Last week saw the release of the first trailer for Noah - a film, based on the very same Bible story, starring Russel Crowe, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and a ton of CGI effects. It's due in the cinemas in March and it will without a doubt provoke a “flood” of internet debate. “Water” lot of fun that will be. Ahem, sorry for the puns I'll stop now.
I can already see how this is going to pan out. The charismatic church will embrace the film with open arms, arrange church trips to go see it and delight in the fact that we can at last pretend to be “relevant” and maybe even “cool” (as though Christianity could ever be cool). The broader evangelical church will probably recognise some of the problems with the film but will likely go watch it anyway as it's only a bit of “harmless entertainment”. This film could well become a staple for evangelistic film nights everywhere, for which I am tempted to deeply apologise for. In contrast, the Reformed church will largely produce thoughtful, intelligent, discerning articles about the movie and whether Christians should support or avoid it but there will be some more angry rant pieces as well. Oh yes, and the media will highlight any number of whacko fringe groups reacting against the Noah movie as though it's the biggest sin of mankind since the fall. Any intelligent discourse will be drowned out (this pun was unintentional, I promise!) and the general message that all Christians are either a) hypocritical or b) crazy will be safely maintained.
Ok, this is a very cynical response to the whole affair and I would love to be proved wrong about it. I would also like to put out my thoughts now, before the debate probably begins. Obviously, having only seen the trailer I'm not working from a position of full information so these are just early thoughts. But what I've seen is enough to raise some concerns; as such I have ten questions I want to ask.
On December 29th then I came across a story in the telegraph about the decision of a judge that Christians have no right to refuse work on Sundays because, and I quote, “Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.” It gets better, he went on to say: The fact that some Christians were prepared to work on Sundays meant it was not protected.”
First it is a really stupid decision, surely the issue is not what other Christians are doing but what the Christian teaching on work on Sundays is? Even if the matter was uncertain then her managers initially agreed to respect her decision that she could, in clear conscience, work on a Sunday. It’s not as if she deceived them and yet her stand for what she believed right is branded wrong because according to a secular judge, who seems to have little understanding of Christianity, working on a Sunday is not a core element to the faith.
I suppose it is to be expected and rant aside there’s a bigger issue to talk about. This isn’t just a testament to the foolishness of the judge; far worse it is a massive rebuke to Christians in Great Britain. The judge was correct in saying that many Christians are prepared to work on a Sunday - the disobedience of these Christians heaps problems on the head of their brothers and sisters who are being obedient!
God is unchanging and while the Old Covenant is over and we are in the New Covenant the ways in which he deals with his people have not changed. One of the great benefits from reading the Old Testament is that we can learn from the lives of the Old Testament saints how God deals with us today. Their faith looked forward to the 1st coming of Christ, our looks back to it and forward to the 2nd coming but they were still human and God was God and really the thousands of years that have passed since their times has changed nothing in the basic principles of how God deals with his children.
Lesson 1: Predestination
In the Old Testament there is not a single recorded case of a man approaching God of his own accord. Always it is God who takes the initiative. God came to Abraham in a vision, Moses in a burning bush, Gideon in the person of Jesus Christ, David through his prophet Samuel, the Jewish race out of all the other nations of the earth and so on. The history of the Old Testament is the history of God choosing his people not for any good in them but for his own will and purpose.
In Romans 9 Paul summarizes this doctrine using the example of Jacob and Esau: “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9 v 10 – 13)