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Avatar's "Peace Child"|
Q. McMahon wrote an article called "The Avatar Gospel" in Dave Hunts monthly newsletter. He claims the movie, Avatar, promotes Shamanism and Christians shouldn't be trying to read Christianity into popular movies. He accuses some groups of trying to accommodate Christ to the culture which becomes syncretism and ecumenism, contributing to the religion of the Antichrist. How would you respond to this?
Exposing Doctrinal Errors
I read the article you've referenced. Overall, Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon have done a superb job exposing errant doctrines found in many aspects of church life and practice. One we especially appreciate is their expose of psychology which they argue has replaced the Holy Spirit with therapy. Their source books and DVDs offered on this subject are invaluable.
Star Wars - High Tech Hinduism
The first two-thirds of their article, "The Avatar Gospel," teach readers general principles of shamanism and aspects of Hinduism. This presents valuable teaching insights that might benefit many families.
For example, McMahon notes that Star Wars "wrapped the beliefs and practices of Hinduism in a high tech, science fiction saga. The incredibly successful film series propelled Eastern mysticism into the minds of Western youth. Avatar does the same for shamanism" (McMahon 2010, 3).
Parents would be wise to learn about and understand cultic beliefs and practices that their children may be exposed to throughout their lives. This is the only way we can teach our children to stand firm in the faith.
However, that does not mean that Christians should shun all mythologies and legends. C.S. Lewis certainly used popular and classic myths in his wonderful, inspirational books for children. Fairy tales and creative narratives have always provided valuable teaching tools about what makes us truly "human."
Fodder for Syncretism&Ecumenism
However, McMahon points out that "The maddening part comes when professing believers attempt to read Christianity into popular movies that are thoroughly antichrist. Christianity Today, the Emerging Church Movement, Rick Warrens Global P.E.A.C.E. plan have a penchant for trying to find buried nuggets of Christ in the culture, or accommodating Christianity to the culture, and vice versa. Many are about sanctifying and redeeming the paganism of a society, or at least trying to harmonize and work with all religions. This is all fodder for syncretism and ecumenism" (McMahon 2010, 4).
Erasing Missions Methodology
But, in his scathing denunciation of those Christians who embrace syncretism and ecumenism, McMahon has creatively wiped-away missionary endeavors of the past two-hundred or more years.
The Peace Child
For example, for hundreds of centuries missionaries have embraced a sort of "Peace Child" mentality in their attempts to communicate the gospel of Christ to other cultures. The Peace Child was an inspiring, true story written in the 1970s about Don and Carol Richardson who served as missionaries among the Sawi tribes people in the Southwest Pacific jungles. The tribesmen of this culture valued treachery and trickery. In the process Judas became the hero while Jesus was the loser.
However, the Richardsons noticed that peace was sought by the chief of a tribe by offering his infant son to another warring faction. This was the peace child. Through this unique peace offering the Richardsons found a redemptive analogy to Jesus Christ, like the Sawis' peace child to the world. Through understanding this analogy the Sawis accepted Christ into their lives and culture.
"Redemptive Analogy" was a method practiced by the Apostle Paul, too. In his excellent review of the movie Peace Child, Brett Willis writes,
The Apostle Paul was well-acquainted with Greek culture and literature; he often quoted Greek authors as a means of bridging the cultural gap or of just fitting in. At Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-31 he quoted or alluded to Aeschylus Eumenides, Platos Republic and Platos Phaedo, as well as Epimenides, Aratus and Euripides. By knowing and by showing that he knew what his hearers already believed, he was able to relate to them and to lead them from familiar concepts to unfamiliar ones. In Acts 21:39, moments after being nearly killed by a mob, Paul had the presence of mind to get the Roman officers attention by again quoting Euripides ("no mean city"). And in Titus 1:12 he again quoted Epimeides of Knossos, a Cretian who had unflattering but true things to say about his own countrymen.
In the conclusion to his review of Peace Child, Mr. Willis makes a point that we might apply to Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon:
The point is, as a holier-than-thou Pharisee Paul would have been forbidden from reading and studying Greek culture and literature. And Paul claims (Acts 26:5) that he lived as a strict Pharisee until his conversion (no mention of a "wild oats" period in his youth). The only fair conclusion is that Paul began to study Greek culture after his conversion to Jesus! See Pauls own explanation of his strategy in 1 Cor. 9:19-23)
(Willis 2003, 3).
I have become All Things to All Men
In his conclusion Bret Willis emphasized portions of the Apostle Paul's writings such as these:
"To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law" (1 Cor 9:20-21).
Paul finishes with a key point: "I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22, NASB).
Doctrinal Purity includes Loving Others
Certainly, I desire to stand before the Lord knowing that I kept the faith and cherished and understood doctrinal purity. But, will I have missed an important key to witnessing if I become like the Pharisees of today? Will I have forgotten cultural bridges and redemptive analogies? Will I have neglected loving other people so much that I am willing to search for and find a communicative link to present to them the gospel in words and imagery they can appreciate and understand?
McMahon, T.A. 2010. The Avatar Gospel. From: The Berean Call. Vol. XXV No. 3. pgs. 3-4. (March)
Richardson, Don. 1975. Peace child. Calif., Ventura: Regal Books.
Ryrie Study Bible, NASB. 1996. Chicago: Moody.
Willis, Brett. 2003. Peace Child. Movie review. From: Christian Answers Network. Available from: www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2003/peacechild.html. (accessed 3/21/2010).
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