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Avatar and the ‘new’ evolutionary religion

Avatar movie review

A movie review

by

Published: 5 January 2010(GMT+10)

Warning! This review is a spoiler if you have not seen the movie and intend to do so.

Movies, no less than painting, literature, and other expressions of popular culture, both reflect and influence the worldview of the age and society that produces them. Films in particular (especially box-office hits, as Avatar will doubtless be) can have considerable power to further shape a society’s worldview—a set of beliefs and assumptions that are widely held as ‘givens’, even if subliminally so. To be most effective at this, a film should not depart too far from what is already held, but rather build on the foundations already laid, reinforcing, deepening and extending the ruling paradigm—to further embed the vision of what their makers think the world ought to be like.

Na’vi - lithe blue-skinned humanoids

The story of Avatar unfolds in a future age when scientists and soldiers are involved in a mission from Earth to the fictional Earth-like moon Pandora. Their task is to obtain supplies of an immensely valuable mineral. The substance’s name brings one of the few corny touches to this cutting-edge computer graphics techno-spectacle—Unobtainium. Presumably it’s, um, not readily available back home.

The progress of this mission is being frustrated by the local ‘savages’, which in this case are lithe blue-skinned humanoids, about 3 metres (10 feet) tall with long semi-rigid tails. All are fine physical specimens, too, with nary a spare tire, drooping jowl or buttock between them regardless of age—perhaps it’s all that exercise leaping around in the forest canopy.

Can’t lick ‘em? Join ‘em …

Part of the strategy to subdue the natives, so that the resources they live atop can be more easily exploited, is an old one—infiltration. Simply sending humans to infiltrate the Na’vi is not likely to work, though, given the physical differences between the exploiter and the exploited.1 But hey, this is the future, so it’s no big deal for the corporate bigwigs to hire a few scientists and be able to upload the consciousness of selected humans into Na’vi ‘avatars’. In computer gamespeak, an avatar is a virtual alter ego, a new identity that is controlled by you but does not even have to look or be like the real you.2 The avatars in this case are biological entities which, though they contain some human DNA, are basically Na’vi bodies. When the person whose DNA a particular avatar contains is cocooned inside the appropriate machine, they lose consciousness, and their mind inhabits and controls their Na’vi avatar instead. When the avatar goes to sleep, the human wakes up, and vice versa.

Indigenous peoples are supposed to be more innocent and pure than the rapacious greedy inhabitants of western civilization.

Corporal Jake Sully is a paraplegic ex-marine, the identical twin of a now-dead scientist who was transporting his persona in and out of one of these Na’vi bio-avatars. Because he has the same DNA, Jake is chosen to continue his brother’s mission, despite being untrained for it.

He meets team member Grace Augustine (played by Alien’s Sigourney Weaver), a tough-talking, chain-smoking scientist who herself slips in and out of the brain of a Na’vi double, and has begun to master the language.3

Avatar’s bad guys

We’re introduced early on to the film’s chief villain, Colonel Quoritch—a tough, heavily muscled military-type head of security. The colonel is itching to use force to impose upon (or dispose of) the locals. His swaggering John-Wayne-shoot-‘em-up approach, (coupled with blond crewcut and square jaw) presents a crudely stereotypical caricature of what is allegedly wrong with US militarism. Later in the film, Vietnam echoes become obvious—right down to the sounds and images of futuristic versions of Huey choppers flying low above the jungle and carrying gun-toting grunts. The Pandora equivalents of the ‘gooks’4 within that jungle, the Na’vi, also have massive napalm-reminding flames rained upon them by the invader.

Shock and awe

Other ‘villain themes’ unfold; for one, the greedy multinational corporation driving the operation, in league with the military. The tie-in with Iraq (a more recent US military venture where the boundaries between army and private commercial interests were said to be sometimes blurred) seems intentional, with mention of “shock and awe” and even daisycutter bombs (the colonel tries to use them to punish the locals for resisting).

The deeper theme is of course the historical tendency of technologically advanced societies, in their drive for resources, to use force to impose their will on indigenous cultures, as symbolized by the Na’vi. Such cultures are, in the current version of Rousseau’s5 ‘noble savage’ myth, held to be in a wonderful ecological harmony with nature. Their peoples are supposed to be more innocent and pure than the rapacious greedy inhabitants of western civilization (like the earthlings that come to Pandora having ravaged and destroyed their own planet).6

In tune with nature

We are supposed to get the anti-technology vibes of this deep green religious message while sitting in heavily air-conditioned theatres enjoying the most high-tech movie computer graphics to date.

The moral of the story seems to be that if the citizens of modern hi-tech cultures were to repent from our wicked ways, we might not only be able to avoid further destroying our own natural world, we would also enjoy spiritual wholeness, including a oneness with nature. It seems we are supposed to get the anti-technology vibes of this deep green religious message while sitting in heavily air-conditioned theatres enjoying the most high-tech movie computer graphics to date. To add to the irony, the Avatar marketing machine has no qualms about teaming up with McDonalds. This multinational is a favourite target of environmentalist claims that it causes developing nations to grow more beef by razing, er, forests inhabited by, ah, indigenous people. But back to the film …

In contrast to the military-industrial axis and its blundering plundering, scientist Grace and her team are meant to be the more enlightened, progressive thinkers of their time. They urge more nuanced ways of overcoming native resistance to mining—including allowing more time to let the avatar program attain its goals of engagement and persuasion. Through their science, they have begun to understand the value of Na’vi culture—particularly, the way these forest people relate to the natural world.

The film’s implication is that the Na’vi (the undisputed ‘good guys’ throughout) understand the truth about life, namely that everything has a spirit, and all living things are interconnected into one big whole, which is essentially their ‘mother earth goddess’, Eywa.7 (Grace has even discovered that each tree of Pandora’s forest has electro-chemical connections to many other trees, which together form a massive network, like the synapses of a huge brain. Prince Charles would have loved that part of Avatar.)

Avatar promotes a (not-so-) new evolutionary religion

To retain a sense of the spiritual, once the Bible has been rejected, the creation itself (nature, the universe) has to be imbued with a sense of the ‘divine’.

This blatant push for a return to neo-pagan animism/pantheism in Avatar is a common component of the ‘new religion’ of our evolutionized times. Most people today unfortunately believe that we are an offspring of nature, an effervescence of the universe, not the creation of a miracle-working, prayer-answering, truth-revealing personal God. The logical conclusion to draw from this, if it were true, is to be an outright atheist/materialist like Richard Dawkins. Notions of ‘spirituality’ just arise from evolved mechanisms within our brain. But those like Dawkins, though very much on the rise, are still relatively uncommon. This is probably because most people do not like to face the meaninglessness of this viewpoint. So to retain a sense of the spiritual, once the Bible has been rejected, the creation itself (nature, the universe) has to be imbued with a sense of the ‘divine’. This has triggered a major return to Eastern monistic thinking in the West—mostly in the form of New Age beliefs, even if only at the ‘Oprah’ level of sophistication.8 Such beliefs marry naturally with today’s hyper-environmentalism, and Avatar successfully blends them into a very alluring package. Like other sci-fi ET flicks, it will also, unfortunately, tend to reinforce the belief that ‘aliens’ could have evolved on other worlds, and thus the New Age deception that they are visiting us with messages of peace and salvation.9

Being ‘one’ with nature, Na’vi style

Incidentally, the Na’vi’s ability to commune with nature is greatly helped by a special anatomical device they all possess, in common with many other creatures of their world. It’s sure to make any New Ager envious—a sort of biological USB cable with which to literally ‘connect’ to those other creatures at will and so share their spirits, as it were. It also comes in handy for controlling the beast you happen to be riding. When they are not bounding through the treetops at dizzying heights, or swaying while chanting to their nature-goddess, the Na’vi are either flying astride pterosaur-like creatures, or riding what are meant to remind us of horses (even though these animals live by sucking great slurps of nectar from giant flowers).

At first, Jake sympathizes with the colonel, but not for long. Cut off from his scouting party while in his avatar body, he encounters the world of Pandora’s biology—at once amazing, fascinating and dangerous. The not-so-subtle message is that evolution has generated a whole new array of creatures in response to the different environment of this other world.

He encounters a Na’vi girl, Princess Neytiri, who saves his life and then gradually introduces him to the ways of her kind. He progressively falls in love with her and her ‘people’. Changing sides, avatar-Jake, joined by the progressive scientists, eventually leads the Na’vi in rebellion against the Earth invaders in a final climactic battle. It ends with the nasty earthlings dispatched back to their ecologically ruined home planet minus the (now definitely unavailable) Unobtainium.

Avatar: a rollicking good story

The graphics effects of Avatar are truly stunning; the unearthly biology of Pandora is convincingly real. Regardless of what one might think of the film’s underlying themes, Avatar has all the elements to make a story work, and the way director James Cameron (of Titanic fame) weaves them together, it does work.

Falling in love

Timeless themes abound: evil, in the form of injustice and oppression of the weak by the strong, is triumphed over in the end; romance blossoms despite initial opposition; fantastic discoveries are made; and dangers are met and overcome by the hero and heroine. And of course there’s the final apocalyptic, future-deciding battle of the forces of light and darkness, with ‘good’ finally triumphing. As usual, the battle becomes narrowly focused on a decisive, personal clash between the leaders of the opposing sides. In this case, that means the Colonel and Jake. The former inhabits a giant robot controlled by his movements; the latter inhabits his avatar body that also moves as he wills it to.10

Almost as interesting and diverse as the film itself will be the blogospheric reaction to it, including in the Christian corners of the net. The real world is, of course, far more complex than a struggle between earth-destroying capitalists and tree-hugging pantheists. Christians divide along socio-political lines, too, and where one Christian review will tend to condemn the film for its obvious glorification of paganism, another will seek to defend it by focusing on other aspects more in tune with the Gospel. One can even find those who see deliberate evangelical messages in it (the same happened with Star Wars and Superman); these will attach great significance to such things as the head scientist being called Grace Augustine, and more (see later).

However, any great storyteller will seek to tap into a whole range of motifs and evoke images familiar to the audience, whether biblical or otherwise—and director Cameron does just that. Here’s a quick list, with expanded comments, of the ones I could find and jotted down just after exiting the theatre (I’ve likely missed several). It starts with the biblical ones:

As he explores this biological wonderland with the innocence of a child, Jake’s long blue avatar makes us think of Adam in Eden, especially when he samples an attractive piece of fruit offered to him by his ‘Eve’.

  • Garden of Eden
The lush jungle-forest of Pandora. The name of this moon-planet comes from the Greek myth of Pandora’s box, which, like the Genesis account from which it may even be derived, is about the entrance of evil into an originally innocent, trouble-free world. As he explores this biological wonderland with the innocence of a child, Jake’s long blue avatar makes us think of Adam in Eden, especially when he samples an attractive piece of fruit offered to him by his ‘Eve’. The forest even has its own special tree of spiritual significance, the Tree of Souls. The Eden parallels have limits—things here eat each other, and the Na’vi hunt animals. (OK, they feel sorry for them when they kill them, but it’s probably not much consolation for the prey.)
  • Christ figure
Jake11 is chosen instead of his brother, and ends up rescuing a people. He does so by becoming one of them (as in Christ becoming part of the human race to be our kinsman-redeemer). Also, in the end, Jake becomes ‘born again’ as his avatar.12
  • Romeo and Juliet
The budding romance between Jake’s avatar and the Princess Neytiri is initially disapproved of by both ‘families’; despite his Na’vi features, he is obviously not of the same kind (he can’t even speak the language), let alone of royal blood as she is.
  • Erin Brokovich
The lone crusader who co-opts others in a long struggle against ruthless, environment-destroying corporate power and greed on behalf of its victims, the relatively powerless ‘little people’—finally becoming their triumphant hero.
  • US military excursions vs indigenous resistance
See the comments earlier about Vietnam and Iraq.
  • Mythological forest-dwellers—Pan, satyrs, etc.
To the earthlings inside their base on Pandora, the Na’vi are the mysterious and dangerous ‘people of the forest’—out there somewhere, vaguely threatening yet strangely alluring. Their pointy ear anatomy brings to mind illustrations of the Greek forest legend of Pan (the god playing those pipes) and the related satyrs, albeit minus the horns and body hair. Seeing a Na’vi joined (via the bio-link mentioned earlier) to the ‘horse’ he is riding reminds me of the Greek centaurs, the top of a man emerging from the body of a horse.
  • Braveheart
Jake Sully’s exhortation of his troops before the battle is Mel Gibson’s William Wallace doing the same, down to the blue-painted face.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Well, this one may not have been deliberate, and the imagery wasn’t as surreal as that movie, but it came to mind watching avatar-Jake and the Na’vi leap around and fight in the forest canopy.
  • Custer’s last stand
The ruthless military leader that comes to wipe out the natives, only to be wiped out by them. The idea that indigenous ideology boosts environmental responsibility is especially pervasive in relation to Native Americans. So it’s not surprising that related imagery dominates, with stereotypical ‘Indian’ haircuts, bows and arrows, and ululatory war-whoops among the Na’vi.
  • Pocahontas
The native princess who befriends John Smith (Jake), the outsider from the strange and hostile invader group, and teaches him the ways of her people.

In short, images/motifs derived from or paralleling the Bible are certainly there (which can be useful in discussions). But so are those from lots of other sources, all presumably utilized (‘hijacked’ might be less gracious) to serve the film’s larger aims, namely making money by providing memorable entertainment. At the same time, its makers almost certainly see themselves as doing ‘good’ by strongly pushing the dominant religious vision of our time.

Genesis vs the eco-paganism of Avatar

In this vision, the Bible’s Genesis-based framework of reality is an enemy. People were not made in God’s image, as Genesis declares—they are outgrowths of nature. Since all creatures evolved from organic soup, it’s not just apes and monkeys that are our relatives, but ultimately grasses, worms, fish and fruitflies—all part of one organic whole, all derived from ‘mother Earth’. In this view, the evils and injustices of our world do not arise from human sin and greed so much as they derive from a non-recognition of this biological connectedness. Death is not nice, but it’s not an intruder into perfection, it’s always been there for millions of years. So death is ‘natural’, and when we die, we can look at it, as do the Na’vi, as simply recycling that ‘borrowed energy’ back into the life-chain, or earth-goddess, or whatever one wants to call it.

To the true believers of this vision, the idea that mankind was meant to exercise (responsible) dominion over nature to benefit humanity (Genesis 1:26) is an eco-evil. Those who believe it are, at the least, in urgent need of re-education. This religious emotion is behind at least some of the passion in today’s anti-creationist crusade, which is sometimes so vituperative, that one can see them wishing that we creationists could be ‘shipped out’, like the defeated baddies in Avatar.

Bible believers, no matter how much they might share concerns about the pollution caused by thoughtlessness and greed, can’t come at that whole ‘biological connection, sacred earth’ thing. The pagan concept of the ‘sacred grove’ (shades of the Na’vi swaying and chanting to their nature goddess among the roots of their sacred tree) is foreign to biblical Christianity—it is the God of Creation who is sacred, not the products of His creation, which deserve respect, but not reverence.13

Christian peace vs Avatar peace

Christianity teaches that personal peace will come from peace with God, via the propitiatory sacrifice of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason we need peace with God is all there in Genesis—because our first ancestor introduced enmity between us and Him. But, despite the best efforts and hopes of Miss Universe contestants, total “world peace” will only come as the Curse is removed and God restores the world to the sin-free, deathless perfection that it once lost.

Indigenous peoples are supposed to be more innocent and pure than the rapacious greedy inhabitants of western civilization.

The vision underlying Avatar, conversely, proposes that peace will come increasingly as we accept our place in nature, as an evolved part of the natural order. In that belief system, pagan societies have largely been the victims of the oppressor Christians—whose dysfunctional culture and false beliefs have prevented them from understanding these ultimately superior close-to-mother-nature cultures.

There are grains of truth buried within these caricatures (for example, few would claim that the record of dealings with indigenous peoples by Christians, whether at a national or individual level, has been always exemplary). But these grains of truth only heighten the danger that viewers will have a lowered resistance to accepting various errors, such as believing that a neo-pagan understanding of the world is much closer to the ‘truth’, the alleged ‘biological realities’ revealed by evolutionary science. Or believing that Christianity, rather than having been a huge overall benefit to the world, served instead to delay the onset of some coming golden age of human-nature harmony.

Conclusion

Christians who see Avatar with their ‘worldview glasses’ firmly on (in addition to their 3D ones14) will not just be seeing a brilliant sci-fi film. They can use it wisely to spark some really important discussions about how it links to the great religious and worldview conflicts of our age, of which the Genesis/evolution issue is at the core. This can lead naturally (meaning in an unforced way) to sharing the Gospel about the One who came into the real world, not the fantasy world of Cameron’s Avatar, to rescue us.


Further Reading

References

  1. Not just in appearance, either. Earthlings are unable to survive more than a short time without a portable oxygen supply in Pandora’s rarified atmosphere. Return to text.
  2. The name derives from Hindu religion, where an avatar is a manifestation of one of the gods (e.g. Vishnu)—usually thought of as an illusory form, rather than an actual incarnation. Return to text.
  3. According to media reports, an academic was hired to develop an entire Na’vi language, like Star Trek’s Klingon or the Elvish of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. Return to text.
  4. This was the ethnic slur term used by some US military personnel in Vietnam in a derogatory way to describe the indigenous people—the use here is (hopefully obviously, hence the scare quotes) not to condone the term, but to highlight the way in which the film tried to portray ‘military vs locals’ as ‘baddies vs goodies’—by evoking memories of negative aspects of US involvement in Vietnam. Return to text.
  5. J-J Rousseau, a French Romantic Philosopher, who is credited with the idea of the ‘noble savage’. In this sort of mythos, less technologically advanced societies are more innocent and uncorrupted by the vices and stresses of ‘civilization’. Return to text.
  6. Perhaps ‘Na’vi’ was designed to sound similar to both ‘native’ and ‘naïve’ (as in innocent and unspoilt—or should that be unsullied?Smilies). Here on Earth, evidence suggests that the relative ‘innocence’, both militarily and environmentally, of indigenous low-tech cultures is more likely related to their lesser technological capacity to wage war and exploit the environment than to any moral superiority. Some have wondered whether there is any intended connection to the Hebrew word nabiy, meaning prophet. Return to text.
  7. When Jake tries to ‘pray’ to Eywa for help against the invaders, Neytiri explains to him that Eywa does not take sides in conflicts, the only thing she preserves is “the cycle of life”. This is consistent with the impersonal nature-god of the average evolutionary pantheist. Just to make it interesting, though (or perhaps to further appeal to ‘cultural Christians’), the film implies that maybe their victory was due to Eywa hearing and answering his prayer, after all. Return to text.
  8. Romans 1 contains a solemn reminder of the natural tendency of the unregenerate mind to worship created things, i.e. the creation rather than its Creator. Return to text.
  9. See www.AlienIntrusion.com. Return to text.
  10. The subtext in this showdown seems to be: technological connectedness is bad, biological/spiritual connectedness is good (regardless that it required technology in the first place). More crudely: hi-tech is bad, lo-tech is good. The ‘baddie’ within the transformer-like robot is eventually dispatched by arrows, not missiles. Return to text.
  11. Jake is usually short for Jacob—is this a deliberate invocation of the patriarchal progenitor of God’s chosen people? Return to text.
  12. The Na’vi actually inform Jake, prior to this, that every person can be “born twice”. Return to text.
  13. To the thoughtful Christian, the forest may not be wantonly chopped down at will, but its products may be wisely exploited to alleviate human need. Where to strike the balance is on ongoing wisdom issue for each situation. See Fouling the Nest. Return to text.
  14. This reviewer may have been one of the very few who deliberately went looking for a 2D performance of Avatar (Having lost one eye many years ago, it is not possible for me to see 3D). Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Joseph A., United States, 5 January 2010

As usual, a great breakdown of how we as Christians should view this type of material. While I have not yet seen Avatar, I plan on it, with of course a renewed perspective that this article espouses.

Ken B., Australia, 5 January 2010

Avatar is a Sanskrit word meaning Incarnation. It is in everyday usage in Hindi and Nepali and probably in other languages in the Indian Sub-continent.

On the web, many people are asking why a Hindi word is used as the name for the film. I guess its use just gives the (false) re-incarnation idea a bit more profile, reflecting and encouraging the growing acceptance of that idea in the West. Ironically, people in the West think re-incarnation sounds great, whereas the Hindu and Buddhist would do anything to get off the endless cycle of re-incarnations, with all the pain and suffering and sense of hopelessness it involves.

Carl Wieland wrote back to him:

I was aware that the reason that computer-game avatars are called that is because Hindu deities appeared as avatars. It can be called an ‘incarnation’ of the deity, but is really best expressed in English as a ‘manifestation’ of the deity. More like an illusory appearance, rather than the deity made flesh. So it makes good sense for computer-game illusory characters to be labelled ‘avatars’, and this is probably where the film derives its name from. [A footnote was added as a result of Ken’s email—Ed.]

Probably not quite the same as human spirits being repeatedly made flesh after their death as in ‘re-incarnation’. But in the sense that this is just one more way in which Hindu religious concepts are being pushed, it’s a point to note. And I agree with you totally re the irony in foolish fad-following western embracing of such notions as reincarnation.

Stuart M., Australia, 6 January 2010

I enjoyed the film. I found myself agreeing with much of what you said. Fantastic breakdown of the movie, done by a person with an open mind who sees a movie for what it is. Well done with the review. I hope to read many more!

Johann J., South Africa, 6 January 2010

Brilliant article about James Cameron’s Avatar movie. I saw the movie—and it was great! Must say that the world view glasses really work well and that I’m definitely going to use this opportunity to further God’s kingdom by spreading the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Preston G., United States, 7 January 2010

That was the best movie critique I’ve read in a great long while. Good job! Your analysis of the movie very insightful. THANK YOU!!

Joshua L., Australia, 7 January 2010

This movie is incredible and I loved every minute of it. I read your review and found it very interesting, it made me think about the ways that others may interpret it in a certain framework. So would u recomend the movie to others to watch?

Carl Wieland responds

Thanks very much for your feedback. I tried to give enough information so that Christians can make an informed decision about whether to watch it or not. But I think one can glean from my last paragraph that I was not negative about people seeing it, provided that they have their ‘worldview glasses’ on, in which case they can even use it for good. From some of my other comments, I think it is probably obvious that I enjoyed it too, as you did.

Gavin C., UK, 8 January 2010

Great job with this review! I sent the link to a number of my not-yet-Christian friends who have seen the movie with me, it will help them think biblically rather than with an evolutionary mind set.

Wayne G., Australia, 9 January 2010

What a terrific review. I’ve seen the movie and you put into words a lot of the thoughts that I had about it but expressed in a much more eloquent way than I am capable of. Thanks.

Dallas M., Canada, 10 January 2010

I have not seen this movie and probably won’t. For why would a servant of the Lord Jesus subject themselves to the many misuses of our Kings name? (Psalm 1:1, Exodus 20:7) Not to mention all the other unclean words (Ephesians 5). I mean we would be using the very money that God allots to us and paying someone to corrupt our minds the very thing 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us of. Would it not be like having friends that hate your family, yet you hang out with them. This is unthinkable. But we will go to a theater and pay to watch things that dishonors our great family, and father GOD.

Carl Wieland responds

Thanks for your email. This is of course an ongoing issue for the church and for Christian individuals and families. To what extent can we be both “in the world”, yet not “of the world”? Is the best way to exercise our Christian responsibility to our fellow man (and to fulfil our mandate to reach out, make disciples, etc) to isolate ourselves and our families from the popular culture entirely, or to be able to engage the culture head on by understanding it, analyzing it, utilizing it, etc. (provided that it does not involve frank immorality on our parts, of course)? I don’t think it’s a simple black and white issue with glib answers. It’s why, while stating how good a job the film’s makers had done in their storytelling, I encouraged Christians to see it with their worldview glasses firmly on. The whole point of doing the review was because many Christians will either see it and/or be in contact with people who have. The hope is that the insights can be used for the glory of God.

I recall being strongly affected by the late Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, who used art, even the lyrics of popular music, to help him understand what the culture was saying, thinking, how they saw life, eternity, mankind, the divine and so on. This then meant that his writings to try to reach them were far more relevant and effective. In my experience, his books were instrumental in the conversion of a number of people I know. His own walk with the Lord gave no evidence that he was in any way tainted by the culture he sought to understand and to reach. Rather, it gave him an even greater heart to reach them with the truth of the gospel. (Unfortunately, it seems he never really resolved the ‘long-age and Genesis’ issue satisfactorily), his legacy would have been many times more powerful if he had).

Having said that, one has to be careful not to use such arguments as some sort of ‘carte blanche’ or ‘open slather’ for any amount of entertainment-imbibing. It can easily be an excuse for “Let me have my fun, and who cares about the potentially corrosive influences of Hollywood?” These are not easy times nor do I see easy answers, and it is probably a matter of ‘case by case’. There are good Christian websites that do reviews of movies, we have chosen to do this one only because of its special relevance to our ministry. You will notice that we left it to individuals and families to make their own choice, hopefully helped by the information.

Timothy F., Singapore, 10 January 2010

Very good article. Some other things of relevance to Christianity in the movie which I wish to mention are the following:

1) I’m not the only one to notice that the name of the Avatar deity seems very close to and appears like it might have originated from the name of God translated as LORD in the KJV Old Testament. (But I’m not sure how to check this.)

2) In the Avatar movie, Jake goes through a gradual process of initiation into the Navi tribe. First he meets the princess, learns the way of life of the tribe, and goes through a sort of ceremony in the process. BUT he doesn’t actually get FULLY transferred to the Navi body until right at the end of the movie. This seems very similar to Christianity where there are about one or two events of special significance first (accepting the Lord, and baptism) and then the rest of Christian life tends to be quite gradual and slow, but finally, at the end, one gets a new glorified body at the resurrection. The sequence somewhat parallels the Avatar movie.

3) Jake was paralyzed and therefore his human life was not perfect. Christians also recognize the inherent imperfections in the current life and thus yearn for the brighter future that God has promised to us. Jake even chose to continue with the Navi tribe despite having an offer from the Colonel to get his legs back.

4) You can say the Avatar deity CHOSE Jake by giving the sign where the seeds of the Tree of Souls landed on him. Likewise in Christianity, Christians are predestined and chosen by God.

Carl Wieland responds

Many thanks for your email. You make some interesting points. “Eywah” is somewhat close to Yahweh, or Yehovah; probably too close to be a coincidence, but another way in which the film’s makers are taking familiar elements to make the film and its message resonate more in the culture.

Jeiel S., Netherlands, 17 January 2010

In my opinion, the story is powerful precisely because it resonates with our human condition.

The Na’vi are sinless creatures in Paradise, living in close fellowship (direct contact) with their God, Eywa. Nobody dies, since they live on with Eywa. When sin intrudes, Eywa provides a redeemer and, ultimately, it is Eywa who brings victory.

If the Na’vi had been portrayed as lying, stealing, cheating and murdering creatures (as we humans are), the story would not work.

C.S. Lewis said that, in our hearts, we have never desired anything else than heaven. Pandora embodies the heaven of our desires.

From your review, I had expected many evolutionary references, but found none in the movie: no remarks on how Pandora’s biology had evolved.

Eywa, having much more neurons than humans, is portrayed as a supreme intelligence who manages life on Pandora. Perhaps she intelligently designed Pandoran life? How else would every creature be able to connect to her.

And if the Na’vi were just evolved pond scum, they would not be worth saving.

Carl Wieland responds

Thank you for your email. Yours is an interesting take, and perfectly reasonable. One of the things I was trying to get across is that biblical themes are there, but are simply part of the story-teller’s art, i.e. the film was not made by Christians trying to make a biblical parable or a hidden gospel message. All great timeless themes, as you put it so well, ‘resonate with our human condition’, I suggest that if it were not so, they would not be such recurring, classical motifs.

Re evolutionary references—I would have been surprised if there had been any; evolution is just assumed these days in most sci-fi films, overt references would tend to look corny, as if one was restating the obvious.

I see it more like this: our age, our culture, is thoroughly ‘evolutionized’, so that certain themes that assume an evolutionary worldview are just there permeating everything. At the same time, we have those universal spiritual longings. The Bible-believing Christian believes that they reflect our human condition because of the Fall. (Which is one way of explaining why we ‘resonate’ with certain redemption themes, as you have eloquently pointed out). The committed atheist materialist explains them in purely materialistic terms. But the vast majority just sort of blend evolutionary beliefs together with their spirituality-yearnings in a quasi-mystical New-Agey way. And of those, some, instead of understanding or accepting the hopelessness that a Darwinian (and hence materialistic) worldview brings with it, actually try to infuse a basically evolutionary view of reality with some sort of hope, some sort of redemption. That can be through group redemption, or through environmental salvation, or the whole cosmos reaching some sort of ‘omega point’ of evolution, as Teilhard de Chardin put it in his writings. TdC has been called the ‘father of the New Age’, and his spiritual/evolutionary/monistic philosophy permeated a film that was made towards the end of last century-one that was all about an evolutionary/spiritual worldview, but did not mention evolution. It was 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it so happens that I read just today that this was the film which director of Avatar, James Cameron, states was the most influential of all on his thinking.

Suz B., New Zealand, 19 January 2010

In reading this review what stood out to me the most, is the pagan naturistic beliefs the entire film is based upon. In which case how can it be beneficial to watch or dwell upon something that is not God glorifying but in fact focuses on the negative. By studying God’s word we will be able to recognise a counterfeit, so why spend time studying something for “conversations” sake. The Gospel should be able to stand on it’s own feet, it doesn’t need us to introduce it softly by comparison to a worldly movie. Honestly I was disappointed with this review. I feel that all it achieves is an argument to make those who ‘want’ to watch this movie feel justified.

1 John 1:15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

I know that I should consider this more carefully in decisions I make in what I watch or spend my time on, it is an exhortation to love the Lord and don’t we always need reminding of that in our fickle human nature! Please feel encouraged, this is not a personal criticism, rather serious food for thought and prayer.

God Bless,

Suz

Carl Wieland responds

Thanks for your email Suzie. This is always a tough line to walk, I suppose. To be in the world, yet not of it, and not loving it. One has to always examine one’s heart motives. And you’re right, we do need constant reminders.

Re the gospel standing on its own feet, in one sense the answer is ‘of course’, but what do we mean by that? Paul himself used wise tactics, for example when he addressed the crowd at Mars Hill, he used their cultural icons to weave his gospel story, even quoting one of their poets. If he had been totally ignorant of their culture and beliefs, he would humanly speaking not have had the impact he had. At the least, we can feel safe in using the same approach as is set out for us in the NT by the great Apostle—so long as we are not using that as an ‘excuse’, as you rightly remind.

Thanks once again for the feedback.

Tania M., Australia, 19 January 2010

I saw this with my husband and we both enjoyed it! As Christians it made us excited at the thought of how beautiful Pandora is—“man made” then imagine what Heaven will be like—made by our wonderful God!!

As far as not spending your money to go to the theatre that God has allotted you (previous entry) I think that is a shame— I think God would like His children to be able to relate to those that do not know Him in talking about this movie…. it is predicted to win many awards-even perhaps the most ever for a movie!

Honestly think of the wonderful ways God can use you to witness if you allow Him too. If ever there was a movie to talk about Creation, Heaven, Spirituality or Love then this movie is it!!

Ivan H., Australia, 19 January 2010

Thank you for the good critique. I saw the movie and amongst all these green/pantheistic over/undertones I felt particularly uncomfortable when the Navi were worshipping their ‘Gaia’ planet goddess/god. Is this respectful of the almighty God? Should we watch this movie?

Noelene H., Australia, 19 January 2010

I have not seen Avatar and have no desire to do so. When I was very young I was very confused seeing people transformed into animals in movies (not knowing if it were true) so today still I find such, revolting. We were made in the image of God and as Christians, are being conformed into His image, taking on His Divine Nature. Satan is taking unsuspecting unbelievers down an opposite road calling it ‘entertainment’.

Carl Wieland responds

Many thanks for taking the trouble to comment, I appreciate it.

I can understand how it would seem. I recall being very disturbed when a youngster at the boys in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio turning into donkeys. The issue you raise is a tough one for which I don’t have easy answers. Satan can use the effects of such a movie, for sure. We have been encouraged by reports of people using their knowledge of the film, with the appropriate ‘worldview glasses’ on, for witnessing to their unsaved friends, who would not otherwise talk about spiritual issues.

Eli P., Australia, 19 January 2010

The movie is a great spectacle, though, as long as we Christians adamantly put the word of God as final authority, in its rightful contexts we will not be deceived by any subliminal messages. I believe Jesus warned us about signs and wonders being performed to deceive people, even the very elect in God (Matthew 24:24). Could these types of movies with half truths inside them be the very seeds of deception Jesus warned us of. A note of caution is, movies that appear to be Godly and true in half may seem right, however remember that a half truth is also a half lie.

Like all movies, one must view them with a Godly mindset as a guard against any subtle demonic devices, and some movies (with obvious ratings) should be avoided altogether.

Pastor David C., Australia, 19 January 2010

The wikipedia article at mentions Avatar and seems to give some understanding of the “Pandora” worldview taught in the Avatar film. Not that I agree with it.

Peter W., United Kingdom, 19 January 2010

I saw Avatar and enjoyed it and thought most of the remarks in the article were very much along the lines of my interpretation but the real message I got from it is that it is easy to hate people you do not know. Jews hated Samaritans in the Old Testament, Nazis hated Jews, Americans hate Vietnamese (Goos) Arabs (Ragheads) etc. In the end the film is not that complex and the idea that it can evangelise animism is stretching the limit of credulity. If I had to live on earth or Pandora as they were portrayed I would settle for Pandora.

Carl Wieland responds

Many thanks for your email feedback on the review. I agree that that was one of the film’s many messages.

Pandora is obviously meant to also have overtones of Utopia, a desirable place to live in harmony, with fewer problems, less conflict. As indicated, mine was a ‘back of the tissue paper’ list of the possible themes.

Like you, I don’t think it was overly complex. Simple, powerful ideas influence people, not complicated ones. None of the basic themes running through great literature are complex. But it can take a lot of complex-sounding words to unravel them somewhat. I enjoyed the film and am appreciating the subsequent feedback, including yours. Thanks again for bothering to comment.

Ruth W., United Kingdom, 19 January 2010

I have not seen this film, and actually I had not heard of it until I read the article. I shall not be seeing it , as I cannot understand why any true believer would want to waste time and money. I should not wish to watch it on TV either. As none of us know when the Lord will call us home, I prefer to avoid any place that I should not want to be at that moment. I try to ask myself if what I am about to do or see is edifying, if not I leave it out. Call me rigid , if you like, but at least I have peace in my heart.

Jim W., United States, 20 January 2010

One thought I would like to add to your great review of the movie. It is how when one group of people wants to justify taking what another group of people has, they demonize the other group. This fabrication has been used to justify destroying another people group instead of trying to connect with that culture. Even those who have called themselves “Christians” have been guilty of using this ploy.

Jeannette P., United Kingdom, 20 January 2010

Thank you for an interesting and thought-provoking article.

Your response to Dallas M. from Canada, re being in the world and not of it, reminded me of Daniel.

Unlike us, he had no choice about being steeped in a pagan environment and being taught the “wisdom” of Babylon. But he knew exactly where God wanted him to draw the line. He could study the occult arts with all the other young boys forcibly taken into exile; and somehow kept his own spirit pure and attuned only to the Holy Spirit of the true God. Yet he would not “defile himself” (KJV) by eating meat and wine offered to idols. He could be “in” this pagan world, and learn to survive spiritually. But to actually become “OF” it, by symbolically taking it into himself through the act of eating, he could not do. As Paul said, we can’t drink of the Lord’s cup and the cup of idols.

Amy Carmichael wrote of a young Indian girl who heard just a tiny part of the Gospel (there was no time for more)but responded with all her heart. Her family persecuted her because she refused after that to have “Siva’s ashes” put on her forehead (the sign of belonging to the god Siva). There were some other parts of the Hindu feasts and ceremonies that she felt unable to join, and would quietly go outside until they finished. But others she could enjoy with no problem.

She knew almost nothing, yet the Spirit taught her to walk that narrow way in the wholly pagan society where she lived. She knew that she belonged to the true and living God of whom she’d heard, and could now worship and submit to no other.

Re this film, I agree that this is an individual decision— for some it might even be spiritually dangerous to watch. To others it could be a witnessing tool.

So, for those of us who haven’t yet seen this film let’s make absolutely sure if the Lord is giving us permission to go. For some, (including myself) it could be TOO enjoyable and fascinating for safety.

Mary M., United States, 20 January 2010

Thoughtful review. Believers of The Lord Jesus Christ must use the Christian plumb line and ask: What of this understands the nature of God?

Preston C., United States, 20 January 2010

Stumbled upon this on another website. I wanted to provide a counterpoint if you’re open to hearing it. Writings like this are what frustrate those of us who are agnostic.

For starters, in the “review”, the majority of time is spent using the movie to argue that this or that is what secularists believe. Then you knock those straw men down with your beliefs. This may be effective for information a Christian how to look at a piece of art and not stray from the flock, but otherwise it comes off as very “us against them.” It comes off as you trying very hard to show how ridiculous we non-religious are. Willing to even take a movie and claim that it’s somehow representative of our worldview (as if we even have a collective one).

Secondly, you walk right by one of the things many of us have the biggest problem with.

“The reason we need peace with God is all there in Genesis—because our first ancestor introduced enmity between us and Him. But, despite the best efforts and hopes of Miss Universe contestants, total “world peace” will only come as the Curse is removed and God restores the world to the sin-free, deathless perfection that it once lost.”

I know this is what you believe, but it’s one of the main beliefs that makes Christianity a non-starter for many of us. It’s hard to swallow that an all powerful, omniscient god would create the world and all its creatures and then when one makes a mistake, mark the whole species as flawed for all of eternity.

I’ve heard some Christians say that what you miss if you don’t embrace Jesus is the understanding of what it is to be loved by your creator and all that entails. That to me has always seemed to make more sense. It’s a much more positive message.

On the other hand, Original Sin just ends discussions. No point in trying to convince me I’m missing out on the love of my creator if my creator is vindictive.

Carl Wieland responds

Thanks for your feedback. It sounds to me as if you’re trying to tailor the gospel to what you want it to be, rather than what is. Someone in a different context said ‘Reality sucks. Get used to it.’

Seriously, though, you may be mistaken in your understanding of the cosmic drama of creation/Fall/redemption. First, the Creator did not write the whole of humanity off. Right there in Eden we read of the promise of redemption (Gen 3:15). Secondly, the Fall was foreknown of God, perhaps not so much a ‘test’ as simply the only way to assure a true love relationship for all eternity. (Love must always involve the possibility of rejection of love, or it is not a free choice.) There’s much more to say on that, but perhaps that will get you exploring our site a bit longer to find out some of the things we have written on that.

Matthew H., Australia, 20 January 2010

Thanks heaps for a brilliant review! It’s encouraging to read something so well balanced. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film with my wife, kids and a friend. As we walked back home discussion revolved around the apparent underlying themes such as the worship of creation and so on. Conversation however returned back to how great our personal God is, and that He is to be worshipped as the creator of all things. Thanks God for salvation freedom and liberty. It was a great film for many reasons, but how much greater is Jesus. Thanks again for your review. Mattsmiley)

Egil W., Norway, 20 January 2010

Thank you Dr Wieland for a balanced review of Avatar. I saw it last week, and I think you`re right about the sort of elements blended into the story (Pocahontas, Romeo & Juliet, Christ-hero etc). I regard it as very New-Age, very eco-neo-pagan in its underlying message. Of course it may be that these elements are to be regarded as story-telling devices, more than “preaching”, but I still feel that the heart of this film is essentially pagan. When that is said, I think Christians should read your review, keep what you`ve said in mind, and go and see Avatar…to be informed. Perhaps some day in the future there will be come a long some Christian filmmaker that makes a multimillion dollar special effects film of Genesis, that captures the emotional and human impact of this fantastic and historical piece of literature! Keep on your good work. Blessings from Egil W., Norway

Sam W., Kenya, 20 January 2010

I agree with Preston G’s contention about this being the best movie review he’s yet seen. Me too. It’s a fair assessment of a movie, with that bit about New Age teaching permeating all through the production.

Technologically, the movie’s as good a production as any by David Cameron (Titanic and others). I would also like incorporation of a common religious teaching and fallacy, reincarnation. Recycling of the “life force” in any individual is a common teaching of Oriental religion and this should be highlighted-together with the associated problems e.g. how come human numbers increase, not decrease or remain constant.

A good review, and enjoyable read too. God bless.

Ann C., South Africa, 20 January 2010

I saw the movie and thoroughly enjoyed it, but then Sci-fi is a favourite genre of mine. Your review was insightful, as a Christian I need to focus on a point that I feel was lost in the commentary-God orders us in Genesis to “take care of our world”, and the desruction that us as humans are causing our world is not going to be overlooked by God. Yes salvation and everlasting life is for those who have accepted Christ as their saviour, but it does not negate our respsonsibilities as inhabitants of this planet and I think to confuse a concern for nature and activism to preserve the planet on which we live, is ignoring God’s instruction in Genesis.

Carl Wieland responds

Many thanks for forwarding your feedback on this review. I actually agree with you about our responsibilities. One can only focus on so much in an article of limited length, but that was basically the reason I added my footnote 13 in the review-I would particularly commend the article the footnote links to, Fouling the Nest. I wrote it quite a few years ago, but I think the basic stewardship principles it espouses are unchanging.

PS For your convenience, this link will take you straight to the footnote 13 in question.

S.M. ., United States, 20 January 2010

Just received your review of the Avatar movie. Please remove me from your email/mailing lists and I will no longer be buying any of your products. No Christian could write the type of review, as you did, on this movie. Your organization is obviously apostate.

Michael H., Australia, 21 January 2010

I was expecting the article to be heavily anti-Avatar, and was gladly surprised to find an incredibly balanced analysis and assessment. I saw the movie in 2D but with my Biblical Worldview filters firmly intact. The animation is stunning and something to behold, it spoke to me of the great creativity of the Father and how He has given different talents in different amounts to different people. The makers of the movie are clearly talented in animation. As for the pro-environmentalism themes and New Age religion … I expected those, so was not dismayed.

Harold T., United States, 29 January 2010

I am totally shocked at the positive review of this movie. How can you be positive about a movie that has around 50 cuss words (10 taking my Holy God’s name in vain), nudity (even if it is animated), reeks with new age tones (we are one with nature), and has no comparison to Christianity. I am always amazed at how Christians give Hollywood a free pass on everything they make. It’s like it’s more important to be entertained that it is to take a stand for God. Unbelievable! Most surveys show that Christians spend about 60% to 70% of the money paid for movie tickets, and about 75% to 80%; or more, of the movies made are full of filth (pg-13 or r). Isn’t that a oxymoron. It’s unfortunate that we listen more to man’s words than we do to God’s Word. No wonder the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not growing, no wonder that 75% of our teenage kids that go to church leave the church after they graduate high school, no wonder Christians are so passive about sin. We have made sin and righteousness very weak words. We have mixed the world with the church and made it weak. God Forgive us. We are far from striving to be holy, but striving more to be popular.

The Bible tells us both sweet and bitter water don’t come out of the same fountain. I really don’t think this movie has any Christian values in it. It’s just Hollywoods way of putting a little sugar on top of their immorality. God doesn’t need a movie full of sin to help his ministry. God’s Word has all the power it needs. There was, also, mention of Daniel and Paul in a couple of the responses, trying to make positive points to justify having watched the movie. Well, since he was taken into captivity, Daniel didn’t have! a choice of where he was at and some of the materials he was forced to read and study. It’s quite different being forced into a certain environment and choosing to be a certain place and watching what you choose. He trusted God and did not sin. And Paul did use his surroundings and observations of the Athenians to make a point about who God is and to describe Him, but he didn’t mix foul language, nudity, and nature to make his point. God’s word can surfice on it’s own, without the help of Hollywood. I know my unpopular thoughts are in the minority, but I will never believe that God would watch this movie or endorse this movie. God teaches us to abhor that which is evil. And this movie is full of it.

Carl Wieland responds

Thank you for your feedback, it is appreciated.

Ironically, some believers criticized us for criticizing the movie, others for praising it. I think that underscores the point that our review was meant to be analytical overall, highlighting both the good and the bad points. (I didn’t think that people needed reminding that coarse language is ‘par for the course’ for Hollywood today, unfortunately.) But overall, I don’t think that this approach can fairly be described as a ‘free pass’.

The bottom line is that this will be a blockbuster and therefore have a major impact on the culture, regardless of what we would personally prefer. The hard biblical balancing act is to be in the world (i.e. separate) while not of it. Our examples should be Christ (who did not isolate Himself from what unbelievers were doing) and the Apostles. If we are to engage the culture as the apostles did (2 Corinthians 10:5), tearing down the world’s philosophical pretensions, then the hope is that the review will assist believers in doing so. You may be interested (if you haven’t already done so) in checking out the very broad range of reader’s comments.

Harold T. objected:

With all due respect, I couldn’t help but to respond back to your e-mail. Saying this is not a free pass is like saying 100 mph winds aren’t damaging. The chance of Christians holding Hollywood responsible for the content they put in movies are slim to none. I think anytime a person does not think it’s important that God’s name to be taken in vain, sorry, that person has become desensitized to a commandment God wrote with his own finger. I’m amazed that people will pay to go to a theater and watch actors (who totally do not care about and despises Christianity), talk filthy about our Lord. As a matter of fact Hollywood goes out of it’s way to show how it feels about Christians. If I came into your house and started taking God’s name in vain and using other cuss words around your family you would probably ask me to quit or to leave. You probably 1st would witness to me about the Lord (and that‘s a good thing), but if I didn’t stop what would you do. Let me to continue talking around your family like that? But on the other hand, is it ok for you to watch Avatar in your home (I’m not saying you watched it your own home) with the same filthy language in it. Plus, you had to pay for the privilege to hear the cuss words in Avatar at your own home, when I could of said them to you for free (just using myself as an example). And when anyone walks into a theater to watch a movie, they do it of free choice. Then they are answerable to what they watch and hear.

Trying to compare going to this movie (or any other movie) to the environment Jesus was in, is a weak point. Where ever Jesus went he was doing the work of the Father. He wasn’t sitting there being influenced by the immorality of that day. He wasn’t trying to be entertained. He didn’t put himself in any place where there was nudity, filthy talk, drunkenness, sex, or other immorality without telling the people there about God and the kingdom of heaven. Did anyone stand up and try to witness to anyone while the movie was going on. No? That’s the difference in what Jesus would do. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I may be) but there’s no scripture where Jesus put himself in the situation like this. I just don’t think Jesus would just sit there and take in a movie like this. God tells us not to let evil things come before our eyes (and I‘m sure he means, also, what we listen to), it’s not pleasing to him. I’m afraid that the media (of all types including Hollywood) has done more damage to Christians minds, and hearts, than almost anything in our society. And yet we still defend it.

And one other point, I don’t have to see the movie to be able to tell others about the love of Jesus. Usually people talk about the movies they see, so the opportunities are many to share God’s love. In my humble opinion if you are sitting and enjoying a movie like this one, you are enjoying the world. Don’t be surprised at the negative influence this and other movies have on our minds, especially our kids. I really don’t think the apostles would watch something with filth in it just to be able to tear down the world’s philosophical pretensions, they would only need the Word Of God. I don’t have to do the things the world does to be effective. Just remember, paying to enjoy sin is one thing (choice), living in a sinful world is another (life).

Sorry about being long-winded and pointed. I am only a sinner saved by grace. I just don’t think you give food to a baby and put poison in it, and expect the baby to stay healthy. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. God Bless.

Carl W.’s reply:

Thanks once again, it’s good to be able to obtain a bit more information about where you are coming from. I can understand what you say about desensitization, it is a very real issue. And I agree that it’s not easy to extrapolate the situation from Jesus’ times to nowadays, i.e. what would Jesus have done in a moviegoing society? One can put an argument for many possibilities, but I don’t know how one would determine it with any absolute certainty. Would He have stood up in a crowded theatre and blasted the audience? And if so, is that how He would have had His followers behave? What makes it more difficult is that there are things which He had the authority to do without sinning, such as driving/whipping moneychangers out, for example.

There are many reviews that mention the bad language, our specialty area concerns worldview, particularly in relation to Genesis/creation/evolution. The more deadly poison (especially since many Christians have trained themselves to ‘filter/block’ the bad language of Hollywood, for better or for worse) may be in the subtle antiChristian worldviews that are being transmitted, which is what I was trying to highlight.

Thank you once again.

Ray N., Australia, 30 January 2010

Good review. We shouldn’t expect a movie designed to make a lot of money and entertain the masses to be overtly Christian-orientated. I watched the movie more for the 3D visual effects than the storyline anyway. And aside for the storyline, it should be noted that James Cameron waited years for technology to reach the point that he could film in 3D. It is a bit of reverse engineering, cos it’s our brain that then converts what we see into 3D in our mind. As a software engineer, I find it amazing how our brain converts 2-slightly offset images into 3D. Can’t imagine how evolution could ever ‘create’ this ability.

Carol G., Australia, 5 February 2010

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, (CMI)

I was quite taken back by the need for the lengthy and unnecessary splurge on the film Avatar. Any discerning Christian would recognise the demonic element in this film—which I note was not even mentioned on the comments re Carl’s review.

His misuse of the term “In the world but not of it” to justify the seeing of the movie and then using it as an evangelical tool was equally appalling.

My main concern with this review is that particularly young or immature Christians would be exposed to such an intense movie that could so easily cause an attachment of demonic deception. So much of mainstream Christianity today is already awash with deception. Creative streams of error (often in the guise of a just a movie) are quite obviously intended to lead into an ocean of deception—preparing the world to accept a universal religion. I would only hope you intend a follow up and warn people of the impending deception already gathering great momentum, and about which many Christians seem totally clueless.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 partic. v 22.

Yours in Him

Carol G.

Rick A., Australia, 6 February 2010

Regarding S.M.’s comments on 20/01/2010, I would like to say that although I don’t think it is beneficial to be watching certain movies, (I myself rarely watch movies), but to call this organization “apostate” is ridiculous. The many articles that I have read C.M.I. have always asserted that the Bible is our starting place, which clearly states that God created a world 6,000 years ago with animals reproducing after their kind, not the alleged millions of years, the big bang or one animal changing into another, etc.. The Bible is our yardstick by which we are to measure everything and although this article is my least liked article, please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, because the apostate church is alive and well BUT it is not C.M.I. but the ones who twist scripture to make it say what they want. Keep up the good work.

Peter J., Canada, 7 February 2010

What a GREAT Avatar comment site. Thank you for your wonderful and heartfelt insights into this film. The first time I saw the movie I had no idea of its content, but as a Christian I resonated the most with the redemptive pattern seen in the life of Jake’s character. After reading the comments section I was a little mortified when I realized I could not remember any swear words. As for the nudity (quite subtle actually), I see NOTHING offensive to God in how in some semi-nude features where incorporated into this film.

As a man who ministers to youth, (ages 11-14) every Sunday, I am even more excited after reading your web article, as I will be taking about 12 kids with me to see this movie soon. What an opportunity to discuss what it means to be a Christian and use this film as a tool to support their walk with Christ. I can’t wait for the discussion we will have after the movie, and your website and comments has really helped me organize some great topics. Yes the power of Gods word does not need any “assistance” from a movie with sinful elements. Nor is there anything in this movie Christians need to avoid or be afraid of. I will use this movie to reinforce God’s claims, his truth and his reality in their lives, and as such how it is imperative that we armour our childrens hearts against false teachings. Living in this world as ones “set apart” does not indulge us the luxury of NOT risking exposing them, in a controlled manner, to aspects of our secular culture. This is a great movie to encourage Christian tweens and teens to delve deeper into the reality of Christ in their lives, and a powerful tool to help them understand and speak about God to their secular friends.

Awesome website, Thank you!

Richard J., Australia, 9 February 2010

This was a good review of the movie that I have finally got around to seeing. I will say to start with that it was entertaining and a good story, though I have been a SciFi fan for many years. I will also state up front that I am writing as an agnostic, though have read the bible and attended church in years gone by. My reasons for leaving are not relevant to this discussion.

One thing I do take issue with is your comment that it suggests aliens could have evolved on other worlds. The movie doesn’t outwardly suggest evolution, any more than what we observe around us here implies evolution over creationism.

So if we assume an omnipotent God who created the whole universe we can see, what is to say that he didn’t create life on other planets-that may or may not be in our image or live the way we do. I find it a little egocentric to assume that an omnipotent universal being who can do anything sees humanity as his highest achievement. An unlimited creator could have created many races on many worlds, all different. After all, if you are going to create a universe why leave the rest of it empty apart from this one planet we happen to call home?

Carl Wieland responds

Many thanks for your feedback. I hear you, but I would stand by my comment that

“Like other sci-fi ET flicks, it will also, unfortunately, tend to reinforce the belief that ‘aliens’ could have evolved on other worlds, and thus the New Age deception that they are visiting us with messages of peace and salvation.”

Regardless of whether the film overtly mentions evolution or not, the whole notion of life on other planets is largely driven by (and in turn then reinforced by) the sci-fi genre (which many of us are also fans of, btw). Even the menagerie of Star Wars, though not overtly evolutionary, begs the question of ‘whence all these strange beings’ and of course there are only two possible answers; made by God or self-made (evolved). Since most people are more in tune with the latter, this is how they will tend to take it. Those who are familiar with the Bible’s account of God creating would often be aware that the idea of life on other planets is not compatible with the Bible’s grand sweep of creation/redemption - for an explanation see Did God create life on other planets?. I would be interested to see how you find that article, which seeks to present a view consistent with biblical revelation.

Of course, I realize that you are referring to some hypothetical omnipotent being; we are on about the God of the Bible. For what it is worth, if an omnipotent being had created the universe, including feeling, communicating human beings, it seems highly likely that he would have communicated in some way something of the purpose of it all. The Bible is really the ‘only game in town’ when it comes to being a candidate for such a revelation (I could go into details about the way other ‘holy books’ either were derivatives of the Bible or in other ways seem to not qualify, but others have done a good job of that repeatedly and the arguments are fairly well known).

Max Z., United States, 13 August 2011

The article, extolling the excitement of the movie, and more-or-less white-washing it, I fear ends up exposing tender minds to blasphemous language, et al… as shown in this response:

[Max then cited the first part of the response of Peter J., above, ending at the point where he says: “As a man who ministers to youth, (ages 11–14) every Sunday, I am even more excited after reading your web article, as I will be taking about 12 kids with me to see this movie soon.”]

VERY SAD AND DANGEROUS!

Carl Wieland responds

I can well understand where you are coming from, though I think ‘whitewash’ may miss the point and perhaps is a little unfair.

As a Christian, one often walks a fine line in such matters, which frequently involve the application of competing principles where all are derived from scriptural teaching. Does one simply say of such a popular culture item, in effect, “This is evil trash, don’t see it”—or does one attempt to give an honest review that, while pointing out the worldview and false religion issues, gives credit where it is due for such things as served to make this a cinematic masterpiece, such as the technology and the storytelling?

I don’t claim anything but fallenness and fallibility in making such judgements, and we welcome well-motivated commentary, even where we might think it fails to understand the ‘why’ of any particular approach in a given article.

I would gently suggest that, especially given the fact that such a hugely popular movie would almost certainly have been seen by these young people anyway, the youth worker who made the comment was not exposing the kids to any additional ‘danger’. In fact, the opposite. It would have made it more likely that they could stand firm against the torrent of similar propaganda with an anti-biblical agenda which is coming at them from all directions, by seeing it more via biblical worldview ‘glasses’.

Max Z. replies:

All I would like is for the gentleman who intends to take young children to see the movie, is that he would be getting permission from the parents, and that they would be informed about the movie’s content. I know I would not have wanted my four children to see it. I don’t have the reference, but scripture advises not to set our eyes on things that are not wholesome, that to do so exposes the mind to … lost the thought, but perhaps you have read that verse.

My final thought is that within the critique, perhaps you might have suggested that the film is for adults, and that it is not being recommended for children. It’s possible such a simple phrase would have caused the man/pastor? not to think of bringing children to the movie.

I very much enjoy your TV talks, and I have purchased Creation magazine for my various grandchildren.

To which Carl Wieland writes:

I understand about the permission; I suppose I sort of presumed that any youth worker in a church would get parental permission. And yes, it would have been useful to make those points, I agree. We’ll arrange to post your comments and this below the others.

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