Avatar through the lens of a Biblical Worldview

avatarimageAs promised in the last newsletter, I want to start looking at things in our culture through the lens of Scripture. How do we learn how to discern between dignity and disdain, between beautiful and bad? How do we engage with culture in a constructively interactive way? How do we guard against error while appreciating beauty?

Finding Truth

One of the first things to remember is that all truth is God’s truth, no matter where we see it. All, people with a Biblical understanding of life and people without, are created in the image of God. An image bearer cannot help but reflect at least some aspect of God’s image, no matter how warped that image may be. It is still there. In addition, everyone is interacting with the world that God created. Whether or not a person credit’s God with creation doesn’t change the fact that it is God’s world. As such, it is impossible to remove all aspects of truth. To do that would reduce us to beasts. Beasts don’t have culture. All this is to simply say that no matter the culture or cultural expression, there will always be something that is built on truth.

Asking the Right Questions

That leads us to finding the right questions that will help us uncover the truth from its layers of confusion. If we can uncover the truth, we can find common ground. Often, the best questions to ask have to do with the way a story (or song, or other aspect of culture) affects you. Does it move you? Does it shock you? What was moving? What was shocking? Why do you think it was moving? Why do you think it was shocking? Was part of it moving and part of it shocking? Ransom Fellowship is a ministry, which helps with this very thing (visit ransomfellowship.org/discernment.asp for further discernment tools).

When you’re looking at a story, whether told through a book or movie, it helps to understand something about stories. Stories typically have a protagonist, a conflict, and a resolution. Good stories have protagonists that we can relate with. This allows the author to pull us into the story so that the experiences of the protagonist become our experiences. This is why it is important to be able to discern truth from error.

Let’s consider the movie Avatar. Avatar is a moving story. In terms of movie magnitude, it is about to top “Titanic” as the highest grossing film ever. It has been the most attended movie each week it since its release (barely a month ago). Already its won Golden Globe’s “Best Picture” award for the year. In other words, it is leaving its mark on culture. Why is Avatar such a moving story? For one thing the story takes place in a breathtaking world. The scenery is beautiful, as are the creatures and the people (or alien beings). Certainly we can appreciate the creativity in design and the beauty of the scenes. Beyond that, the protagonist of the story is a man looking for a second chance. He’s a soldier with little worth who is offered a chance to do something with significant worth. This is the way key people see him in the beginning of the movie – not worth much and a waste of time. But as the movie progresses we see his character develop. He becomes more aware of things in the new world. He begins to find the new “dream” world to be more real than his old “wake” world. In his waking world he is crippled and weak. In his dream world he is larger than life, and brimming with boundless possibilities. We can all relate with this kind of rags to riches story, where the weak and discounted is transformed into the strong and significant. It moves us because it mirrors the story of the gospel. We struggle in our weak and sinful natures and long to live in a restored world in resurrected bodies. The Christian is sanctified as he dies more and more to the sins of the flesh and lives more and more in the spirit. That longing is in each one of us because we all know the struggle of the sinful nature, whether or not we call it that or not. This aspect of the story should be moving because it reflects truth.

The Environmentalist Message of Avatar

The story should also move us because it seeks to save the world from evil abusers. It is not difficult to see James Cameron’s strong environmental message at work in the movie. Cameron is quoted in an interview as saying, “I wish everyone was a tree hugger!” Unfortunately these are “hot buttons” that bring to mind the conservative or liberal agenda as a package. Since Cameron’s statement is associated with the liberal agenda, conservatives may immediately reject the statement the movie is making about the environment. You could certainly argue about way in which he has caricatured American big business and the military. That is of course partly his point as he sees big business America as the cause of our environment’s downfall. But if we move beyond these hangups, the message of preserving the environment is one that Christians should embrace. Christians should be the staunchest environmentalists, because the earth is God’s creation and we were made to be its steward. Man’s first calling was to cultivate the earth!

While we, as Christians, should be concerned for the environment we must also understand why. The reason in Avatar is because the planet itself is some kind of deity, a deity that we are all somehow connected to. It is a store of memories and souls. This comes straight from Eastern religion, called pantheism, where all things are connected. The Bible tells us that the earth is not a god, but a creation of God. While we have a specific relationship with the earth and the creatures of the earth, we are not one with the earth and creatures of the earth. In essence, Avatar takes the good gift of God (creation) and credits it to a false god. This was the sin of Hosea’s wife (see Hosea 2).

Still, protecting the environment from people who are interested in building their own kingdom rather than cultivate it as God’s, is a valid and valiant calling. If we can ask the right questions, then we can embrace what is good (the beauty of creation and it’s preservation), and reject what is false (the pantheistic reasons). We have a tendency to embrace it all or reject it all. (There is more to say in what cultivating our world look should look like but that’s a separate discussion.)

2 Comments On “Avatar through the lens of a Biblical Worldview”

  1. Well-put insights, Carter. Kent and I haven’t seen this movie yet, but will. We’ll appreciate your commentary.

    This also came to mind: “…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and and worshiped and served the created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1:25

    Reply

  2. That’s what I like about Avatar……….<3 <3
    ………still lot to learn!!!

    Reply

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