Gotta be brief. Be sure you check out my post on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, too! Enjoy the posts.
3 Ways to Live Out Gender Equality this Christmas– The title explains it, but this is a deep post calling Christians to live out gender equality over the Christmas season. This has some great practical advice.
The Jewish Background of the Incarnation in John 4– Here is a fascinating read on how the Incarnation in John 4 reflects a Jewish background. This is a theologically deep, compelling post that I highly recommend you read.
Are Scientific Explanations the Only Show in Town?– Short answer: no. This post offers 7 quick, accessible points for why this is the case.
Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament Out of Context– Here’s a thoughtful post by Craig Keener on this extremely complex topic. I recommend reading the post, as well as some books on this interesting topic.
Tales of a Recovering Answer-Addict: From Young Earth Apologist to Evolutionary Creationist– Though we are called to always have a reason, this does not mean we should get addicted to answers–a pitfall I have fallen into myself more than once. Here’s a post about a young earth creationist who fell into that trap, and emerged as a theistic evolutionist/evolutionary creationist.
Star Wars Advent Antiphon- Leader and Lawgiver– Over at “The Sci-Fi Christian,” they are doing a series of Advent Antiphons leading up to Christmas. Each has a look at a Star Wars character, and then relates that character back to Christianity. The’re good reading, so check them out!
I have read over 100 Star Wars books and watched all the movies dozens of times (probably well over 100 for each of the original trilogy). In other words, I’m a Star Wars fan. I absolutely loved The Force Awakens. It was fantastic. It was wonderful. It was Star Wars. I’m also a devout Christian. Here, I will evaluate the movie from a Christian perspective.
SPOILER WARNING: There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I want to make that as clear as possible. Read no further if you don’t want to read SPOILERS. I’m serious. Big ones. Are we clear? Read on if you have seen the movie, or don’t care about spoilers. I’m sure the comments will also have spoilers.
One of the most pervasive images of the Star Wars universe is that of the Force. Wait, imagery? Of the Force? Well, you can’t see the Force!
Yep, that’s right. We can see Jedi or Sith using the Force. We can see the effects it has on people, and its power. But we cannot see the Force. One might say it’s just a bunch of hokey religions (thanks, Han). But in The Force Awakens, Han Solo admits what he has known for a while: the Force is real.
What is interesting about this admission is how much people of all varieties have been attracted to the notion of the Force and the Star Wars universe in general. In reality, the Force is a metaphysical concept. It goes beyond the mundane, physical universe and reaches for something more. The drive for that “something more” is pervasive in humanity, I think. Inwardly, we know that the world is not limited to those things we can see through direct observation. Thus, we are drawn to even fictional portrayals of a deeper reality such as the Force. Like Han, we may talk the talk, but when push comes to shove, there is more to our world than meets the eye.
Family, Darkness, and Natural Consequences
Exodus 34:7 reads, in part, “[God] does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (NIV).
Many see this as a kind of vindictive verse. In fact, it is an example of human choices bringing about consequences. One of the things I have learned since becoming a parent (and I’m still learning) is that natural consequences are the most effective way to teach my son. If he stands on a chair, he gets removed from the chair until he is willing to sit instead of stand. The verse above shows how our actions and choices have natural consequences.
Anakin Skywalker’s choices have impacted his family in profound, terrible ways. Sure, he saved Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, and he was reunited with the Force. But think about what his choices visited upon his children: they had to be separated at birth and whisked into hiding. Vader even cut off his son’s hand!
In The Force Awakens, we see those consequences being visited upon the next generation as well. Kylo Ren, Han and Leia’s son, appears to be trying to follow his grandfather’s footsteps. But instead of trying to follow them back towards the Light side of the Force, he is attempting to complete the Dark work of his grandfather’s alter ego, Darth Vader. Can a more poignant reminder of the punishment that can be carried on from generation to generation be given?
In the world we live in, we can see these same systems of injustice bringing punishment on one generation after another. World War II was, in part, brought about by crippling economic hardships imposed after World War I. Systemic racism continues in the United States, demeaning not just those against whom racism is directed, but also bringing darkness onto those who engage in it.
The passage from Exodus above can be read simplistically, but when taken in perspective like this, it is immensely profound. The poignancy of that statement: that the actions we take now can bring about punishment on our children, and their children… should lead us to consider what it is we are doing. Kylo Ren wasn’t created in a vacuum.
The Force Awakens also points ahead to a hopeful reality, one which resonates with the Christian worldview. Han and Leia each believe that there remains good in Kylo Ren–Ben–still. Han risks his life on that evaluation and even sacrifices himself for it. Though we don’t see this coming to fruition, the seeds of hope are there. Will Ren follow his grandfather’s Dark choices to a logical end, or will he be brought back to the Light?
The movie ends with Luke Skywalker and Rey on a remote planet. This guru-like setting is also reminiscent of the Desert Fathers of the ancient Christian church (though ironically in a very watery setting!). Will redemption and hope be brought forth once more through Rey? That remains to be seen, but the seeds have been planted. Han’s willingness to believe in goodness in his son is the same kind of willingness we need to have when we confront evil. Yes, we need to be prepared to stand up against evil, but we also need to realize that we were yet sinners when Christ saved us. The “other” is like we were, lost to sin and in need of redemption.
Go see The Force Awakens. Be prepared to celebrate the joys of Star Wars again, but also to think. It’s a fun, delightful movie that is overlaid with much darkness. Yet, in the midst of all that darkness there is hope.
Let me know your own thoughts on the movie in the comments. I’d love to hear what you thought of the film.
Read more movie reflections (scroll down for more).
Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.
We have already made it to December! Can you believe it? I can’t. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep delivering the goods, however! This week we have posts on women in the early church, dinosaurs and young earth creationism, an evil god?, the theology of Star Wars, and the Planned Parenthood shooting. As always, let me know what you think–and be sure to let the authors know as well. Also, because it’s already snowed a couple times, we’re switching back to the snowy owl to bring our post, Hogwarts style.
A Theology of Star Wars– Star Wars Episode VII comes out soon. I bet that’s news to you! I may or may not have my tickets to an early showing. The world will never know. Anyway, here’s a free e-book (sign up to newsletter required) on Star Wars and Christian theology. I haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.
Four Myths about Women in the Early Church– The topic of women in the early church is quite interesting. I’ve only read one book on the topic, but I’d like to explore further. This post highlights some myths about women in the early church that are largely taken as givens. In the debate over women in the church and home, it is important to get our facts straight.
Is an Evil God as likely as an All-Good God?– Edward Feser analyzes Stephen Law’s (in)famous “evil God challenge,” in which Law alleges that the evidence for the existence of God cannot bring us to a good God, so an evil God is just as likely. I have analyzed Law’s argument myself, and I believe I demonstrate that the assumptions behind his argument would yield radical skepticism if held consistently.
Why Pro-Life Advocates are not responsible for the Planned Parenthood Shooting– Some have alleged that the recent, horrific attack on a Planned Parenthood building can be blamed on the pro-life movement. Here is an analysis of that ad hominem attack vs. pro-life advocates that gets at the heart of the issue.
Where did all the Dinosaurs go? Ken Ham’s Climate and Human Induced Dinosaur extinction hypothesis– Young earth creationists must deal with the evidence we have about dinosaurs and their lives. Here is an analysis of Ken Ham’s hypothesis regarding what happened to all the dinosaurs after they purportedly survived a global flood alongside humans.
I am extremely pleased to be able to present my readers with an interview with New York Times-Bestselling author Kathy Tyers. Kathy Tyers has been instrumental in growing the genre of Christian science fiction and has published multiple books, including her award-winning “Firebird” series in this genre. She received the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference’s Pacesetter award for her work in developing science fiction. She has also published two Star Wars novels and appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list. She currently resides in Montana, where she continues to mentor other authors and work on her own future novels.
I have written several posts on Tyers’ “Firebird” saga (click here and scroll down or see links at the end of this post), and have immensely enjoyed her works.
What were some of the biggest science fiction influences on your writing?
The first SF novel I devoured was The Star Conquerors, an early space opera by Ben Bova. I was also a big fan of Zenna Henderson’s “People” novels. The original Star Wars movies swept me away, of course. I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series when the first novel came out, and I kept up as she released titles in the series. Whenever I’m called to teach the craft in a classroom, I draw on Orson Scott Card’s excellent book on writing SF and Fantasy.
How has your faith inspired you to write?
My faith inspires my writing as it inspires everything I do; it’s the air I breathe, the ground I walk on, the light by which I can see and the gravity that keeps me grounded. If ever I shut my eyes, quit walking and stop breathing, it surely shows in my writing.
What do you think of the categorization of “Christian” fiction? Is it helpful to have a distinct category of “Christian” fiction?
Some people want to know, before opening a novel, whether it’s going to challenge them to think more deeply about God. Should all fiction come with a worldview alert about the author? That’s probably impractical. But if I open a novel that I know was written by a fellow Christian, or by someone of another faith, of course I approach it with different expectations.
What value do you think Christian speculative fiction has for evangelism, defense of the faith, and theology?
Whether or not we see ourselves as evangelists, we’re ambassadors for a Kingdom that is not of this world. That applies to every Christian in every profession. An author who’s known to be a Christian will have his or her books analyzed accordingly by some of the reviewers. If the book survives scrutiny as a good witness to the craft and the Kingdom, AND if it’s a good story well told, the author has accomplished what good fiction is supposed to accomplish—even if it gets the occasional one-star review.
How awesome was it to write Star Wars books?
What is one piece of advice for aspiring writers?
Writing will take more time than you could possibly imagine. Don’t use that as an excuse to stop reading, because you’ll unconsciously (or consciously) emulate the books you’ve been reading. So read the good stuff.
What’s next on your plate? Any new books to look forward to?
I’ve written a contemporary supernatural novel set in Montana that I’m looking into indie publishing. Just looking, so far. Haven’t decided.
I would like to once more extend my thanks to Kathy Tyers for being willing to get interviewed for my site and for her excellent work in the field of science fiction.
Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird” Trilogy- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– The “Firebird” trilogy is one of my fondest memories of a read from when I was much younger. I recently re-read the series and was once more blown away. Here, I reflect on several issues of humanity and faith that Tyers raises in the novels.
Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- Kathy Tyers’ “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar”– I look into several worldview themes that Tyers raises in these sequels to her Firebird trilogy. What would a Messiah in the future look like?
Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers– I review the trilogy with a brief look at the plot and some positives and negatives in the book.
How Modern Art Led Me To God– Can we derive anything objective from aesthetics? What might beauty tell us about the nature of reality? Here’s an interesting exploration of these and related topics. I’d like your thoughts on this one!
Star Wars: This Is Madness– How about some Star Wars themed March Madness? I’m in! Star Wars is hosting a battle royale to crown this year’s tourney champion among Star Wars characters. Now get over there and vote against anyone not in the original trilogy!
Second Wave [feminism]– Here’s an evaluation of Second Wave feminism from an evangelical viewpoint. Check out the Junia Project for all kinds of awesome posts!
Hume on Skepticism– Some brief insights into Hume’s evaluative tools for reason and whether they can stand up to his own skepticism.
Suggested Readings on the Relationship between Science and Theology/Religion– Here’s an interesting list of some recommended books to read on this issue. My own list would have some similarities but many differences as well. Maybe I’ll make one! Would you enjoy that? Oh! And I could annotate it! Well anyway, for now check out Eric Chabot’s list!
Science fiction is such an amazing genre for exploring issues of worldview. Here, I’m taking a look at Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, a book which explores the rise of Emperor Palpatine and his Sith Master before the events of the Prequel Trilogy. I’ll not summarize the plot, but interested readers can see the plot highlights along with my review of the book in my post on Eclectic Theist- Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through- Darth Plagueis.
Morality: What is it, really?
The Sith approach morality as something which is not evil, not divided as good vs. evil. One account of their approach to morality can be found poignantly stated in Darth Plagueis as Plagueis works to recruit Palpatine for the Sith:
Palpatine cut his eyes to Plagueis. “The Sith are considered to be evil.”
“Evil?” Plagueis repeated. “What is that? …Are you evil, or are you simply stronger and more awake than others? Who gives more shape to sentient history: the good, who adhere to the tried and true, or those who seek to rouse beings from their stupor and lead them to glory?” …
Palpatine’s lip curled in anger and menace. “Is this the wisdom you offer–the tenets of some arcane cult?”
“The test of its value is whether you can live by it, Palpatine” [Plagueis replied]. [179-180]
The exchange is chilling for a number of reasons. It is the kind of conversation which one can see play out in various discussions of ethics today. Relativists allow individuals to self-define what is right and wrong and would have no answer to the reasoning of the Sith. Pragmatists also fail to grasp the ultimate outcome of their moral system, which allows for the strong to dominate those whom they choose to dominate. The ends justify the means; or, perhaps more accurately, there need be no justification.
Only systems of morality which allow for objective good and evil have any answer for the reasoning of the Sith. Only with a strong sense of morality can their blurring of what is right and wrong be overcome.
Controlling the Others
There are many points throughout the book in which the concept of control is explored. The Sith believe that they have an imperative to rule and control others. After all, they are strong! One interesting element of this reasoning is the notion that those in charge should operate by one abiding principle: “We know what’s best for you” (204). The insidious nature of this teaching should be immediately obvious. Whenever people decide that they know better than others how those others should live/act/believe, suffering tends to follow. This is not to say that we should never work to change others, but rather that we should not rationalize it by means of thinking we are somehow inherently superior to the “Other.”
Darth Plagueis is a fantastic book in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and it additionally has a number of philosophical questions ripe for exploration. Christians should work to engage with works of fiction because so often the allow for analysis of and interaction with the Christian worldview. Here, we find that the Christian’s basis for absolute morality is able to trump other moral systems which cannot provide a sound basis for critique of the Sith or others. Yet while acknowledging that one system has the truth, we should never seek to impose it on others because of some sense of superiority. Every story has a worldview.
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi- a Christian reflection on the most recently completed Star Wars series– I have written on another set of Star Wars books from a Christian perspective in this post, which features the Fate of the Jedi series. Discussions of world religions are prominent throughout the set.
Star Wars Expanded Universe Read-Through- Darth Plagueis– I review the book from the perspective of a huge Star Wars fan.
James Luceno, Darth Plagueis (New York: Del Rey, 2012).
Disclaimer: The images in this post are copyright of the Star Wars universe and I use them under fair use. I make no claims to ownership of the images.
Star Wars is not normally where I go to begin discussions about worldview. The most recently completed mini-series, however, “The Fate of the Jedi,” was full of material for discussing worldview perspectives. Here, I will only touch on a few of the many themes the series brought up. Some of these include world religions, objective morality, and theism. Of course, there will be HUGE SPOILERS for the Star Wars universe prior and up to this point. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM POSTING COMMENTS FROM OTHER STAR WARS STORYLINES.
I’ll not be summarizing the plot of the Fate of the Jedi series, which you may find by following the links for the individual books here.
World Religions and the Force
A huge part of the early stages of Fate of the Jedi involved Luke Skywalker and his son, Ben, traveling around the galaxy and visiting other various Force-using schools. These different Force-using schools paralleled, in many ways, various world religions. For example, the Baran Do Sages held onto a kind of gnostic way of knowing, where secret knowledge was preserved by a select group of masters to pass on from generation to generation. Another example is found in the Mind Walkers, who try to separate body from soul in order to walk in a completely different reality. Not only does this also seem gnostic in its bent, but it also reflects the notion of the extinction of the self found in some Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. There are a few other schools that the Skywalkers visit throughout their travels, and each has aspects of at least one world religion reflected therein.
Of interest is that the way the series approached the various parallels to world religions is that many of them appeared to be fairly obviously wrong. That is, they had a feel of wrongness to them, but they also seemed to get aspects of reality wrong. The Mind Walkers, for example, allowed their bodies to waste away while they experienced their own way of entering into the Force. One cannot help but sense a kind of aversion to this belief system, in which the body is so totally denigrated. Some of their comments also reflected a lack of concern for distinctions between good and evil. Yet again, this is a distinctive of some Eastern religions, and it is a way in which they are factually mistaken. Those who fail to make distinctions between good and evil, between reality and the mental life; they are operating under a mistaken view of reality.
The Fate of the Jedi, then, does not teach a kind of religious pluralism. Instead, it eschews pluralism for showing that some belief systems do not work. They simply do not line up with reality.
Redemption and Betrayal
The character of Vestara Khai is an extremely interesting figure. She may be the most complex character since Mara Jade. A Sith, she is captured by the Skywalkers, who initially do not trust her whatsoever (and for good reason). Yet, in a kind of typical story of conversion in the Star Wars universe, they begin to turn her to the Light Side of the Force. She realizes that her own life has not been based upon good, and she also acknowledges a distinction between good and evil. Her realization is centered around her relationship with her family and friends (such as they are). For a little while, it seems that Vestara is a true convert.
Yet the reader knows throughout that although Vestara has changed her whole way of viewing the universe, she is not entirely a convert. She still puts herself first. In fairness to her, she does so thinking that she is putting others first, and she often does seem to prioritize the needs of Ben–whom she’s come to love–over herself. But when push comes to shove, she betrays the trust of the Skywalkers in the most dire possible way, by giving away the secret identity of a loved one and dooming her to a life of dodging the Lost Tribe of the Sith. A commentary on the darker side of human nature, Khai’s life in the books also begs the question of where one goes from there: what redemption may be in store for someone who seems to have ruined all chances at salvation?
Prophecy and the Celestials
The notion of prophecy is found throughout the Star Wars universe. There was the prophecy of the “Chosen One”; later, prophecies revolved around the Sword of the Jedi and the Unification of the Force. Each of these prophecies were expected to be fulfilled. In the Star Wars universe, prophecy is the product of the Force. One wonders, however, how this plays out with what is an essentially impersonal force. It seems that in order to give revelation, there must be some kind of personal reality; for prophecy relates to the actions of persons.
Ultimately, readers encounter the Celestials–a group of beings (Father, Son, and Daughter… and later Mother) of extreme power. These beings are tied into the whole plot of the expanded universe books of Star Wars in some ingenious (and sometimes a bit questionable) ways. Although these beings may appear to parallel a kind of pantheon, it becomes clear that they are not. They may be seemingly eternal, but they are also contingent: it was entirely possible for them to be destroyed. Again, it is not these beings who drive reality; it is the Force. The Force is the power in the universe, the ‘all in all’ of the Star Wars universe. Yet, as I’ve argued above, it is hard to envision the force as entirely impersonal. It delivers prophecies and sometimes even answers the call of those in need. The “Trinity” created and driven by the Force ultimately drive the Force themselves in many ways.
The Fate of the Jedi series explores a huge number of issues related to worldview. I didn’t get to nearly all the major issues, let alone the minor ones, which come out throughout the series. Of interest is how the series clearly brought up world religions in such a way as to avoid pluralism, but rather provided ways to distinguish between truth and falsehood in religion. Prophecy begs for a personal being, yet the allegedly impersonal Force provides it. It was great to experience the Star Wars universe in such a way as to have it bring up so many issues of worldview in often thoughtful and, frankly, thought-provoking ways.
“Fitzpatrick’s War”- Religion, truth, and forgiveness in Theodore Judson’s epic steampunk tale– I take a look at the book Fitzpatrick’s War, a novel of alternative history with steampunk. What could be better? Check out some of the worldview issues brought up in the book.
I have discussed the use of science fiction in showing how religious persons act. Check out Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber.
Troy Denning, Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi- Apocalypse (New York: Del Rey, 2012).
Disclaimer: The images in this post are copyright of the Star Wars universe and I use them under fair use. I make no claims to ownership of the images.
Two huge stories this week: the Super Bowl and the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate. As such, I’ve brought up some links related to each. As always, let me know your thoughts! If you’re interested in the debate, be sure to check out my overview and analysis.
Notable Christians Open to an Old-universe, Old-earth perspective– In the debate, Ken Ham kept mentioning various scientists who were Christian and young earth creationists. Here, there is a list of many notable Christian thinkers who are open to an old-earth perspective instead.
Origins Science and Misconceptions of Historical Science– Over at Naturalis Historia, this extremely relevant post was offered up which contests Ken Ham’s presentation of a major gap between historical sciences and observational sciences.
ESPN spots a ghost in the Seattle-Russell Wilson lovefest– One thing that has received little coverage regarding the Seahawks is Russell Wilson’s faith. Perhaps that’s because he is not so in-your-face as Tim Tebow, but both Wilson and Robert Griffin III are faithful men. Here, the author explores the popularity of Wilson in a fairly secular city.
All 32 NFL Teams Crossed with Star Wars– I love football, and I love Star Wars. These are some awesome Star Wars crossovers for NFL Teams. Check it out!
How about checking out some reviews of the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye? Here are a couple:
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis– The GeoChristian has a brief overview of the debate with a focus on what each got right or wrong.
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath– Luke Nix over at Faithful Thinkers has another thoughtful review. His post focuses much more on the topic of the debate as opposed to a broad overview. Highly recommended.
Be sure to check out my own review of the debate, which gives a lengthy overview as well as specific analysis on the debate- Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: Analysis of a lose-lose debate.