A work of science fiction made me question the existence of a loving God.
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise . . .”
Remember these familiar words? I sure do. This is probably one of the most recognizable TV introductions in history.
Over the last 40 years Star Trek and its numerous spin-offs total over 700 TV episodes and 10 full-length movies, with number 11 being released December 2008.
Paramount claims that sales of Star Trek merchandise have exceeded $4 billion dollars. Despite the fact that Star Trek reruns had been shown dozens of times, the TNN network (renamed SPIKE) thought there were enough sci-fi fans watching to pay over $360 million in 2001 for the rights to re-show various episodes.
Science fiction is so popular that entire museums and attractions are devoted to it, including the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington, and Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada. I grew up on science fiction shows, such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek. My favorite authors were Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. But it wasn’t until I was researching material for an article that I remembered the impact that one particular story had on me and my faith.
Reading “The Star,” a short story by Clarke, actually played a part in my rejecting biblical truths until my late twenties.
The story goes something like this. Space explorers are returning from a long and arduous mission. They’ve explored the Phoenix Nebula to reconstruct what led up to its explosion. One of the crew, a Jesuit astrophysicist, is very distraught. During their exploration they found records of a civilization that was destroyed as a result of this exploding star.
As it turns out, the star that obliterated an entire alien civilization was the very star that proclaimed the arrival of Jesus Christ on earth. It was the Star of Bethlehem.
“What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?” the story’s main character asks God in utter disbelief.
Even though this was fiction, I asked myself that same question: how could a loving God allow such death and suffering in the universe? It didn’t make sense that God would need to kill off one group of people so that another could live.
Such thoughts deeply troubled me. Growing up in public schools and a liberal church, I thought that God used evolution to create the universe. But I couldn’t understand how suffering and death could be so prevalent if God is all-powerful, wise, and loving.
When you don’t go to the source of truth, God’s Word, then you are open to the seductive stories of the media. Let’s face it, modern media is entertaining. It appeals to some of the deepest longings that God seems to have put in the human heart—a desire for good storytelling, adventure, and big dreams that can’t be satisfied with the muck of this world (Solomon says that God has put “eternity” in the human heart, Ecclesiastes 3:11).
While there is a place for Christians to enjoy fictional writings, it is important to recognize that the authors are heavily influenced by their view of history.
While I think there’s a place for enjoying the creative fiction of both Christian and non-Christian writers, it’s important to recognize that their understanding of reality is influenced by their view of history. The work of non-Christians reflects their worldview. And in some cases, their attacks on God are intentional.
H.G. Wells, one of the fathers of science fiction, actively opposed Christian beliefs and morality. Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek TV series, was a member of the American Humanist Association and awarded the Humanist Arts Award. Arthur C. Clarke despised religion, calling it a “disease of infancy” in an Associated Press interview published on Wired.com. In that same interview, he described the anti-God theme of his popular book 3001: The Final Odyssey, in which religion had become “taboo, a product of man’s early ignorance that promoted hatred and bloodshed.”
On the other hand, writers like C. S. Lewis have attempted to honor God and uphold biblical values in their works of science fiction. Lewis’s space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) is one well-known example.
God can use fiction—even if it is overtly antibiblical—to bring about good. Whether they realize it or not, writers who are atheists and evolutionists must borrow biblical concepts in order for their stories to make sense. Even the atheist Isaac Asimov often incorporated Christian elements into his stories.
My despair caused by reading “The Star” actually exposed my need for answers, and it helped prepare my heart to hear the comforting truth of the Bible. I later learned from Genesis that God originally made the universe “very good,” without flaw or evil or death. It was man’s rebellion, not God, that brought death into the world.
I also learned that God’s plans are centered upon earth, where He became a man, Jesus Christ, who died on a cross to pay the penalty for man’s rebellion to restore us to a right relationship with our Creator.
The star of Bethlehem had nothing to do with the explosion of a nebula or destruction of alien civilizations (see “The Star of Bethlehem” in Answers, Oct.–Dec, 2006). Clarke’s “The Star” was just fiction, the product of human imagination. In contrast, the star of Bethlehem was a real event recorded in the Bible. This miracle proclaimed the coming of the Savior, the high point in the history of the universe.
Now that I am a Christian, I look at science fiction through biblical glasses. I can see the evolutionary bias of many science fiction authors. But I can also see Christian themes in many of these same works. This reminds me that even the most ardent anti-Christian knows in his heart the reality of the biblical God (Romans 1:18–20).
The inconsistencies in science fiction stand in contrast to the true history of the universe as revealed in the Bible. The Creator of life is not a character in science fiction—He is real and His Word is true. Likewise, space is not the final frontier—eternity in heaven or hell is. To which destination will your final voyage be?