Category Archives: Culture

Rogue One and the Return of Reverence (Spoilers)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

(Donnie Yen)

Ph: Film Frame

©Lucasfilm LFL
This morning over at First Things, Marc Barnes published a wonderful article on “reverence” and the Force in the Star Wars movies. Here he argues that Episodes 4-6 display a sort of religious reverence for the Force. But in the prequels, the Force loses its sacred status and becomes a magic weapon. He connects this to the secularization of the Force (think Midi-chlorians). The secularization of the Force in the prequels leads to irreverent use of it. “The Force is used so often, and for so many purposes, throughout the prequels—from eating pears to throwing people—that it loses its religious valence and becomes just another technological element: blasters, lightsabers, X-wings, Force.” You can read the article here: Rogue One and the Return of Reverence (It contains spoilers).

Barnes says,
But the prequels give us a lesson that life repeats. No matter how amazing something is, if it is susceptible to our power and manipulation, it gets boring….Only that which is not “currently” out of reach, mysterious “by the research standards of today,” can be approached with reverence…..Reverence is an emotion that responds to the presence of a value higher than ourselves—a value that exists in its own right and does not need us. Reverence is not oriented toward the useful, no matter how awesome the use. The prequels irreverently secularized the Force, making it a controllable entity, measurable and understandable, infinitely use-able.

He then praises the new films, Force Awakens & Rogue One, for how they bring back a sense of Reverence to the Force, and really to the world. Its really a great read. You should check it out. Thought it does contain some spoilers if you haven’t seen Rogue One Yet (who hasn’t!!!!).

Now, the real reason I’m writing this is to make a comment on his thesis. Barnes seems to think that the irreverence displayed in the sequels and the “commercialization” of the Force was more so a reflection of the film makers/writers pandering to audiences. The audiences wanted to see the Force in full effect! They wanted to see some spectacular fights and some super powers! However I disagree. I think the irreverent use of the force in the prequels is intentional. Reverence is something that only returns once the Jedi are forced into exile.

Think about the story line of the prequels. Part of it revolves around the idea that the Jedi losing touch with the Force. E.G. Yoda can’t even see the Sith before him and the council is a mess. They have lost touch with the Force and what it was intended to be used for. The fact that the Jedi irreverently start using the Force is part of the story line.

Also, I think there’s something to be said about the Jedi reclaiming the true “meaning” of the force when in exile. Exile tends to bring clarity. It’s in exile that one gets vision. Think of Scripture for a minute, who is known as The Seer? John, who is exiled on Patmos. When does Israel finally see its vocation? When does it begin to see its future liberation and God’s kingdom? It’s in exile. Think of the book of Ezekiel & Jeremiah… This is where the real parallels come out.

Ezekiel & Jeremiah chide the Elders of Israel for being BLIND, for making alliances with foreign kings. They chide the Elders of Israel for trusting in the Temple as a power, rather than God himself. Israel has sought safety in the power of God rather than in God himself. Much like the Jedi in the prequel, Israel has commercialized & mechanized God’s powers. In doing so, they have treated God irreverently, even desecrating the temple. Its only when Israel is sent off into exile that they begin to the real power of God. Similarly, its only in exile that the last surviving Jedi (Obi-Wan and Yoda) recover a greater reverence for the force.

Books Read in 2016

At the end of each the year I put out the list of books I have read that year. Usually they consist of a lot of theology books, followed up by a good chunk of philosophy books, and a few fiction books thrown in. In 2013 I read 106 books. In 2014 I read 87 books. In 2015 I read  88 books. This year, my numbers went down drastically. However, that was mainly because I was in school again, reading lots of journals and book chapters, and writing a whole bunch. The numbers also dropped because I stopped reading at the gym. My workouts sort of changed (became more intense) so I no longer read while doing cardio. Anyway, this year’s total is 52 book. That’s one per week!

book-piles

Books Read in 2016 = 52!

January

  1. Systematic Theology Volume 1 – Wolfhart Pannenberg
  2. Experiences in Theology – Jurgen Moltmann
  3. The Nature of Doctrine – George Lindbeck
  4. The Nature of Confession – Phillips & Okholm

February

  1. Beyond Foundationalism – Grenz & Francke
  2. The Drama of Doctrine – Kevin Vanhoozer
  3. Black Theology of Liberation – James Cone
  4. Models of God – Sally McFague
  5. Introducing Radical Orthodoxy – James K.A. Smith

March

  1. Analytic Theology – Crisp & Rae
  2. An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology – Thomas McCall
  3. Four Views on Hell – Preston Sprinkle
  4. Strong and Weak – Andy Crouch
  5. The Problem of Hell – Jonathan Kvanvig
  6. Hell: The Logic of Damnation – Jerry Walls

April

  1. Gaining by Losing – J.D. Greear
  2. The Unfolding Mystery – Edmund Clowney
  3. Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians – Oliver Crisp
  4. Sacrifice and Atonement – Stephen Finlan

May

  1. Knowledge and Christian Belief – Alvin Plantinga
  2. Living on the Devil’s Doorstep – Floyd McClung
  3. How I Changed My Mind About Evolution – Stump and Applegate
  4. The Trinity Among the Nations: The Doctrine of God in the Majority World – Gene Green, Stephen Pardue, K.K. Yeo

June

  1. Prodigal God – Tim Keller
  2. The Father Heart of God – Floyd McClung
  3. Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous – W. Jay Wood
  4. The Pastor Theologian – Gerald Heistand & Todd Wilson
  5. Reading Romans in Context – Ben Blackwell, John Goodrich, and Jason Matson
  6. You are What You Love – James K.A. Smith

July

  1. The Claim of Humanity in Christ – Alexandra Radcliff
  2. The Lost Letters of Pergamum – Bruce Longenecker

Lost Track of Dates

  1. Writings on Pastoral Piety – John Calvin (ed. McKee)
  2. Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation – William Naphy
  3. Infant Baptism in Reformation Genega – Karen Spierling
  4. Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension – Julie Canlis
  5. America at the Crossroads – George Barna
  6. The Uncontrolling Love of God – Thomas Oord
  7. Pentecostal Outpourings – ed. Robert Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary
  8. Crossing Cultures in Scripture – Marvin Newell
  9. Rational Faith – Stephen Evans
  10. What is Reformed Theology – R.C. Sproul
  11. Judaism Before Jesus – Anthony Tomasino
  12. Reordering the Trinity – Rodrick Durst
  13. Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves

November

  1. A Little Handbook for Preachers – Mary Hulst
  2. Love Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life – Henri Nouwen
  3. Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective – Marc Cortez

December

  1. The Vulnerable Pastor – Mandy Smith
  2. Serving a Movement – Timothy Keller
  3. Saving Calvinism – Oliver Crisp
  4. Paul’s New Perspective – Garwood Anderson
  5. Soul Keeping – John Ortberg

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.

Supposedly Francis of Assisi said those famous words. Likely he didn’t, regardless, those word’s don’t mesh with Scripture’s understanding of BEING witnesses to the gospel. As Michael Gorman says: Witness-bearing calls for interpretation.

“Walking little old ladies across the street” may be appropriate Christian behavior, but it does not lead to persecution. It only leads the persecution when one explains such behavior as a manifestation of true power, or when one excuses oneself from attending an event honoring the emperor, the empire, or other cultural deities – like youth soccer or professional football or a Fourth of July Parade – in order to walk those little old ladies across the street, or to worship as Lord the one who essentially did the same thing when he willingly became humanity’s slave. (Gorman, Becoming the Gospel, 129)

Would the church learn to heed this word in a day and age where it is “hated” for its “conservative” values. Would it espouse those values not because they are “conservative” but because it means bowing the knee to Christ and not to the gods of this world. Would the church not confuse self-serving “servant-hood” for real “put your life on the line”-servanthood.

America and the Imperial Cult

The emperors use of this but bears some resemblance to modern politicians’ identification with American symbols…as a way to gain the trust and respect of its citizens. For much of its existence, the United States has had an informal mixture of Protestant Christianity and patriotism, a so-called civil religion, that has some of the feel and impact of the emperor cult. For example, this informal union gave political and economic notions such as individual liberty, democracy, and free enterprise a sacred or sacrosanct status, concepts that one may oppose at the cost of harsh criticism. The phrase “America, love it or leave it” gives something of this flavor. In addition, American Civil Religion meant that those who were not members of a Protestant Christian Church, such as Jews and Roman Catholics, were at times seen as un-American. -James Jeffers in The Greco-Roman World (103)

A Storm is Brewing…

For those of you who aren’t privileged to be member of ETS, you may have not heard but there is a storm brewing on the horizon about gender and sexuality in relation to the society’s “Doctrinal Basis/Statement of Purpose.”

Below is the abstract to Stan Gundry’s open letter to members of ETS:

In the last business session of the 2015 national Meeting of ETS a set of four resolutions was moved and passed that affirmed human dignity and worth, marriage as a life-long union of one man and one woman, sexual intimacy as reserved for such marriages, and an affirmation of distinct traits of manhood and womanhood as an unchangeable gift that constitutes personal identity. In the aftermath some ETS members expressed dismay that any ETS member would vote against passage of the resolutions. Others, I among them, were shocked that resolutions of this nature would be proposed and passed by a substantial majority. In this open letter to ETS members, I explain the problems with the resolutions and the real issue at stake: Will ETS be true to is Doctrinal Basis and its Statement of Purpose? Hence, my open letter to ETS members, Whence and Whither ETS.


You can read the whole thing here.


With this and the Trinity debate looks like ETS is going to be a lot of fun this year!


I’m a Father!

On March 9th at 3:22pm my beautiful baby daughter was born! Her mom – my wife – started getting contractions during the YoungLife club that she serves at. But she didn’t really know what it was, just that it hurt and that she didn’t feel well. When she got home, she told me that she thought the baby was going to come soon. Of course I doubted it. I thought she was having false contractions, so I told her to relax and go to bed. Well, she knew better. She said we should pack our bags, and reluctantly I did. I didn’t even pack anything to sleep in because I figured they would send us back home due to a false alarm. (I mean common, you have to give me credit, my wife was due April 4th!) Shiloh1

We tried to go to sleep, well she tried, and I actually did sleep. And then at 3 am she woke me up saying she thinks this is it. We both shower, because you want to be fresh for labor! And she was right, when we got to the hospital they said she was in fact in labor. A few hours, and no pain med or epidural, later my wife gave birth to our baby girl!

Shiloh2

Today she is one week old, but already I’m feeling changed. I never thought I could love someone the way I love my daughter. She is so precious to me and makes my heart melt. I’ve heard people say there is nothing like the love of a parent, but I never really understood that. Now, a week later, I think I’m starting to get it. To think – I love my daughter so much, and God the Father loves the Son even more, and was willing to give him up for our sake! Having a child of my own makes me appreciate the gospel that much more.

Shiloh3
We are starting our baby on the right track by teaching her her ABC’s… of Church History! Today she learned about Augustine, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards.