Last week Dr. Metzger wrote on Ur about the novelty of multi-ethnic efforts in the church today. He asked whether justice was really taking root in our hearts, or is it just a trend. In this follow-up post he exposes our general blindness to injustice by referencing Mark Driscoll's comments about the film Avatar. If you recall, earlier this year Driscoll called the James Cameron film "the most satanic movie I've ever seen." A video with his full rant against the film can be viewed below.
Some friends drew my attention to the YouTube post of Pastor Mark Driscoll's sermon where he critiques the movie Avatar. I don't know Pastor Driscoll, but I have watched the movie. There were two things that struck me about his remarks: his rightful concern for orthodoxy coupled with his desire for Christians to think critically about the worldviews that films present such as pagan spirituality; and his conviction that the movie attacks cultural progress.
Whether or not the director, James Cameron, intended to promote a pantheistic perspective (everything is God), I do concur with Driscoll that a pantheistic or monistic view of reality proves problematic for consideration of sin and evil—if we are one with the divine in our creaturely state, how can we be sinners? It also proves problematic for consideration of the need for a Savior—if we are ultimately one with God, why do we need a Savior to remove the separation? From a pantheistic or monistic perspective, separation is not moral or ontological; it is basically mental. According to this model, our sinful state is one of illusion. We fail to see things as they truly are, and we must cease living the lie and get in touch with our true selves which is not beyond us, but rather within us (what Driscoll refers to as the spark of divinity). I should also add that it is ultimately impossible to differentiate good from evil in a pantheistic or monistic framework: good and evil proceed from one ultimate reality, which is beyond good and evil.
So, I commend Pastor Driscoll for his biblical and theological convictions regarding pantheism. And yet I don't find his brief statements on Avatar orthodox enough. Here I have in mind Pastor Driscoll's statement that the movie attacks cultural progress.
Driscoll rightly detects in the film a social commentary and a profound critique leveled at a certain kind of cultural progress. Avatar is the story of two cultures. One culture "progresses" by ravaging neighboring cultures and destroying the surrounding ecosystem. The other culture "progresses" by a "shared life" approach: living communally as grateful stewards of the environment, never taking more than is necessary for the survival of the tribe. I have a hard time imagining how ravaging an indigenous people's cultural habitat and stripping the land to obtain a mineral prized by the dominant culture on another planet signifies cultural progress. Nor do I find that it lines up with God's prophetic word concerning caring for the poor and helpless in Isaiah or in James (Isaiah 58:5-11; James 1:26-27).
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