AVATAR: Wonderland of Postmodern Idealism

“So we see ourselves, (human culture, human civilization) as nature sees us; as the intruder, as the invader, as that which is threatening.” –James Cameron speaking to Charlie Rose, regarding the movie Avatar February 17, 2010.

This revealing statement illuminates one of many underlying ideologies being conveyed in the movie Avatar. Mankind (created in the image of God) is being portrayed as a tyrant determined to ruthlessly destroy planet Pandora for financial gain. The seductive beauty of Pandora is a carefully crafted illusion through the power of imagination and visualization, that beckons us to change our allegiance from human beings to alien beings called Na’vi. On Pandora, all things are possible, including philosophies subtly erecting “Fortresses” in our thinking, standing in opposition to the Word of God. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” 2 Corinthians 10:3&4

A theologian, who was forward thinking in the area of philosophy was the late Robert E. Webber (died April 2007). His writings on Ancient – Future faith are considered pillars in the Emerging Church movement. Mr. Webber made an astute observation regarding the value placed on philosophical thought in a postmodern society. In his book The Younger Evangelicals, Webber quotes Pierre Hadot, from Philosophy as a Way of Life:

For the ancients, the mere word philo-sophia — the love of wisdom — was enough to express this conception of philosophy…Philosophy thus took on the form of an exercise of the thought, will and the totality of one’s being, the goal of which was to achieve a state practically inaccessible to mankind; wisdom. Philosophy was a method of spiritual progress which demanded a radical conversion and transformation of the individual’s way of being. (pg. 102) [emphasis mine]

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made, And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden , God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:1-6

Eve started on her journey into temptation admirably. She told the serpent the truth quoting God’s word instructing them not to eat from the fruit of a specific tree. She used the sword of the spirit to respond to the serpent. But then she made a fatal error; she engaged in conversation. Instead, we should “Submit therefore to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Eve is now lured down the road of deception by the lie “You surely will not die!” Genesis 3:4, and at this point she looked with her eyes and succumbed to “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life,” 1 John 2:16

The very title of this movie, for the Christian, should prompt us to pray for wisdom and discernment. Merriam-Webster’s definition of Avatar is 1: The incarnation of a Hindu deity (as Vishnu). This is certainly not in and of itself reason to not see a movie, but, concerning enough to warrant further investigation.

Adam Holz reviewing for Focus on the Family, Plugged In writes:

“Cameron’s depiction of the Na’vi not only elevates tribal customs and rituals, it blurs the boundaries between God and the environment. Here the creator and her creation are indistinguishable.”

Scanning the entire review it became evident there were serious issues; (highly sexualized due to Na’vi appearing very blue, but none the less partially nude, panentheism, disregard for the sanctity of human life, goddess worship, anti-military, just to name a few) that Christians would have to wrestle with in this movie. Now we are presented with a dilemma or more precisely a temptation.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-14

There are those who would suggest this is only a science fiction fantasy. Allow me to refer you to the February 17, 2010 Charlie Rose show that interviewed James Cameron. Watch the thirty minute discussion in context so you can better evaluate Mr. Cameron’s objective. Mr. Cameron states:

“This film was personal” and “I threw everything I had at making it a great piece of entertainment that was the 3D and the CG and creating the world. Every trick I knew to get people to come to the theater and then every trick I knew as a film maker to engage them in terms of the story and the actor and so on and part of that was telling a story that was simple in an artful manner that located them comfortably so they could have an emotional reaction.”

Well, what was Mr. Cameron trying to convey?

[people] “Respond to their Na’vi philosophy of connectedness to the earth and to each other means that we have that within ourselves.”

Yes, in Hinduism and Native American religions their belief system includes panentheism. According to Wikipedia; “Panentheism (from Greek (pan) “all”; (en) “in”; and (theos) “God”; “all-in-God”) is a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well.” As Christians we should understand this worldview, but also know it is incompatible with Christianity. God certainly created all of nature, but He is definitely not dwelling in the dirt, a blade of grass or a tree. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and acknowledge and believe that He (not she) endured the penalty of our sins, then God graciously sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us and we became a living stone in the Lord’s temple.

Interestingly, the philosophies found in Avatar directly parallel the Emergent Church agenda as expressed through liberal theology. This would be known as syncretism. Syncretism: “Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion…” as defined by American Heritage dictionary. Brian McLaren is one of the most notable leaders in the Emergent Church movement. Apprising ministries wrote a rather provocative article entitled: Brian McLaren and Evangelical Panentheism (part 6), that points out the following statement written in McLaren’s book entitled, Finding Faith:

Pantheism certainly has much to offer, and our understanding of monotheism is enriched, I believe, by dialogue with monotheism’s primary theological colleague. Incidentally, if Christian monotheism is true, pantheism might not be so much false as it is, “not true yet,” for Christians believe that history is flowing toward a goal in which God is in everything, and everything is in God…a vision not unlike that of one version of pantheism (called panentheism, to be precise) page 118

The Charlie Rose interview also brings to light Mr. Cameron’s extreme environmentalism which is also embraced by Mr. McLaren. To demonstrate this point is an entry on Brian McLarens blog entitled “Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama…and I hope you will too: Reason 4”:

Reason 4: The Environment

(This article is adapted from piece originally published in Creation Care Magazine.) I care about the environment. To me, it’s not just stuff. It is God’s sacred creation. I love it. I cherish it. And because of that passion for creation, I am enthusiastically voting for Senator Barack Obama. The better news is that Barack Obama names global climate change “one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation” [emphasis mine]

Mr. Cameron also informs Charlie Rose of his anti-capitalism position. This would be the most hypocritical stance considering he spent over $200 million in the production of Avatar and will still gross a hefty profit. We must also understand purchasing a ticket to this movie is funding the positions espoused by Mr. Cameron, (he already has a book in the making and a sequel to Avatar) and lining his pockets (the film has made over 2.5 billion as of March 2010) as well as elevating his stature beyond that of any film maker in history.

The Apostle Paul warns that people “will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:4 Avatar is a powerful myth that slides under the radar specifically because of its “sci-fi” genre. The fantasy aspect actually allows for its ideas and philosophies to go unchallenged and be easily ingested since our normal defense mechanisms are not engaged. Paul encourages Timothy on how to instruct Christians. “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;” I Timothy 4:6&7

Following Jesus is difficult. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 We can certainly see just how strong this temptation is that we find it hard to resist spending at least thirteen dollars to subject our mind to a two hour and thirty minute fantasy filled with thoughts that oppose our God. Instead, we should be taking up the sword of the spirit. “We are destroying speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” 1 John 2:28God loves us so much He calls us His children. He wants us to remain pure for His glory. Do you really think Jesus would follow the world in seeing Avatar?

Some people feel the movie can be “redeemed” to point to Christ. Well, is it possible for strip dancing to be used to glorify God? “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we? All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:21-23

When the very foundation and framework is flawed and prohibited in Scripture no amount of human rationalizing can make it right in God’s eyes. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deed of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Ephesians 5:6-13

“’Yet, even now,’ declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.

’Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” Joel: 12&13

In the unspeakable lovingkindness of Christ,
Charisse Graves

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