Star Wars (also fantasy entertainment generally) and apologetics

Someone recently shared this newly aired interview (on Unbelievable - hosted by Justin Brierley) which is a conversation between skeptic, Paul Enns (Paulogia) and Frank Turek about entertainment fantasy (with Star Wars being the main feature of common excitement here) and how that does (or doesn’t) intersect with Christianity.

Whatever one may think of each person’s positions - I thought the discussion was a productive and respectful one on both parts. Paul could probably have been given a bit more time to give some of his responses - but I felt like (or at least presume that - pending the affirmation of skeptics here) he represented the skeptics side quite well and graciously. It’s long - and worth the listen - especially if you’re into Star Wars or want to keep up with the current pulse of cultural movement. And yet for all the time given, I did feel like there is more conversation to be had. But I won’t say more now and see what sorts of reactions you may have.

The Christian world described by Paul is far far stranger to me than the one described by Star Wars – hellish even. Everything (all those eastern influences, and LOL science also frankly) that his Christianity warns against and sees as so dangerous is where I was before becoming Christian.

BUT there is one truth I can see in their fear and that is that I do not and will never accept their claim to authority to dictate the meaning of either Christianity or reality. This only reinforces my idea that power is what this conflict is really about – their use of Christianity as a means to power. But I think that is a demonic distortion which God has no part of.

And I gather you’re referring to Paul Enns there (not the Apostle Paul of course) - I only add this to prevent misunderstanding of any readers who don’t know you as well or may initially be confused before reading on.

Of course Paul Enns (of Paulogia) no longer identifies as Christian. He is indeed turning away from the same form of Christianity that you also reject. The difference being: you retain Christ and were able to survive the wilted and deformed vestiges of outward Christian faith that you see so widely promulgated in wider nominally ‘Christian’ culture, and he sees no Christianity apart from what that same culture presented to him.

I hope I don’t badly misunderstand you in this - and need your correction if I have. But if I read you rightly, I think the different outcomes (between you and him) are worth exploring. What kept you in the faith, while others, who share in your loathing of what cultural Christianity has become (at least in so many modern traditions), see nothing in that but an exit door from any form of Christ-centered faith?

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Or here is another way to put it:

Former Christian skeptic’s reaction to Christian faith after it has become enjoined or polluted by … real people: “Where is this perfect Christian faith that everyone keeps talking about. I don’t see it anywhere! If Jesus was perfect, then how come his followers aren’t?”

Christian adherent: “Look at what this faith has done for me! I’m not perfect - not at all! But look where I’ve been and where this faith has brought me! I see Christ everywhere now! Even in the faces of my imperfect and sinful neighbors - in the faces of my enemies! Even, dare I hope, his Spirit is alive -even in me!

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While I haven’t dug that far into Jamie Smith’s view of what a post-secular culture will look like, I have a pretty good hunch that it will agree with my understanding that reasonable people can disagree about the inerrancy (or authority) of Scripture.

Christians seeking power need to be honest that reasonable people can disagree about the Bible. And Christians seeking justice need to see in their Bible that economic justice is fairness and desert (2 Corinthians 8:13-14, 2 Thessalonians 8:10).

I was talking about the Star Trek guy in the video (dressed in black).

I was never a part of that sort of Christianity and never would have been. I was never part of that culture, which is why I explained this was so totally alien to me.

Of course, I take Paul’s side in the argument which follows, which Frank readily connects to the moral argument. I have frequently supported the claim that morality does come from evolution with cooperation being the most powerful survival strategy.

Yeah - the video (or captions and stuff underneath it) don’t readily make all the names apparent. Dark shirted ‘Star Wars’ guy is ex-Christian skeptic: Paul Enns (who runs a Paulogia podcast), and Frank Turek is the Christian apologist (who makes himself readily apparent as such here.) And the moderator is Justin Brierley (also a Christian I gather) - who runs the podcast ‘Unbelievable’.

Well - consider yourself lucky I guess! A fair amount of the folks you interact with here and in western, nominally Christian culture at large are themselves the products of said culture; some leaving the Christian label without looking back (Paul in the video), others taking what’s good and right - but trying to leave toxic stuff behind (many believers here), and perhaps still others, in their own quest to be faithful: doubling down on every received doctrine their particular tribe has catechized them with (also represented by some voices around here).

To understand our wider cultural history with this is to better understand these voices with their relative strengths and weaknesses. I’m still interested in teasing out what helps people settle into any particular of these emerging streams as opposed to the other options.

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Christian perfection is a topic normally associated with John Wesley (Methodist) who claimed that it was possible but that he (and most) could not attain it. The theory, which I think @mitchellmckain adheres to is that the human condition prevents it, perfection being only really possible when the human part is completely replaced by the Spiritual.
As a practicing traditional Christian, I take offence at the underlying criticisms of my faith and church. I do not see this life as being one long trial for the next or the necessity for monkism or to be a saint. The idea of the church ist o encourage people to behave in a Christian manner towards all rather than to dictate precise behaviour or even expect perfection.
Forgiveness is not a license to sin, nor is it something to be taken lightly, but it does not meant that we expect people not to try or make mistakes. All we expect is for people to be honest in their assessment of their own behaviour while not judging or condemning others.
In my own view, I reject the idea that humans are incapable of living without sin, or behaing in a social and decent manner wthout God’s influence (Or Holy Spirit) The notion that the human condition is endemically bad is abhorrent to me and I refuse to accept that we have to attain some spiritual plateau to live a decent life on this earth.

Richard

PS I was hoping for a little more incite into some of the ideas presented by fantasy entertainment, having found useful episodes in Star Trek, Buffy, and of course Star Wars to mention a few specifics.,

A Freudian slip revealing an impulse that lurks within every breast I’m sure at one time or other. Seeing others content with conclusions that fall ‘short’ of our own, who doesn’t sometimes want to stir things up a little? Doing so might even be considered in the public good (in the spirit of Roy Rogers, Mark Twain and Socrates) if only what faith we are able to muster wasn’t such a fragile thing. We need faith but we also need renewal. What to do?

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That’s a brilliant question @Mervin_Bitikofer .

Probably an ever healthy optimism in that - one that should be protected I dare say! So the only comment I’ll add - in addition to saying a hearty ‘amen’ to your assertion that we not appoint ourselves as condemning judges - is that there are some who might find the empirical record a bit discouraging in this regard. A 100% historical and contemporary failure rate of all human beings, except one according to Christian doctrine, might be considered evidence to the contrary by some. But far be it from me to go all Calvinist here all of a sudden.

Never let the perfect become the enemy of the good. I join you in that healthy positivism.

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Feel free to bring up any specific episodes you have in mind! Our family would add Babylon 5 to the mix, as we love how messy and frustrating human politics in that series seem much more realistic than the cleaned up, “poverty is a thing of the past”, religiously sterilized versions of humanity that earlier Star Trek series try to present. In Babylon 5 they even incorporate religious characters and themes into various episodes in a non-mocking way! Not being sappy about it as if to preach to people, but not portraying all religious adherents or leaders as fanatical or superstitious dunces either! Many of the main, respectable - if humanly faulty characters are themselves religious in some form or another.

[And Babylon 5 has no shortage of and underlying messianic theme running throughout.]

Probability says otherwise. And it sort of makes any saints misnomers. And there are many people who just live their lives out of the spotlight who may or may not have lived within the human values of decency.

What’s a little exaggeration or hyperbolae amongst friends? It would be much less effective to admit that there are other ways to live?

:smiling_imp:

Richard

How so? Are you laboring under a misimpression that saints are not sinners? Saints are people who know how sinful and imperfect they are; and yet they labor to face toward the source of all Love no matter how halting or backsliding their progress in that direction may be.

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I am not a Catholic so I don’t put much store in them. Saints always seemed over perfect to me and an accolade that they neither looked for nor thought they deserved.
Besides, by definition, saints have no existing sin, even if they committed any,

Perhaps sainthood is one tangent too far.

I am much mroe interested in you ideas of babylon 5. I watched through to the end of series 4 but have never finished series 5, finding it a bit of a forced coda or postcript.

Obviously the Vorlons are angels. And I like the more vague nature of the evil presence Shaddows). I also like the Devil’s bargain with the Centauri. I guess the overall precept is based on the benevolent alien nurturing principle? Valen makes for an interesting temporal paradox. I am not sure that there is an equivalent to Q in Star Trek who I really like as an understanding of omnipotence.

Richard

Richard insists on putting people in theological boxes. And in this case, anyone who takes the garden story at all seriously and believes in a historical Adam MUST believe in the sort of original sin which makes it impossible for people not to sin.

Now for what I actually believe.

We are born without sin.
But we grow up in a world dominated by these self destructive habits. And our instinct is to learn by imitation. So the Bible says,

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Richard may reject the truth of the Bible as the writings of only men and therefore see no truth in this but I think this passage means that by the time we can speak, it is inevitable that we have sinned. It is not that we are incapable of not sinning. Quite contrary, we often find some sin that we particularly detest and successfully make a stand against it. But that does not mean we are without any sin at all, and we invariably find that people do have sin of some kind. Jesus demonstrated that it is possible to be without sin because He was 100% human – all it took was following the guidance of God His entire life. It does not mean He made no mistakes – mistakes are not sin, and never having made a mistake is not the perfection which heaven requires.

Hi Mitch,
Deleted, just got my answer from Mitch’s bio. * Scientist and Christian*

Nope. Not even close. It is a wide wide spectrum. For example, our mission here at Biologos is to promote evolution in evangelical Christianity. But the majority of Christianity worldwide accepts evolution.

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1 John 1: 6
If we claim to have fellowship with him

IOW He is talking to a fellowship of believers

So that the passage you quoted is not the universalism as you are making it.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us

The truth being the forgiveness of sins and the Salvation connected to it.

IOW you are imposing Christianity onto all.

Following Christ (God) is a choice not an obligation. If it were anything else then all notions of free will and free choice go flying out the window.

(I just love it when people claim that I either haven’t read or do not believe the bible!)

Richard

I haven’t looked it up - but I’d be surprised if that ever was the definition of a saint - even among Catholics - among their serious writers and theologians, anyway. I think it would only be on a popular man-on-the-street impression that one thinks that sinners and saints cannot possibly have any overlap.

Well - or at least the aliens in Babylon 5 are no worse than humans (and seem to partake of that common quest of spirituality with all of us). ‘Q’ in Star Trek does exercise something of omnipotence, I guess (at least as a five-year-old might imagine it - and 'Q’s maturity is humorously not too much in advance of most five-year-olds.) But Q lacks omniscience. The ‘Q’ character recently is becoming more interesting I think in the latest of the ‘Picard’ episodes where ‘Q’ has now discovered he has lost his omnipotence after having wreaked havoc on the Star Trek timeline. So ‘Q’ is now forced to behave at the same level as all the other characters in their tussle to get things back to “the way they should be” (itself an interesting commentary on the whole Star Trek philosophy of everything). All the alternate timelines and universes are ever the tiresome way of allowing writers to get preachy about whatever they want to criticize or lionize.

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