Noah and “Biblicism”

In discussing the furor over the new movie Noah at Religion Dispatches, Wofford College’s David Mathewson makes an important distinction between “biblical interpretation” and the conservative Christian ideology of Biblicism, “a particular attitude of reverence for the bible as a bastion of stability amid all the fluctuation of modern life, a conscious decision to place oneself under its authority, no matter the consequences.” Thus in the hands of an avowedly atheist director, Darren Aronofsky, Noah would have been condemned by conservative Christians pretty much no matter which particular “biblical interpretation” he chose to pursue.

Mathewson contrasts the rapturous conservative Christian reaction to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ to the hostile reaction to Noah to make his point. But that opens up another question, to me at least: Gibson is a Catholic (albeit a semi-heretical hyper-traditionalist Catholic), not a sola scriptura Protestant. Catholics generally believe the Bible was the product of the early church, not the other way around. The term “bibilolatry” has on occasion been hurled by Catholics as well as by mainline Protestants at conservative evangelicals. So perhaps in Gibson’s case it was a feeling that he was a very conservative Christian rather than a “Biblicist” that made him seem trustworthy to people who might have considered his particular brand of church a mite exotic, and definitely pre-Reformationish.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.