Tag Archives: asimov

Why I Love Sci-Fi

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.

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Look to the Skies

I just read Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall in which a planet with six suns experiences a terrifying and maddening night of Darkness once every two thousand years.
Asimov wrote the short story (that inspired the novel) is response to Emerson’s quote:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!

David writes,

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

How strange it is in our modern world that we can avoid the sky. Sure, it’s obvious the sky is around when the clouds pour down rain or a particularly brilliant sunset paints the sky, but in my normal go-to-school-do-homework-get-some-sleep life I don’t stop to look up.

On camping trips I love to look at the night sky, especially when you’re far enough away from the city lights to see the Milky Way in all her glistening glory. Once we didn’t start cooking dinner until nearly 10:30 because our whole group was entranced by the stars, looking for shooting stars, contemplating the theology of extraterrestrial life, musing on notions of gravity and space.
The ancients understood the majesty of the sky, believing the gods lived in and moved across it in great chariots and that the heroes looked down from among the stars. The medievals ascribed attributes to each of the wandering planets and believed God was the great Prime Mover beyond the Fixed Stars.
What glory, what majesty, what immensity lies above.

Isaiah says,

Who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

And yet God replies,

I love you more than the sun
and the stars
that I taught how to shine
you are mine and you shine for me too
-Matthew West

He loves us more.

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Turnover

In Isaac Asimov’s future universe, the Spacers are set in opposition to the Earthers/Settlers. The key to the Earther/Settler success is that they retain short lifespans. Their culture constantly turns over and they must share scientific and other discoveries with each other in order for them to get anywhere. In contrast, the Spacers have extended their lifetimes to many hundreds of Earth years. Their society is pristine and perfect, but completely static. Scientists hoard their discoveries for themselves hoping to personally benefit from them in the many centuries to come, during which they might improve upon the ideas themselves. Eventually, this leads to their demise because they cannot (and will not) adapt.

Sitting in a huge leadership community meeting for the college ministry at my church, I wondered if our high turnover rate, though certainly not the key to our vitality (that’s Christ!), is a part of it. Every May we see roughly 1/4 of our population graduate, and every August we gain at least that many new students. Leaders have (on average) a maximum time in leadership positions of three years (freshman year to learn, sophomore, junior, and senior years to serve as a leader).
If that’s a part of what makes this college ministry so wonderful, what do you do with that? You certainly don’t want to enforce a high turnover rate in a “big church.” Hmm.

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