On Avatar, environmentalism and worldviews (Part 2)

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>
the Tree of Souls Eywa TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar Environmentalism Christian worldview

Seedlings from the Tree of Souls act as ‘magic markers’ showing the will of the mother goddess Eywa. It’s all so transparently New Age you’d have to be practically spiritually dead to miss it. Click image to link to the movie’s official webpage.

So, by now, you’ve probably watched Avatar? And yes, like me, the movie’s special effects and visual eye candy blew your mind away didn’t it? Anyone can see 15 Oscar nominations coming from a mile away.

My wife and I went on a ‘date night’ last Saturday after I had heard a review by Pastor Neil Oosthuizen at TGIF that Friday. Bottom line, he was resoundingly positive about the film and its central messages and encouraged the audience to go and watch it. One major theme that he cited was environmentalism and the movie portrays the subject in the following ways (in no particular order and certainly not exhaustive):

  1. No longer can the greens on your plate be considered dumb veggies. The trees on Pandora form a massive interconnected network like the synapses of a huge brain. There’s intelligence out there folks.
  2. You better start taking out funeral policies on your pets. On Pandora, if you kill Fido, be expecting to give it the same loving farewell you would your mother or father.
  3. Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good dog. No longer are you teaching tricks like roll over or play dead, now you uplink to animals directly like an interactive Wii device.
  4. Not only is the fauna intelligent but it’s also deeply spiritual. At the centre of the story is a special tree called the Tree of Souls.
  5. The bad guys have chain saws and the good guys live in hammocks. Say no more.
  6. We’re part of the environment so it’s natural that when we die we just return back to the environment.
Hometree TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar Environmentalism Christian worldview

The environmentalist’s answer to townhouse living is very very very big trees. Click image to link to the movie’s official webpage.

Well it all fits together quite well and I found the story captivating. I really enjoyed the way it gelled different storylines from many other sources together. In the review on Friday and again while watching the film on Saturday a question continually gnawed at the back of my head, “How did the concepts, ‘the environment’ or ‘connectedness’ or ‘real love’ stack up to the way that the Bible presents them?” Well, on environmentalism the Bible portrays some interesting differences:

  1. Propensity for intellect in the movie is equated to ‘being’. The Bible however elevates man above the rest of the created universe. In him alone God rests His image. Listen to Genesis 1,
    26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

    Want to hear the verse in context? Genesis 1 – 7
    What is this about?

  2. Um, no comment.
  3. God views men and beast as distinct. Listen to the covenant He made with man in Genesis 9,
    1 …”Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as {I gave} the green plant.

    Want to hear the verse in context? Genesis 8 – 15
    What is this about?

  4. Pious plants. There’s a clip in the movie when the Na’vi race are sitting in a pagan chant around this sacred tree and it’s communing with them. Now God does wish us to worship folks, but appropriately. It’s not His intention that we get caught up with creation but rather with the creator,
    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    Want to hear the verse in context? Romans 1
    What is this about?

  5. I also like the idea of trees and I’d love to have a hammock. The Bible exhorts us to be good stewards of the earth and all that’s in it,
    28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

    Want to hear the verse in context? Genesis 1 – 7
    What is this about?

  6. There’s no way that we’re going to become ‘one’ with the environment according to God’s Word of Truth. What the future holds for us is being raised, judged and eternity to follow; some in heaven; more in hell,
    46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Is the point made? If not watch this space for the next two installments. Basically Avatar presents a completely different worldview to that which the Bible propositions as the truth. So what? Good question and I’m trying to decide where this series is going. Where do I stand on things like entertainment? My indecision aside, what I do know is this, many of the questions that our world has on their minds right now are shaped by the themes and concepts found in this movie and other media. Be prepared to give a defense for the hope that you have in Him because the questions are out there.

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

Interested in other movie reviews like Angels and Demons? Find them in the sidebar under Topics \ Reviews \ Movies.


14 thoughts on “On Avatar, environmentalism and worldviews (Part 2)

  1. Hi Mark,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your reflections on Avatar, and I think you make an important point – however we may feel about the spirituality of the movie (and it is a spiritual movie, in my opinion), it is not Christian spirituality. That may or may not be a bad thing, but it is a distinction that must be made, I believe.

    I do want to engage you on something you wrote though, that I’m not sure I can agree with:
    “What the future holds for us is being raised, judged and eternity to follow; some in heaven; more in hell”

    Two responses:
    1. Actually, the future for humanity is eternity on earth, if you read Revelation 21:1-3. While the earth goes through a similar transformation of death & resurrection as human beings, it does not get destroyed. It endures as God’s dwelling place with humanity. We often forget this in the church – our future is not off in some distant heaven separate from earth, but in some transformed way, here on this planet. I wonder what that will look like when we get there?

    2. You say more people will end up in hell. I wonder where you get that idea from? Let me explore the implications that I see in this statement. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God does not want to destroy anyone. The Scriptures make it clear that God’s goal is to save people, not destroy them. On the other hand, the devil seeks to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). So, if God wants to save, but the devil wants to destroy, and more people go to hell than heaven, who has won? Theologically, I personally can’t accept this contradiction. I don’t believe the devil wins, and I don’t believe God and the devil are locked in some equally matched cosmic battle. God has already won, according to Paul, and so , somehow, God must overcome the devil’s desire to destroy. So, do more people go to hell than to heaven? I can’t believe it.

    For what it’s worth…


    • Hi John,

      I must commend you, the way you argue is so logical. You’re my favourite liberal:).

      1. Having pegged you as a Covenantalist I’m was fairly sure that our Eschatology would also be different. I’m comfortable with that. Just one point, it’s not the Earth we cling to and try to preserve. It’s a reconstituted playground. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away
      2. Yes, this line I edited out and put back in and edited out and put back in and…

      The reason why I left it is because of verses like Revelation 20, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

      As to the “more”, I thought about that too. Jesus’ answer to the question springs to mind, “Lord, are there {just} a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

      Am I smoking my socks?

      • Hi Mark,

        I mentioned the death & resurrection of the old earth being born into the new – so I think we’re not that far from each other here. It’s just a question of how connected or not the new & old are. From Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:35-44, the old is like a seed planted in the ground, and the new emerges from it. So, in my mind, the link is very strong. And the point remains – it may be new, but it is still the earth that is our eternal destiny.

        Now as for the few/many conversation. It’s important to note that in the passage you quote (which is from Luke 13) Jesus is speaking to a synagogue leader, and to a crowd around him – i.e. religious people. As I’ve noted in conversation with you before, Jesus is always hardest on those who are religious and claim God for themselves. The same applies here, in my opinion. It is not a blanket generalisation about how many people will be saved – it can’t be because he goes on to say:
        People will come from all over the world and will eat in the kingdom of God. Some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last. (Luke 13:29-30). So, I believe the point Jesus is making is not so much quantitative (how many people will enter the Kingdom) as it is qualitative (what kind of people will enter the Kingdom – those who would not be expected to make it by the religious folk of Jesus’ day).

        The other thing to note here is that Jesus is speaking about God’s Kingdom in this passage – not heaven. The two are different as can be seen from the Lord’s Prayer: “May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Note the distinction between the Kingdom and heaven. Also note, again, that Jesus tells us to pray, not that we may go to heaven when we die (i.e. enter God’s heavenly ‘kingdom’), but he tells us to pray that God’s Kingdom (which reflects heaven because it is where God’s will is done) may come down to earth. It seems to me God is deeply invested in the earth and all the people who live in it.

        Just some more thoughts to add to the conversation, I hope. Nice to know I’m not your most “un-favourite” liberal – although I don’t enjoy the label ‘liberal’. I prefer ‘integrative’, but that’s just me :-)


  2. Watched it last night:

    1. It stood against the Taking of Land from the American Indian

    2. It stood against a pre-emptive strike and Capitalistic Greed

    3. It stood for the protection of the enviroment.

    4. It reinforced the idea that all Life is connected.

    5. It was a visual feast

    Enjoyed the induction ceremony
    Disliked the Trancelike chant to heal.

    Am so enjoying the review thanx for your use of this movie to dispay Biblical Truths.


      • Depends what you mean by right things.

        Paul was pretty clear about preaching the right thing being more important than our reasons.

        “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. “ – Phillipians 1:8

        But if we’re talking earthly rights, I think we’re making value judgments that go beyond our faith.

        i.e. Violence is evil, but acceptable if it is better than…

  3. So…I gather you prefer a world view that ultimately ends with a deity who…

    [editor has removed the rest of this comment because it is all just a copy and paste advert.]

  4. Hey bro, thanks for posting piper, gonna be great. Read your review on Avatar (not seen it) – great view with the Bible as your guide. You mentioned, “I’m trying to decide where this series is going. Where do I stand on things like entertainment?” I wonder if this is connected with a recent talk you heard?
    I checked a site that rates movies. They are not Christian, but give very clear ratings of movies on content (SNLVMP). They however will not go to extrem 18SN type movies because they don’t want to expose themselves to that. I don’t know where their line is though, but this is what they said about Avatar.

    Content Description:
    Sex: Passionate kissing and a comment or two about mating; a few comments about sex which would be inappropriate for the young.
    Language: GD-7; G/OMG-4; J-2; Ch*ist-1; D-6; H-4; H (as a place)-1; P-1; PO-2; B-5; S-12; A-2; SOB-1; Crap-2; Idiot-1; Moron-2; Slang for male genitalia-2; Slang for looking for sex-1
    Violence: Although this is science-fiction/fantasy there are many battles; punching; arrows and spears striking characters; explosions; man temporarily on fire but pats it out; some blood; machine gun fire; shooting; creatures fighting characters and the characters fighting creatures; exploding helicopters; many deaths.
    Drugs: Drinking in a few scenes; smoking.
    Nudity: Cleavage; certain male characters/aliens reveal most of their chest; some CGI female scenes which might reveal breasts (clothing makes it difficult to tell).
    Other: A belief in a deity who is a goddess called Eywa; characters pray to Eywa; the talk of the flow of energy and the spirits of animals; betrayal and death are themes in the movie.

    You may know by now where I am going with this – especially on the language front. eg. “GD-7; G/OMG-4; J-2; Ch*ist-1”.

    You know what I said in the Media talk – I would find it hard to pass this movie through pretty well all of the “filters”.

    Anyhow – just “spuring one another on …”

    Looking forward to seeing you at Piper. Posters and promo dvds coming soon.


  5. Hi Al,

    You’ll find it amusing but I wrote this before your talk. I’m still considering some of what you said.

    I commented to Jono Klimek on Sunday that although I err on the side of liberty I practice discernment to a greater degree than ever before.

    Am I right that you guys are “sponsoring” the event? Next to MacArthur, Woolley and Cantrell, Piper is my favourite weekly mp3 download. Actually on that point, whenever I download a sermon from ABC it seems to have a loop in it. Anyone else had that problem? It’s happened to me twice now.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Thanks for this post. Writing a term paper which includes a commentary on the world views of this movie and this site has been most helpful! Very insightful. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s