece.  We should view the movie and discuss it: where it gets Gnosticism correct, where it gets it wrong, where the film affirms things we can affirm, and where it portrays a cosmology that we as Christians should confront.  We certainly shouldn’t shy away from the film.  (It’s not unlike Dan Brown’s novels in that sense.)  So, who’s buying the popcorn?

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One thought on “MORE Thoughts on “Noah”

  1. First, some disclosures. I haven’t seen the film. I know little about Gnosticism. I’m not from the Episcopal tradition. The only connection to Grace Cathedral I’ve had was my attendance at the lecture/sermon at noon by Marcus Borg, after which I met and talked briefly with the Dean. He graciously offered to have lunch with me some time so we could have a more lengthy conversation. I have been looking for a community of “fellow travelers” since retiring in Houston some years ago. That hunt has not been very fruitful.
    Having said that, I am compelled to add an exclamation point after reading the piece by Mattson and the Dean’s “two cents worth.” This is exactly the kind of thinking, expression, sharing and encouragement I expect from a community of spiritual leaners. This, my short conversation in your sanctuary, a discussion with two fine ladies in the bookstore, and your outreach to the community has caused my heart to sing. After Holy Week, this sojourner will ask the Dean to make good on his offer. Good stuff, sir.
    Tim Bacon

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