James Cameron, Bible Avatar


or A World of Magnets and Miracles

Just saw Avatar with the kids and thought I’d post some thoughts.

Firstly, as with the few other films I’ve noted around here, the biblical themes are worth commenting on. We have a generation of young people hungry for a world full of symbols and are currently stuck with a clergy full of myopic well-meaning geeks too dim to realise they are withholding it from them. Yes, average evangelical, this means you.

You think you are a theologian but you spend little time really seeing the Bible because you don’t understand its language. If you had eyes to see, your children and grandchildren are sitting expectantly around the fire waiting for the aged story teller to share with them their spiritual genealogies, mighty victories and awful rites, and you can’t impart these things because of your own unbelief. The kingdom is being taken from you and given to others.[1] You have robbed them of their heritage for far too long. It’s time for the dead boring boffins of compromise to go. I’d say that’s about 90% of the academy? (It’s okay. They won’t understand what I’m getting at.)

I’m not going to get into the eco-vego-dandiccino gaia crap. That side of Avatar was just a remake of the cartoon movie Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. On that side of things, Fern Gully was actually better. With Tim Curry and Robin Williams, how could it not be?

What struck me with Avatar was the many rich biblical symbols brought to life. Like most movies, it follows the Exodus to Canaan [Bible matrix] pattern, so I won’t dwell on that. I’ll just list the observations.

  1. Someone on the BH list mentioned that the name of the goddess sounds like Yahweh.
  2. The main character, Jake, is a cripple, a symbol of the human race whose planet is on the brink of death. As a new Adam, 100% human and 100% alien, he becomes, like Christ, the perfect mediator.
  3. When the native chick is deciding whether or not to kill him, and there is that sign, it is every anointing in Scripture leading up to the transfiguration of Christ. It is the dove descending upon the chosen son, the anointed One, the Messiah. He is clothed in glory as a sign. He is Adam with a better heart.
  4. Jake and the chick’s “marriage before gaia” was de facto (marriage-by-sex) but at least it was for life.
  5. When he visits the Tree of Souls, he is the high priest in the most holy place, an advocate for the people.
  6. Sigourney Weaver is the Old Covenant bride who has “given birth” to the mediator. She dies and is buried, like Sarah, like the body of Moses, in the Land. The native bride is a new beginning, a new government.
  7. The Presbyterians won’t understand this, but Jake’s initiation as a warrior is exactly the point I have been trying to get across about the importance of credo-baptism.
  8. The villains blow up the giant tree, a symbol of the natives’ kingdom, but their worship is intact. It is their cultus that turns the massive defeat into victory.
  9. As Joshua, captain of the Lord’s host, Jake rallies the natives and takes them into battle. As the sixth only native to be able to ride that flying dragon thing, he is a new Covenant head who raises a new body for God out of the ashes of the old kingdom tree. He is the son of man, Ezekiel, Jehu, Jesus, taken up in the Lord’s chariot to speak the Covenant curses over the false worship and end it forever. He is a man riding as Yahweh on the wings of the wind. (Jake even mentions calling the tribes from the four winds).
  10. When the chief dies in battle, he hands his bow to his daughter. The rainbow is a symbol the Covenant. This is Covenant succession at its best.
  11. There is a lot of talk about seeing one another in truth, instead of seeing each other as simple commodities. This goes way beyond the sentimentalism of modern Christianity. It is understanding the symbolic nature of everything that was made, most importantly man and woman. The native chick finally sees Jake as he really is, a cripple. We too must look beyond the faults of our brothers and sisters. But we must also see their liturgical significance. Christians blinded by evolutionary thinking understand this to some degree, but their unbelief limits them from really seeing it. They think we are nuts, but we see they are blind. They need Jordan’s New Eyes. Jake is a tabernacle.
  12. The “synapse” connection the natives have with their environment is interesting, and it highlights the failure behind this theo-ecology. Because of sin, our world is totally disconnected from us. It tries to kill us constantly and eventually succeeds. The only way to reconnect is by blood, pictured in the Covenant-making sacrifices and Abram’s sleep. Only then is the Land fruitful. We are reconnected to the Land only by death and resurrection. Adam has to come out of the ground all over again. He comes out as gold, silver, bronze and iron.
  13. The gaia religion intimates that Eden was fully mature, that the garden is already a city. But the Bible shows us that although we lost Paradise, the intended growth to maturity is occurring nonetheless. Adam is supposed to cut down trees, and mine the Land. He is supposed to build stuff. Like Nebuchadnezzar, Adam Himself was cut down, legless, and resurrected in a more glorious body. [2] Nature is supposed to be tranformed into culture.
  14. When the natives all “plugged themselves into” the Tree of Souls to save Grace, she passed under the “eye of Eywah.” When we meet for communion, united by the Spirit, we also pass under the eye for inspection. The transformation of the Old Covenant Law is our life.
  15. The main victory was won when the “goddess” brought all those fantastic, deadly animals to help out, the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, which had previously been a curse. When that large shiny “panther” comes and submits to the native chick, it is the animals submitting to Noah, it is the wolf and lamb lying down together in the ark, it is Ruth submitting under the Covenant to Naomi and to Boaz, and finally it is the Gentiles joining the hosts of God in the first century to bring about the end of the old earth. It is the true woman, Jael, Esther, the firstfruits church, exalted over the beast instead of the deceived harlot.
  16. During the last battle, when the hero and villain are both fighting from inside other “bodies”, it is again the technology of death versus the technology of life. Suddenly the Bible verse about not trusting in the legs of men makes more sense. Jake is in his avatar and the bad general in his metal body (very much like the last battles in Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, which were virtually identical). What it really funny is that it is actually James Cameron in the metal man. James Cameron hates Jesus. He is Goliath with chainmail and bronze legs and trusting in the strength of Philistine iron. After his pathetic “documentary” about Jesus’ tomb, it is James Cameron trying destroy the “empty” tomb of Jake as he attacks the container containing Jake’s human body. The living sacrifice was the source of the victory.
  17. Making this movie, despite the animism, James Cameron is an unwitting avatar for the Spirit of God. He, like all western atheists enemies of Christ, is a product of a Christian heritage. This is the only story they know. He, and many like him today, is teaching the Bible to our children. We just need eyes to see, to take back this role for ourselves, and to keep doing it better.

Nice to see an Aussie in the lead role, too. On ya, Sam.

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
The ringing of the division bell had begun…

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter
The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river [3]

[1] Want a theologian you can listen to like stories around the fire? Listen to James Jordan. Get that series advertised in the right column. Just do it.
[2] See Unashamed Artisans.
[3 Pink Floyd, High Hopes.

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28 Responses to “James Cameron, Bible Avatar”

  • Kelby Carlson Says:

    That movie was the best thing I have seen in quite a long time. Excellent observations–we need more film critics like you. Please keep doing this.

    And the fact that you had lyrics to a Pink Floyd song close out the post absolutely made my day.

  • Barbara Harvey Says:

    Mike, could you expand # 7 for me? I don’t get it. If anything, I’d take Jake’s training & flight on the banshee as a 40 days & triumph over Satan parallel.

  • David Says:

    “17. Making this movie, despite the animism, James Cameron is an unwitting avatar for the Spirit of God. He, like all western atheists, is a product of a Christian heritage.”

    Are you saying James Cameron is an atheist? If so, how do you know?

  • Mike Bull Says:


    Sorry – it was his initiation as a warrior (the face-paint ceremony) I was referring to. That is how baptism is repeatedly presented in the literary structure of the New Testament, a commission for war.


    Yes, perhaps I should just have said Jesus-hater. Same thing as far as I’m concerned. His attacks lump him with Ditchkins. I have changed it to “enemies of Christ.”

  • David Says:

    James Cameron is a “Jesus hater”? So what evidence do you have to support your claim?

    And if Sigourney Weaver “is the _Old_ Covenant bride”, why is her character given the name “Grace Augustine”?

    Read “Avatar’s Christian theme” by Mike Silk:


  • Mike Bull Says:


    This is basic logic. A tree is known by its fruit. Anyone who goes to such lengths to deny the resurrection of Christ is an enemy of the gospel – unless of course you want to redefine the gospel. If James Cameron loves a Jesus whose body decayed, he has invented his own plastic bobble-head dashboard Jesus, like the Mormons did, a Jesus made in our image. We don’t need death and resurrection. We can be nice all on our own.

    Avatar takes a lot of Bible and mashes it together. I would say that with Jake as a man who needs redemption, yes, Grace is the church, the New Covenant “mother”. But the other thread is Jake as the perfect mediator, which makes Grace the Old Covenant “mother.” It’s just a movie. The parallels aren’t perfect. Same goes for Narnia, Lord of the Rings, etc. The themes are there but we can’t get too picky.

    What gets me is how biblically illiterate Christians are, and we have the modernist Christian academy to blame for that. We can’t evaluate with much discernment the stuff our culture pumps out without knowing the look and feel of the real money first. The pontiffs keep it locked away in the vault, or as Angie B. commented, behind glass like Grandma’s best China.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    And Dave

    Thanks for your comments. I’m not as grumpy as I sound. I appreciate the interaction!

  • David Says:

    From the following interview, it seems Cameron believes the body of Jesus decayed, but also says “Jesus may well have risen…and then ultimately ascended to heaven.”


    See also:

    “Avatar: More Spiritual Than You’d Think”
    by Mike Furches

  • Mike Bull Says:


    Interesting twist, but it still doesn’t gel. He talks about “experts” and it being a story that needed to be told. Besides the fact that it had been set aside as not worthy of being told for many years, ie. not enough to credit it, all these guys seem to want to pick and choose which bits of the Bible they want to believe. How can you believe Jesus did ascend if you don’t accept the testimony of Scripture? ie. the Bible is just an imperfect record of events, but Jesus rose because He is God in flesh, yet Jesus believed the Scriptures Himself? Doesn’t add up.

    Also, I find it hard to understand someone filled with the Spirit of God allowing so much blasphemy in his film. If you are not for Jesus, you are against Him. Doug Wilson wrote today:

    “…the world is always opposed to Christ unless it is fully and consciously in submission to Him.”



  • David Says:

    Many people pick and choose which bits of the Bible they want to believe because they don’t have a high view of scripture. It’s as simple as that.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Perhaps you are right. But there are Christians who don’t believe the Bible’s chronologies, and then there is Simcha Jacobovici’s and James Cameron’s “Exodus Decoded.”

  • Uri Brito Says:

    Mike, excellent review. Many thanks.
    I think on the baptism issue we may be speaking different typological languages, The point Jim, Peter, and others have been making for years is that baptism is union language (See Leithart’s Baptized Body)…it is a call to holy warfare. It is initiation. And infants are brought in by grace. I just don’t know how you can maintain your arguments in light of Lusk’s Paedofaith or Leithart’s Baptized Body. But again, I’ve bought into BH’dom in full and to me the implications are undeniable. Again, terrific insights.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Uri

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with most of what they say on baptism, including paedofaith. The only difference is that typologically it must be a response in faith, not by proxy, which only rules out infants. I have quite a few articles on it around here if you want some clarification.



  • hiram Says:

    A resounding AMEN!

    I’m going to dig looking at film this way from now on :)

    Thanks, Mike!


  • Mike Bull Says:

    G’day Hiram

    A better one is Fight Club – if you have the stomach for it, that is.
    See: http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2009/04/10/tyler-rules-the-world/

  • ag mcintosh Says:

    Interesting observations. I’m alright with the parallels as long as the point is that even in his attempt to discredit Christianity, Cameron inevitably has to borrow from it in order to do so. But, I think some of the parallels are a stretch, as I found the movie to be one of the most over-the-top pantheistic, neo-pagan, Kabbalah propaganda films ever. It went to great lengths to show that their religion was the true one, and that it was even true for humans (i.e. Weaver saying “this isn’t some pagan fairytale, it’s real”, and the main character praying to the nature-god saying, “remember my planet and where we came from, we killed our Mother”.) So we got pantheism, global warming and anti-war all rolled into one. I wouldn’t recommend it as an allegory for Christianity by any means. On another note, I haven’t seen it yet, but my friend says Sherlock Holmes is the closest to a Christian movie we’ll get. I’m anxious to see it!

    Also, you made a comment about credobaptism over paedo, and how credo is proper since baptism is a sign of war? Could you elaborate on this please? Even if baptism symbolized war, why are you assuming that infants can’t battle?

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi ag

    I agree totally on the religious side of things. As Doug Wilson says in his debate with Christopher Hitchens in “Collision,” the only way Hitchens could drive Christianity off the road was from inside the car. Cameron builds his Babel with borrowed capital.
    On baptism, start at the link I gave Uri (3 comments above) and work from there. Feel free to ask any questions if you make it out the other side.

  • Uri Brito Says:

    Granted Mike…precisely my point. Typologically, faith matures…remember Jim’s words: Every baptism is infant baptism.
    Every faith-response is a maturing faith-response.

  • Mike Bull Says:


    Infant baptism is not a response by the infant. Like circumcision, like the crucifixion, it is the silent son under the knife of the Father. That is not how it is presented in the New Testament, ever.

  • Uri Brito Says:

    Mike, one more comment and I will be done. Again, thanks for the interaction.
    But…circumcision and crucifixion are faith responses. They may not be with all the pomp and glory of a once-I-was-drunk-now-I-am-found response, but it is a response of faith nevertheless. Grace is poured, thus faith is enlivened; not the opposite.
    Babies leap….is it not faith simply because it was not spoken? Mentally handicap express their faith, though they cannot articulate it. Is it faith in your scheme? Faith is faith whether or not it meets modern expectations. Faith may begin passively, but it is combined and matured with active faith (see Shepherd).
    I must confess you are enigmatic in this respect. I have no idea why you are trying to maintain this theses in light of your hermeneutic. As Pratt used to tell us in seminary: “All contexts shape our theological convictions.” Mine did…what is yours? Let’s talk in the New Year about this. Glad to have you in Bh’dom.

  • Mike Says:

    Your point list is pretty thorough.
    I took my boys to see Avatar and I liked the movie a well.I saw the 3D version which was really cool but after awhile I got a head ache from the 3D effect.It does have religious undertones that point to a pantheistic/mother earth world view but what makes this unique is this “mother pandora” hears and answers prayers unlike the new age mother earth.The story of the exploitative nature of the materialistic and military/industrial society reminds me of the book of Enoch.The Nephilim were condemned not because of their use of magic but the use of knowledge for their own selfish interests.It was the abuse of power that was the sin; the exploitation of women, creating drugs and using metallurgy to create weapons of war and all these things caused great suffering to society as a whole.It was the abuse of knowledge and how it affected both the creation and the community that violated Gods law.Another aspect I liked about the film was how it portrayed Divine intervention as a limited event which I think reflects how Divine intervention works in the Christian world view.Too much Divine intervention negates free will but a limited amount gives life to myths and miracles.Their are scenes that hints at Resurrection and also the Tree of Life.I don’t think it is a coincidence the writers choose to call the “sinner” scientist Grace Augustine.In the end she is saved by Grace. The religious nature of the story is presented ambiguous enough that one can weave ones own religious views into it.It’s a good movie….

  • andy culpepper Says:

    The movie is replete with Christian symbols. But what Cameron chose to do is to include Christian symbols among mythology and other religious references — Native American as well as Hindu. The title alone is a reference to a Hindi deity. Here’s the link to my review and analysis. I hope I’m right. If I’m wrong, it’s marvelous coincidence. Nice catch with Yahweh. But there are more. And the Joshua reference is possible, but I’m more inclined to go with an interpretation which plays off Sigourney Weaver’s name. And Jake’s. Check out my post on TheHollywoodBeat.com if you like, and see what you think.


  • Pastor Pritam Singh Sandhu Says:

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this blog entry and was fascinated by the biblical themes and imagery throughout the Avatar movie. Mike Bull – you wrote well and very insightfully. Extremely thought provoking. There must be many more biblical themes not included here.

    Blessings from Singapore!

  • mathmama2 Says:

    I found it interesting that when the avatar was ‘born’ he ran out into the ‘garden’ before his ‘time’, and was thrown a piece of fruit by a women, which he ate and enjoyed.

  • tiger tim Says:

    —Cameron, who’s aging FAST —might find his soul for real by sacrificing some of his enormous
    box office in his ‘fave’ franchise slum —ACROSS
    the Pacific —and confront that same regime’s
    staggering legacy of ‘peacetime’ genocide.

  • Scott Says:

    Maybe a less known fact is the word Navi (the name of the blue people) is the Hebrew word for Prophet!!!! Coincidence… I THINK NOT

  • B. Pastoral Says:

    I’ve just found your entry. Very interesting analysis and also relevant to my own take on Cameron’s Avatar. I see more of a parallel between the “Jake Sully” character and a composite of the biblical Caleb and Joshua’s two spies, however. Here’s my thinking, if you may be interested.


  • Mike Bull Says:

    That’s a great take on it. Very interesting.