I don't know much about Mark Driscoll. His is a name I've heard, but I'm not sure in what context. What I can gather from this video though, is that he has little understanding of paganism, the arts, or, apparently, the gospel. I don't want to personally attack the guy, I'm sure he's lovely, plus he's bigger and hairier than I am, but I can only disagree with him in this video.
0:19 - "The most demonic, satanic film I have ever seen. That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me."
The Greek word which we translate into Satan is 'diabolos', which literally means, the accuser. The role of the diabolos, of Satan is to point the finger, to accuse, to make feel guilty. That Driscoll does not see the irony in 1) calling Avatar Satanic, and then 2) laying the guilt trip on Christians who enjoyed the James Cameron movie is scary considering his global audience.
0:50 - "It tells us that ... we shouldn't develop culture, that's a bad thing."
Is Driscoll saying that the indigenous people represented by the blue aliens have no developed culture? Again, to understand 'primitive' culture as no-culture shows a pretty serious lack of cultural awareness to me. It seems to me that Avatar's moral is not 'culture is a bad thing', but rather that 'culture that comes at the expense of others is a bad thing.' This seems firmly Biblical to me. Surely, it's a corporate scale translation of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.
1:00 - "We're not sinners, we're just disconnected from the divine life force; just classic, classic, classic paganism."
Classic paganism would be Greco-Roman polytheism would it not? There is no concept of a 'divine life force' in the stories of the gods on Mount Olympus - if anything, the polytheistic gods are even more tangible than the Christian monotheistic God! They are essentially human - petty, squabbling, jealous gods. The point I want to make here is that there is no 'classic, classic, classic paganism'. The word 'pagan' covers huge ground; Greco-Roman/Norse mythology, Native/Indigenous spirituality (American, Australian, African), Druidism, Wicca, Hinduism, basically anything that isn't Christian, Muslim or Jewish! Driscoll is putting a huge, diverse and complex global set of beliefs into a box that in reality only describes a small portion of it.
1:37 - "A man comes to be among a people group and to assume their identity; it's a false Jesus."
This sounds pretty close to a real Jesus to me... This whole section about a false salvation, false heaven, and so on is very waffly. Who is this man, what is this false heaven, that Driscoll is talking about? Are we talking about a character in the movie?
2:00 - "The visuals are amazing because Satan wants you to emotionally connect with the lie."
This is where it gets really silly. Was Satan a producer on this movie? At what point did the prince of darkness get his say in the design of the visuals of James Cameron films? Aside from ascribing too much power and influence to the idea of Satan, what Driscoll misses is the power of beauty. C.S. Lewis, the master apologist, is known to have loved the beauty of the medieval understanding of the cosmos. He is quoted as saying that it held greater aesthetic appeal for him than the stories of his faith - ultimately allowing a (pagan?) errant view of the world to influence the greatest Christian children's books ever written. Of course, it is not literally true, but it is beautiful, as is the art of Salvador Dali, Carl Jung's understanding of the human mind, and Karl Marx's faith in humanity - though all of these might tread on heterodox ground in the creation of their masterpieces.
2:09 - "I've never been accused of being [a fundamentalist]."
(sometimes initial capital letter) a movement in American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reaction to modernism and that stresses the infallibility of the Bible not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record, holding as essential to Christian faith belief in such doctrines as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, physical resurrection, atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the Second Coming.
2:19 - "I've got two home theatre systems, I've got three TiVos..."
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matt. 19:21)
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matt. 7:5)
I have a home cinema system. I am surrounded by material wealth. I am the greatest hypocrite in the world when I say this, because this is a lesson that I need to learn. Is it unreasonable to suggest that perhaps what scares Driscoll about Avatar, as it scares me, is not 'classic paganism', but the Christophanic suggestion that there is more to life that our material comfort?
2:40 - "We just don't like Satan..."
In John 8, this is more or less exactly the line that those who would ultimately kill Jesus use about him.
The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (v.48). Hey, you say nice things, but you don't fit into our orthodoxy. Therefore, you must be possessed by a devil and we can't like you.
I'm not saying that James Cameron is the Christ (read on to find out why not!), but I am saying that using the "we don't like Satan" though very motivational-sounding, is the oldest of cop-outs for grappling with reality that includes shades of grey, mystery and unanswered questions.
3:00 - "The problem isn't sin, it's disconnection [use of grammar mine] from the divine..."
Isn't the usual Evangelical definition of sin something along the lines of 'that which disconnects us from God'?
3:14 - "Eastern Garbage-ism"
At this point, Driscoll moves from disagreeable to offensive. Firstly, the type of spirituality parodied (?) in Avatar is not Eastern - it is Native American. The greatest and truest critique I've heard of Avatar as a piece of cinematography is that it is simply a sci-fi-ification of The Last of the Mohicans, Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, and so on. It has nothing to do with Eastern pantheism, and everything to do with Western animism.
Let's not forget also, that Christianity is an Eastern, not American, religion. To refer to Easter religion as Garbage-ism is not only fantastically, dangerously xenophobic, it is also completely self-unaware.
3:17 - "It just is."
Oh, sorry, my mistake.
3:20 - "Spark of divinity within you, God is in everything... It's worldliness."
In Christ were created all things in heaven and on earth
everything visible and everything invisible.... Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity. (Col. 1:15-17)
Where could I go to escape your spirit?
Where could I flee from your presence?
If I climb the heavens, you are there,
there too, if I lie in Sheol.
If I flew to the point of sunrise, or westward across the sea
your hand would still be guiding me, your right hand holding me. (Psalm 139:7-10)
We could say much more and still fall short; to put it concisely, "He is all." (Sirach 43:27) (Do apocryphal texts count?)
Do I not fill heaven and earth? It is Yahweh who speaks. (Jer. 23:24)
If these keep silence, the stones will cry out. (Luke 19:40)
In him we live, and move, and have our being.... "We are his offspring." (Acts 17:28)
For from him, and through him and to him are all things. (Rom. 8:36)
There is one God who is father of all, over all, through all and within all. (Eph. 4:6)
...No it isn't.
Now, here's Driscoll's biggest mistake.
The film is about justice. The Disney-villain corporate humans are the bad guys. The Na'vi are the good guys, who are trodden upon by the evil-doers, and it is about justice for those with no voice of their own.
Should the native Americans whose land was plundered by the wealthy not know justice?
Should the aboriginal Australians whose land was made into a giant prison by the British not know justice?
Should the Iraqi kurds slaughtered by Saddam Hussein's regime not know justice?
Should the millions of Jews gassed to death in WWII not know justice?
It would be immoral of me to compare real-life genocides with bubblegum Hollywood pop, but that is the moral of the film. The film does not aim to say 'God lives in trees', it aims to say, 'Justice!'. By saving a group of people from persecution, you are not agreeing with their religious beliefs (note that none of the above are Christians), but you are signing up to a belief that justice is more important that ideological differences.
To conclude, I think Avatar, along with most of Hollywood (noteable exception of 2009 - Gran Torino) has got justice all wrong. Avatar teaches redemptive violence. The downtrodden ultimately win by having a larger army, and killing more people. Power saves the day.
That's why James Cameron is not Christ. If his film is misguided, it is not because of the depiction of animism, it is because violence saves the day - the opposite of the Christian narrative in which the victim saves the day by being the victim. Other people; Rene Girard, James Alison, Gil Bailie, Walter Wink, have written about this much more eloquently than I can, and I would urge Driscoll to read some of these guys.
Perhaps a better understanding of Christian non-violence could dissuade him from future blunders like this sermon.