I have a moderate obsession for science fiction. I love just about anything written by Asimov or Card and the “Christian sci-fi” of C.S. Lewis and Chris Walley, among others. I own every episode of Stargate SG-1, am rapidly becoming a “Whovian”, and have consistently enjoyed Star Trek (except for DS9, amirite?).
Many of these stories involve alternate views of religion, and most of those views vary significantly from orthodox Christianity. However, for a grounded Christian, I do believe that engaging with such speculative fiction has great benefits.
1. Thinking. Most importantly, reading (or watching) stories with alternate views of god(s) and their character(s) encourages a Christian to think critically. Is ____ true of the real God? What is this narrative missing about the true God? What have the author(s) added to the truth?
For example, as I discussed earlier, the god-figures in Card’s Homecoming saga have many attractive qualities similar to the true God – involvement in people’s lives, a desire for people to follow willingly, a goal of humans loving one another properly. But, these god-figures are missing the saving aspect that is the distinguishing feature of Christianity – these gods make no effort to atone for the sin of their people.
In stories like Doctor Who and Stargate where the characters routinely encounter entirely new planets and species, I wonder what I would do in their situation as a Christian. Can I tell these new people of God’s saving grace? Does Christ’s death atone for the sins of aliens, too? Or would aliens, like those in Lewis’s Space Trilogy, already know of the love and grace of God, perhaps better than we do?
When I started reading Lawhead’s Pendragon series, I didn’t know that Lawhead is a Christian. Halfway through the first book, I thought, “Wow. This fictional god Lawhead created is amazingly like the real one. What’s his game?” I watched very carefully for what differences this “secular” author was going to introduce. Then, the character discovers that the Spirit he is following is named Jesus. Psych!
2. Worship. Similarities and differences between the true God and the god(s) in these fictional stories cause me to recognize aspects of God that I might not otherwise notice. In recognizing those aspects, I can worship.
When I see dreams sent by the Oversoul to characters in the Homecoming saga, I thank God for the dreams He has sent me.
When I “meet” new, fantastic creatures (like timelords from Doctor Who or hrossi from Out of the Silent Planet), I rejoice in God’s creativity.
When I see how much greater God’s love is for us than the love of these fictional gods could ever be for their fictional people, I worship Him. Who else but God could have conceived of His incarnation? Who would dare to go further and imagine a God’s death to enable forgiveness of His people? Praise God, who is greater than all other gods!
3. Fun. God created us with a great love of story – after all, look at the way He chose to reveal Himself to us in the Scriptures. Reading and watching the imaginative stories dreamt up by science fiction writers absolutely delights something deep inside of me. The great imaginations He gave us let us explore questions like, “What happens if you put dinosaurs… on a spaceship?”, “What would happen on a planet where the seven suns never set?”, or “What if the pyramids were landing sites for alien ships?”. What fun!
Finally, I want to emphasize that I think speculative fiction is beneficial only to people who have a solid grounding in the teachings of orthodox Christianity. Star Wars might inspire thinking, worship, and fun, but Yoda is certainly not a good source for theology. These stories are designed to draw the audience in, and can thus create an opening to impart false moral teaching. Because of one’s enjoyment of Star Trek characters, someone without a solid footing might be tempted to throw out the truth that Christ is the one way to God in favor of the Federation’s tolerance and acceptance for all viewpoints (which is a reflection of popular modern thought).
For me, science fiction has been a source of great delight and one of the many avenues God has used to bring me closer to Him. Happy reading, my friends.