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‘There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?’ [1]

One of the best things about being a Dad is that you can rediscover the joys (and toys) of your childhood while ostensibly ‘helping’ your children. My boys (both 5) have just got into Star Wars. Watching (and rewatching) has been an interesting experience. Sometimes my earlier thoughts have been confirmed – the Star Wars prequels aren’t terrible, just not great – while new things have jumped out at me.  One recurring insight is how short people’s memories are in that universe. Consider this: the Jedi are the keepers of peace in the galaxy all the way up until the end of Episode III. There’s no question that they don’t really exist or can’t use the force. Yet twenty years later, in Episode IV, Han Solo doesn’t accept that there is such a thing as the Force let alone Jedi. Fast-forward to Episode VII, set thirty years after the defeat of the Empire and fifty to sixty years since Jedi were all over the place. Now Rey needs to be persuaded by Han Solo that the Force is real and so on even as she lives in the wreckage of the Empire and wears the relics of the Rebellion.

It’s tempting to dismiss this as just another irritating quirk resulting from George Lucas’ haphazard approach to the prequels. But, as with a lot of the films’ mythology, there is some truth here. We can forget our history remarkably quickly. New myths arise and new paradigms are adjusted to which displace our memories, perhaps especially where we live in a world defined by more recent conflicts.

In my first couple of posts I reflected on how I grew up with little understanding of, or respect for, Christian history and tradition even while every area of my faith was shaped by the historical church. I would have accepted the creeds, if I had known them in detail, but been unable to articulate why. I was fervent and dedicated in my study of the Bible but would have been unable to explain why these books, and not others, were the ones that we should use. I knew that I was in favour of the hardcore dogmas of the Reformation, and believed that the New Testament was on my side, yet I could not explain what had happened to the church, its doctrine and Scripture between AD90 and 1517. To revert to my Star Wars analogy (and in the hope of being this week’s Desperate Theologiser), it was as if we lived in the wreckage of the Empire with no memory of the Republic that preceded it or its spirituality.

Such a position is inherently unstable for someone training as a pastor and theologian, however modest their ambition or ability. One cannot develop a clear answer to the questions of the present, or reflect faithfully as a distinctively Christian thinker, without some grasp of what has come before and where one stands in relation to it. I imagine that is why there are three compulsory church history modules at Spurgeon’s, although it was not explained in that way at the time. It was during my research and presentation of a paper on the history of baptism prior to 325 that I began to reflect upon the significance of history for the development of my theology. At that time I could not have imagined where those reflections would lead me.

[1] Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Image: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

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