Why would a Christian like Science Fiction?
What is there to love?
My grandfather, a pastor for many years, has always said that Science Fiction is a waste of time, because “it posits at things which God never intended.”
Is he right?
Well, let’s think about all those elements classic to Science Fiction and why a Christian might be loath to see them as valuable:
Evolutionary Theory: It’s difficult to find a decent, mainstream Sci-Fi story that doesn’t assume that the world and all its creatures came about by evolution. But for a Christian, the very idea of evolution is a challenge to faith, because by nature evolution implies a universe without God.
Aliens: The very idea that there is life on other planets only stems from the belief that if we evolved here, then others must have evolved elsewhere. And it raises a host of questions for Christians, who see mankind as fallen into sin and redeemed by Christ. What about the aliens? Sinful too? Redeemed as well?
Limitless future: Christians hold that while we don’t know when the world actually will end, we have seen all the signs that it could happen at any time, and so there’s really no reason to believe that it won’t happen soon. The typical futuristic setting of Sci-Fi predicts that the world will not end any time soon. Some Christians may find this hard to accept.
Alternative theories: The world of Sci-Fi literature is riddled with stories that attempt to provide alternative explanations for the things people believe and put their faith in. This is especially common with belief in God and angels. Often aliens, or ancient AI systems, or other strange phenomena have been used to make this work.
Bizarre religions: Many Sci-Fi stories set well into the future have included the religious thoughts of that day, and the authors make up sometimes very bizarre views and practices, none of which seem reasonable to the reader. What usually isn’t present is Christianity in the form we think of it today. Yet the Bible says that the church (as defined by that invisible connection between all believers in Jesus) will last until the end of time. In other words, there will always be true believers in Jesus, until the very last day.
AI, robots, and simulants: Oh my. Does man have the power to create something that so closely resembles life that a person may not be able to tell the difference between it and humanity? Will we ever really be wrestling with whether or not the android down the street deserves the same right as every other man? Can man create?
Adult themes: This is, of course, not limited to Sci-Fi, but Sci-Fi often is written for adults and so contains adult themes that may, at times, be objectionable to Christians. Whether it’s random violence, explicit sexuality, or embracing the darkness, Sci-Fi literature is rife with content that might give a Christian reader pause.
Humanism: The potential of man is limitless! We can achieve anything we can imagine, anything we set our minds to! (Oops, grammar police: “anything to which we set our minds”). If a man can dream, mankind can build it! These are themes we often see, and unfortunately, they’re patently false. There are lots of things mankind cannot accomplish, like actually creating life, recreating the Big Bang, understanding why we love or find beauty or why we dream, and oh yeah, how to save us from ourselves. Humanism is not all that and a bag of chips, but you might not know it from reading Sci-Fi. Then again, you might. There are plenty of authors who do expose the failure of Humanism. Either way, a Christian will balk sometimes at how this comes across.
Relativism: We already live in a society moving toward the notion that whatever you believe is right for you, and whatever I believe is right for me, and who’s to say that either of us is wrong? This is reflected in Sci-Fi as well, sometimes in the negative when the absolutists are seen to be the problem in society. The problem with relativism is that it isn’t sustainable. In order to be absolutely relativist (a contradiction in terms?), you must absolutely deny the absolutist. To put it another way, if a Christian says, “There is such a thing as truth,” the relativist, in order to be honest to his belief, must either say, “No, there isn’t” (which is an absolute statement), or he must say, “If you believe that, then it’s true for you” (which is allowing that there is such a thing as absolute truth somewhere). Either way, his relativism has broken down. Rather, there’s a sort of faux-relativism that says that only the people who insist on absolutes are wrong, and that theme crops up all around in the Sci-Fi world.
I could go on, but I think those are enough themes to convince us that there is plenty to turn a Christian away from Science Fiction.
But I love it, and I’m not about to turn away from this world.
Why? Well, I’ll get to that in another post. For now, let me say this: These things are a problem in this genre, but I don’t believe they are essential to the genre. I think there are worlds out there to explore that don’t rely on any of these themes or elements to make them turn. As a Christian, I want to seek those worlds out, and when I find them, write about them. I want to inject a little sanctification into the Sci-Fi palette, and see what we can create if we take the best of Sci-Fi – which I plan to talk about in my next post – and combine it with a little bit of grace.