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February 26, 2010

Avatar: 'The most satanic film I've ever seen'

So says Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll of James Cameron's sci-fi adventure

In a recent sermon, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church, denounced Avatar as "the most demonic, satanic movie I've ever seen."

Driscoll denounced its "demonic paganism" and its portrayal of a "false Jesus" and a "false heaven." He also took issue with the film's depiction of "connecting, literally, with trees and animals and beasts and birds." Driscoll also said, "That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me."

Well, count me and many of my friends among them. Did James Cameron take a "Christian worldview" into this imaginative, fictional world? Nope. But did I find it "overtly demonic"? Heck no -- and even on the contrary. I saw some distinctly Christian themes in the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation, and even a model for missions. (Driscoll even takes our review to task in his sermon.)

Taking Driscoll to task, Houston Chronicle faith-and-art blogger Menachem Wecker, in a post titled "Does God Hate Blue People?", writes, "I don't think that Driscoll is correct that the Na'vi are demonic or that the film is demonic. If anything, Avatar should be applauded for celebrating a spiritual approach to life." He also notes that he was "struck" by the film's "Christian undertones."

In a post titled "How Not to Exegete Culture: Driscoll, Satan, and Avatar," the Children's Ministry and Culture blog elaborates on four mistakes that Driscoll made in his attack:

1) Misunderstand or Oversimplify What the Author is Saying; 2) Not Letting the Author’s Universe Exist on Its Own Terms; 3) Choose Combat Over Conversation; and 4) Failing to Find the Redeemable in the Movie. Read their explanations of these mistakes here.

Here's the part of Driscoll's sermon that is drawing so much attention:

Related Tags: Avatar


This is part of Driscoll's MO. I appreciate many things about him; his seriousness about scripture, his real desire to reach people, etc. But there have been a number of cases when he has given similar responses to cultural items without a lot of thought, and sometimes without even reading/watching them.

I concur Adam. Not much else I can say on this.

I can see both sides here.

Thinking of interviews and things I have read about James Cameron, I believe he would have more sympathy with the eastern ideas that Driscoll speaks of than with Christianity. To that extent, I believe some of the observations Mark made are neither accidental nor without merit.

On the other hand, "the most satanic" designation is rather hyperbolic. Also, I can understand that a discerning Christian could appreciate themes of self-sacrifice, respect for culture, God's omnipresence, etc. I certainly can appreciate other religions' moral principles or stands made for issues I share without approving their faith as true.

Perhaps we would do well to watch Avatar with discernment and see its popularity as an opportunity to engage others thoughtfully about biblical truth.

AVATAR's 89% movie cliches and new age mumbo jumbo. But Driscoll critiques the film like a Hammerhead Titanothere in a china shop.

I completely agree with Driscoll. My 15 yr old son who is not a sheltered child but does have some solid worldview training was spiritually uncomfortable within minutes. Your supporting resources above are meaningless really unless we have a better understanding of their worldview

Thanks so much for mentioning my post! I think you summed up all the relevant issues very well in this piece. Looking forward to reading future posts.

"Distinctly Christian themes in the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation, and even a model for missions"?? That's strange. As one who was converted from Buddhism, I actually thought these were elements of my old religion. What's truly distinctly Christian is God's unmerited love through the death and resurrection of his Son. I watched Avatar without having read or heard any Christian review or critique of the movie, and I walked away with a uneasy sense that it affirmed my old pagan faith rather than the gospel of grace I now hold fast to.

I want to address the 4 points in the article. (Misunderstand or oversimplify author's message) Driscoll did not misunderstand the authors message. A satanic woulrdview is exacly what hollywood and especially avatar promotes. Satan does not use complete evil to trun people away. He uses a lot of truth mixed with enough lie to deceive people. Think about the garden. (not letting the authors universe stand on its own) This is problematic because the purpose of every work of fiction it to set up an alternate universe that changes peoples view or actions in this universe. It is more than appropiate for Driscoll to look at what the author is saying in the universe of the story to see what implications he is trying to make in our universe. Choose combat over conversation. I believe that driscoll is choosing conversation. He is trying to wake people up to the overt satanic themes in the movie. I am sure Driscoll would love to converse with anyone about why this is. (Failing to find the redeemable in a movie) This is completely irrelevent. When satan propositioned eve she had no business finding the redeemable in what he had to say. Should should have identified who was saying it and ran from it. Hollywood and the world tries hard to controlling how people think. People need to see the deceptive satanic world views that are in these movies. It is sad how many Christians accept or are blind to these world views without exposing them with scripture.

Its a movie! But maybe its hard to remember that not everyones purpose is to prostelsye and brain wash. But by all means exercise your perogative to crusade and walk out of movies. We have a God given free will and so does James Cameron.

As paganism was around long before Christianity, the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation were also around long before Christianity. Driscoll is right Avatar has a pagan flavor about it and that is a good thing.

James Cameron has no religious affiliation even though he was brought up on a Protestant background. In Avatar, he seemed to have found New Agism. He did make a documentary about the body of Christ being found in a tomb a couple of years ago, but for whatever reason, Jim subconsciously added Christ's love theme into the nature loving Na' vi of Pandora- hence Pandors's box.

Sorry to disagree with you, but Jesus had a message unlike any other religion. The others all say to treat people the way you want to be treated but none say to love their enemies or to turn the other cheek. That was new and shocked them. It still separates Christianity to this day.

Well, Narnia features interactive animals and plants...

I applaud Mark driscoll for calling Avatar what it is 'Demonic'. I am planning to see Avatar myself to better equip myself in discussion about it. In all the research I've done about it, it appears to be a tool to condition the masses into accepting new age pantheism.

I concur with Mr. Lee's sound observations, maybe because I also share an Buddhist formation. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, every Christian should dwell upon the significance of the central three days of human history. The Son of God fulfilled His salvific mission to restore all of us to the Grace of His Father. The smushy feel-good stuff is the proper province of Benji Spock and post-Woodstock pop-psych. It moves the Center from God to our own elevated feelings of self-worth. Foolish.

I am more troubled by the ideological content of "Avatar": A romantic fantasy of mystical, peaceful,
anti-rational, and primitive life in "harmony" with Nature; and the flip-side of the same coin, the depiction of rational, technological, advanced civilization as greedy, violent, and ruthless exploiters. The Avatars evoke Jean-Jacque Rousseau's ignorant fantasy of the "Noble Savage" or Sir Eric Thompson's peaceful astrologer fantasy about the ancient Mayans.

The lawlessness, violence, savagery, backwardness, and human misery of Talibanistan has very little to do with Western imperialists or greedy American corporations.

Ask Genghis Khan or Montezuma about noble savagery.

Civilization is a hard won achievement. Only a handful of peoples and nations have attained a
humane and decent social reality in their societies, almost all being either Christian or Buddhist societies.

Avatar could become a monument of anthropological misinformation if taken seriously. Enjoy it as once upon a time in a far distant galaxy.

i Am also Lover of avatar The most as pensive movie of the world

It is important to remember that Driscoll is speaking to Seattle, a population for which pantheism is a major draw. This being said, I think he was rather harsh on a movie

Relax everyone. Driscoll is using a film's themes and storyline to make a point. The point is that our culture is rife with imagery, art, and story that reflect a neo-paganism. This neo-paganism is dangerous even to Christians and that Satan is great at taking a little truth and making it into a bigger lie. Driscoll doesn't say to not go to the movie, he doesn't ask people to picket and protest James Cameron, he doesn't tell people to hate others who "loved" the movie. He is teaching the people of Mars Hill Church to discern worldviews and showing where those worldviews can lead. That's all Driscoll is doing. Discernment is still a good quality to have as a Christian. Enjoy the arts, discern the message...it will make you a better missionary to our culture.

[The others all say to treat people the way you want to be treated but none say to love their enemies or to turn the other cheek.]

You seem to know very little of other religions.

"Let your love flow outward through the universe, To its height, its depth, its broad extent, A LIMITLESS love, without hatred or enmity. Then, as you stand or walk, Sit or lie down, As long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; Your life will bring heaven to earth."

- Siddhartha Gautama, Sutta Nipata

"The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful."

— Chapter 49, Tao Teh Ching

[That was new and shocked them.]

It shocked the people Jesus was preaching to at the time, because they were living under the influence of the barbaric teachings of the Old Testament.

[The lawlessness, violence, savagery, backwardness, and human misery of Talibanistan has very little to do with Western imperialists or greedy American corporations.]

Indeed it doesn't. It has to do with religious fanatics who hate people with self-worth, individuality, and a desire for freedom... sound familiar?

[Ask Genghis Khan or Montezuma about noble savagery.]

Not a good example of "primitive destructiveness" because the Mongol Empire and the Aztec Empire were some of the most technologically advanced societies of their time.

[Civilization is a hard won achievement. Only a handful of peoples and nations have attained a humane and decent social reality in their societies, almost all being either Christian or Buddhist societies.]

Confucian and Daoist values also play a huge role in the development of East asian societies, but I'm glad to at least hear you acknowledge Buddhism.

"I don't think that Driscoll is correct that the Na'vi are demonic or that the film is demonic. If anything, Avatar should be applauded for celebrating a spiritual approach to life."

Really? That's the support you use as one of your major rebuttals to Driscoll's comments? That we should celebrate being more "spiritual"? There is a huge chasm between the living Son of God and what the world generally terms "spiritual".

While I do agree that Driscoll in this case seems to be more about tearing down bridges than engaging redemptive windows in the movie, it's pretty hard to argue with his logic. Avatar DOES indeed preach a particular worldview, as most all movies do, and it includes many of the points Discoll mentioned. I'm a Christian and I also really enjoyed the movie, but I can still see and acknowledge the point that Driscoll is making, even if I might have chosen different language. If you walked out of the theater thinking that Avatar informed your theology, then you made a grievous error.

Of course, though, we here have yet another case of the pundits latching on to Drisoll's most sensational statements, rather than talking about the other 95% of what he preaches. It must be nice to cherry-pick these comments to add to the drama, but I guess that's what gets more people to visit your blog, as I'm now demonstrating.

The Aztecs were technologically ADVANCED? Maybe in some foolish Hollywood epic. The Aztecs had STONE AGE technology. They didn't even have knowledge of the wheel, either the potters' kind or the wagoneers'.

Confucius says, Study without thought is in grave danger, thought without study is already lost.

This film was clearly a reflection of a neo-pagan monistic worldview. In fact, it is an excellent example of how that worldview is mediated through media and a great talking point for introducing Christian to this pervasive worldview. There is nothing good about "spirituality" or "self-sacrifice" when not united to Scripture and redemptive history. This neo-pagan worldview is actually the most serious threat to Christianity at the time-being--much more so than atheism.

Driscoll is right.

And Christianity Today's columnists show increasing lack of discernment - the fact that you could find "Christian themes" in it is very concerning. Just because there's self-sacrifice in it doesn't make it Christian. Christianity is about mankind's radical sinfulness, the substitutionary death of Jesus, His resurrection and the hope of glory. Period. Moralism/morality is not Christianity.

The concerning thing in the movie is the pagan worldview being propagated by it. The fact that there's a little bit of "morality" in the movie doesn't offset the danger of propagating as normative a worldview which is the antithesis of Christianity.

Driscoll has far too much time on his hands.

I applaud Mark Driscoll for standing on his beliefs. Not many Christians today are willing to "stand firm in the faith" (1 Cor. 16:13), even if it means getting ridiculed for it. Would I have taken many of the pantheistic themes out of "Avatar"? Yes. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Cameron take more of a stewardship theme instead of overt tree hugging. Driscoll has a point in the fact that the film really does glorify pantheism (a scene of chanting around a giant tree was a bit over the top).


"Avatar" is well made, which I can hardly say about Christian film industry.

I would love to see films that glorify Christian principles yet have the artistic excellence and value to compete with the secular industry's heavy hitters. "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof", though probably two of the Christian industry's best films, were only so-so. Compare those two films against the quality of the secular industry ... and there is no comparison. Though no film to date can compare with "Avatar" in certain arenas, that does not give Christians the liberty to be short on a quality story.

If you want to see the negative influence of the cinema (like pantheistic themes in "Avatar") turned around on itself, then start making excellent films that can compete against it. People went to see "Avatar" because it had aesthetic and cultural appeal. I saw "Avatar" twice, both times picking my jaw up off the floor as I left...

I wish I could pick my jaw up off the floor as I left a quality movie with Christian principles.

The difficulty is that most films do not have a accompanying commentary that clearly states the author's/director's intended message. No doubt many film makers want to change our minds by using creative methods. Religious folks aren't the only ones who evangelize. But really now how may people turned to the occult because of Harry Potter or embraced a monistic world view after seeing Star Wars?

I agree with Tim G.

Driscoll is accurate.

Driscoll is not attacking Avatar as a work of art or even as a film. He's merely speaking prophetically against the non-Christian (i.e., Satanic, demonic, etc.) worldview that is propagated by it. Yes, there may be some "Christian themes" but the overwhelming message of the movie is not gospel Christianity.

Also, just because the movie had "distinct Christian themes" doesn't mean Christians should be celebrating. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he faced an enemy (Satan) who was very biblical in his words (e.g., God's provision and sovereignty), but we don't celebrate Satan because he spoke "Christian themes."

I don't think that the movie was supposed to be "enlightening" in the religious sense. It did have great special effects, and that is what James Cameron is most well known for, and basically it was the ONLY reason I even went to see the film - or any of his films.

Jim Cameron did want tell his audience that when people in control - usually rich white countries like - Britain, The Netherlands, United States, and now China - want more and cheaper products, we go to countries that can supply the raw materials and rape the land with total disregard for the indigenous peoples.

That has happened for hundreds of years and is happening today. It is called modern day slavery, and it is alive and well.

Seriously, Mark... That movies wasn't even close to the most Satanic movie of the year. Although there were a tremendous pagan slant to the movie, the thing that I found so powerful was that the Navi people reminded me of what the Church should be the Community, the outsiders coming in and getting to know the natives and wanting to become one of them, the idea of the second birth, and the accepting of the outsiders as one of them...
Certainly the view of the God was incredibly wrong, but at least they portrayed this potential deity as personal and loving, yet very very wrong...
I'm fascinated by the avatar blues. Why were people so depressed was it only the beauty, or was it a longing for the community?

Julle maak my ietwat siek, wil julle regtig he dat christenskap 'n las raak? dis reg redeneer oor stront....mensdom

Anyone who can imagine that primitive peoples lived in idyllic harmony with each other and with Nature must have been drinking the wrong kind of Kool-Aid.

It is a tough life gleaning from untamed Nature's scant bounty without the leverage provided by modern technology, at least on Mother Earth, if not on Pandora.

The elites of earthly pre-modern peoples, unlike the Navi, required legions of slaves, who would see the hard-won fruits of their sweat labor confiscated.

But sometimes a primitive economy based on total confiscation of the labor output of the slave classes was still unable to provide the aggregate calories needed to feed the population. But an easy source for the missing calories could be found in other human beings.

Primitive peoples frequently hunted for each other and ate the loser as in Maori New Zealand. Sometimes they took hallucinogenic drugs to enhance the whole experience, like in pre-Incan Peru. From the evidence from their art, the elite of the Moche people were literally blood thirsty.

When the Spaniards arrived, the Valley of Mexico was on the verge of complete ecological collapse from soil abuse by a primitive, low-yielding, labor intensive agriculture. The Aztecs, lacking metal tools, the plow, and the wheel, could not wrest enough from the land to feed their urbanized population. They had become obligatory cannibals regularly demanding hundreds and thousands of sacrificial victims to their hideous gods from their subjugated and terrorized neighbors. After the gruesome rituals of immolation on their pyramid tops, the flesh of the victims were eaten by the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan, the choicest cuts reserved for the elites. The real secret of the Spanish Conquest of both Mexico and Peru was that the Aztecs and the Incas had no friends or allies among the other Native American peoples. The latter all viewed the Spaniards as their liberators from a living nightmare.

How the Navi could have avoided all this without obtaining electricity or gasoline motors, I cannot imagine.

The outstanding achievement of civilization is The Rule of Law, which protects the lives and property of the weak from the strong. When men, families, clans, and tribes renounce vendetta and submit to Law, a people becomes civilized. When men forget the value of law and abandon it to do what they feel like doing, they revert to savagery.

Let's not confuse the fantasies provided by the entertainment industry for reality. It was a long, hard, and heroic climb up from savagery. It would be a shame to fall back down out of believing a great deal about things that just aren't true.

Mark Driscoll in his review, and Christianity Today is wrong. Christianity Today cannot exercise spiritual discernment and should be called Christianity Astray.

Ops, meant to say:

Mark Driscoll in right in his review, and Christianity Today is wrong. Christianity Today cannot exercise spiritual discernment and should be called Christianity Astray.

Ironies of the stunning, haunting Avatar include:
Avatar could only be made in the high-tech West by mostly male computer scientists.
Most $ ever spent/made on a movie, with FULLY deployed capitalist and corporate systems to bash the same.
Most tech ever used in a movie deployed to bash tech.
Overt bashing of military that provides the freedom and stability to make the movie possible.
Cultures soaked in any of these: Panentheism, Neo-Romanticism, goddess worship, monism, earth worship... hurt people, hinder their potential; they are not expunged of desire for war, murder, abuse, etc., as any fair observer of 'primitive' cultures knows.

Regarding the film’s plot: we know that Imperialism is bad. No nation in the Americas, current or ancient, has been immune from Imperialism so that this lesson is common knowledge on this continent. The special effects of the film are spectacular, but the story line is simplistic and tired. However, because most of the Christians who watch moved have already embraced a religious creed equivalent to an ideological garbage can (any idea is tolerated, even if those religious ideas are contradictory), no one appears to have commented on the Hindu idea of “Avatar.” That is, the notion that gods and demons covet and inhabit human bodies. Although this idea is quite old, it is new to the poorly educated children of Western society. But the novelty of this film lies in the notion that humans would demonize and invade the idyllic halls demons and gods. Odd, isn't it? A once sophisticated, secular culture like ours has embraced the notion that demons and humans co-mingle. Where have all the religiously devout atheists gone? Avatar will be remembered, not for its non-existent cinematographic virtue, but for marking the day that Secularism died in Western Culture. Many people celebrated the passing of a moral, Christian Majority into a minor right wing disturbance. But this new, eclectic and noxious elixir of Hinduism and anything-is-good Religion is far worse than a Christianity that was well-defined and governed by fixed and predicable laws (a Christian concept of jurisprudence that gave rise to our constitutional idea of immutable, albeit God-given, human rights). May you all realize that this movie pushes a new religion and then realize that it is not what people want or need. The world needs Jesus, not more lies. Many of you are evading the moral and intellectual questions that the Avatar-Pandora's box has opened. Is the scrutiny getting uncomfortable for some of you? Many hide like children under the blanket of "entertainment," because they cannot face the truth about this new religion that Avatar is inculcating. To those who believe that movies ought not to be analyzed because they are only “entertainment,” we answer: wasn't the Roman Coliseum just entertainment? But most people would object to tearing a polar bear’s guts out, just for entertainment. Do people actually talk about films and compare them? They sure do. Obviously, not everyone, but many do. When Hitler wanted to brainwash people, he used his propaganda films. Many Christians today wouldn’t even have noticed it. And when secularism was in its heyday, films were the unholy scriptures of skepticism (The Bridge Over the River Kwai). In the beginning, television and film reported the news (because of the prevailing culture’s Christian World View). Today, TV and film create the news (to feed people’s existential needs). Many choose to live their lives in an intellectual cave, but the world is passing those people by as it changes and adapts new thought forms (via the film industry). May the collectively entertained minds of the many enjoy the nirvana of willful ignorance. As for the rest of us, I would hope that the World View which we hold, would be the one that we have selected, not something that we greedily imbibed for entertainment (even at the risk of understanding and grasping reality).

I am saddened by the fact that we continue to miss golden opportunities for dialog with our friends and neighbors about real issues that many hollywood "demonic, satanic neo-pagan worldview" movies provide. What wider door can we ask for than that a movie that everyone is seeing addresses the deeper themes of greed and true intolerance of "the other". This movie was a stunning leap forward in the technology of movie making and also a real chance for us to speak into our culture about the brokeness of our hearts...and in the end to help others see the one true answer to it all in Christ.

Wow. "I've got two home theater systems and three tivos (not to mention really important friends and really trendy clothes)!" Oh please. This is why pastors and churches like these are becoming increasingly demonic, for lack of a better term. I think he just convinced me to convert to Avatar's eastern mysticism mumbo-jumbo.

As someone who was in the New Age and who was pantheistic, let me say that pantheism and its spiritual approach are enemies of the gospel. The most dangerous lie always contains some truth, usually a twisted form of it. Self-sacrifice and love in such a movie do not glorify Christ but rather are used to serve a false worldview. This is exactly the evil genius of such movies and philosophies.

Recognizing this does not mean a Christian cannot use this movie as a platform for a spiritual discussion. It's not either/or. But one of the main problems today is a lack of a biblical worldview in Christians, who are more and more surrounded by a culture that is becoming pagan. We need more preachers to denounce false worldviews in popular entertainment more than we need preachers who avoid the issue or try to find the "good" in beliefs opposing Christianity.

Cameron himself said he chose blue for the Na'vi because he likes the color AND because it's connected to the Hindu deities. He made the documentary that claimed Jesus' tomb was found, remember? This movie is not just pro-pantheism and Neo-Pagan by accident.

Pantheism and Neo-Paganism are inviting but deadly spiritualities, and it is only right to speak out when they are exalted in a popular movie.

I believe that much of what Driscoll has said is very directive towards the Believer and should help on evaluate his or her beliefs. On the other hand, if we are going to reach the non-believer, this film makes an excellent talking point in witnessing. One would not come on with the negative (panthemism and other new age portrayals if we are looking through those lenses), but pick up on the positives and take the ones we are trying to relate Christ to by using the concepts on creation, rescue or salvation, etc. to show people who the True one is and what He can do for all who put their faith in Him.

While there is no doubt that Avatar is at best a derivative film ornamented with amazing special effects, it does bear the distinctive echoes of Genesis 1-4.

One doesn't need to play the "pantheism" card to affirm the notion that God created the world to enjoy a fundamental relational communion between Creator, creature, and creation. Genesis one and two reveals that God has built the creation as a workman and that his work is an expression of his authority, order, and benevolence. Humanity is created with an inalienable dignity, bearing the image of God in a relational harmony with God, with other human beings (notably in the sexual complementarity of male and female), and with the creation as God's vicar. Genesis three locates humanity's fall from that state in the attempt to be like the Creator without the Creator and narrates the advance of alienation from God (exile from the garden), from human community (Adam's blaming of Eve, Cain's murder of Abel, and his own exile).

Avatar's plot is essentially that of a "raid on Eden" and a similar attempt at being like God without God. Redemption is realized through a kind of "friendship evangelism", a learned humility, death, and a "quasi-theosis" where the handicapped human is resurrected and restored to a transfigured state. It's not a perfect parallel of Christian redemption, but it bears many features of the Creation to Renewed Creation story of the Scriptures.

For all his protest against his being a fundamentalist, Driscoll's critique is precisely the undifferentiated rhetoric of "antithesis" that characterizes fundamentalism. One almost expects a "record burning" or a "syllabus of errors" to result from his screed. All his charges of "falsehood" are essentially applicable to anything that doesn't precisely mirror the biblical story. For example, Avatar doesn't proffer an alternative "Messiah" any more than Aslan of Narnia proffers a false "Messiah". Often in spite of themselves, fictional icons gesture, not to themselves, but beyond themselves and they grip the heart precisely insofar as the resonate with human experience. Good stories are good stories because they bear the echoes of home.

For all the due respect one may wish to pay Driscoll for his ministry and service, he remains a Philistine when it comes to questions of the intersection of faith and art. He's in pretty good company, of course, with the Puritans he so-admires. With some noteworthy exceptions in Jonathan Edwards, Anne Bradstreet, and Edward Taylor, the Reformed tradition is rife with Philistines who have a bad eye, a tin ear and an uncultivated palate.

"Avatar doesn't proffer an alternative "Messiah" any more than Aslan of Narnia proffers a false "Messiah". Often in spite of themselves, fictional icons gesture, not to themselves, but beyond themselves and they grip the heart precisely insofar as the resonate with human experience. Good stories are good stories because they bear the echoes of home."

well said, Fr. Michael. There is an uneasy undercurrent of spiritual Pride with some who cite the statement Christ made that "you will be ridiculed..." It is almost as if the Christian in question wants to deliberately stir up the pot, not out of a need for spiritual discernment and dialogue, but out of a simple, selfish need for attention.

CS Lewis exhibited more understanding and reason when dealing with the subject of "paganism." He saw these wonderful stories as "echoes of the True Myth," which brings them much closer to the mind of God and further from the realm of "satanic" than is generally argued.

"C.S. Lewis thought pantheism—the belief that a non-personal God and nature are one, that there is an all-inclusive divine unity—was more corrosive to Christianity than atheism itself." Wait a second, Evangelicals celebrate C.S. Lewis and yet you take Mark Driscoll to task? Avatar takes pantheism and places it front and center and Christianity Today says it sees "Christian themes in the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation, and even a model for missions". Why do we need the gospel when we have all of this in pantheism? Most viewers of Avatar do not assume the gospel going in the door. I doubt very few will leave understanding that the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation, etc. ARE DISTINCTLY CHRISTIAN THEMES found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Glenn, please put Lewis into context when you quote him. The exact quote: "I see around me no danger of Deism but much of an immoral, naive, and sentimental pantheism. I have often found that it was in fact the chief obstacle to conversion" (from God in the Dock, "Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger").

Yes, of course pantheism is corrosive to Christianity. We believe in one God, Creator of heaven and earth, and of His Son who came down from heaven to live as human. To remove this idea of a personal, singular God is corrosive to the faith.

But is that what we are really talking about here? I have a feeling Chesterton would say Christians are losing their imaginations. Avatar is a story, just like Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia, and we are dealing with differences of interpretation. Driscoll says its satanic. Father Michael (comment above) looks at the story as a metaphor of the Fall (man trying to be God). So who is correct? One, the other, both, or neither? In my opinion, Driscoll's comments were knee jerk, overwrought, and seemed more in the vein of stirring the pot rather than airing legitimate views. Fr. Michael's comments and others on this blog appear more balanced and reasonable.

Glenn, you "doubt very few will leave understanding that the ideas of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, incarnation, etc. ARE DISTINCTLY CHRISTIAN THEMES found in the person of Jesus Christ." Why do you doubt? These ideas are Christian. 'Nuff said. Why? Because God created them and IS them. God IS unconditional love. God IS self-sacrifice...etc.

Treating Avatar as a story and not a religious tract is more helpful, and more truthful. Again, Tolkien and Lewis understood that the myths Man has created are mere echoes of the real thing. And those echoes can lead men to the source.

It's amazing how much more eager we are to defend the potential good things of a movie, this movie, any movie than we are to support the certain , maybe unpopular, but good things from one of God's chosen shepherds.

It would seem that more harm will come of openly accepting (or unnecessarily defending) a movie made by a non-believer with zero intentions of teaching it's audience about Christ or any Biblical truth, than would come of making an attempt to see the good in a word from a preacher of Christ.

Are we more willing to adhere and identify with the non-christian who may have created some piece of art, haphazardly inserting a "Christian undertone"? [How much of this movie would be left if we only held onto the Biblical-based "Christian undertones"?]Or should we be more willing and driven by the Holy Spirit to support, love, and pray for the shepherds that God has put over us as His people.

Avatar, Lord of the Rings, the Passion; I'm going with the preachers. James Cameron, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mel Gibson; I'm going with the preachers. Sheep, sheep, sheep; I'm going with the shepherd. And if the shepherds do need more discernment, I will pray for them. I certainly haven't been blessed with perfect discernment yet either. If they do need more politically correct and friendly words to satisfy the bloggers, I will pray for them... and the bloggers.

If in preaching the gospel and spreading the name of Christ, attempting to point our eyes toward the glory of God and not man or his art, they step on toes and regularly offend the foolish,... well, it seems that Someone else did that before Driscoll.

As Paul wrote in Colossians, let's spend more time praying for them and their ability to preach the Word, the mystery of Christ, that they would be salt and grace to outsiders. Let's not sweat their movie critic abilities.

Did you hear the other things taught in that sermon?

all truth is GOD's truth. otherwise, it's not truth.

Actually I agree with Driscoll. The movie did promote paganism, animism and pantheism. It is antithetical to the Christian worldview.

People may not like Driscoll's delivery, but I think he's spot on with this one.

Not all that glitters is gold!

This is the funny thing about what Driscoll said and people's reaction. When someone says that we need to lookat the "positive spritual aspects" of the movie, it proves driscoll right, because that Christian just brought the Kool-Aid and his christan world-view has been compromised. Oh and someone on these posts mentioned a couple of Christian Movies...Well, Facing the Giants earned one hundred times the cost to make and ddn't even open(wonder why) in some major cities. Fireproof, made 50 times it's cost. That is success. you could say it was low-budget....but it still had to earn the money back. They were redemptive stories of faith, healing and trust that wer deeper than nearly anything out there now. Imagine, AVATAR would have it earn in the billions to earn it 100 times the cost to make. Taking that into account, Christians had the most sucessful moies of 2006 & 2008.

Check out:

In Defense of AVATAR: Or Why Mark Driscoll Just Doesn't Get It

The Theology of AVATAR (Mar 7, 2010)
Sermon: Pastor Albert Chu

Avatar is a visually arresting, sorta preachy film . . . there isn't any real debate about that. And Cameron is preaching a nature-centric kind of gospel that has some similarities to classic paganism. So what is Driscoll saying that is all that inflammatory? Cameron wouldn't agree that his film is demonic, obviously, but he'd likely agree with Driscoll's sketch of hhis movie's basic spiritual outlook.

It's only a movie, yes, and Driscoll is only critiquing it. So what's the big deal on either side?

Having watched the film and then heard the sermon, I agree with Mark Driscoll: take away the 3D, the effects and everything else, and what do you have? Even if it is not the most demonic film out there to some, as a Christian you have to wonder what message the film is meant to leave you with, and whether that lines up with the Gospel of Christ.

movies influence people, sometimes they just entertain but a lot of times they influence. We should be more worried about what movies are teaching sub-consciously than we are about the morality factor involved (although that is important).

The problem with Avatar is it makes people long for a false utopia that doesn't exist and cannot exist. Cameron definitely has an agenda with this movie, "if we just get rid of war, capitalism, greed, industry, mean people then we will have peace and unity with the earth and creatures"

If you are a Christian (which i assume you are writing for Christianity today) you should be concerned of the false hope this creates for people. This reality he has created will never be realized. Have you heard of the thousands of people that were depressed after Avatar?

Yes its just a movie, but people that don't know Christ struggle with separating that from reality.

AVATAR SATANIC??? That's a very interesting assumption or rather assertion to make. The movie teaches stewardship toward nature. 1) That means have respect for the earth you live on. I know that we've separated ourselves from the natural world, but look what it has caused. Pollution on grand scale, animal species become or are extinct,etc
The movies also stands against GREED. Now, last I checked that is one of the seven sins of the bible. The bible you claim to ahire to. Respect for your fellow man and compromising are two more values that this short movie advocates. Religious and cultural tolerance should have also been in this movie, but to error is human.

review: 1) Respect for the environment/earth/all species on it
2) Against GREED

3) Respect Fellow Man: Ten Commandments
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not convint thy neighbors wife
4) Religious and cultural tolerence: Believe it or not this is the right of every religion. Pagan,Wicca, and new age(though they don't claim to be).

Now, I wonder how is it that we missed this?
Depression or for the first time the people whom watch it in it's entirty realizethat our way of life cost others theirs. It called a conscious.

This film is indeed evil, what Driscoll was pointing out was that the film "replaced" christianity, with paganism. The fact that the themes existed were in themselves appointing themselves as being above christianity. It created a NEW Jesus, a NEW resurrection, i.e. a NEW faith.

Just because themes of self sacrifice were there it does not mean that this had christian themes, this was demonic. The creatures were not human, they were bestial cat creatures, they existed in a realm that could only be accessed by taking the human soul and putting it inside one of these creatures (a technical possession). The planet was an eden, these creatures interfaced with their environment (kinda new age one-ness) physically. They worshipped a tree (paganism) yet were seen as better than Humanity.

Its certainly odd, definitely its themes were Satanic, obviously it wont on the surface be satanic, when these themes are given to us to digest, they are wrapped up in beauty.

Its mind control pure and simple. Theres thousands of people who were depressed and wanted to live on this satanic planet because of the effects of this mind control. When something becomes more appealing to a person than Jesus Christ and Heaven - its obviously evil.

movies influence people, sometimes they just entertain but a lot of times they influence. We should be more worried about what movies are teaching sub-consciously than we are about the morality factor involved (although that is important).

"Avatar doesn't proffer an alternative "Messiah" any more than Aslan of Narnia proffers a false "Messiah". Often in spite of themselves, fictional icons gesture, not to themselves, but beyond themselves and they grip the heart precisely insofar as the resonate with human experience. Good stories are good stories because they bear the echoes of home."

At the end of the day, Avatar is just simply a movie. Can we not treat it as such, i.e. just make-believe and not true belief? Come on, this is Hollywood we're talking about.