n exciting thing is happening that is lowering the threshold and readying our culture to refashion its basic assumptions about the bible’s inspiration and the canon of scripture. It comes at no surprise that most outside the church and many within take their cues, for better or worse, from our popular culture. Video games, comic books and the silver screen possess the deepest of pockets and the most versatile of social capital in shaping the worldview of nearly every person not living in a cocoon. Ask Christians and non-Christians alike what they think of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings and most can give an opinion that reveals some level of engagement in these epic films. Those that sheepishly admit they haven’t seen these central icons of cinema are met with the same frustration akin to those who say they don’t like pizza- who even are these people? We might affectionally jest at them.
One particular book, The Da Vinci Code, which was later made into a movie, thrust old objections about the canon into the fore from this same pop-culture vein. Although most evangelicals would be pleased that talks of Constantine “picking the books of the bible at the Council of Nicaea” are waning in connection with Dan Brown, this view has nevertheless trickled down to so many that it is basically “common knowledge.” Anecdotally, this has been re-confirmed in my own engagement with people in seemingly non-canon territory. While once ministering on a sidewalk outside of an abortion clinic, we asked a college student who was filming us what he was doing. His reply was, “I’m making a documentary on the absurdity of Christianity.” We politely met his seriousness and inquired as to what motivated him to do what he does. His apologetic was rooted in a belief that the Christianity was ultimately a “bogus” religion that suppresses women, and interestingly, has no basis for its claims. After all, “Constantine arbitrarily chose the books of the bible among the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Council of Nicaea to fit his political needs,” or so his re-telling went. This objection is almost laughable if he wasn’t so sincere. Interestingly, a facet of his worldview that should peak our curiosity is the fact that he had not seen the infamous 2006 movie starring Tom Hanks nor had he read the book by Dan Brown. Nevertheless, his view very much reflected the sentiment and worldview that drew deep contours from books and movies among the host of usual suspects that rear their head around Easter and Christmas. Said suspects tend to have provocative titles along the lines of, “New Lost Suppressed Books of the Bible.” So then, why do I think the culture is nearing a new stage of malleability when it comes to the canon given experiences like this? My answer: Superhero Movies.
We are living in the Golden Age of superhero movies and not just superhero movies-proper, like the DC and Marvel franchises, but sourced in a wide array of “nerd-dom.” Among these other films are the new Star Wars and Star Trek installments, which are undoubtedly central to this discussion and happening. According to IMDB, there have been 23 Marvel and DC movies produced since 2000 and there are perhaps some 27 new projects in the works that may find themselves in a theater near you by 2020. None of these numbers include the amount of comic-esque stories finding their way into television shows (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Gotham, and Flash among the honorable mentions). All of these developments in cinema have sparked huge discussions about canon, albeit, the comic canon, whether it’s the Marvel’s Canon or the Star Wars Canon– and what’s exciting and simultaneously frightening regarding this, is it isn’t the church leading the discourse in this arena.
The conversations about canon include multiple aspects of the list below. As you can read for yourself, there are many interesting in-roads to discuss the biblical canon. Some of these prompts and discussion items include:
The opportunity to use these discussion cues is quite obviously encouraging given the direction they are moving. I say this because on one hand the culture’s view of the biblical canon is that it was largely chosen by one man in one specific time of history in one geographic location. In a fascinating inconsistency, the average person who possesses this view of the bible does not hold this view in regard to the exploding comic canon which they tend to more passionately discuss and engage with, indeed, as if it were inspired. In fact, the cinema canon looks something more along the lines of a non-inspired community determined model of canonicity. This is, of course, is not to argue that the culture is getting it right. The point is to say that 1) the opportunity to build bridges into teaching the true nature of the biblical canon is present in our culture and 2) the way in which the non-Christian bombasts the bible and then extols the comic canon exposes their inconsistency. I hope that we can labor to use that exposed inconsistency to humbly and confidently draw their attention to their inherent presupposition and bias; those presuppositions that show them their alienation from God and need to be reconciled with Him.
One way to understand this lowering threshold about the comic canon is as a gospel improv gesture. Rather than act, we can react, redirect and use this incredible opportunity and era of cinema for the Lord’s glory. Like preaching, we exegete the text, but we should also exegete our audience so as to engage them where they are – and humbly give witness to where their feet should be- standing on the true canon of scripture and under the Lordship of Christ.
 See Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 27-66.