What Does Darth Vader Have to do with the Bible?
You’ve seen him; you’ve heard him. From his phantomic appearance on the big screen, to the distinct sound of his mechanistic breathing, Darth Vader is perhaps one of the greatest villains in all George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise; perhaps one of the most monumental villains in all of fiction history. How did Lucas think up such a character? Did Vader mysteriously birth out of Lucas’s imagination entirely or did Lucas assemble a bunch of pre-existing traits to make up the Dark Sided figure? He must have had some inspiration.
We like to watch Lucas’s characters in his films, both good and bad, but we rarely think about the origins of such characters. We tend to take these fictional creations for granted, without thinking about how they came to be. Lucas had to have gotten his ideas from somewhere or someone. Perhaps the situations he went through growing up, people he knew, movies he saw or experiences he had, were all factors that played into his formulation of Darth Vader. Whichever influenced Lucas’s thinking the most is a mystery to me, but it’s probably safe to say that a little bit of everything had something to do with the red-saber wielding supervillain, and this brings us to an interesting point.
Everyone experiences evil in their lives. Some people deny evil exists as a moral negative, while others think that the whole world is evil and out to get them. Either way, there is an antagonistic theme in everyone’s life, either being personified in someone like Saddam Hussein, or seen in passive, seemingly uncaused, suffering. This is completely consistent with, and only with, a biblical worldview. Who is Darth Vader, then, when looked at from a biblical perspective? How should he be seen? Is there a sense in which Darth Vader is real? Perhaps he’s not only a character. Maybe there is something tangible about the masked menace.
DARTH VADER AS A MAN
In Lucas’s films, the Dark Side is a positive force. Rather than being a total lack of goodness or grace, it is a positive, substantive, force to reckon with. In fact, the Dark Side is almost as material as a uniform outfit, like Adolf Hitler’s SS soldiers or the French Foreign Legion. While this view of evil is not consistent with Scripture, it tells us something of who Darth Vader is. His character is a human character. He is fictional, but the qualities making him who he is are not. Themes such as greed, malice, murder, and intimidation are very real, and they make Vader’s character what it is fundamentally. I’m sure everyone reading this right now can recall a news headline about a murder trial, or a very real experience with an exceptionally greedy person. These themes plague true human experience.
Conversely, there are themes in Darth Vader such as humanity and mortality as seen during his fateful end in the third movie where Luke Skywalker discovers that Darth Vader is actually his father. Perhaps even humility was present in Vader during the scene depicting his death. On one hand, then, we see a cold, impersonal brute who kills at the drop of a hat; on the other hand, we see humanity and the fragility of life.
Maybe Darth Vader’s character was so great because each and every one of us can see a bit of the Dark Side within ourselves. Before you stop reading, think of all the times you’ve had evil thoughts. Have you ever thought evil things? Have you ever had irrational anger toward others, thoughts where you considered stealing something, lustful thoughts about another person other than your own spouse? Consider those instances where you wish you could have accomplished revenge against someone. Have you ever wanted to beat someone up? Rough em’ up a little bit? Show em’ a lesson?
There’s a little bit of Darth Vader in all of us.
In fact, God’s Word tells us that we are basically a bunch of little Darth Vaders, and that apart from God’s grace we are totally dark-hearted people, loving darkness rather than light (Rom 3:10, 11, 23; Eph 2:1). Before you object to this, think about the above questions and your answers. We may not wear black capes, wield lightsabers, or destroy planets with a Death Star, but according to God, we are not good people—contrary to what we often think. Apart from Christ’s work, we cannot be reconciled to God while answering ‘yes’ to any one of those questions in the previous paragraph.
DARTH VADER AS A REDEEMABLE CHARACTER
Lucas’s darkest character may have been evil, but does Vader’s evil preclude him from being a redeemable character? In Star Wars, is there any hint of Vader humbly recognizing the end of his rope, so to speak? If this time ever occurred, it would have been the point at which Luke Skywalker defeated him in that final duel, ultimately resulting in the anti-jedi’s apparent death. Perhaps one could make a case for Vader’s fatherly confession as being one of repentance and sorrow. Either way, the supervillain was not outside the bounds of redemption because his failure while dueling his son revealed his humanity.
Our essence is our humanity, and Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God came to redeem a people for Himself in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. What is interesting about this point is that Jesus did not come to rescue those who proved to be good enough! He came to rescue people who were complete failures, people who were comprehensively evil in the sight of God.
How does this work? At the outset of Star Wars, we never thought of Vader as redeemable. We precluded the idea of a repentant Darth Vader based on his bold wickedness, until that questionable moment at the end. If Vader was indeed humbled, could it be said he humbled himself? What about repentance? Did he repent out of nowhere? Of course not! He was forcibly humbled by someone else of familial relation, namely, Luke Skywalker.
So too, no one pleases God while outside of Christ (Rom 8:7, 8). I mean, isn’t that totally consistent with your answers to the above questions? You may say, “Well, it’s nothing but a little sin here and there! Why would God be so critical!” This objection, of course, comes to mind because you have invented your own moral code, much like Darth Vader did. You see right as wrong and wrong as right while in your darkened state—outside of Christ. Without God’s work in your life, you will remain in this darkened state, unwilling to repent, refusing humility.
THE GOOD NEWS
This all may seem like very bad news, and it is bad, even terrifying news, if Christ is never recognized for who He is. Call to mind, however, the fact that Darth Vader is a redeemable character; and if Darth Vader is a redeemable character, everyone reading this is a redeemable person—not because of who you are intrinsically, but because of who God is. He’s the sovereign Creator of the universe, who spoke galaxies into existence by the Word of His power. A God who can call forth the existence of solar systems, black holes, and a miraculously habitable planet like this one—out of nothing—can surely save sinners like us.
Pray that God would save you because, like Darth Vader and all evil characters before and after him, we are in need of reconciliation to ultimate righteousness and a divinely enacted redemption. This can only happen in Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (Jn 14:6).”
We can be right with God only if we believe in Jesus as both Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9), because Jesus stood in our place upon a wooden, splintery instrument of torture, tacked on by nails similar in size to railroad spikes. He took our sin upon Himself, was punished by a perfectly just Father, and thus took the punishment we deserve. He died, and rose from his garden tomb three days later in confirmation of everything He had said before that point, giving us a future hope of a resurrection like His. This is the Good News, the Gospel—the euangelion.
This is what Darth Vader has to do with the Bible: his character serves to show us the potentiality of our own hearts. God has revealed to us that we are blackened at the very core, and if we could, we would probably death-choke anyone who made us a little angry. Without God’s grace, your souls will wear black capes and shiny helmets forever as you bitterly confess God as Lord while eternally separated from His eternal love and fellowship. Turn from the Dark Side, and to the light. Repent and believe in the true light—the Son of God—Jesus Christ.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” — John 11:25, 26