By Anthony Casperson
There I sat. My first class in my first year of bible college: Old Testament History. I didn’t know what to expect as I sat in the theater-style room. Numerous movies and TV shows depicted college life, but they all depicted different scenes. Fear and excitement tumbled around in my head.
In zipped the professor, tall and impossibly thin. Button-down shirt and bow tie, he oozed a professorial aura. Plopping down his books, a deep voice echoed through the room. The professor’s words sounding like he’d been teaching this class for a couple of weeks already.
He began to speak of a heretic of the Christian faith: Marcion. This heretic, the first according to my professor, had rejected certain parts of the typically recognized canon. An official statement of which books were guided by the hand of the Holy Spirit hadn’t existed in the time of Marcion, the mid-100s A.D.
Saying Marcion had rejected “certain parts” might be giving him too much credit. About the only part that he believed to be written with the guidance of God were the epistles written by Paul, the Gospel of Luke, and a few other smaller sections. The reason? Marcion looked at the Old Testament and the more Hebraic parts of the New Testament and saw a god of vengeance that didn’t live up to the image of the loving God that Jesus proclaimed and Paul taught.
And so, Marcion’s acceptance of only a small fraction of the bible led, in part, to the eventual codification of the bible’s canon (the accepted elements making up the whole of the Holy Spirit inspired writings).
With this first class of OT history, my fervor for what is canon cemented. Canon doesn’t just exist in the bible, but anywhere that events and stories are codified. I had always been interested in what was the true story of many things. Especially when it came to movies, TV shows, and books. If the writers began to tell a story that veered away from previously mentioned canonical information, it would drive me crazy.
One of my favorite stories growing up was the Star Wars saga. The original trilogy of movies, video games, novels, and eventually the prequel trilogy took up much of my headspace. I loved to see the stories of that universe. And the Expanded Universe continued the stories of beloved characters and introduced other new characters.
I grew attached to Wedge Antilles and the members of his new Rogue Squadron and Wraith Squadron. I grew to hate the trickery of Grand Admiral Thrawn. I grew exited as Corran Horn grew from fighter pilot to Jedi to trusted member Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Council. And I even cried when I read the scene of Chewie’s death in the book Vector Prime (which the author, R. A. Salvatore, got death threats from overly-reactive fans for writing).
So, last year, when I learned that the Star Wars saga was getting more movies, I grew exicted. That is, until I learned that in the Disney-fication of Star Wars, they were throwing away all of the previously established canon other than the previous 6 movies and a few, select other items. This near-total annihilation of the Star Wars canon reminded me of that discussion of Marcion. They were taking the parts that they liked and discarding everything else.
But you see, when you take the parts that you like of something and throw away all of the parts you don’t like, you destroy the truth of the whole. George Lucas’s vision of the story of Star Wars was supposed to be a story for children, a space opera with elements of fantasy thrown in. As movies were getting darker and grittier in the mid- to late-70s, Lucas made a movie that was meant to be fun and light-hearted.
And even the prequel trilogy shows that Lucas meant for the saga to be for children. I’ve come across quite a few people who were children during the time that the prequel trilogy came out (and weren’t tainted by the hate of adults who disliked the prequels) who prefer the prequels over the originals. (I know, shocking.)
But coming to The Force Awakens (or as I call it, The Heresy Awakens), the words “darker” and “grittier” came to describe the movie. The very things that Lucas was working against when he first made Star Wars. And it appears that as the Disney-fication of Star Wars moves on to the upcoming Rogue One and beyond, the trend will continue. The true role of the Star Wars saga has been left on the cutting room floor as the canon of Star Wars became eviscerated.
It’s very similar to the way of the heretic Marcion. In his cutting away of the OT, he lost the truth of the fact that because God is holy, and just, and must judge the world is the very reason why the sacrifice of Jesus and his offer of love and salvation to all who accept it is so great. The power of the love of God found throughout the bible (it’s throughout if you look for it) can only be as great as the condemnation of sin.
The bible, as a whole, is a story of God’s quest to save humanity of from our own sinful stupidity. If we lose the fact that we all have sinned and deserve eternal death, then the greatness of salvation is lost as well. The story of redemption finds its power when we see how far the fall is.
The removal of any part of a story is heresy, whether it is of the most sacred of texts, or a simple story created by man.