Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Message of "AVATAR"

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Evangelical Christians are often "consuming the culture" without even questioning the message.

With "AVATAR," now the highest grossing movie of all time, some Christian leaders are taking a critical look at the actual message of the film.

Some movie goers are slamming the film as completely pantheistic, while others praise it for the Christian Gospel parallels.

A panel of evangelical leaders has given some excellent advice and insight on the message of "AVATAR" and expressed some concern regarding how Christians consume the culture.

And a successful Hollywood screenwriter and author gives some helpful suggestions regarding Christians and the media in our culture.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, JR., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mark T. Coppenger, professor of Christian Apologetics, Russell D. Moore, dean of the SBTS' School of Theology and several others commented on "AVATAR" at a panel discussion last week.

Moore says the real danger with Hollywood films is not the blatantly negative or anti-Christian messages that are obvious, but the subtle ones that Christians do not even recognize in today's culture.

Moore says, "What concerns me is not so much the message, but the fact that most people aren't really getting or seeing the message."

"Keep in mind," he said, "this is the same guy (producer James Cameron) who had evangelical Christians standing up and applauding to scenes of fornication in "TITANIC". It's so subtle the way that it works through that you become emotionally connected before you realize what's going on."

Obviously the film has reached a very broad audience, creating $2 billion in worldwide gross revenue so far, setting an all time revenue record.

It taps into some kind of religious longing people have, and in a postmodern world where truth is relative, "AVATAR" has broad appeal.

Ted Cabal, a professor at SBTS said, "Even though its got a mixture of sci-fi where the religion can be explained in naturalist terms, it's still much appealing to the average, what I call, postmodern religionist who's not clear as to what he's after."

"It doesn't matter if it doesn't make a lot of sense," he says, "everything is God impersonally, but you can also pray to this God and so at the end, AWA (the deity in the film) answers prayer. So you're like, 'okay mix a little personal God in there for those Americans who like prayer."

The film contains reference points to the Christian Gospel, but recasts it as a completely different gospel, Mohler believes.

He said, "It includes a 'secular Eden' (Pandora); the reference that every person is 'born twice'---the second time is when you become part of your people forever; and its own metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption and consummation."

In a different, but related story, Andrew Klavan, a successful author and Hollywood screenwriter, has told the press that Christians need to pay close attention to the message from books, television programs and movies.

Klavan, who has worked with Clint Eastwood, Michael Douglas and other high pro-file actors, says that in most cases anyone who is patriotic or Christian are cast as a hypocrite, hater, or worse.

He encourages Christians to be very careful.

We can take at least two things from this.

First, be very discerning. Understand that most all books, TV shows and films have a message. That's the world we live in. Be sure the message is not contrary or damaging to your biblical worldview and that which you are teaching to your children.

Secondly, in the case of "AVATAR," it is apparent that millions of people are paying to see a story that touches on points that are important to them. Dr. Mohler believes this story helps Christians to define their "mission field" and perhaps can lead to opportunities to share the "story of stories"---the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Be discerning. Be active. Do not be silent.

God bless you and thank you for supporting this ministry.

Gary Randall
Faith & Freedom

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