I recently saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As with the other movies in the franchise, the film’s plot depends heavily on some remarkable science-fiction technology. How plausible are these special effects in real life?
Don Lincoln is a senior physicist who does research using the Large Hadron Collider. Here are his assessments:
• Droids (short for androids): “Definitely going to happen.” Lincoln points to robots that can do backflips and have made remarkable advances in artificial intelligence.
• Lightsabers: “There are no known energy sources” with the capability to do what these weapons do on movie screens.
• Faster than light travel: “There is absolutely no evidence” of the alternate time and space dimensions used by Star Wars travelers. As a result, such travel is “not very likely, even if you live as long as Yoda.”
• Death Star/Starkiller Base: To destroy the Earth, you’d need to harness the energy output of our sun for an entire week, absorb and store it, then focus it as a weapon. Lincoln’s conclusion: “No way. That’s just crazy talk!”
• The Force: “While scientists do talk about energy fields in the universe, with names like dark energy and the Higgs field, they aren’t anything like the one described in ‘Star Wars.'” As a result, “it is very unlikely that the Force will be with you.”
If the science behind Star Wars is largely impossible, why is the franchise so incredibly popular? The narrative resonates with us because it captures the essence of the human struggle: Good is perennially at war with evil. However, evil often seems more powerful than good. Thus, good people must do all the good they can while utilizing the resources of something or Someone more powerful than themselves.
We are reminded every day that we are broken people living in a broken world. From yesterday’s tragic Amtrak derailing to this morning’s fatal shooting near Times Square, the news perennially shows us the frailty and unpredictability of life.
Whether you turn for help to “the Force” or a “higher power” or “the Lord,” you’ll find this narrative running across human history. From Homer’s epic poems to the local Twelve Step recovery program, we know that we must use what we have but we need more than we have.
This dilemma is the story of Christmas.
Why the Gadites and Hagrites matter today
In 1 Chronicles 5, we read that “the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant man who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war” (v. 18). Next, we learn that “they waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab” (v. 19) and “prevailed over them” (v. 20a).
To this point, you’re probably wondering why I’m making you read about Gadites and Hagrites. But here’s the rest of the story: the Jews “cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (v. 20b).
This narrative was inspired and preserved by the Holy Spirit for our sake. Those who participated in this battle did not need their story to be recorded for them to remember it. First Chronicles was likely written after Judah began returning from Babylonian exile in 538 BC, but this event happened more than two centuries earlier, prior to the destruction of the Northern Tribes by Assyria in 722 BC (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:26).
What does God intend us to learn from this story?
We are to prepare for battle, but we are not to trust in our preparations. Scripture is clear: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (Psalm 146:3-4). Rather, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (v. 5).
As we work, God works
God moved the Roman Empire to require a census that required Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 2:1-5; Micah 5:2). But they had to make the ninety-mile journey from Nazareth with Joseph on foot and Mary on a donkey’s back while she was nine months pregnant.
Next, the angels announced the incredible good news of the Messiah’s birth to “shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). But the shepherds had to leave their flocks to find the Christ (vv. 15-20).
A star proclaimed to the magi that the “king of the Jews” had been born (Matthew 2:1-2), but they had to risk their lives to find and worship him (vv. 3-12). An angel then warned Joseph that Herod would seek the life of his family, but Joseph had to transport them to safety in Egypt (vv. 13-15).
From the time God created the Garden for Adam to work (Genesis 2:15) to this moment, humans have been engaged in a partnership with our Maker. When our secular age forgets our status as creatures rather than the Creator, we exempt ourselves from all that our omnipotent Father can do for us. When God’s children forget our status as partners rather than mere recipients, we exempt ourselves from all that our omnipotent Father can do through us.
God created us as finite beings so we would need to depend on his infinite wisdom and power. Rather than being frustrated by your challenges and shortcomings, use them as an invitation to trust God to do what you cannot do while you do what you can.
And you’ll be able to make Paul’s doxology in Ephesians 3:20-21 yours: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
NOTE: For Ryan Denison’s review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, click here.