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Posted by on Dec 22, 2015 in Articles, Blog | 1 comment

STAR WARS AND THE ANCIENT RELIGION

STAR WARS AND THE ANCIENT RELIGION

The Occasion

The appearance of a new version of Star Wars is an important moment for Christian witness. To be sure, we can shrug our shoulders, since Star Wars is old news. Or we can enthusiastically introduce our grandchildren to a beloved, harmless yarn? Or we can and should discover this as an occasion to help our children and grandchildren to understand the culture in which they live in order to speak the Gospel more accurately to it.

In this famous and creative saga, which we must respect for its artistic value, we find many positive ideals—bravery, friendship, love and spirituality, among others, which help explain the success of the series. However, in examining Star Wars’ account of the mystery and nobility of human life, the Bible’s answer, in comparison, emerges with incomparably more convincing power.

The Star Wars Phenomenon

Answering questions of morality and spirituality was the goal of George Lucas when he created the movies. In the 1970s, at the heyday of secular humanism, people were hungry for spiritual truth. Lucas realized that stories were more powerful than intellectual theories—especially for children. He intended to produce a children’s fairy tale set in outer space as a “teaching tool” for the re-creation of “the classic cosmic mysteries,” based on “The Force.” In so doing, he influenced audiences young and old and deeply affected the last few decades of Western civilization. The new series will no doubt extend that influence into the next generations. The “It” has returned.

Understanding Worldview

As millions of people stream, perhaps naively, into theaters this weekend to reconnect with the powerful Star Wars adult fairytale, most of them will be unaware of the worldview that gives this saga its structure and coherence. “Worldview” simply means the way we think about the world without stopping to think about it! The fish doesn’t need to think about the water in which it swims. I’ve spent much of my teaching and writing years showing that there are only two ways to see the world. I call them “Oneism” and “Twoism,”[1] which is another way of describing what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:25. He says that there are only two ways to be human—we either worship nature (in a thousand different ways) or we worship the Creator. If you can count from one to two you can understand worldview. Worship of nature is Oneism because nature is all there is and everything is made of the same stuff. All is one! This is the essence of a pagan worldview. Worship of the Creator means that in all of reality there are two kinds of existence: the uncreated Creator, and everything else, which is created. That is the worldview of Twoism.

By this standard, Star Wars is clearly Oneist. In spite of the fun elements we all enjoy, the message of the film is self-consciously pagan. If this sounds harsh, it intends only to be accurate. Check out the following elements.

A Oneist Approach to Morality, Creation, Spirituality, Redemption and Death

Here are some of the Oneist principles we find in the Star Wars movies:

  • Morality is what you make it. The Force is either good or evil, depending how you tap into it via your emotions. There is no objective distinction between good or evil.
  • Existence creates itself. Obi-Wan Kenobi says: “The Force is an energy field created by all living things. There is no Creator/creature distinction.
  • Spirituality is found within, not revealed from the outside. Luke Skywalker must trust his feelings, empty his mind of questions and “feel the Force flowing through him,” in order to create his own truth.
  • In redemption, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader optimistically “saves” the galaxy and destroys the emperor, though evil cannot ultimately be eliminated, because evil is an integral part of a Oneist world.
  • According to Yoda, death is eternal sleep.

Specifically, Star Wars Contains a Pagan View of God

Lucas said he desired to produce something spiritual, but the spirituality he proposes is clearly not based on biblical Twoism. This is most obviously the case when the constant pagan blessing, “the Force be with you” replaces the typical biblical blessing, “the Lord be with you.” For Lucas, God is a “force” not a person. Nature, containing that “force,” or “energy” is part of the Force. God the transcendent Creator separate from creation does not exist. This makes Star Wars, at the deepest level, Oneist.

But just how Oneist? To answer this question, we need a little background. You may want to watch Only Two Religions, especially part three, “Carl Jung’s Alternative Spirituality.” Very simply, Lucas’s terms, “dark side” and “light side” come directly from Carl Jung, an anti-Christian Swiss psychologist of the last century whose enormous influence planted seeds of Oneist pagan thinking that are now flowering vigorously in our culture today. Part of Jung’s legacy is Star Wars.

George Lucas picked up Carl Jung’s ideas from a man he called his “mentor” and “friend,” Joseph Campbell, who was a committed disciple of Jung. A highly influential thinker in his own right, Campbell rejected Christianity and became an expert in pagan myths. He produced a highly successful PBS documentary series, The Power of Myth (1988), filmed, in part, at Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch.

It was Jung who introduced the “spiritual,” pagan myths about joining the dark and light sides. For him this meant the rejection of the biblical Christ and the worship of the Gnostic God, Abraxas, half man, half beast—a god higher than both the Christian God and devil and who combines all opposites. This joining of the dark side and light side, of good and evil, of God and Satan, is what Joseph Campbell called “the monomyth” of “the “ancient religion” which he taught to Lucas. At a high point in the series, Darth Vader is revealed as “the balancer,” the joiner of good and evil.

Though Lucas doesn’t go as deeply into such ideas as did Jung and Campbell, he popularizes their ideas effectively. We see the “joining of opposites in the following areas:

  • everything is relative;
  • there is no distinction between animals, humans and machines;
  • there are no moral absolutes;
  • there is no unique divine/human mediator;
  • there is no personal God, separate from us, who made and redeemed the world.

How Has Our Worldview Been Transformed?

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), one of the West’s greatest scientists, said many years ago: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. . . . This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all.” Thanks, in part, to Lucas, many now believe that humanity is that intelligent and powerful Being, empowered by the Force, and that we will save ourselves.

Will the “Force Awaken” with the Same Force this Time?

Doubtless The Force Awakens will attempt to capture a new generation of naïve myth lovers. The trailer declares:” the Force is calling to you. Just let It in.” The “It” reawakens.

With enough money and imagination, there is every reason to think that the Force will reawaken pagan thinking in a new generation of Western believers who have already bought $50 million worth of tickets for the December release dates. Moreover, the appeal of paganism has certainly not diminished since the 70s and 80s! The movie is bound to catch the imagination of those who now call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Our contemporary world now embraces Eastern pagan spirituality:

  • In Iceland, even atheists are joining the fastest growing religion, Zuism, which is a pagan faith from ancient Sumeria.
  • Faerie Magazine (for people who believe in fairies) is the 19th most popular lifestyle title of the 157 sold at Barnes & Noble
  • Millions of Americans practice forms of Eastern meditation and yoga to be released from the bondage of opposites and to succeed in joining the dark and light sides of existence.
  • In rediscovering “The Force,” these eager spiritual ticket-holders believe they will find themselves “in heaven,” as one fan recently said.

A Christian Response

A large part of my life has been dominated by Star Wars imagery, as I have published a trilogy responding to the pagan phenomenon that it represents. Thus, I wrote The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back, Spirit Wars, and Return of the Rabbi (as an ebook—in printed form, Capturing the Pagan Mind). These “wars of the spirit,” popularly revived by Lucas, represent, as noted above, the only two spiritualities offered: the “monomyth” of pagan Oneism or the historic gospel of biblical Twoism. With Stars Wars, we find ourselves at the very center of this timeless spiritual struggle.

To Go Or Not To Go

IMHO, there are good reasons for viewing this film. We can certainly respect its artistic and entertainment value. Galactic battle scenes and human drama are a lot of fun. But also, by seeing this movie, Christians can sharpen their understanding of both contemporary culture and their appreciation of the Christian faith, allowing them to see in antithetical clarity both the Christian message and the message of Star Wars, in order to present the Gospel in a fresh way for our time.
In doing this, we follow what Christians have done throughout the ages. We need to realize that when Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs Luke to follow “the ancient religion,” this is a clear technical reference, (for those in the know), to “pre-Christian paganism.” The gauntlet is thrown down, in a call to theological confrontation. But this ancient, modernized “religion,” while implicitly claiming to be true, creates immense problems and really gives no satisfying answers to the major mysteries of life:

  • no impersonal force or “it” can meet the deep affective and moral needs of human persons;
  • no merely human or impersonal source can give an adequate account of the origins of the universe, since such an account fails to provide a convincing explanation of either the mystery of human personhood or of the overwhelming presence of intelligence, on which the entire universe, and this movie, in particular, are based—including the love between Luke and his father, and the technological wizardry that makes Star Wars so much fun.

Only a transcendent personal Triune Creator can do that. Only the truth of such a personal God can meet our deepest needs.

At this re-launch of the Star Wars seductive myth, implicitly declaring that “all is finally well because all is one,” the world needs to hear not myth but a bold proclamation of an historical fact, the fact that in Christ, in AD 30, God defeated the darkness of the evil empire of human sin. This is what Christians celebrate at Christmas. There is real deliverance to needy, guilty human souls, and a real promise, not of a soul-less eternal sleep, but of a future eternal resurrected life in a face-to-face personal relationship with Him, our Maker and loving Redeemer.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

 

[1] If you wish to study this more closely, please see my book One or Two: Seeing A World of Difference (2010)].

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Posted by on Dec 17, 2015 in Audio, Audio & Video, Blog | 4 comments

Podcast Episode 6: Star Wars the Ancient Religion

Podcast Episode 6: Star Wars the Ancient Religion

In this episode of the truthXchange Podcast: Mary, Joshua, and Dr. Jones, discuss the worldview behind the the Star Wars saga.
Episode 6

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Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Articles, Blog | 4 comments

Bullets For All

Bullets For All

What distressing symbolism. The gruesome scene of 89 young Europeans mercilessly gunned down in a Paris theatre by equally youthful radical Muslim assassins will forever be etched on our minds, for it provides an ominous image of our global future.

I am reminded of a recent book by a personal friend, the Anglican Evangelical Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, whose Pakistani family has roots in both Islam and Christianity. The title of his book is truly prophetic: Triple Jeopardy for the West: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism (Bloomsbury, 2012). These three elements all came together with astounding clarity on that woeful night of November 13, 2015 in what now clearly represents a “triple jeopardy for the West.”

A trifecta of spiritual rebellion—secularism, radical Islam, and multiculturalism—combines various seductive forms of Oneism (what Paul calls the Lie in Romans 1:25) and draws people away from life-giving Truth. In none of them is there any hope, since the Twoist God who saves, and who is the personal source behind past Western Christian civilization, notably absent from contemporary discourse. The union of these three forces focuses attention, for one crucial moment, on our desperate state of human vulnerability. Where will it all end? Is there hope?

Secularism: Jihadists pose an enormous problem to contemporary Western civilization, which cannot find any serious answer to such heartless, gratuitous slaughter. While proposing to bomb ISIS installations in Syria, political leaders put hope in the long-term spread of Western values and propose “faith in humanity.” As German leader Angela Merkel said: “Our strongest response to terrorists is to carry on living our lives and our values as we have until now—self-confident and free, considerate and engaged.” But are these values merely the empty fumes of a worldview once highly influenced by past Judeo-Christian principles? Will a civilization, deliberately scrubbed clean of such principles by “liberal progressivism,” offer the same attraction? For fear of trespassing on the boundaries of civil rights, the name of God may not be mentioned. The Islamists, observing the West’s cultural degradation, call us “the great Satan.” Ironically, former West German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, who died this year at 96, doubtless got it right back in 1990 when he admitted that Islamic immigration into Europe “kept him awake at night in its refusal to integrate with Western society.”

Multiculturalism comes in many and often spiritual forms. The “modern” young people butchered in the Bataclan theatre were “harmlessly” listening to the “Eagles of Death Metal” band. You may ask: What’s in a name? The secular press does not, because this young audience was engaged in a perfect example of contemporary multicultural “freedom,” doubtless, naively seeking some kind of atheistic spiritual experience. Their worship turned out to be adoration of the devil himself. Fatefully and tragically, moments before the massacre, pictures show the audience making the hand sign used for devil worship, their index and little fingers raised in a horned salute, and singing Kiss the Devil:
Who’ll love the devil?
Who’ll sing his song?
…I will love the devil and his song

Radical Islam: What painful irony! Spiritually-ignorant young people, foolishly worshiping “the great Satan,” singing as they die; “I will love the Devil and his song,” butchered in cold blood by religiously-driven Islamist jihadists claiming to serve Allah destroying the “great Satan,” in actions of clearly Satanic inspiration. The whole scene evokes the complete inability of the West to come to terms with the reality of spiritual evil, and thus to come up with any effective and satisfying response.

We stand before a choice:
#1 The triple jeopardy of the Lie of Oneism, in its various forms:
• a spiritually bankrupt secular atheism:
• the idolatrous multicultural worship of “the god of this world”;
• the inhumanity of violent Islam;
Or
#2 The “double” truth of Twoism, revealing God, the good Creator, separate from the creation He lovingly made.
Only this unique Trinitarian Creator God, source of personhood, of intelligent complexity, and of love, can make sense of the world around us and thus reveal secularism, in its practical atheism, to be deadly nonsense; multicultural spirituality to be finally occultic; Islam to be bathed in inevitable human cruelty. Only the God of Twoism makes sense of our haunting guilt and brings true salvation to the world by bearing our sin in the body of his Son by a definitive act of atoning love, the only hope for our world.

In this moment of cultural weakness and deep questioning, the Church must pray for revival and preach with boldness the Gospel message: God’s Son took the bullets for us all.

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2015 in Articles, Audio, Audio & Video | 0 comments

Episode 5 The Paris Attacks: Were They Evil?

Episode 5 The Paris Attacks: Were They Evil?

The Paris Attacks: Were They Evil?

Joshua and Mary discuss: The recent Paris attacks, the problem of evil and the law and gospel through the lens of oneism and twoism. Special guest: Dr. Rev. Gabe Fluhrer.

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Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Articles, InsideOut | 6 comments

Bombs or Bibles?

Bombs or Bibles?

Jihadi John, the beheader, otherwise known as Mohammad Emwazi, at the age of six was brought to the UK in 1994 by Kuwaiti parents. He attended St Mary Magdalene Church of England primary school, and in 2009 graduated with honors from the University of Westminster. He then worked for an IT company in Kuwait and was considered “the best employee the company ever had.”

A short five years later, in the fall of 2014, in front of a camera, with obvious delight, and in cold blood, Emwazi beheaded two American journalists, a volunteer social worker, and two British aid workers. Apparently there was a four-person execution cell, all with British accents (!), whom the prisoners call the “Beatles.” Naturally, the leader, Emwazi, got the name “John.”

A year later, November 12, 2015, an American drone blasted Jihadi John into eternity. He was 27.

How should we respond to this news?

BOMBS or BIBLES: Most people in the West doubtless experienced this event with a sense of moral approval. The justified outrage about Jihadi John’s actions is the same as the one that has just arisen about the butchering of 129 people in Paris in the name of Allah. Seeing young men with Kalashnikovs firing point blank at other young people in cold blood produces understandable outrage. We are instinctively relieved at the determination of French Prime Minister Hollande, in response to unthinkable cruelty, to declare war on Isis and bomb to smithereens their installations in Syria—justice oblige.

But Christians are conflicted, as was Jonah in the Bible. Last Sunday, I heard a sermon on Jonah’s refusal to take the message of God’s forgiveness to the godless and cruel Assyrians of Nineveh. When the preacher described the Assyrians as the ISIS of the ancient world, I realized I could no longer stand simplistically in judgment of Jonah’s seemingly selfish attitude. This clear comparison provoked a number of questions in my mind, and a few things began to fall into place.

What should Christians desire for the Jihadist terrorists, BOMBS or BIBLES?

BIBLES: Of course I do not mean Jihadi John being taken out by a fully-annotated hard-backed Geneva Study Bible, shot like a bullet at great velocity from a swooping American drone.

Christians are conflicted because the great commission commands us to take the biblical Gospel to the ends of the earth, to all the nations, including members of ISIS. Killing sinners removes them from any possibility of hearing the good news of the forgiveness Jesus purchased through his atoning death two thousand years ago. How we can reconcile justice and grace, deserved punishment and undeserved forgiveness? It may be a question of timing, which in the ultimate scheme of things remains mysterious. We do not control history. God does.

In terms of timing, we need to get the Gospel to jihadists before they become jihadists. Was the young Emwazi clearly confronted with the Gospel during the years he attended St Mary Magdalene Church of England primary school? Did the Christian groups at the University of Westminster in central London, reach out to him? Did the university that claims to “embrace global engagement in every arena of institutional activity” give any serious moral and spiritual guidance” to this confused young man? There doubtless came a time when the door of opportunity shut, when Jihadi John consciously closed his mind to anything but hateful, radical Islam. At that point, other historical and moral factors take over.

Certainly, it is the job of the church to take the Gospel to every creature and thus we should redouble our effort before it is too late and the door of opportunity closes, whether individually or nationally.

BOMBS: It is always the responsibility of the State to maintain social justice and, helped by the church, to seek to administer a valid understanding of a just society. Non-Christians in our office building today are asking about political justice! The Christian answer is that the “magistrate” is charged by God to maintain “the good” and punish “the bad,” as that pertains to the good, livable social order (Romans 13:3). This includes “respect” and “honor” between citizens (12:7). For that, the State “bears the sword” and “carries out God’s just wrath on the wrongdoer” (12:4), especially those massacring fellow citizens.

BOMBS or BIBLES? The dilemma is resolved in God, who is sovereignly in charge both of the fate of individuals and of the overseeing of the State throughout history. Thus, as the State applies laws in a just manner, via the sword, eventually including BOMBS, people are brought face to face with the ethical character of the universe, so that, as Paul says, the moral law, including that of the State, eventually drives us to the Christ of the BIBLE and to his forgiving grace.

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