Why Christians Aren’t Up in Arms about Avartar, Part 2


I mentioned yesterday that there are possibly two more reasons Christians aren’t up in arms about Avatar the way so many were about Harry Potter, misguided as that opposition was. Well, I’ve thought of three more instead of two. 🙄

First (fourth over all), I think we may be ignorant of other worldviews. I’ll be honest. I came out of the movie thinking that it was heavy on New Age themes. But the friend I went to the movie with commented on its pantheism.

Sure, I thought, that’s what it was—straight pantheism. Until I started to write my first blog post on the subject and discovered that “classic” pantheism didn’t fit the movie. However I saw the term panentheism more than once and finally did a little research on that term. And there in the definition was the religion of the Na’vi, clearly laid out, almost point by point.

You see, I haven’t kept up with what others are believing, and I suspect I’m not alone. But how can we recognize the message of Avatar if we are ignorant of the other worldviews infiltrating our culture?

The second reason (or fifth, going back to yesterday’s post) I don’t think Christians are up in arms about Avatar is ignorance about or misuse of the Bible.

The history of Israel and Judah, for example, is replete with warnings against and consequences for compromising with and incorporating the beliefs of the cultures opposed to God. These Biblical narratives are given for our instruction today. The principles we can draw from the story of Solomon or Jeroboam or Asa or Ahab or Josiah or any of these historical figures are principles we need to learn. Do we? Or are we merrily on our way to incorporating a little panentheism along with our Christianity, just as Solomon built high places for Baal right along with the beautiful temple for Yahweh.

Seemingly we’ve forgotten Gal 5:9 — “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” or Jesus’s admonition to beware the leaven of false teaching (Mark 8:15).

Which brings me to the third (sixth over all) reason. We aren’t taught how to be discerning any more. We need our senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14).

The process isn’t complicated. All it requires is holding up Scripture alongside whatever ideology or belief or philosophy our culture is advocating and do a compare and contrast.

So, with Avatar, we should ask, Is the god of the Na’vi, like or different from the God of the Bible? How is the “incarnation” of the main character among the Na’vi like or different from Jesus’s incarnation? Is the “second birth” the movie mentioned anything like Jesus’s statement to Nicodemus that we must be born again, of the spirit? In comparison to Scripture, what does the movie have to say about creation? About death? About salvation? About our relation to nature?

Instead of encouraging Christians to think along these lines, some in the Christian community are telling us to “relax.”

But here’s what Paul says:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
– 2 Tim. 4:3, 4

Seems to me we need to call myths by their names, or we very well might find ourselves turning aside to them.

If you’re still with me at this point, please hear one last thing. I can recognize the idolatrous teaching in Avatar and still like the movie. I don’t have to hate it just because I’ve identified its false worldview. If that were so, there would be little in this world I would like.

Martin Luther, for example, had a worldview that allowed him to persecute Jews, something I think is opposed to Scripture. Nevertheless, I enjoy his hymns and benefit from his stance on justification by faith.

With Avatar, I can enjoy the cinematographic beauty, the imaginative elements, the creation of such a vivid fantasy world, even as I identify the panentheistic worldview. The two are not mutually exclusive positions.

For further discussion, see “More Thoughts On Avatar And Christianity.”

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 9:00 am  Comments (12)  
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