On Avatar, connectedness and worldviews (Part 3)


<— Click here for Part 2
the Tree of Souls Eywa TGIF Thank God it's Friday Avatar Environmentalism Christian worldview

Mo’at is clan’s spiritual leader, more acurately a shaman. She’s the lead character, Neytiri’s, mother and she’s the consort to the clans leader, Eytucan. Click image to link to the movie’s official webpage.

“What’s Pantheism anyway?”

Pantheism is a construct or worldview (let’s call it a belief system) which clings to the notion that the universe (nature) and god are identical.

“Um, ok, but what does it look like and how’s it connected to the movie Avatar?”

Well the fluffy stuff would include an all encompassing feeling of reverence and belonging towards nature and the wider universe as well as a deep concern for the rights of humans and all living beings. Sounds good doesn’t it? Here’s the key though, because god is made up of everything there’s an emphasis on everything being connected, equal, part of the divine. See the link? You don’t have to hold a doctorate in Theology to discern that the ‘connectedness’ to others and nature which is the major theme running through the movie Avatar is derived directly from a Pantheistic worldview.

“So what? Who cares? doesn’t the world need more tree huggers anyway?”

‘Tree hugging’ is a symptom but the root of Pantheism concerns the person of god and how we worship him/she/it/whatever?

The God of the Bible stands distinct from His creation. Consider the following 3 verses from Psalm 102,

25 “Of old You founded the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
26 “Even they will perish, but You endure;
And all of them will wear out like a garment;
Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
27 “But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.

Want to hear the verse in context? Psalm 102
What is this about?

Get it? If not watch this space for the next installment. Basically Avatar presents a completely different worldview to that which the Bible propositions as the truth.

“So what?”

Ah, there in lies the rub, doesn’t it? Chris Woolley, Jonathan Klimek and Lauren Brown have seeded a real uncomfortable feeling in my cognitive lobe due to Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Rome this is what I’m thinking about at the moment,

2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Want to hear the verse in context? Romans 12
What is this about?

<— Click here for Part 2

In what other ways was this concept of ‘earth is god/god is earth’ portrayed in the movie? What do you think the implications of tacit approval of this system are?

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8 thoughts on “On Avatar, connectedness and worldviews (Part 3)

  1. Hi Mark – me again :-)

    I think you fail to make an important distinction here. My sense of Avatar after watching it, was that the basis was not pantheist.

    Rather, I think it represented a subtly, but significantly, different view of creation which is called panentheism. What is the difference? I’ll simplify it here:
    Pantheism = Everything is God. God is everything.
    Panentheism = Everything is in God. God is in everything.

    What this means is that creation is not worshiped as God (and I don’t think they did that in Avatar), but honoured as God’s creation, and as such a reflection of God’s glory, and a “vehicle” through which God can be encountered. This is what I believe was being portrayed in Avatar.

    Now, as I mentioned before, I’m not arguing that Avatar was a Christian movie – I don’t believe it was. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the spirituality presented there is all “evil”, “misleading” or “bad” (not that you’ve said that).

    In my opinion, the Bible is filled with references to what we now call panentheism. The most famous passages that reflect this are, perhaps, Psalm 139 and Psalm 19, but there are others as well.

    Of course, the danger you warn of is still a possibility – that we end up worshiping the creation and not the Creator. But, let’s not overbalance the other way and end up ignoring the needs of this beautiful universe that we’ve been given as our home, or missing the way God comes to us in what God has made. Especially since God clearly gave us responsibility to care for it in Genesis.

    For what it’s worth.

  2. Yes you’re right although I’m not too keen on Panentheism either. That however would take more than a three paragraph response. In a nutshell though (because I’m feeling brave) God is everywhere but certainly not everything (plus an undefined teensy-tiny bit more). In my opinion that makes you both right and wrong. Talk about a paradox :).

    I considered writing on both Pantheism and Panentheism but it was just too much Headology as Granny Weatherwax would say. Instead I called it Pantheism but described a subset, Naturalistic Pantheism, without crediting it. I would make a very lazy academician ;).

    Thanks for raising the point and I’m sure anyone who bothers to read the comments of the post will be most edified. Before writing this post I found these resources most helpful:

    Pantheism:
    http://www.gotquestions.org/pantheism.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism

    Panentheism
    http://www.gotquestions.org/panentheism.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panentheism

    Natural Pantheism:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_Pantheism

  3. Hi

    I know this may be oversimplified but to me:

    John 14:6 a Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life

    And so when I see things I’d consider “life” I see the Glory of God in it.

    Blessings
    MH

    • If you had to gaze upon the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, you’d go, “Oooh” and “Aaah” but you wouldn’t say as you walked out, “I just saw all that Leonardo da Vinci was or is or ever will be.” That’s what Pantheists do. They say God is His creation. That is bonkers.

      My understanding is that Panentheists say, “God is everything in the universe, but God also is greater the universe. Events and changes in the universe effect and change God. As the universe grows and learns, God also increases in knowledge and being.” Bottom line is that conflicts with God’s sovereignty, God’s omnipresence, God’s omniscience, God’s omnipotence, God’s immutability… and the list goes on.

      Pantheism and Panentheism don’t align with Christianity.

      Um, John, have I misstated anything?

  4. Are we dwelling on a ‘useless debate’? You know your enemy is a roaring lion and he delights in keepings us ‘roaring’ bout unnneccessary philosophies.

    The movie is very simillar to another, note the link below. What shall we call it then – Plagiarization? http://andyoflove.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/avatar-pocahontas-500×486.jpg

    “All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man…

    …For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or evil. [Ecc 12:13,14].

    Refer also to Matt. 12:36; Acts 17:30, 31; Rom. 2:16; I Cor. 4:5.

  5. As a Watchman, I believe I do not just blow, but a word of direction be given as well.

    There is a danger that we are starting to engage in what we were instructed to shun… “But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. [2Ti 2:16]

    Knowledge is essentail so that we do not perish… [“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children…” [Hos 4:6]

    Remember there is nothing new under the sun [Eccl 1:9]; it is only God that is the creator… Gen 1:1. Here is an example what some circles may call plegarization: http://andyoflove.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/avatar-pocahontas-500×486.jpg

    In this regard, “All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man…

    …For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or evil. [Ecc :12:13-14]

    Refer also to Matt. 12:36; Acts 17:30, 31; Rom. 2:16; I Cor. 4:5.]

    God Bless you all

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