Avatar – Movie Discussion Guide
By: Stacey Tuttle
While there are a variety of interesting topics for discussion from Avatar  the topic which is probably most obvious and of greatest concern to Christians centers around the New Age philosophy which permeates Avatar. Neytiri teaches Jake Sully the Na’vi way of life and philosophy – and it’s a lesson in New Age religion – centered on the connectedness and sacredness of all things.
Rather than launch into an exposé of all things New Age in Avatar, or a criticism of the New Age “agenda”, I would like to simply point to Jesus and show you how the Bible differs from the New Age. First, let me state a couple disclaimers. It is easy to get offended at the New Age philosophy and say there is a pointed effort to push the New Age teaching on the masses. However, don’t the non-Christians say the same about any movie that has a Christian message? You may choose to see or not see the movie, but I find it inconsistent for Christians to complain about any other religion trying to teach or convert people when we are commanded, Biblically, to do the same.
This brings me to a second disclaimer: when you launch into conversations comparing any religion or world view to Christianity, do this prayerfully and with humility, or as the Bible says, with “gentleness and respect” (I Pe 3:15). If you go in looking to attack and reveal to someone all the faults in what they believe, you are likely to make them more determined to keep their beliefs. It is often more effective to simply point people to the truth than it is to point out the flaws and/or lies of their own beliefs. When they see the truth, it will naturally bring error to light. They will be quicker to let go the lies if they see that there is truth to grab hold of, whereas a direct attack on the lies will often make them clench hold even tighter.
A final comment before we look closer at the New Age philosophy is that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus is the difference between Christianity and every other religion on the earth. Any discussions about faith ought to center on Jesus – remember that “no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6). You can show the flaws in New Age thinking, you may even get people to renounce false beliefs, but unless you teach them about Jesus you cannot bring them to the truth.
New Age vs. Christian
The following look at New Age is excerpted from Douglas R. Goothuis’ book, “Unmasking the New Age”:
The idea that “all is one” is foundational for the New Age; it permeates the movement… Another name for this idea is monism. Mono means “one”. Monism, then, is the belief that all that is, is one. All is interrelated, interdependent an interpenetrating. Ultimately there is no difference between God, a person, a carrot or a rock. They are all part of one continuous reality that has no boundaries, no ultimate divisions. Any perceived differences between separate entities—between Joe and Judy or between Joe and a tree of between God and Judy—are only apparent and not real…
Monism, the basic premise of the New Age movement, is radically at odds with a Christian view of reality. A Christian world view affirms that God’s creation is not an undivided unity but rather a created diversity of objects, events and persons. Genesis 1 records God creating particular things. God separated the light from the darkness, day from night, the earth from the sky and the dry round from the seas. He then created plans and animals according to their various kinds. Finally, he created humans in his image. Creation is thus not a homogenous soup of undifferentiated unity but a created plurality. Creation is not unified in itself but in the plan and purpose of God –in Christ “all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Our world is, as C.S. Lewis put it, “incorrigibly plural.” Even God himself, according to the Bible, is not an undifferentiated unity but a tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit—the Trinity.
ALL IS GOD
Once we admit that all is one, including god, then it is a short step to admitting that “all is god.” This is pantheism. All things –plants, snails, books and so on—are said to partake of the one divine essence… Going further, it is argued that if everything is one and if all dualities in reality dissolve into the cosmic unity, then so does the idea of a personality. A personality can only exist where it defines itself in relation to other beings or things… If all is one, then there is only one being—the One. The One does not have a personality; it is beyond personality. God is more an “it” than a “he.” The idea of a personal God is abandoned in favor of an impersonal energy, force or consciousness.
Yet, the Bible affirms that all is not god. God the Creator stands transcendently distinct from his creation. While God is present in his creation—not being an absentee landlord—he is not to be confused with the creation. Creation does not contain him. The apostle Paul spoke against those who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (5:2). To identify what is not God as God is what the Bible calls “idolatry”.
Does God Take Sides?
Jake Sully prays to Aywah for help before entering into battle. Neytiri explains, however, that Aywah doesn’t take sides; Aywah only protects the balance of power. I know that people throughout history have committed horrendous atrocities claiming that God was on their side. And it is likely in response to this that a non-committal personality holds such appeal. However, on the flip side of that you have people who are persecuted who cling to the idea that God has a personality and will eventually get involved and come through for them. Ultimately, even Avatar rejects the idea of a completely neutral supreme being when Aywah answers Jake’s prayers and provides enough help in the battle to turn the tide and win the war. As I heard Neytiri’s comment that Aywah doesn’t take sides I immediately recoiled. Who wants to serve a God who won’t defend them? Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right arm.” And in Isaiah 52:12 it says “the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard”—in other words, God’s got your back, and your front as well. Not only that, but the God of the Bible “opposes the proud” (Jas 4:6). The Christian God is not simply defending some balance of power. He is personal, involved and even takes sides. Don’t believe me? Why else would the Bible say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) unless it is to say we have a God who gets involved and takes sides? I am not saying that God takes the side of anyone who asks. I am also not saying that God takes the side of someone every time they ask. Nor am I saying that everyone who claims God is on their side is right. God is not a genie that is required to do as we command. The point here, however, is not to examine when God takes sides, but simply to point out that he is personal and he does get involved. I’ll leave the discussion of when and why for another day.
 Some other ideas for discussion include the idea of destiny and the question of what happens when you aren’t the ideal person for the job, but you are the only one there is.