June 19, 2019

At the Movies Remix

From Chaplain Mike.

OK, so Mark Driscoll dissed “Avatar” calling it, “the most demonic, satanic movie I’ve ever seen.”

And Christianity Today didn’t like it, especially when he pointed to their review as an example of contemporary evangelicalism’s inability to exercise discernment.

This post is not about that.

For the record, I have not seen Avatar…yet. Though I plan to.

And that’s actually what got me thinking.

My big spiritual awakening happened when I was 17 years old. Within a couple of years, I was moving into ministry and had a conversation about going to the movies with my pastor one day. He was strictly old school. “I would never feel comfortable walking into a movie theater,” he told me. I don’t think he even thought much about the content of any particular movie; for him, the theater was simply a part of the “world” that ministers (and serious Christians) avoided.

The Bible college I attended had a clear “no movies” policy. Around that time, I recall the controversy when the Billy Graham Association released “The Hiding Place” in theaters. Schools like ours had to hold special meetings and consult with their constituents before granting a special exemption for students to go out and see it.

I know Christians for whom “Chariots of Fire” was the first film they ever saw in a cinema. Many of them were looking over their shoulders the whole time.

When Blockbuster and other stores began the video rental explosion, I remember hearing a young Joe Stowell, then president of Moody Bible Institute, tell a room full of pastors, “I don’t see how any Christian can walk around a video store and not feel extremely uncomfortable.”

(BTW, when I started following Christ seriously, television was also an issue for some believers. Our Bible college had one TV, in a public area. My future wife’s family did not have TV. When we got married, we didn’t have a TV for many years. Frankly, I’ve only had satellite for 5-6 years now, and part of that time we’ve had it turned it off. My kids laugh at us today for the pitiful 20″ screen on which we watch our shows.)

I don’t say any of this proudly or to make the point that the current evangelical concept of “engaging culture” is wrongheaded.

It’s just another one of those times when I am prompted to pause along the road of my journey, look back, and marvel at how things have changed with regard to Christian attitudes.

Hey, we live in a day when the nation’s leading evangelical Christian magazine criticizes a pastor for negatively evaluating the spiritual content of a Hollywood movie!

Does that make anyone else shake their head?

I am not now nor have I ever been a separatist in spirit. Even during the years when our exposure to things like movies and TV and, to a lesser extent, popular music was limited, I never thought it was absolutely necessary for us to approach things that way, nor did I suggest that others must live by a set of rules with regard to participation in pop culture. Our life was focused on other priorities, and such entertainments just weren’t as important. But I have always loved movies and TV and popular music, and have thought it silly for Christians to quarantine themselves from them as from the plague.

Separatism is certainly not the dominant evangelical view today. In the video that has gained so much attention, it was interesting to hear Mark Driscoll defend himself against the charge of being a “fundamentalist” with regard to involvement in culture. No “cutting-edge” Christian today wants that label. When some of you read what I’ve written here, you will probably think I must be some ancient geezer who grew up in the days when we hauled water from the stream and went to town in the horse and buggy.

Not at all. I’m a typical American baby boomer, who ate dinner in front of the TV. I went to the movies from the time I was a baby. Rock ‘n roll and I grew up together. For much of my life, I’ve enjoyed pop culture as much as anyone I know.

However, I remember when even my parents, who were absolutely not fundamentalist Christians, wouldn’t let me see “Bonnie and Clyde” because of its subversive tone and explicit violence. I recall them coming home early from certain movies because of the immorality and amorality that was depicted.

It’s not just evangelicalism that has become more “liberal” with regard to feeding on the offerings of popular culture and entertainment. The world has changed. And followers of Christ have changed with it.

So, for me, the fact that Mark Driscoll would have a negative review of “Avatar” isn’t the interesting thing here. It’s the new world of conversation the Christian community in America now inhabits.

Comments

  1. I watched and really really liked it. Infact it became equal first on my all time movie list [ Braveheart was solely numero uno].

    The mystical worship scenes are a bit much though………

    Driscoll says alot of things…………….

    • Agreed – it was a great movie with great special effects.

      The worship scenes were a little over the top, but it’s hard for me to imagine anyone (especially a devout Christian) watching them and suddenly deciding to be a pantheist.

      Perhaps it’s because I’m young and haven’t seen any damage wrought by those types of movies, but I don’t really see what the big deal is. Something like the Da Vinci code that is explicitly attacking Christianity might be another issue…

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    This is nothing new.
    Back in the Eighties, local SF fandom had a saying:
    “It must be good — the Christians are denouncing it!”

    • ha, yup, this all is satanic alright, in a Screwtape sort of way–get the Christians to pantywad on inconsequential details(I doubt Cameron feels his movie is a Christian movie) and the better truth is forgotten. It’s hard to discern what is merely cultural whim in Christian life. It’s a great skill to cultivate though to weed out the junk.

      Both of them wad on different things–Driscoll for finding a demon in the trees and CT for labeling the spirituality in the movie as “Christian”(again, I doubt that was Cameron’s intent). I think there is a huge lack of “true” spirituality in our culture(even in Christian culture as well, well, anything beyond God-as-Santa)–if anything the movie can start a conversation on what is spirit and where did it come from(or Who made it). Wonder gets the ball rolling!

    • see, that’s the thing, many Christians are so worried that we will be laughed at for denouncing a movie that we shut up and act like we really like the film, or we turn to our fellow believers and exclaim how relevant the movie is, and how it really has hidden, theistic truth in there somewhere.

      The worst thing in the world would be for unbelievers to mock us, because we are standing up for our beliefs.

      We seriously need to pick our battles, but I am proud of Driscoll for coming out clearly the way that he did. He is one of the only “Evangelicals” to be allowed to say that. Much like Nixon going to China.

      If almost anyone else had said that they would have been labeled a noob and people would have said “well, that figures, he’s one of those Christian knuckle-draggers”

  3. Winifred says

    On most points I can be predicted to disagree with Evangelicals, whose cultural and theological tastes I find laughable. I never suspected they would be suspicious of mass media (I mean, what about all those TV evangelists and Christian singers?) but find myself sympathizing with them.

    TV, video games, and the internet (not so much movies) can all-too-easily function as drugs.There’s a book “The Glass Teat” which makes the argument for TV, and I think we are all too familiar with internet addiction. Even if we don’t become addicted per se, these media raise troubling questions about how we (me included) choose to spend our time, and how this affects human relationships. The fact that much of the “content” of these media is lowest-common-denominator stupid only adds to my sense that we, and it, are out of control.

    For the record I saw Avatar on the first day–in 3-D of course–but just once. I liked the visual experience, and the “world-building” aspect, but thought the story itself dull and full of holes.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Info: The Glass Teat was written by the iconoclastic (and abrasive) science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison; it’s more a collection of essays on the subject than a single tome.

      I liked the visual experience, and the “world-building” aspect, but thought the story itself dull and full of holes.

      That happens a LOT with both visual SF and world-building; often the creator puts so much into the visuals or background that there isn’t much creative energy left over for the story. I’ve seen a lot of fannish projects torpedo themselves that way.

    • For the record I saw Avatar on the first day–in 3-D of course–but just once. I liked the visual experience, and the “world-building” aspect, but thought the story itself dull and full of holes.

      I didn’t see it the first day, but shortly thereafter. And then saw it a 2nd time, taking a friend to see it as his first 3D movie.

      But my opinion is the same as yours – trite and predictable and unoriginal story, overlong movie (by about 30 minutes), but game-changing 3D effects. All other movies will now look “flat” in comparison. Seriously.

      It’s too bad James Cameron mated his wonderful new technology to such a third-rate plot with blatant and cliched Gaia-New-Agey spirituality.

      Yawn. (Except for the 3D.)

      • Waltzing Matilda says

        I dislike 3D movies. The glasses don’t fit over (or under) my glasses very well, so no matter what I do it’s blurry.

        • I wear glasses and have been to several 3D movies with no problems. All of them have been RealD, except for one IMAX (classic, not digital IMAX) viewing. There are several 3D technologies out there – a couple more in addition to RealD and IMAX – so perhaps try a different 3D theater, if you have the option to do so.

  4. Driscoll preached the same exact sermon about The Shack. Might as well have been word-for-word.

    A friend of mine had recommended The Shack on her blog. “Just Read The Shack” was her title.

    I didn’t get get around to reading it until Driscoll denounced it. Then I read The Shack. And I liked it. And then I liked Driscoll even less than before.

    Does Driscoll have any idea what he’s doing? Now I want to see Avatar.

    • The Shack is terrible.

      Driscoll is an incorrect contextualiser, but there are many truths he preaches that you’d be best to take on board.

      • As I said, I liked it.

        • Have you read a good critque of it to see just why some say it’s bad news?

          Here is one of the better ones: http://justinpeters.org/The_Shack.pdf

          Please read it – I urge you.

          • Thanks, Matthew. It’s a decent and balanced review, unlike Driscoll’s little rant.

            I don’t agree 100% with the reviewer’s concerns but he articulates them well at least.

            I think he was grabbing at straws when he invoked the 2nd Commandment, not to portray God in human form. Writers and artists have been doing that for centuries. Michaelangelo. C.S. Lewis. Their works have never confused me about whether the Father is a white-haired man in robes, or Jesus a lion.

            And Jesus portrayed the Father in scandalous fashion, too, in the Prodigal Son story, Luke chapter 15. This is a lenient father who caves in to his son’s demands for the inheritance NOW, instead of disowning him for the insult. Then, when the son comes straggling home, broke, the father RUNS to meet him. What kind of a father in the ancient near east would do this? And yet this is the story that Jesus told as an allegory about the Father (before they hung him).

            I think some people get too excited about the lack of hierarchy in the Trinity of The Shack. Yes, we believe the Son is subordinate to the Father here on earth, but theologians are divided about their roles in heaven. Not a huge deal-breaker as far as the book is concerned. In the book, the Trinity is a community rather than a hierarchy, but then Jesus did say, “I and the Father are one.” Before they hung him.

            And remember that The Shack is fiction. It’s a novel. In fact, the Trinity parts are a dream, a dream within a novel.

            Without daring to say why, many people may be offended by the portrayal of the Father as an overweight black woman calling herself Papa. But is this any less accurate than Michaelangelo’s depiction on the ceiling? It’s all in the contextualization. Western Europeans wanted to understand God as a wise old sage, and Jesus as brown-haired and blue-eyed. It’s a context that worked for them at the time.

            But consider that many young people have no positive male role model, no decent father-figure to help them understand God. Their only loving authority figure may be a large, black woman such as a grandmother. If contextualizing God in this manner helps them, I say GREAT (remembering all the while that God is neither male nor female, black nor white, nor in physical form). This is Paul’s doctrine of all things to all people, that some may be won to the Lord.

            The Shack does have its weaknesses (although my biggest disappointment is the unskilled writing style), but on the whole it’s a breath of fresh air. And Lord knows Driscoll could use some fresh air.

            Can’t wait to see Avatar.

          • I read The Shack. I found it to be mediocre and mostly uninteresting. I’m not really sure why; I’m glad it is making some people think about God and so on, I just don’t see it. Doctrinally it may be a bit off; I don’t really care so much. George MacDonald was (I think) way off in some things, and yet he sometimes holds a clearer lens before God, for me, than anyone else I have read.
            The Shack simply doesn’t tell me anything. People say their thoughts about God have been revolutionized by it; I found nothing there that I haven’t seen better elsewhere, or at least thought a thousand times myself. Perhaps the book opens a small window into a world I am already familiar with, but many are not. Perhaps I need to read books that open windows into other ways of thinking to be impressed.

            I don’t know. It kind of confuses me; the whole situation is too me as if people all around me entered raptures of wonder upon being told that the earth was a sphere, hurtling around the sun. It is possible, I suppose, that I was turned off far too much by the poor writing style. As a reader and writer, such things tend to bother me more than they should.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Does Driscoll have any idea what he’s doing? Now I want to see Avatar.

      Like I said above, “It’s gotta be good — the Christians are denouncing it!”

      It really says something when having Christians start a Culture War blood feud against something has become an indicator of quality. And usually an accurate one.

      • Evangelical leaders love having an enemy they can preach against, whether a book, a movie, a type of music, a drink, a food, a clothing style, etc., etc.

        It gives them something to beat their chests about.

        It makes them feel big.

  5. It’s the new world of conversation the Christian community in America now inhabits.

    This is precisely what types like Driscoll find so threatening. We no longer take his word for it. I find it to be a baby step in the right direction.

  6. As a Christian, the one thing that bothers me intensely about the place where Christianity meets cinema is that, in my opinion, films with Christian themes popular among evangelicals, in my opinion, are seriously lacking in that certain quality that marks powerful films. It is an intangible quality, but we know it when we see it. Chariots of Fire is a classic film. Facing the Giants is not.

    It seems that if a Christian film maker really wanted to put the gospel message in a film, he would strive to understand why certain films move people and how certain serious themes could provide a rich and subtle backdrop for the gospel. Instead, what I find is what I have come to call the “hugs and tears” Christian message.

    On a side note, I still consider The Godfather the “perfect movie” and am thankful for my college chaplain for turning me onto “A River Runs Through It.” And I have not seen Avatar.

    • “As a Christian, the one thing that bothers me intensely about the place where Christianity meets cinema is that, in my opinion, films with Christian themes popular among evangelicals, in my opinion, are seriously lacking in that certain quality that marks powerful films. It is an intangible quality, but we know it when we see it.”

      I have spent a lot of time searching for films that would serve as a discussion tool for the youth group I run and have banged my head against a wall doing so. The vast majority of films out there that, according to the Christian family film guides, are good moral picks, are not Christian morals based. They are, without implying anything, Jewish morality based. All the things that Christ expounded against in the Sermon on the Mount, are what you find in most ‘moral’ movies. The ONLY film that I have ever seen that exemplifies true Christian morals(besides the ones attempting to tell His story) as based upon the enlightening truth Christ gives us in the Sermon on the Mount is “End Of The Spear (2005)”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It is an intangible quality, but we know it when we see it. Chariots of Fire is a classic film. Facing the Giants is not.

      This is the flip side to “It’s gotta be good if the Christians are denouncing it”:
      “If it’s Christian (TM), it’s gonna be Crap.”

      I’m more familiar with written fiction than movies, but I’m sure all of us here can come up with type examples. General ramblings:
      1) I think a lot of it is Jesus Fanboy Tunnel Vision, an inability to comprehend reality outside the four walls of our church environment. I’ve seen many types of fanboys, and all have the same tunnel vision into whatever floats their boat and nothing else. (Whether what floats their boat is Fur & Tails or Bible Verses & Altar Call Endings.)
      2) And the American Christian mania for sealing themselves off in a Christian (TM) environment with second-hand imitations of what’s popular on the outside — usually day-late-and-dollar-short knockoffs. (GodTube? Christian Paranormal Romances? Whatever they’re calling “God-Twitter” these days? “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”)
      3) And Platonic contamination that draws an impassible gult between the Spiritual (Good) and the Physical (Baaaaaaaaaad) instead of the Jewish monism that counts both as God’s Creation. (JMJ over at Christian Monist writes extensively on the subject. There’s a reason that the original Christian afterlife was Resurrection of the Body instead of Fluffy Cloud Heaven.)
      4) And End Time Prophecy mania; when The World Ends Tomorrow and It’s All Gonna Burn, don’t expect anybody to think ahead or dare great things.

  7. The conservative Protestant subculture(s) has changed, and you bring up some good question.

    Driscoll, not so much. Avatar is a deeply entertaining film full of plot threads and stereotypes we’ve all seen before. Only its brilliant execution makes it an amazing film — without the art, it’s pretty much a cheerier version of Dance with Wolves. I loved it (more than I should have), but it definitely doesn’t introduce anything new to its genre. Considering all this, for Driscall to call it ““the most demonic, satanic movie I’ve ever seen,” is silly. Its not unusual enough to be the most demonic movie ever.

    Plus, even if Driscoll thinks Avatar is deeply objectionable, he can’t think of any movie more satanic? Has he been watching the movies lately …. ?

    • I don’t think Driscoll’s vehemence against Avatar stems from the movie having excessive violence or sex or profanity or amoral behavior — Avatar’s relatively mild on those fronts compared to much of what Hollywood is dishing out these days. I think it’s pretty obvious that Driscoll’s reaction comes from the fact that the movie presents an alternative moral philosophy not directly based on Judeo-Christian tradition and teachings. And simply demonizing the movie is a lot easier than addressing the movie’s admittedly preachy philosophy in an intelligent way.
      Back in the early days of the church, some of the better minds in Christianity and some of the leading pagan rationalists actually engaged in some in-depth written discussion regarding each other’s philosophical and religious positions. Centuries later, the Enlightenment produced some similarly extensive discussion between secular philosophers and Christian theologians and philosophers. They rarely agreed or convinced anyone to switch sides, but at least they spent some time, effort, and brainpower on the argument. These days we just sling verbal mud and one-liners at each other, while the yes-men on both sides rise and shout “amen!”

    • Donalbain says

      Calling it demonic isn’t silly at all. It gets him ratings. And ratings bring money.

  8. As a sidenote, the Vatican response to Avatar was basically correct and perhaps more measured:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/12/vatican-slams-avatar-prom_n_419949.html

    (Interestingly, on Twitter, Roger Ebert thought they made some good points.)

    • Nice. I think I agree with a lot of the Vatican’s take also. Especially the part about it being visually stunning but otherwise pretty bland.

    • Here is where I go off on a tangent to moan about the media and its perennial headline “Vatican slams (fill in blank).”

      “L’Osservatore Romano” is not the Vatican. The Pope is not the film critic working for them. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the editor, as many’s the letters page has said. I very much doubt himself has even seen the thing.

      Same way that, for instance, “The Tablet” or “The Catholic Herald” are Catholic publications in Great Britain but are not the official voice of the Catholic Church there, any more than the “Irish Catholic” is the official voice of the Church in Ireland.

      It’s lazy, sloppy reporting and it drives me nuts, but I suppose it’s easier than trying to work out that it is entirely possible to have a Catholic paper in Rome that is not simply regurgitating press releases from the Vatican.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Here is where I go off on a tangent to moan about the media and its perennial headline “Vatican slams (fill in blank).”

        That anything like this rant from the movie D.C.Cab?

        “The White House says this. The White House does that. It’s like The Amityville Horror — an evil house that runs the country!”

  9. I enjoyed the film purely on the entertainment level. However, anything that promotes mystic pantheism is Satanic. These days you have a lot of movies from Hollywood promoting demi-gods and supernatural beings.

    • Donalbain says

      You seem to be confusing “depicting” and promoting.

    • Lukas db says

      I heartily disagree with mystic pantheism. But it strikes me as being rather more aligned with, say, Hinduism than Satanism.
      Or are you just using the word ‘satanic’ to make it sound scary?

      • No i am not. All the Indo-European gods of antiquity are mystical portrayals of the fallen angels who left their divinely-given place to fool around with human beings, especially human females. So, it doesn’t matter if you align the mystic pantheism with Hinduism or any other polytheistic religion. The bottom core is that any religion that worships any other god(s) besides the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are Satanic.

        • Lukas db says

          You have a much more mystical vision of Christianity and the world than I do. You see spirits everywhere, whirling around mankind to confuse and dismay, a great conspiracy of infernal powers driving them to deceive. I tend to see such things as paganism as searches for God which lack a real vision of God – that is, a natural drive towards the supernatural.

          I do not mean to say your vision of the world is bad or wrong; for all I know it may be right. I’m just trying to clarify the issue by pointing out what I perceive as the difference between our worldviews.

          • Well, we can agree to disagree then. I certainly do not see angels swirling around me and don’t have a more mystical vision of Christianity, though I certainly believe that some degree of mysticism, heart religion, and emotions do play a role in the way we relate to our Lord. You will probably be surprised to learn that I am a staunch Calvinist with a Baptist ecclesiology (and I am quite cautious of the charismatic movment).

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Then beware you don’t fall into a Christian Animism, where fire burns because a spirit (or angel, or God’s Will) is uncreating the wood and creating the ash, where the sun rises and sets because a spirit (or angel, or God’s Will) is carrying it across the sky. Where there is no cause and effect, no physics, only spirits (or angels, or God’s Will) “whirling around mankind to confuse and dismay.”

          I believe in the Silmarillion (or some of his notes on it), Prof Tolkien came to a similar idea as your “all the Indo-European gods of antiquity”. I don’t remember the reference, but it went something like “When you trace back myths of the gods of Men, you will eventually find a garbled account of an encounter with one of the Valar.”

          • Umm, no. Sorry again HUG but that comment at the end doesn’t hold water. Read Acts 17:16-34. When discussing religion with the Athenians, Paul only uses ONE object of worship (“to an Unknown God”) in the midst of the myriad of idols as a pointer to the Almighty One. He doesn’t tell them that their numerous gods somehow my lead to an encounter with the True God. In fact, all the polytheistic gods of the ancient world are rooted in the demonic. That is why I strongly object to any theology that opens the way for religious pluralism. As Paul says in 1 Cor 10:21: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (HCSB). It is either God the One and Only OR Satan and his evil minions.

  10. I think I’m on the same page as many mind-speakers here. Avatar is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. That beauty is a reflection of the creativity that the creator has endowed in all men/women be they Christian or not. Of course it had some non Christian themes. It reflects the culture which produced it and its spirituality. There is a thing called discernment (of which we have done a horrible job of teaching our children and church people about).

    I came out of a “do not touch” Evangelical cultish mindset. I am so grateful for Ramson ( Christian) Fellowship in Rochester, MN who taught me to love human creativity in all its forms. We spent many nights at the LA bri house (being led by the Ramson folks) viewing movies, reading great books like Harry Potter and deeply enjoying those and other art forms.

    The most demonic art forms I’ve ever seen are Christian movies that lie about the true nature of the human condition.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Christian Monist!
      I was wondering when you’d ring in on this thread!
      It touches on a lot of what you cover on your blog.

      Regarding “Christian movies that lie about the true nature of the human condition”, could you expand on this with a couple examples?

      And something to remember about Avatar; this was a personal project of James Cameron, just like Fantastic Mr Fox was a personal project of Wes Anderson. In both flicks, you’re probably seeing a single author at work and what was important to them. I’ve done that in written fiction, and these are just high-budget visual versions of the same personally-important story and creativity.

  11. Gordon McNutt says

    I concur with the chaplain that the moral climate both of Christians and mainstream America has changed in a way nobody would have expected just thirty years ago. I remember my (athiest) Dad saying in the ’80s that the VCR had really lowered our moral standards. I think he hit it on the head: familiarity breeds acceptance. If this is true just try to imagine what the ubiquity of internet porn will do over the next 30 years. (I’m not saying we should get out and picket against internet porn, I’m just saying hold on to your hats, because things may get real weird real fast).

    • Has the moral climate really declined or has the veil of “morality” lost its luster . . . and opaciity? I grew up in the heart of the Bible-Belt. Now that the 1940s generation family members are getting older they are starting to reveal more and more of their stories about being raped by their pastor dads, affairs, closet alcoholism, homosexuality and etc. I wonder if there has ever been a “moral culture” or just better–speaking of Oscars–actors than now?

      I am becoming more convinced that such morality or godliness is a myth. Thank God for grace.

      Not to disregard the effects of sin on the world. Yes, I do think that Internet porn is a huge problem and will have real consequences. But didn’t Michael share a poll where up to 50% of pastors admitted to viewing porn the previous year. My point is that none of us are as good as we think we are, nor were we ever. But still, we should stand opposed to immorality . . . the worse of which I think are the cheesy, lying, money hungry TV evangelist. The Church seems to look the other way when it comes to Christian sin.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The Church seems to look the other way when it comes to Christian sin.

        It’s called Tribal Identity and sticking with your tribe against the Other. Same dynamic that causes a lot of moderate Muslims to keep silent about Muslim terrorism. Circling the Wagons against the threat of those Infidels/Heathen.

        “Me against my brother;
        Me and my brother, united against my cousin;
        Me, my brother, and my cousin, united against the Other.”
        — Arab proverb

  12. Dan Allison says

    The whole “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” approach — fully denounced it the Bible by the apostle Paul — works as a substitute for those who do not have a real relationship with Christ or a real walk with Him. It also works to drive millions of thoughtful people away from the Gospel and away from the churches.

    Something is very wrong with large numbers of Christians and large numbers of churches in America. These people have no brains, no imagination, no ability to understand symbol, allegory or poetry. What’s scary is that they want to control what YOU can handle, taste, and touch, too.

    • Throw me a rope Dan. I’m with you.

    • I agree, Dan. But as a former high school English teacher, I have to say that it’s not just Christians who have trouble with things like symbol and allegory. To be honest, I fear that the saturation of electronic media and the decline of the written word has started to erode humanity’s capaclty for abstract thought in general.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill (?) made the point that the purpose of Torah (and by lineage the Prophets and Christ) was to make humanity Transcend the Animal. Abstract thought in general is one of those characteristics that define Transcending the Animal, and losing it would mean we go back to being just animals.

        (Why is “No Spill Blood” by Oingo Boingo running through my mind right now?)

        And I HAVE seen people who wanted to go back to being Just Animals. Usually with some sexual angle. You see that a lot in Furry Fandom. Instead of uplifing the critters of their imagination from four legs to two, they want to not only keep them animals but go themselves from two legs to four and be free of that pesky morality. They have about as much chance of succeeding as arguing with God about getting let back into Eden or climbing back into their mother’s womb.

  13. If Mark thought Avatar was satanic, then how did he feel about Pocohontas?
    http://failblog.org/2010/01/10/avatar-plot-fail/

    • As my mother said, “Trees don’t speak! Evil!”

      • So Treebeard is evil, too? Of course, he’s an Ent, not a tree, but all the same…

    • I love that failblog 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Disney’s Pocahontas is just Epic Fail all down the line.

    • #John1453 says

      Yeah, and what about C.S.L. and all those dyads and spirits living IN the trees? If that isn’t demonic, I don’t know what is. Totally sucking at the teat of satanic Greek mythology and sneaking it all into schools, seminarys and churches just because he wrote that book about letters to a demon. And portraying Jesus as a four footed beast!!! Turning the creator into the creature and then advocating worship of it!! UNTHINKABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bar the doors. Now.

      regards,
      #John1453

  14. What concerns me most about all the hoopla that we Christians can generate around our fanatical aversions, on the one hand, and our own indulgences into our contemporary culture’s peddling of “vanity fair” (media being one of many), is that our energies and activities around them seem to stir us up and consume more of our time than the Gospel Story. What are we seeking?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Just like Contemporary Fad Culture, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”, what else?

      Take a direct knockoff of last year’s fad, slap a Bible verse onto it, and PRESTO! Godly Christian Alternative! Safe for the Whole Family! “Vanity Fair” peddled with a Christian coat of paint!

      (Can you tell I’m no fan of this?)

      • I’ve always like the phrase “slapped with a fish”

        • #John1453 says

          Especially when it’s animated vegetables doing the slapping. Oh No! Plant life animated with the breath of life. In my own child’s room! Is no place safe? Safe at least from bad art, if nothing else?

          regards,
          #John1453

  15. Did I just see you write “leading evangelical Christian magazine “??

    LOL!!!!!

  16. When I was in IVCF in college, our staff worker would use movies or lyrics from albums like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” as a means to talk world view – not in a fearful them-and-us perspective, which is so prevalent these days, but to get people thinking and talking.

    I have heard a lot about the gaia-ism of Avitar. I’m not bothered by that. What bothers me is that evangelicals take it as weapon of the cultural war and feel like they need to attack it. Then we get mad when movies with a Christian world view are criticized as proselytizing tools.

    I think Christians should be among the greatest artists, authors, film directors, etc. Christians should also be among the best journalists, engineers, teachers, garbage collectors.

    What bothers me is when evangelicals are compelled to support “Christian” movies, concerts, and CD’s. I remember in highschool not having money for Christian concerts or albums; several years later, when many Christian albums were re-released on CD, I still couldn’t afford them. One side effect of the cultural war is the conversion of Christians into materialistic consumers; good Christians go to Christian movies, buy Christian books, etc. Consumerism is in itself a part of secularism, that meaning in life is tied to what you own. So, in an effort to redeem the culture, evangelicals actually are expanding the influence of secularism.

    • Lukas db says

      Have anything to do with Calvin College? If not, this is a strange coincidence; the quoted sentences are, nearly verbatim down to the professions listed, the sort of ‘watch-word’ of Calvin’s president. You often find it in books by Calvin professors about how the college addresses education and vocation and so on.

      • Lukas db says

        Um quoted text didn’t appear. This is what I meant to quote:

        I think Christians should be among the greatest artists, authors, film directors, etc. Christians should also be among the best journalists, engineers, teachers, garbage collectors.

  17. Personally, I enjoyed watching Avatar, even while disagreeing vehemently with some of the threads in the plot.

    Is Pantheism anti Christian? Yes. Even worse was the hero’s repudiation of his own mortal flesh.

    Still I thought it was a fun movie, and saw it twice. I participated in what film critics call “willing suspension of unbelief.” I know that the plot line is fanciful and contains certain un Christian elements, but am willing to follow along for the ride.

    It did not damage my faith or cause me to doubt Jesus. There is a lot of wisdom in Dan Allison’s comment above.

  18. On Steve Brown, Etc, they did a neat interview sparked by Driscoll’s rant on Avatar. http://stevebrownetc.com/podcasts/steve-brown-etc/faith-art-avatar-jeffery-overstreet-on-sbe/

  19. I think Paul said it best at the end of Romans chapter 12: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
    Trying to drive the Devil out of human society and culture through negative means — be it through inquisitions, witch trials, censorship, or demonization — has been a mistake we Christians have repeated countless times throughout our history. Christ has called us to be agents of positive change, to do and stand up for that which is good — not to go around looking under every rock for that which is evil so we can purge it out of the world. Trying to rid the world of evil is a hopeless endeavor and one beyond our power — and the longer we pursue that policy, the more we risk becoming like that which we are fighting against.
    Of course, standing up for what is good often requires standing up or speaking out against evil. That said, I think Driscoll calling Avatar “satanic” is not so much a case of speaking out against real evil as it is a knee-jerk reaction against something he finds threatening to his world view. Besides, movies, books, popular music, or what some celebrity or politician said on TV are all too easy targets — and getting up in arms about such things accomplishes little except to add to the overall level of cultural noise polution. Tackling issues like poverty, homelessness, drug addition, and abuse in the home is certainly more difficult, but much more worthy of our efforts.
    I do see what you’re saying, Mike, about how far things have drifted in regards to both secular and Christian culture. Where is the line between locking ourselves up in ivory towers and becoming dangerously accepting of an ever-increasing level of moral and spiritual depravity in society? When should we watch with a discerning eye? When should we turn it off or get up and leave for our own good? That probably depends on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses — and even more on what the Holy Spirit whispers in our hearts.
    I fear it’s not going to get any easier for Christians to maintain both a relevant cultural presence and moral integrity in the days to come. And it’s going to get more and more tempting to either completely withdraw and isolate ourselves behind religious walls or just give in to cultural pressure, blend in, and keep our heads low. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll avoid both traps and pick up the only real weapon we have for overcoming evil — which is the love of Christ permeating our words and actions.

  20. Okay, I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews about this film as a Gaia propaganda stunt and only seen two minutes of “Avatar” (thanks to my brother bittorrenting the thing, which you didn’t hear me say) and the reaction I had was “Hmm – evil humans flattening trees with big evil machines. Blue aliens bawling eyes out/scowling and trying to look tough though only succeeding in looking constipated. Conclusion: director wishes me to be on side of blue aliens and trees. Effect on me: Blue aliens are all wet. Evil humans – Go ahead and kill the smurfs! Kill ’em, kill ’em!”

    Which leads me to conclude that if I, a noted tree-hugger (quite literally in childhood) had this reaction, the director kinda messed up his propagandising and the only “demonic, satanic” part is the badness of the script.

    • the only “demonic, satanic” part is the badness of the scrip

      of course how many sermons are cliche-ed, ham-fisted, worn thin as well ??…….hey…..you don’t think…..I mean the devil woulldn’t……really, COULDN’T……….OH…..NO …….

      Greg R

  21. Steve Newell says

    The challenge for Christians to be “in the world” but “not of the world”. St. Paul was able to converse with those whom he encountered in terms of their culture. In Acts 17, St. Paul was very familiar with Greek writers and Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Also, St. Paul was knowledgeable about Cretan prophets since he could quote them in his letter to Titus (Titus 1).

    Several years ago then the “Passion of the Christ” came out, many Christians couldn’t see the movie since it was rated “R”. The reality of Christ’s suffering and death is messy, bloody and cruel. We need to realize the bible is also rated “R” as well in many sections. Likewise, the history of humanity is rated “R”. We must be wiling to accept this in a mature manor and not try to believe that life if rated “G”.

    • Paul was familiar with all these sorts, but you didn’t see him seeking their venues for entertainment. There’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with what its rating is, but rather what its heart is.

      Much of what I’ve seen in this comment thread seems to confuse fundamentalist external morality with the kind of holiness of heart and life that not only chooses not to be entertained by the very same things that God chose to destroy the world for in Genesis 6, but is indeed actively grieved by such clear hatred of God and which weeps for those so blindly enslaved to it – as we once were. Can one who considers himself a Christian – filled with a fleshly heart and the Spirit of the Almighty God – really look upon daytime TV and “reality” shows for entertainment without even a twinge of pain? Can we really look upon even the portrayal of a clearly sinful, God-hating lifestyle and not be grieved, when the God whose Spirit is supposed to be indwelling us considers sin so heinous that in order to have fellowship with us His only begotten Son had to shed His blood and take upon Himself the wrath of God in our place, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.

      And people want to justify it for entertainment while the dark and bloody world outside those theater doors continues to die in desperate need of the blood of Christ?

  22. rampancy says

    What really surprises me is why there wasn’t more opposition voiced from people like Driscoll about another film: Legion – in fact, just about the only disparagement from the Christian media that I’ve seen about Legion was from CT’s own review.

    I guess you could argue that the reason why Christians seems to love to pile on Avatar is because it’s, by several orders of magnitude, a superior and more popular film, but if Avatar is to be criticized for its supposed promotion of “neo-paganism”, then doesn’t that mean that we should also be throwing out every popular film depiction of Greco-Roman religions? (I didn’t see a lot of Christians decrying Gladiator for its depiction of ancestor worship, for instance.)

    I’ve always felt that such hatred and bitterness was more because of some sense of unconscious jealousy that that “The Rest of Us” haven’t come around and made overtly evangelical films like Fireproof, Unidentified, or Left Behind: The Movie the humongous cultural and financial blockbusters that they feel they should have been.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Remember when Phil Pullman got a free pass (and Golden Compass into required reading lists in schools and libraries) while Christian Witchfinders-General were running around in circles screaming about Harry Potter? Burning Harry Potter books while Golden Compass penetrated completey under their radar?

      • Black Angus says

        My local Christian school has banned Harry Potter for all the nasty ‘witchcraft’ references but Golden Compass sits proudly on the shelf. Unbelievable.

  23. Well, the issues are generally more complex than the usual labels of “fundamentalist” or “cutting edge,” and we can be thankful that theological engagement with film is increasingly becoming a discipline (I apologize for self-promotion, but you can read my own response to Driscoll here: http://thornscompose.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/avatar-pantheism-driscoll-and-the-need-for-dialogue/ , where I borrow from the language of some excellent writers who are actively engaged in cultural engagement.

    • Perhaps the most intelligent response I’ve seen is that of Steve Lutz, who sees within the film a “longing for home.” Lutz writes:

      “Avatar has caused, for many of its viewers, a deeply felt desire to live in a world that doesn’t exist. It has awakened a longing for a world where humanity is not in conflict with nature, but preserving it. Where people are deeply connected to nature, yet still in dominion over it. A longing for a pristine world not defamed and destroyed by violence, greed, & technology. Where life and vitality is winning over death and decay. A longing for a place that feels more truly like “home” than our current planet.”

      Shameless promotion part II: thanks for the link; the above quote is from your article. Very well done and my thoughts as well. I saw Avatar once, in 3D no less,and will probably see it at least one more time: I’m thinking it can be used as a great conversation starter, especially with a demographic that increasingly has no patience for “churchy” stuff. Let’s be Paul at Mars Hill…..hey , that could be a cool church name for somebody……

      Greg R

      • “Let’s be Paul at Mars Hill…..hey , that could be a cool church name for somebody……”

        I love this.

  24. DunkerEric says

    One of the keys steps in my move away from the evangelical church was when I was in a Christian bookstore and was asked to sign a petition against the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ”. People could be free to criticize the movie, but should it really be banned? And how could I know if I didn’t see it?

    I read the Shack, and found it lightweight. I also saw Avatar, and found it pretty, but vapid. I’m glad I saw it, but rather wish I could have done so without contributing to it being the largest grossing film ever.

    • The Shack stopped being interesting (to me, anyway) midway through when it turned into a drawn-out theological conversation. Dante can get away with that, but not. . .whoever it was that wrote The Shack.

      Honestly, I can’t see a reason to spend my time reading contemporary stuff when there are centuries upon centuries of time-tested works of art to absorb.

  25. Avatar was one of the corniest movies ever made, full of the worn-out corporate bad guy willing to kill the poor ignorant natives who are so connected to the world that thier hair functions as the mind-meld connection with animals and plants thing. Yes it was full of pan theism/mother earth drivel. The effects were cool, the 3d is mostly hype that forces one to wear some bulky glasses, the story was a rehash and unmoving. We discussed with the kids the same, may the Lord give them discernment to see the worldly “spirituality” of the movie and to know/believe the truths found in scripture, “Train them up…” I do not make time for Mark Driscoll, televangelists, or most “Christian” media and have no comment on them. In case you are wondering, I am a Reformed Baptist who watches movies regularly.

    • #John1453 says

      Yeah, I’m pretty much with the guy above who wrote, “kill the smurfs” (which I neither collected nor watched as a child, ’cause I thought they were stupid back then, too). Despite the fact that ordinarily I approve of protecting “nature” (which, of course, we aren’t part of).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Though wouldn’t “corporate bad guy” or “Civilized Intruder” or “Hy00man” in this context be equally describable as “WHITEY”?

  26. It’s fiction right. … just checking. Honestly, I was not impressed with the movie, but I wasn’t applauded either. It was like eating butterscotch candy when I want a hamburger.
    I really enjoy reading driscoll. And I think he is most interesting when he is argumentative. He seems to know that and thats how the clip came off to me. I should probably view the whole sermon before making that judgement, but honestly, this response is about all the time I’m willing to invest in the topic. Sorry if that seems to flip, it just didn’t seem like a big deal (and I didn’t eve like the movie).

  27. I enjoyed the movie. To me the best part is the special effects. The plot is just your standard Noble Savage against the Civilized Intruder. That’s been done a lot both in books and movies.

  28. For those interested in how Avatar might be used to start a redemptive conversation: check out the interview at Steve Brown ETC with Jeffrey Overstreet. from the 31 min point and onwards. EXCELLENT. He draws the obvious comparison of Tolkien explaining to the then unbelieving C.S.Lewis the redemptive elements of all mythology. Beautifully said.

    Thanking GOD that Tolkien could do more than rant.
    Greg R

    • ooooops: this is the same reference linked by OBED above……should read my mail one of these days……my bad

  29. Lukas db says

    “BTW, when I started following Christ seriously, television was also an issue for some believers.”

    Still is in my church. Technically, my family could be excommunicated for owned a television. Never enforced, though people are still reprimanded for it.
    It’s fun if you imagine you’re living in some sort of time warp. There are even rules in my church’s official forms of order that treat *publishing* as a scary new thing. You can’t get a book published without the permission of the consistory, etc. No-one takes that really seriously, though.

    • When radio was in its heyday, some preachers denounced it because Ephesians calls Satan, “the prince of the power of the air.”

      It’s the Christian way. If it’s new, we’re usually against it (whatever “it” is). Over time, we begin to enjoy it ourselves. Eventually, it becomes our way of being relevant. Finally, we denounce it as “traditions of men.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Now if you could just work on the timing. Usually Christians are pretty “late adopters”; by the time “it becomes our way of being relevant” it has usually jumped the shark in the outside world.

        Something that’s gotten me steamed for a LONG time is how Christians usually get on the bandwagon (with a sanitized Christian copy) about the time the original advance/fad/trend becomes “oh-so-day-before-yesterday”. When are we going to be the ones to START the trend instead of just knocking it off and/or jumping aboard near the end of its life cycle?

        • Louis Winthrop says

          The Salvation Army adopted “Big Band” music in order to “use the devil’s works against him.” If you can imagine John Phillip Sousa and military-style spit-and-polish as the turn-of-the-century equivalent of rock-n-roll, then there you have it.

      • #John1453 says

        And don’t forget, Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, and what is a movie . . . . . but projected light?!! Need I say more?

        regards,
        #John1453

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I hope that was a joke, John1453.

          (Though in an age of excesses, you can never be sure. As far as you push the envelope as a joke, there’s going to be a True Believer twice as far out as you and Dead Serious.)

          • #John1453 says

            Yes, HUG, you are correct, I should’ve followed my statement with some sort of smiley, like: ; )

            However, it’s a sad, sad commentary on evangelicalism when some kool-aid drinker will come out of the woodwork and in all seriousness agree with what one wrote as a joke.

            regards,
            #John

  30. loved it!

  31. Donald Todd says

    I got a little more than halfway down the responses when I began to wonder if people were seeing the same film I saw.

    I saw great technological skill presented in the animated portions of the film. Astounding technology stunningly presented!!

    I saw a rather vapid story, easily anticipated as to the goods guys, the bad guys, the rough patch, and the outcome.

    I saw the current worship of the earth as a subtext for this film. Gaia worship is not new, not even in recent film, but it was cunningly presented by attaching the native people to a special tree with its roots deep in the earth. This tree had the ability to do semi-miraculous things, such as make humans cartoon characters so that they could get married to the natives and lead the fight to protect the tree against the bad humans.

    I saw it once. The wonder of the technology not withstanding, I won’t see it again.

    • Louis Winthrop says

      No, that’s what most people have been saying. I did appreciate the film’s warning about the human future, though. (Read Cameron’s “scriptment,” which is available online–it’s much fuller than the movie, and explains a lot of things that seemed to make no sense on the screen.)

      The thing about “Eywa” is, in the world of “Avatar,” she really exists. A Christian travelling to Pandora might acknowledge the existence of Eywa, but not her divinity. (Indeed, depending on denomination they might even suspect her of being demonic in character, though this would be uncharitable.)

      The poster who brought up “Vanity Fair” is onto something. An interesting question becomes, has the character of our vanities changed over the last century? For example, think of the mainstreaming of pornography and violence. Some psychologists argue (I think persuasively) that repeated exposure to all this is doing lasting harm to us.

      In a few decades, perhaps, we may be able to experience perfect “virtual” environments, which will raise all kinds of new problems. (Does it count as adultery when you do it with a “virtual” partner, or is it more like a private fantasy? And what about murder? Would it matter if the partner were a computer program, or another person who is also online?) “Avatar” seems to allude to this problem when the main character gradually comes to identify with his “avatar” body.

  32. Lots of comments on Avatar coming in.

    I’m really more interested in the changes that have occurred in the way Christians relate to popular culture over the past generation.

    I thought Gordon McNutt’s comment about how the VCR changed everything was insightful. Do advances in technology simply make it inevitable that Christians will adapt to “the ways of the world,” whether or not those ways are conducive to genuine spiritual formation?

    • I’m really more interested in the changes that have occurred in the way Christians relate to popular culture over the past generation.

      This question has lingered in my mind the last day or two. Excellent question. This is a rough paragraph before I fly off to work, but I’d say “good news/bad news”. First the bad news: some of the christian response is just mindless consumerism. In an age and culture where it’s all about “my spirituality”, we don’t do self-reflection very well, and we don’t often accept or invite outside , more mature, feedback. What is seeing this movie or TV series doing to us. Who is influencing whom here ?? Am I redemptively interacting with culture, or am I being dragged along by the riptides, and would I know if that were happening.

      NOw the good news: less separatism and false piety. More legitimate interaction and conversation (though sometimes just a tongue lashing, I’ll admit). A little bit less “do not handle do not taste do not touch”. Notice that even Driscoll never said “Dont see the movie…” He said “I can’t believe that Christians who have seen the movie fail to see….” I’ll call this an improvement over the approach you grew up with, Chaplain mike.

      rough thots, just a ‘drive by’ before I blast off to work.

      blessings to all in the ev. wilderness
      Greg R

    • Just thot I’d throw a title at you reg. how culture at large is affected by the changes in technology: especially visually and through computer: Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves To Death” might have been the best book I read while at college, many yrs ago. His analysis is of culture in general, not just the church (it’s not a christian book), and I found it both disturbing and profound. I would by dying to know if a similar analysis is out there on the same theme, but more focused on the church. Again, can’t give a strong enough plug for Postman’s work, if a non-christian book can be “prophetic”, I think this one is.

      blessings on you and those you love.
      Greg R

  33. I’ll bet Mark loved Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  34. Huh. Your response is interesting. You’d be right… if Christianity today was being defensive simply against Driscoll negatively evaluating the movie through a Christian world-view.

    I don’t think that’s their intent. Their intent is to identify that his evaluation is flawed, and I agree with them. The movie absolutely portrays a pantheistic world – but is the mere portrayal of a pantheistic world inherently demonic? No! That would be my mothers’ response. She watched The Terminal and was offended by the portrayal of the young flight attendant who was sleeping with a married man. I objected to her objection. We should not avoid the portrayal of anything negative or contrary to our worldview. Scripture is filled with stories that are not so family friendly, and stories of pagan nations and their ungodly practices. We read, we filter with Truth, and then we learn.

    Avatar portrayed a pantheistic world. There were some interesting and good things in the movie. The pantheism, even the worship scenes, did not bother me because they reminded me of the tribes I grew up around in Papua, Indonesia. That worldview and practice really does exist. It doesn’t hurt us to know about it, to understand it, and (as Christians) to understand that it is wrong.

    Thus, it is ridiculous to say that because Avatar portrays pantheism, it is demonic. The

  35. Avatar has the religious concept of ‘mother earth’, and certainly borrows heavily from ‘primitive’ cultures’ religious rituals (I almost laughed at the first religious ceremony scene becuase Iwas visually old B&W movies that showed Africans doing the same sorts of thing). The glaring religious fact to me [at least the movie suggested it heavily] was that the humans had no religious belief whatsoever. The Na’vi were the only spiritual people and were obviously portrayed as having it right.

    I can’t really recommend Avatar. The visuals were wonderful, and Zoe Saldana gave a great performance. But for me, as a writer, the story was far too predictable. I’ve seen this movie before, from “Dances with Wolves” to even Disney’s “Pocahontas”. And the fact that the sides were portrayed in such a black and white fashion was really not my cup of tea either – I enjoy flawed characters much more.

    As for the Christians vs. media idea, I always thought it a little weird they wouldn’t go to any movie, even Disney, or listen to any music, even religious classical music.

  36. hey where’s Mark’s video on Star Wars???

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I remember when Star Wars first went from movie to Cultural Phenomenon — and the Christian response, from “The Force is Jesus” Witnessing tactics to denunciations matching the Driscoll one that set off this thread. One of the local Calvary Chapel preachers (with an accompanying radio show broadcasting his sermons) literally could not pass up any opportunity to denounce, ridicule, or snark at Star Wars in his radio sermons — even if he had to create the opportunity himself.

  37. Donald Todd says

    In the Abolition of Man, CS Lewis in Chapter 3 notes that our power over nature might be examined in three examples, the aeroplane, the wireless (radio) and the contraceptive.

    He sees the aeroplane and the wireless as possessing power over people, through bombs and propaganda. He sees contraception as being powerful by denying life to the next generation.

    Lewis, in his genius, sees that power over nature is really the power of some men over others with nature as the instrument of that power.

  38. Attention Ted –

    Re: our The Shack discussion.

    I wanted to point you into the direction of this, I recall it as being one of the best.

    13 heresies in the Shack :

    http://www.leadingtheway.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sto_TheShack_13heresies

    • Hi, Matthew,

      I’m glad I checked in one more time on this thread.

      I understand that The Shack is not the gospel. It’s merely a story, an allegory, a useful tool; and if it helps some people to understand the loving nature of God, forgiveness from him as well as from us to others (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors), then great. All things to all people.

      Jesus had a few scandalous ideas about the Father, too: Calling him “Our father” in the first place–a term that had been assigned to Abraham. And calling him ab-ba, ab-ba, ab-ba, as a baby would say to his da-da. Unheard of.

      I read the book about a year ago and haven’t picked it up since. I did take a page or two of notes, and spotted a few holes in Young’s theology, but not enough to throw the whole book out, and I wasn’t sharp enough to spot all 13 of the “heresies” in the site you mentioned. I’m with Young maybe 90% of the time.

      I’m currently going through Lewis’s Mere Christianity, also taking notes, and I’m with Lewis about 99% of the time. I’m certainly not going to throw him out for that 1% that I don’t buy. I’ll take it as a challenge instead. And I’m not going to throw Young out for his loose-leaf 10%. As I said, my biggest disappointment is the poor writing style and the narrative soap-box preachiness. I had to get beyond that.

      The Shack is fiction. That’s how Young can get away with it. It’s also how Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins get away with the–shall we say–liberties–in their Left Behind series. I will not say “heresies” because I could be wrong and maybe I really will disappear and leave my tooth fillings behind. And, if the liberties in those novels can lead people to Jesus, I had better keep my mouth shut.

      • My thots exactly reg. “The Shack”: cool idea, creative approach, spotty theology, and cumbersome writing style (though the book Young has written is SO much better than the book I’ve never written…. 🙂

        nice post
        Greg R

        • Thanks. I’m a frustrated novelist myself. I can criticize the style, but he’s sold a lot more copies than the book I may never finish. It ain’t fair.

          People laughed at the Jamaican bobsled team but, hey, they won.

  39. For me, the most significant concept of Avatar was the phrase “I see you” . It reminded me of the word grok that Heinlein invented for Stranger in a Strange Land ..
    “Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed”

    I’m wondering if there are other science fiction stories that emphasize this deep human desire to know and be known.

  40. Tom Meacham says

    Hollywood movies exist to make money. I distrust them even when dealing with spiritual content that I agree with, from “King of Kings” to that Mel Gibson thing.

    Still and all, Avatar reflects a non-Western world view that many people value. World views are like languages. Chinese isn’t the “wrong” language, and English isn’t the “right” language. World views are not right or wrong, they are just there. You must understand and appreciate a world view before you can make the Gospel meaningful in it. The Gospel itself isn’t a world view; it is Good News to all people.

  41. CastingCrown says

    Have a listen to Fr. Barron talking about Avatar – a far more balanced approach, in my opinion, than Mark Driscoll:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtZyku2H1PI&feature=grec