Tag Archives: God

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Seeing God in Card’s Homecoming Series

I recently read Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming series of novels* and thoroughly enjoyed them!  The god-like characters in the novels were interesting food for thought.  To talk about it, I’ll first give a brief synopsis here:

The series starts on the planet Harmony 40 million years after humans have left Earth.  The initial humans set up a computer system they call the Oversoul.  This system monitors all humans on the planet, and alters their thoughts when they conceive of technology that would enable them to cause large-scale destruction (such as the bombs that they believe destroyed Earth).  Over time, a sort of religion has developed around the Oversoul.  After 40 million years, the Oversoul realizes its systems are failing, and that it needs to return to Earth where the mysterious “Keeper of the Earth” might be able to repair it.  The Oversoul influences one family to locate the original spaceships that brought humans to Harmony and help the Oversoul return to Earth.  The final novel takes place on Earth and tries to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the Keeper.

Book one in the Homecoming Saga

When a book introduces a god, my mind starts comparing it to the real One.  What’s the same?  What’s different?  I really enjoyed the experience with these books!  (If you’ve read the novels, you’ll know that some of these observations apply to the Oversoul and some to the Keeper.)

Similarities:

– God communicates in dreams.  (I have a huge love for dreams, so it was fun to see this aspect played up in a novel.)  We know that God communicated through dreams in the Bible, and He still does so today.  Many of the conversions happening in the Muslim world are due to dreams about Christ!
– God plans large-scale.
– God’s plan is that His children would love one another.
– God wants people to choose to follow His will freely.
Differences:

– God does plan large scale, but He also cares very deeply about each individual.
– Most importantly, in the novels, the Keeper does not incarnate, does not die, and is not resurrected to save His people from sin and death.  (As far as I know, the only fictional God to come close to doing this is Aslan!)  While many aspects of “God” in the novels are beautiful and felt familiar to me, this difference is huge.  The Keeper becomes a powerful care-taker with morals, and, while worthy of the respect of humans, is not worthy of their worship.  These thoughts will be explored more generally in my next post explaining why I, as a Christian, love reading sci-fi.

* After drafting this post, I read that Card’s Homecoming series is a sci-fi retelling of the Book of Mormon.  It explains a lot about some of the things I saw in the series, but I don’t think it changes much of what I’ve written here.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Life Lessons from Math Undergrad

I feel like I’ve learned so much more than theorems in these years of earning a B.S. in Mathematics.
For example:

Lesson 1: Things aren’t always what they seem.
2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4. In the ring of integers mod 3, it’s the multiplicative identity; in integers mod 2, it’s 0. (Math is weird, people.)

Lesson 2: You have to start somewhere.
The way to start a proof is this: Write P-r-o-o-f.
If you’re still stuck, write, “Let ε > 0 be given.”

Lesson 3: If plan A doesn’t work, try plan B. And plans C, D, and E.
First, you try proving a theorem directly. Then you go for induction. Then, when all else fails, you assume it’s false and contradict yourself (hoping the universe doesn’t disappear from existence in the process).

Lesson 4: Know when to give up.
If it’s 1:13 am on Wednesday night and you’ve tried plans A through Q with three of your closest friends and whiteboards and none of you can speak English anymore (though you still understand each other), it’s time to give in and ask your professor in the morning.

Lesson 5: If you write strange things on whiteboards, you will get strange looks.
(Maybe this one isn’t so much a life lesson as a study in library anthropology.)

Lesson 5: The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
“But Dr. Professor, the undergrad contingent just left your office asking for homework help, and we haven’t had time to write it up. Can we have an extension?”

Lesson 6: Sometimes, you’ve just got to dance.
I mean, really, Abstract Algebra occasionally requires that you break out into the macarena. You may get strange looks from other people in the library, but what can you do?

Lesson 7: Humility.
“What are you working on?” “Advanced Calculus.” “Oh, is that like Cal 3?”
No, honey, no.

And certainly not least:
Lesson 8: If you look, you can see God everywhere.
Everywhere, even in math theorems (the false etymology of which is theo- -rems: God things). Parameterizations remind me of worship songs. Mathematical truths are true because, somehow, their truth glorifies God. My friend Austin sees God’s existence in the proof that .9999… = 1.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized