On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we pick up a man named Khan as we look for Christian themes in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Can Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk show us how internal our struggle with God really is? How is Admiral Pike like God…as in, a God of Second Chances? All that and more in 3…2…1!
Spock, Kirk, God, and Working from the Inside Out
Star Trek Into Darkness opens up with a well-crafted prologue that highlights an important trait in Mr. Spock as well as foreshadows a common thread found in Captain Kirk: the willingness to save something from the inside out. In this prologue, Spock dives into an active volcano with the objective to plant a device that would freeze all of the lava within the volcano; this would fulfill the mission of saving the Nibiru civilization. This objective could cost Spock his life (especially since his safety line that connects to the shuttle snapped), but he’s okay with that because “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” In other words, he is acting as a type and shadow of God’s own rescue operation, in which He works from within the heart (and through self-sacrifice) to bring about the salvation of his people.
This same instance happens later in the film: Captain Kirk has to go down to the core of the Enterprise and realign the power generators so that the crew can live. The Enterprise has just taken several debilitating blows from an unmarked Federation vessel (once manned by Admiral Marcus, now commandeered by Khan) and has lost all control. If the core generator isn’t realigned, Earth’s gravity will pull the Enterprise and its crew to their destruction. Kirk, however, has different plans: after finally realizing what it means to take responsibility for his ship and crew, he is willing to sacrifice himself by going to the radioactive core personally and realigning it himself. Again, this is another mirrored image of the sacrifice God had to make in order to be able to work from within us and save us from ourselves.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows us how internal the struggle really is and how broken and how depraved we really are. For example, it isn’t murder that separates us from God; it’s the hatred and the anger in our hearts. And it isn’t adultery that separates us from God; it’s the lust and the covetousness in our hearts. Granted, murder, adultery, and a whole slew of other sins are listed as what not to do if you want to be a follower of God, but those are only the outward manifestations of the wicked, uncircumcised heart. Just like a hyperactive volcano about to explode and a space ship plummeting to its destruction, our hearts were on the highway to death until God Himself came down and worked on us / saved us from the inside out.
Paul sums it up best in his letter to the Philippians:
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT)
To put it biblically, “God is working in” us means that God the Holy Spirit is working inside us and helping/counseling/encouraging us to follow the example Jesus set for us in order to get back home to God the Father. He (God the Spirit) is “giving [us] the desire and the power” means that he is making us both willing and able “to do what pleases Him.” You know: to boldly go where only one Man (Jesus) has gone before (to the center of our own wicked hearts) and save us from the inside out. Of course, after all that has happened and we are fully restored, we can return to fulfilling our mission.
Admiral Pike and the God of Second Chances
It’s no surprise that Captain Kirk is a rebel. In fact, he’s what we here in the American Southeast call a “good ol’ boy,” meaning that he is full of good intentions and well-meanings but doesn’t think he has to follow the rules in order to on out those good intentions and well-meanings. In the prologue of Star Trek Into Darkness, he exemplifies this by saving Spock, his crew, and the Nibiru civilization all while violating Starfleet regulations and even the Prime Directive. He values grace over the law, but in order to achieve that, he has to break the law. And those who break the law – aka step outside its boundaries – aka sin – must be punished. With Starfleet as the arbiter in this situation (as the entity that established the rules), it has to rectify Kirk’s actions against itself and does so by taking from him the Enterprise and kicking him out of Starfleet altogether.
This instance is just like what we read about the Garden of Eden: God established the rule / boundary that Adam and Eve could eat the fruit of any tree in the Garden except that which came from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Being human and thus having free will, they chose to break that law – aka step outside that boundary – aka sin – and God took away from them their right to the Tree of Life and kicked them out of the Garden altogether.
Thankfully, however, Admiral Pike is a man of second chances, and our God is a God of second chances. Just as Starfleet reinstates Kirk as the First Officer of the Enterprise after his change of heart, God will and already has reinstated us as the stewards of His good creation. The allegory continues: just as Kirk has been reconciled with Starfleet through these events, we are also reconciled with God because of his grace and mercy. The prophet Joel puts it like this:
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
Yes! Believe it or not, God has always called us humans to let Him live in our hearts and work on us from the inside out – even way back in the Old Testament. Even when (not if, when) we fail to obey Him, He “relents from sending calamity” as our punishment. At least, for now, He relents from punishing us and instead forgives us.
Reel News and Other Links
- J.J. Abrams Takes On A Thomas Edison Film
- Is Beyond the Mask the Film Christians Have Been Waiting For?
- Birdman, Whiplash, and Big Hero 6 This Week in Home Entertainment
- “The Blood Of Your Tweets Cries Out From The Ground” by Luke T. Harrington
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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