Evan vs Noah
‘Lessons’ from the film Evan Almighty
Evan Almighty features Steve Carell as Evan Baxter, a newscaster who becomes a congressman intent on saving the world. Little does he expect ‘God’ to answer his prayer with the command to build an ark. This film (rated PG) has received positive reviews from large segments of the Christian community, but others have not been so enthusiastic. Some consider that the whole idea of portraying the holy and unapproachable Creator God as a human actor (Morgan Freeman) is tantamount to blasphemy. Others feel soiled at the liberal sprinkling of profanities, references to reproductive organs and toilet humor. The film opened in the US on 22 June 2007 and is scheduled for release in the UK on 3 August and Australia on 6 September.
Drawing from the biblical account of Noah’s Ark, Evan Almighty mixes religion, ethics, environmentalism, and comedy. Comedy, of course, is the universal salve of modern cinema that can redeem any storyline—in the minds of today’s viewers. The humour in this film involves allusions to a realtor named ‘Eve Adams’, God teasingly referring to Evan’s fear as ‘the beginning of wisdom’, and companies named ‘Alpha & Omega’ and ‘1-800-Go-4-Wood’ delivering the supplies to build the ark.
But filmgoers who chuckled at the film’s humorous depictions of Evan’s flood, a cinematic fantasy, need to be aware of the differences between it and the biblical account of Noah’s Flood, a global reality.
Local vs Global
A critical difference between Noah’s Flood and Evan’s flood is that Evan’s flood is a local event rather than the catastrophic global Flood of Noah as written in the Bible. While many progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists interpret the biblical Flood as a local event, such an interpretation raises some of the same questions that the film may raise with audiences. In the case of a local flood:
- Why wouldn’t God simply tell Noah (or Evan) to move out of the region to escape the flood?
- Why would animals from around the world need to be brought on board the Ark for protection from a local flood?
- Why would birds need to be rescued from a local flood when they could have simply flown away?
But a straightforward interpretation of the biblical account makes it clear that the event was global, and that explains the geological evidence (see Was the flood global?)
The source of the water
Another difference between Evan’s flood and Noah’s Flood is the source of the floodwaters. The movie uses the breaching of a nearby dam as the source for the powerful local flood, whereas the biblical account reveals that it rained forty days and forty nights upon the earth and that the ‘fountains of the great deep’ burst forth. This bursting forth produced ground level flooding from the vast amounts of water stored below the surface of the earth, as well as devastating earthquakes and volcanoes—see Drowned from below. The biblical account also establishes that the real Flood was a year-long event. It rained forty days and forty nights, the ‘fountains of the great deep’ erupted and the floodwaters rose for five months. It took more than six months for floodwaters to recede. Most of the fossilized strata comprising the geologic column formed at this time, providing a record of the order of rapid burial during the real Flood.
Which animals were taken aboard?
Like the real Flood of Noah’s day, Evan’s fictional flood has God bringing various land-dwelling birds, mammals, and reptiles to the Ark for loading. Bible skeptics often misrepresent the Genesis account by claiming that even insects, amphibians, marine creatures were taken aboard, as well as the invertebrates. However, the Bible clearly states that Noah was commanded to take only the air-breathing, land-dwelling vertebrates. These comprise less than 2% of species living today (and even less of the species preserved in the fossil record).
In his book, Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, creation biologist/geologist John Woodmorappe estimated that Noah boarded about only 16,000 animals (8,000 genera) at the very most. And applying known low-tech farming methods, 16,000 animals would have required less than half of the Ark’s space.
One further difference is that Evan takes every species of land vertebrate onto his ark, but Noah did not need to take that many. Instead of different species, Noah took different ‘kinds’, which are generally equated with a genus in modern animal taxonomy (even family level in some cases).
For example, Noah would not have needed to take two dogs and two wolves. Instead, he just needed to take two of the ‘canine kind’, because dogs, wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and jackals can all interbreed and thus form part of the same biblical kind. By the same line of reasoning only two bears would have been needed to account for all individual bear species alive today (with the possible exception of the panda), and only two animals of the ‘equine kind’ to account for the present day horses, donkeys, and zebras. For more information about the biblical kind see Variation and natural selection versus evolution and Darwin’s Finches: evidence supporting rapid post-flood adaptation.
Construction of the Ark
Surprisingly, Evan’s fairy-tale ark seems to have been modeled on creationist interpretations of the real Noah’s Ark. Also, Evan and his family were able to construct their ark in a matter of weeks, whereas the biblical account suggests at least 70 years for construction. Unlike the caricatures sometimes portrayed in books, television shows and magazines, Evan’s ark was presented in the movie as a massive barge. Although large, it was still much smaller than the real thing, but it did give something of an impression of the appearance of the real Ark.
In 1994, eight Korean naval architects concluded that the Ark possessed ideal dimensions for optimal stability and could have safely navigated 30 m (100 foot) waves, even if the wood was only 30 cm (one foot) thick—see Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a seaway. Skeptics usually aren’t aware that the Ark contained about 43,000 cubic metres (1.5 million cubic feet) of space capable of holding approximately 125,000 sheep. Considering that the maximum number of animals needed was eight times less than this, and that the vast majority of the land dwelling vertebrates are smaller than sheep, there would have been plenty of space.
Judgment and salvation
In the movie, ‘God’ tells Evan’s wife, Joan (portrayed by Lauren Graham) how people like to focus on the wrath and judgment of God when it comes to the story of Noah’s Ark. But the real message of the biblical account, according to the ‘God’ of the movie, is about people ‘believing in each other’ and ‘standing by one another’.
While this may sound politically correct and give patrons a warm sense of comfort, it is not the message of the biblical account of the Flood. Genesis 6 makes it abundantly clear that the devastating global Flood was sent to punish mankind for their willful rebellion against the Creator. The world was filled with terrible wickedness and violence, and mankind had demonstrated no hint of repentance. Therefore, the Lord God executed perfect justice in pouring out his wrath on a sinful world.
This may seem horribly unfair, but remember that the Lord gave mankind 120 years to repent of their evil. In 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is called a ‘preacher of righteousness’. This suggests that he warned the people of the impending Flood. The fact that only eight people boarded the Ark means that no-one repented and humbled themselves before God. In the movie Evan also gave the people a chance to repent and be saved and, contrasting with the biblical account, at the last minute everyone was allowed on Evan’s ark whether they had repented or not.
However, Christians understand that we too deserve God’s righteous judgment. Romans 3:23 says ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of hell and judgment more than any other person mentioned in the Bible. The Scriptures plainly state that God is righteous and holy. He does not tolerate sin and will not allow sin in His presence. That is why He sent his one-and-only Son to die for the sin of the world, to satisfy both God’s justice and mercy (John 3:16).
The movie gives the impression that we can earn God’s favor through our ‘good works’ but that is not correct. It’s true that we have all been created to live a life of love and service to God. However, these acts cannot redeem us from our sin. Isaiah 64:6 states, ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.’ Ephesians 2:8–9 says ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’
The Scriptures make it clear that salvation is a free gift that was earned by the perfect life, redeeming death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is only after we are saved that we are able to perform good works, and we do these out of love and gratitude for the salvation Jesus Christ earned for us on the cross.
Predictably, the movie presents a strong environmental message. We are told to care for this planet, which God has blessed us with, and to do all that is necessary to minimize environmental destruction. This is consistent with biblical Christianity. As Christians, we have been called to be good stewards of God’s Creation. In fact, the first man Adam was created to have dominion over the earth, and commanded by God to ‘tend the garden’ (Genesis 2:15). However, we must not make an idol of the environment. Although we should care for our planet and its valuable resources, we are ultimately accountable to the Creator and not to ‘Nature’, which is not an end in itself, but a product of God’s masterful engineering and divine artistry. See also Earth Day: Is Christianity to blame for environment problems?
It is good to know a bit about the movie so you can talk about it intelligently with family and friends. Although the movie is funny, entertaining and fast moving, it is typical of those comedies/films which mock and trivialize eternal issues. The average person will likely enjoy this movie, so it could give you opportunity to discuss eternal issues with them—issues such as the evidence supporting the reality of the biblical Flood, the reasons for God sending the Flood, and what that means for us today. From that aspect, the film could be a useful catalyst for stimulating conversations with skeptics about Creation and the Flood, which serve as the foundation of Scriptural authority and lead naturally to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Addendum (30 July 2007)
Canadian creation supporter David Buckna has created a web-based quiz based on this film for use in conversation-starting and witnessing, at this external link: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2007/s07070165.htm