Edited By: Leslyn Kim
When you have the chance, read the article above by Mark Driscoll and then the critique by Dr. Michael Brown. I really like what Michael Brown has to say. The article is not so much about the movie Noah, but it does highlight some problems that I personally found with the movie. I’m not planning to write much about the movie Noah itself, because there’s already enough opinions out there. If you’re interested just google it and you’ll discover a plethora of blog posts either picking it apart or praising it, Christian and secular alike. The opinions are quiet literally all over the map. Navigate to the Gospel Coalition, and on par they modestly praise it with some cautions/concerns. Head over to Charisma or Christian Post – and you’ll discover a more conservative evangelical opinion condemning it from start to finish. It’s almost mind boggling anymore how often Christians (especially leaders) disagree on non-essentials, for instance – Hollywood movies (tongue-in-cheek).
In this instance you have Dr. Michael Brown on one side – a conservative, Messianic Jew, professor, radio talk show host, and Charismatic who was one of the leaders of the Brownsville Revival. On the other side you have Mark Driscoll – a controversial, leader/celebrity figure of the young but burgeoning Neo-Reformed movement. Based on their backgrounds, you could surmise that they would have varying opinions about many things. For the record, I’m not writing this as a Brown vs. Driscoll debate or even Reformed vs. Charismatic Arminian. What I want to explore is how they arrive at such disparate opinions about the most basic nuts and bolts story of Noah from the bible? More on that in a moment…..
It highlights why I’ve grown more and more cautious about listening to any one voice or opinion within the body. We’re all fallible, pastor and congregant alike. No one has it all figured out. There is no system of theology that nails it on every point. There is no magic wand or theological formula that will ever answer all of our questions about a God whoseways are so much higher than ours. Yet, as a result of my being open to listening to many different voices and opinions from Anabaptists, to Methodists, to Pentecostals, to Neo-Reformed, I listen with guarded ear for one thing in particular. Those most guarded and dogmatic about their stances are often the most likely to make a scripture, no matter how contrasting with their belief system, conform to their dogma.
This is why I can value someone like Brown taking someone to task for attempting to bend scripture toward their particular take on things like free will, works, and righteousness. Apparently in this instance accepting that God “saved” Noah, in part, because of his righteousness doesn’t give enough real estate to Sovereign Grace or Unconditional Election. It means that God is partial to some based on their deeds or belief (faith), and that he favors some based on their obedience. It’s primarily a theme found in the Old Testament, under the old covenant. In some respects I’m not sure that really matters. A very plain reading of the Old testament reveals stories just like this quietoften.
As a rebuttal to this assertion, and in defense of Sovereign election, Mark Driscoll points to Genesis 6:8:
“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.“
However, verse eight alone does not tell the whole story. To get a more full understanding of God’s view of Noah and the people of his generation you really need to at least read verses five through thirteen.
New International Version (NIV)
“5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah and his family.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. “
Verses five through seven tell us how God was deeply grieved by the wickedness of Noah’s generation. Verse eight explains how Noah was favored in God’s eyes (grace). Verse nine explains why Noah was different. Verses ten through thirteen explain God’s plan as a result of sin. You can hardly read the account of Noah (Genesis 6) without noticing that God saw Noah as someone set apart (holy, righteous) from the culture around him. Noah, was not just like those around him. Genesis 7:1 makes it even clearer:
“The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”
Why did God tell Noah and his family to enter the Ark? Because, he found them righteous (especially in comparison to those of his generation).
Although, I find it to be partially out of context with the argument I’m making here, it’s worth mentioning that 2 Peter 2 echoes the same truth.
Driscoll is not wrong in stating that only by God’s grace were Noah and his family saved. Yet, there needs to be a qualifier to the way he uses the word “only”. Instead, he redefines the story to satisfy the overly rigid boundaries of Calvinist theology. God’s grace is inherent to the story. What is not explicit is that Noah was only (key word only) righteous as a means of God’s sovereign choice. To be fair Driscoll never explicitly states this, but I see how Michael Brown reaches that conclusion. It’s pretty obvious that’s where Driscoll is seeking to steer the ship. To bolster the theological view of unconditional election, he goes as far as saying that, “The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who died in the flood of judgment was that God gave grace to Noah.” In my opinion that’s part truth, but not the whole. Genesis tells us that Noah was righteous, and that God chose to spare him for that reason (at least in part). To his credit, Driscoll is careful in making this more nuanced in the article by stating earlier that: “Noah did not begin as a righteous man, but rather he began as a sinner not unlike everyone else on the earth in his day. The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who died in the flood of judgment was that God gave grace to Noah.” That statement conveniently skirts the full timeline of Noah’s life. He was born into sin like all men, but what made him different in God’s eyes compared to those around him in his generation? At this point, if you’re thinking that I’m not a fan of Sovereign grace as it relates to salvation, then read the post before this one https://psalmfiftyone.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/quick-reflection-on-2-samuel-14-the-story-of-amnon-tamar-absalom-and-a-wise-woman-from-tekoa/. Spoiler alert! I am 😉
Nobody seeks after God without his divine providence first leading them. However, I felt that in his attempt to magnify God’s sovereignty in salvation he downplayed the word righteousness, and in particular Noah’s decision to choose righteousness. Can we just be honest and say that the fear of crediting Noah’s personal righteousness as saving him from the flood stems from a fear of affirming our part in salvation or denigrating God’s sovereignty? I get it.
Without having to write another three paragraphs to hash this out, is it fair to say that the foundation of Noah’s righteous may not have been works-based at all? Huh? Yes, is it possible that God viewed him as righteous, because of what he believed, and not specifically what he did? Noah believed in God, and what he told him, and so “it was credited to him as righteousness”. Sound familiar (Abraham , The Hall of Faith – Hebrews 11)? Perhaps what he did for the Lord (in terms of deeds), pre-flood, was only an outpouring/expression of what he believed?
New International Version (NIV)
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
Is that a works-based understanding of salvation? If it is, we all might be in trouble:
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
“Hey, wait a minute, I thought I can’t save myself?!” Okay, I know all of the common retorts (i.e. – regeneration etc.) that come with this. Not here, not now, maybe another day. LOL. Before I close though can I go out on a limb here? Okay, this could be a dangerous one, so bear with me in grace ;-)……. From my measly human perspective God seemed to have three choices. One, he could have spared the whole earth, and left humanity in their depraved state. Two, he could have destroyed all of humanity including Noah and his family. Three, he fortunately chose to spare one righteous man and his family, because of grace alone. Did that last sentence catch you by surprise? Does it sound like I just back-peddled on the whole premise of my argument above? Okay, here’s where I go out on a limb. Wait for it, wait for it…………………………………………………..
Is it possible that God chose to save a remnant of humankind because of grace alone, and not due to anyone’s sinless state (Noah was saved by grace alone)? Is it also possible that he chose, Noah, from among all people, because he was the only one who believed in God (Noah was saved because he was righteous)? Are the two compatible? I have plenty of biblical reasons to believe that they are.
I need no “theological system, label, best-selling book, new theological fad, or evangelical message/movement” to convince me to believe otherwise. I say that in humility. Let that sink in.
On that note, is it really necessary to subdivide and label ourselves over these issues? Sometimes, I just don’t get all of these separate camps and the cannibalization that takes place, apart from human pride. I find the debate over this more troubling than people arguing over every detail of the Noah movie. All the way from Noah’s garb, down to the number of species that filed into the ark. Yup, you best believe they’ve covered all those bases! These are evangelicals we’re talking about here folks 😉 Even me, the Hypocrite, writing a blog article over the disagreement. DARN IT! LOL. And, this is the crux of why I felt led to write about this. It highlights a huge and growing problem that I’m noticing. While it’s no secret that Protestantism now comes in literally twenty-thousand plus flavors, it’s surprising and troubling to me that we’re starting to disagree over the basics. Move over “old” Noah narrative, we need to make space for the newest evangelical trend…… “Unfettered Grace Teaching”. More on that in a coming blog…….