Friday, April 17, 2009

Anakin and Luke Skywalker in Paul's Theology

One of my current reads is Michael F. Bird's new book Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message. Bird says that his aim is to introduce Paul "without losing people in the mire of scholarly debates and complex technicalities" (p. 6).

I'm about a fourth of the way through and have already decided that, barring some sort of unexpected problem with this book, it will replace F. F. Bruce's introduction as the supplementary text in the "Life of Paul" class that I teach every spring. Bird's explanations and overviews are really good and, for the most part, accomplish his goals quite well. I especially like the way he deals with the Adam-Christ typology in Paul's thought:

The argument of Romans 5:12-21 involves a synkrisis, or comparison between two 'types' or figures, Adam and Christ. In Adam we have a story of a world gone horribly wrong. As the one who was made to rule over creation is now subject to it, he forfeits his wonderful privileges of intimate fellowship with God. He suffers a severe loss of fortunes, loses divine favour, is exiled from paradise, and even his own being becomes disfigured and corrupted. The one created for immortality experiences the painful horror of death, and so do all of his offspring, . . . Death begets death. Sin dehumanized humanity, so that, despite possessing the divine image, they act like little more than complex beasts, fighting and devouring one another.

But in Christ we have a story of a world put right, as Christ is faithful where Adam was faithless, and is obedient where Adam was disobedient. Through his act of righteous obedience, Jesus overturns the transgression of Adam and so is able to deliver and transform the fallen progeny of Adam. Christ creates in himself a new humanity, which, through the renewing power of the Spirit, is able to undo the effects of the fall and become the new Adamic race.

In want of a modern analogy, George Lucas's six-part saga Star Wars can be called a "Tale of Two Skywalkers", and in many ways mirrors the Adam-Christ contrast of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, where Adam and Christ stand for the two respective heads of humanity. They are representatives or types of either a corrupted humanity (Adam) or a redeemed humanity (Christ). The first Skywalker (Anakin Skywalker) faced the temptation to give in to the dark side of the force: he gave in to it and death, destruction and chaos followed. In contrast, the second Skywalker (Luke Skywalker) faced the same temptation, but was faithful and obedient to the Jedi vocation, and consequently hope, life and the triumph of good followed. In fact, Luke was able to redeem the first Skywalker, his father Anakin, from evil through his faithfulness (pp. 42-43).

Now there's a fun sermon possibility.


Wade Tannehill said...

I will have to get my hands on that book. I've been planning to do a lot of study on Paul for some time now. I've bought a bunch of books, but have only started reading a couple. I'll add this to my list. I actually think he did a good job with the two Adams thing even without the Skywalker illustration. A very articulate author.

Mike said...

Arghh! Just when I'm trying to cut back my library for a move! Have you read Gorman's intro to the letters of Paul? I really like it.