Now by all accounts science fiction is a bit of a hard sell for the Christian book market. The reason for this is bound up in our eschatology, our beliefs about the End of All Things. End Times views within Christendom come a few clearly defined and argued categories. Most folks are familiar with the Darbyist view [pretribulational dispensationalist Rapturists] on which Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind series was based. If Christendom has an established sci-fi market, it is predominantly for this specific flavor of End Times fiction. And who can blame us? It’s exciting stuff. A small, desperate, but resolute band of believers beleaguered by the all-powerful AntiChrist, a megalomaniacal dictator in control of a fascist New World Order. The story has a powerful opening hook: the sudden disappearance of every Bible-believing Christian on the planet and climaxes in the bona fide War to End All Wars, the Armageddon, and the Triumphant Return of Christ. The setting and the Bible’s mention of martyrs and divine judgments make any half-decent effort a gripping read.
If the selective mass market offerings of Christian book chains are any indication, this is the only sort of exploratory apologetic we have. [Unless we count the Hank Hanegraaff-inspired preterist [and therefore in the historical fiction genre] novels co-authored with Sigmund Brouwer, which offer an alternative view of eschatology as mostly fulfilled in the apostle’s day with Nero as the Beast. Yet it’s still eschatalogy.]
But what about the stuff of traditional sci-fi? What about alien worlds? Aliens? Space travel? Artificial Intelligence?
Now to be fair, a few Christian authors have written novels about aliens from the UFO conspiracy POV, but I can’t think of very many that deal with aliens without the government conspiracy angle.
Let me tell you some specific things I’d like to see addressed:
- How the Second Coming scenario would be affected by extraterrestrial colonies. What does the Rapture or the Second Coming look like from space? Let’s not make the mistake in our thinking that my grandfather’s generation commited when they boasted that God would not allow us to put a man on the moon because he hadn’t allowed man to finish the Tower of Babel. Do not make the mistake that God will limit our horizons to keep our doctrines as simple as we’d like!
- The possibility of non-sapient extraterrestrial lifeforms. I know that some special Creationists simply say that since the Bible is silent on life beyond this planet and since “extraterrestrial life is an evolutionary concept” [I think they’re referring to the idea that if the universe is billions of years old that some allege life elsewhere is almost inevitable. It’s not inevitable. Even if it did exist, our connecting with it is improbable.], so there’s no such thing as extraterrestrial life. This is the sort of baseless dogma that has shot Christendom in the pants in the past. If the Bible is silent about a subject, it does not automagtically follow that it must not exist. If it does exist and we have not considered that possibility, many will feel that our worldview has been invalidated because a few boneheads decided a priori that it was impossible based on negative evidence. It should be noted that non-sapient ETs, even with intelligence on par with dolphins, apes or insects, pose no threat to any Bible doctrine. They would simply be subject to the same Fallen Universe we inhabit together. It seems possible that the Revelation passage which speaks of Wormwood falling to earth and a subsequent invasion of locust creatures may speak of such non-sapient ETs. They come up out of a smoking pit [a crater] in the wake of Wormwood’s impact. Of course, it’s also possible that said locust creatures are indigenous to earth and are simply subterranean creatures set free by the blast that we have not yet encountered. These are just speculations.
- The possibility of sapient alien life. How would that jive with Biblical doctrine? I know that Jason Lisle has objected that sapient ETs would either need a Christ who died on their planet for them [which he correctly points out would violate the scripture that Christ died once for all… if this passage applies not merely to men but to all sapient lifeforms! And that’s a stretch, guys.] or that these aliens would somehow need to accept the Terran Christ for salvation. I’m not sure his argument is valid. Since these aliens would not be of the bloodline of Adam it’s possible they would not ever need to be saved. One may object that moral choice would imply accountability. If sapient ETs are fallen and there is no way to ascertain this in advance, they would need a means of salvation. It does not follow that God will grace them with one, for an examination of Scripture makes it strongly suggestive that angels do not appear to have been offered redemption. If they do not have access to such salvation, their attitude toward mankind could only be hateful. If they do have access to salvation, would it be Christ? Or would they have a “schoolteacher” akin to the Mosaic Law and Judaic Temple system until we reach them with the Good News? [Didn’t think of that one, did you?] If they are not fallen, what would an encounter with them be like? Would they even want to contact us? This vein of thought offers some very interesting possibilities.
- Time travel. I’m specifically interested in descriptions and explorations of the antideluvian world. I actually have an idea for such a book. Perhaps it will be something I can bring my attention to after my curret project.
- Superpowers! Most folks don’t realize that comic book heroes are science fiction. Most hero fiction at this point explains super beings with evolutionary appeals to the “next stage of human development.” There are lots of phenomenon and alleged human abilities that defy conventional explanation. How would we explain this in a biblical context? Oh, demonic possession is tempting. And I think it’s been done. It brings to mind the Biblical passage where Moses’ rod turned into a snake and the pharaoh’s magicians duplicated the feat. But if not divine or demonic intervention, how would we explain such phenomenon such as telepathy or levitation, if it ever developed? Would we capitulate to darwin, or do we have a viable alternative theory? Is this potential locked away in all mankind, prohibited lest our sin nature allow us to use this power for great harm? [See? Found a viable explanation that quickly] I think it’s worth exploring. If nothing else, it would be very entertaining!
- Artificial intelligence. What is the meaning of sapience? Will it occur inevitably with a sufficient [but as-yet-undefined] level of complexity as evolutionists suggest? Will artificial sapience ever be valid or will the programming only be very convincing, but never authentic? How will we draw that line? What social and religious issues would that raise? What about robot rights? Assuming true artificial sapience, will androids inherent our Fallen nature as adopted children subject to the same human moral flaws [by design!] and need salavation by Christ? Or would true sapience result in robotic lifeforms that are not fallen? How would THAT impact humanity? Would they share a networked groupmind or be individuals? In a Rapture scenario, would they gain a new body? [i.e. – would they share the promise with biological believers]. What if they had no body to begin with but we only had a virtualpresence but true sapience nonetheless? This field of exploratory thought is rife with possibility.
- Clones and created life forms. What if man creates life? Is this seen by the world as evidence for evolution or design? What if it too is sapient? What about clones? Do we have shared souls? No, that’s silly. It seems more valid to make them individuals, like twins. What religious or racial biases might this bring up? How would the Church respond? No, honestly. Could a sapient mutant or clone be a member of the clergy? What if said mutants or clones were genetically engineered to have “superpowers?” [Couldn’t resist!]
Of course, some will shrug and ask, why should we write about such things at all? Isn’t it a waste of time to write amusements and diversionary fictions. Don’t we have more important things to be on about? Like spreading the Gospel. And what does it really matter anyway?
I think Hank Hanegraaff’s reply to the question, “What made you write [The Last Disciple]?” is compelling:
“Fiction is a great truth-conveying medium. As Left Behind has become the vehicle for indoctrinating millions of believers into an end-time theology invented in the nineteenth century,” [aka Darbyism, or the Rapturist view]
Fiction, in general, is the perfect medium to make an argument. The more popular the novel, the more folks are exposed to the ideas and,as Hanegraaff put it, “indoctrinated.” They are at least more predisposed to accept the idea’s validity.
Science fiction has specific power to change the future. Many science fiction writers are considered futurists. Their imaginative exploration of possible futures has resulted in present-day technological inspiration. It has also coloured the wordlviews of those who read science fiction, which is predominantly written with Darwinist, humanist and even atheist assumptions.
But we can write faith-based sci-fi not only as anticipatory apologetic, but to provide the world with an intelligent alternative to humanist imagineering.