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Gnostic Noah

Drew Trotter

noah Should we care that Darren Aronofsky depended on gnostic texts for much of his story?

I loved Noah the first time I saw it. I still love Noah, even after reading, and agreeing with, the in-depth analysis by several writers, showing that much of the detail of the film comes from the Kabbalah and other ancient gnostic and pre-gnostic sources.

Perhaps the most complete, and certainly the most sarcastic, compilation of elements in the movie that demonstrate its Gnosticism is by a blogger named Brian Mattson. Check out his screed here, if you’re interested. Mattson draws attention to the luminescent Adam and Eve, the prominence of the snake, the names of the fallen angels and many other details that come out of sources like 1 Enoch, but he and some of his followers go on to blast “Christian leaders” for the “scandal” of endorsing the film, proclaiming “shame on everyone who bought it”.

With my background in Biblical studies, I recognized many of those references, when I saw the movie, but here’s why I don’t particularly care that Aronofsky has given us a largely gnostic Noah: almost everyone watching the film, who could be hurt by buying into an heretical, gnostic vision of the flood narrative, is going to interpret the movie through their own, orthodox grid and for the most part not be affected by his slant on the story.

Don’t get me wrong. Gnosticism is as much a heresy today as it was in the 2nd century, and it is a lie. But Gnosticism doesn’t present a danger unless it is explained in detail and persuasively advocated as a system of belief in contrast to the teaching of Scripture. Showing people a movie with gnostic elements hardly accomplishes that.

Mattson’s confusion is with the nature of communication through film. Film does not teach doctrine per se. Yes, a movie can demonstrate the views of a filmmaker, if he or she is trying to propound those views through the movie’s narrative (which Aronofsky has explicitly denied any desire of doing in Noah,by the way). But those views will of necessity be general and vague; art does not have the capacity to carry on detailed conversation, much less instruction in the subtleties of theology.

That’s why the propositions of theological reflection are a good thing. Movies might illustrate some of those propositions, but cannot argue for or against them, and so can’t persuade us for or against them either.

There is another, perhaps unique, reason why the Gnosticism of Noah simply won’t have any real negative effect on Christian viewers, while it can have a very positive effect of entertaining them and making them think. The reason is that unless viewers are coming from a gnostic belief already, they are not going to recognize the Gnosticism anyway, and therefore it can’t have any ill effect on them.

An illustration of this principle is the use of the name “The Creator” for God in the movie. Mattson makes much of the lower, gnostic demi-urge, called “The Creator” in the literature, who is an evil god for creating matter in the first place. Certainly, Aronofsky picked this name up from his sources and thought it was a great name to get around the vague and uninteresting word “God”, so he used it.

But what are Christians going to hear, when they hear the words “The Creator”? Will images of angry, ignorant, gnostic gods leap into their minds, as they do when actual Gnostics hear them?

No. “The Creator” merely refers to the God they know from Genesis and their tradition’s interpretation of it. Now, that may be bad enough, but it’s not gnostic indoctrination.