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Mattson’s Review of Noah (Updated 4/7/14)

April 6, 2014

A lot of Christians want you to read “Sympathy for the Devil,” a review of the Noah movie (by Mattson, a theologian) that talks about how it has some themes from kabbalah.

Not everyone agrees with the reviewer about all of his points and some Christians are now against the Noah movie for ethical reasons. Why would they be against the movie for ethical reasons? I have been told the movie is anti-Christian and made to deceive people.

Mattson also seems to think the movie is unethical in his review.

For example, he says:

In our day and age we are so living in the leftover atmosphere of Christendom that when somebody says they want to do “Noah,” everybody assumes they mean a rendition of the Bible story. That isn’t what Aronofsky had in mind at all. I’m sure he was only too happy to let his studio go right on assuming that, since if they knew what he was really up to they never would have allowed him to make the movie.

Does the Noah movie use anything from the Bible? Mattson never proves that. Mattson argues that the movie has kabbalah themes. I think that he is likely correct about that point, but kabbalah is a type of Jewish mysticism, and the Bible (which has the Noah story) is a Jewish book.

Also, why wouldn’t a studio let anyone make a Noah movie that uses kabbalah themes? Mattson tells us that Aronofsky (the director) must have deceived the studio. He is trying to morally judge the director. That seems a bit strange to me. Is it unethical to have differing religious views? Everyone has to have the same religious beliefs as Mattson in order to be ethical?

Mattson eventually talks about how worshiping God is somehow in the movie’s favor. He says:

But, hey, everybody in the film seems to worship “The Creator,” right? Surely it’s got that in its favor!

Except that when Gnostics speak about “The Creator” they are not talking about God. Oh, here in an affluent world living off the fruits of Christendom the term “Creator” generally denotes the true and living God. But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience. They generally call him “Yahweh.” Or other names, too (Ialdabaoth, for example).

Mattson thinks that finding the movie acceptable is based on getting religion right. And apparently that means that we have to assume gnosticism and kabbalah are false. Divergent religious views are somehow forbidden or something. That’s weird.

But wait. Mattson also seems to imply that the movie endorses the Christian Gnostic view that there are two gods—an evil creator god and a good god. Why would he imply that? Let’s assume that the movie is saying that kabbalah gets things right. Does that mean there is an evil creator god? Based on my limited understanding of kabbalah, I don’t think so. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, there are some who wonder if kabbalah is compatible with monotheism because of their view of the sefirot—not because they think there is an evil creator god:

The general problem, of course, was that, on its surface at least, the doctrine of the sefirot seems incompatible with God’s unity. Rabbi Azriel of Gerona addressed this issue in his “Explanation of the Ten Sefirot.” In the first place, the higher sefirot, at least, have always existed “in potentia in the Eyn Sof before they were actualized.” Moreover, because “the receptor [the sefirah] … unite[s] with the bestower [ultimately, the En Sof] into one power, … the two are really one.” So the answer to our difficulty is apparently this. The emanation of the sefirot is compatible with God’s unity because (unlike created beings) the sefirot are contained within the En Sof itself in a potential or undifferentiated form, and because (since their power is the power of the En Sof), there is ultimately only one power. Thus, “no emanation is radiated forth except to proclaim the unity within the Eyn Sof.” Or as Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzato claimed (in Gellman 2005 [in Other Internet Resources]) in the first half of the eighteenth century, “the sefirot are not separate from the one who emanates, for they are like the flame connected to the coal, and all is one, a unity that has within it no division.” Whether considerations like these fully resolve the problem is a moot question.

Why does Mattson imply that the movie endorses gnosticism? He says that kabbalah is a type of gnosticism. Well, there are many different types of gnosticism. To say, “Gnostics think x, so the movie is based on that assumption” would be quite a leap.

Mattson also implies in various places that Aronofsky thinks the serpent in the garden of Eden is the true god or something. Maybe some Christians think that makes Aronofsky a devil worshiper. I am not impressed. That seems like a good way to demonize a movie director based on pretty much nothing as far as I can tell.

Mattson then says, “Darren Aronofsky has produced a retelling of the Noah story without reference to the Bible at all. This was not, as he claimed, just a storied tradition of run-of-the-mill Jewish “Midrash.” This was a thoroughly pagan retelling of the Noah story direct from Kabbalist and Gnostic sources. To my mind, there is simply no doubt about this.”

There is no reference to the Bible at all? When did the author think he proved that? I guess I missed it.

This is a pagan retelling? Pagans are polytheists. When did he prove the movie endorses polytheism?

And then Mattson adds an extra bit of moral judgment when he says,

I believe Aronofsky did it as an experiment to make fools of us: “You are so ignorant that I can put Noah (granted, it’s Russell Crowe!) up on the big screen and portray him literally as the ‘seed of the Serpent’ and you all will watch my studio’s screening and endorse it.”

He’s having quite the laugh. And shame on everyone who bought it.

Why does he believe the director wanted to make a fool of everyone? No argument is given. It’s just some weird moral judgment from Mattson that seems to come pretty much out of nowhere.

Why does Mattson think that Noah is the seed of the Serpent in the movie? He does say a little about that, but the assumption would be that the serpent would actually be God or something. Is Noah a devil worshiper in the movie? That seems implausible and pretty much no good argument can be made for that as far as I can tell.

The main assumption is that everyone has to agree with how Mattson understands things. His religion is good. People who have different religious views are unethical. Everyone who exposes people to different views of religion are somehow trying to deceive Christians. Those are a lot of assumptions that were never argued for. I am not impressed.

Many Christians are going out of there way to help inform each other about how unethical Noah movie is, so I guess many of them agree with Mattson. They also think how terrible it is for a non-Christian to use non-Christian views in a movie. One Christian told me that the movie is anti-Christian.

Why is the movie anti-Christian? Because it uses themes from kabbalah? I didn’t realize anyone who sees things differently from Christians is automatically also anti-Christian. That seems like quite a leap to me.

Someone made a movie about Noah who is either very interested in kabbalah or believes that religion is true. He wants to have kabbalah elements in pretty much every movie he makes.

The reviewer assumed the worst — that the director wants to deceive Christians into watching the movie, and make them think certain things are true in some manipulative way.

Some Christians who saw the movie had assumptions about the movie that turned out to be wrong. Does that mean they were deceived? If so, it certainly doesn’t mean they were deceived intentionally.

Could the advertisers try to make sure people don’t have false assumptions about movies? They can, but they don’t. How much of a duty they have to correct false assumptions is not clear, but it is certainly not realistic to expect them to try to correct assumptions like this.

Some Christians didn’t know the movie had influences from kabbalah and might have even thought the movie was perfectly compatible with their religious views. Is that because the director wanted to trick them? I find that unlikely. I would think Christians should know for themselves what they are “supposed to believe” based on their religion. If they find nothing wrong with the movie, that is up to them.

Instead of saying slanderous things, the reviewer could have just said what I said above.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. notes from the John permalink
    April 6, 2014 6:50 pm

    What is a Christian movie and how does a movie get rated as non Christian? Who gets to state movie X or Y is not Christian? What are their credentials? Who owns the authoritative interpretation of any given Bible story?

    • April 6, 2014 6:57 pm

      Good questions. At the very least people who say they are Christian are more likely to count as Christian. Kabbalah is supposed to be a type of Jewish mysticism, so it is not intended to be Christian. What Christians are allowed to believe as Christians is quite unclear. Some Christians say they are atheists or that Jesus isn’t God. Do they count? I think they could still count. I see no reason to say that Christianity has a “true nature” and that all Christians have to have the “right beliefs” to count as Christians.

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