God Versus Science Fiction

"How can you be a Christian and be a science fiction writer at the same time?"

I’m surprised at how frequently I hear this question. I even hear it on occasion from members of my own congregation (I’m a deacon at a local Church of Christ). I expected to hear things like "Where do you get your ideas?" and "How many rejections did you get when you were first starting?"

But this question implying that science fiction and Christianity were mutually exclusive? Hmmm.

I can see where it comes from. The SF field is full of notables who are or were downright militant about their freedom from religious faith. Ditto for the scientific community. No wonder it appears that science and God are incompatible.

Tell that to Stephen Hawking, who calls his studies "trying to read God’s mind." (Digression #1: To be fair, Hawking also says he cannot conceive of a God who can have a personal relationship with every human being on the face of the earth — all six billion of us. I don’t see this as a problem for a God who "knows the number of the stars and calls them each by name [Psalms 147:4].)

Also, throughout the centuries people have used religion as a means of controlling the spread of knowledge among populations. So don’t flame me with horror stories about how the Church put a clamp on science because it they deemed it evil. God made the science we study and I think he’s rather proud of it. The idea to keep people in ignorance was the idea of men, not God. They just used their version of religion as a club. (Digression #2: The same goes for comments about the Crusades, or Jimmy Swaggart, or any other event where men used the name of God to commit acts of vile hedonism or incredible cruelty. Man has also made his share of grievous errors using science.)

Besides, intolerance cuts both ways. I once sat on a panel at a Science Fiction convention where I was ridiculed for my faith — but the guy next to me who said he was a practicing pagan was lauded. This was perpetuated by fandom, a community that prides itself on its tolerance of other people. Hmmm again.

As for my answer to the question, it runs something like this: "That’s like saying how can you be a Christian and a lawyer? Or a politician (or a Republican or a Democrat — I’ve heard both)?"

If you’re a Christian, you’re needed wherever you are — as an example, if nothing else.

Now I’ll admit I’ve failed as an example a number of times. And I still stumble. For example, two of my favorite CD’s from last year (as listed on the Handling It page) are laced with profanity (Joe Jackson and Ben Folds Five).

Should I even be listening to them? Perhaps I should toss them out. But if I’m going to do that, I probably ought to throw out my television set too, don’t you think?

I know Christians who believe you shouldn’t go to the movies. But they have television sets. Does that mean I can have my TV back? What about my Joe Jackson CD, then? And what about when a movie is shown on TV?

Never mind that. I know Christians who are members of my own generation who believe that the Internet is nothing but an outlet for evil, pure, raw and unadulterated.

And here I am with a web site.

You see my point: how far does one retreat? I suppose I could become Amish. But how can I be an effective Christian example to the world when I deny that the world is out there?

To deal with problems like this, Christians are given a tremendous amount of freedom in their lives. Philippians 2:12 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling — we’re to have a personal, one-on-one relationship with God, after all.

So God’s answer is to work it out for yourself. It’s between you and him. He
has given you the basic do’s and don’ts. Simply apply his principles to all the stuff not mentioned in his book.

Which means you have to read the book for yourself. What if all those people on the Crusades had a Bible of their own and were able to decide that these marches to foreign lands to slaughter heretics was not what Christ had in mind when he established his Church?

God doesn’t mind us studying science. In fact, I think the more we learn about science, the more we get to know our Designer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Just like the way he wants us to think for ourselves.

There are lots of SF writers and fans out there with an enormous amount of religious faith. SF fandom is simply a wonderful, highly concentrated microcosm of things you find in what they call the mundane world.

There are lots of scientists out there who are believers, too.

There are also lots of Christians who love to read Science Fiction. And they don’t seem to have a problem with this perc
eived "incompatibility."

As SF fans, they probably don’t even think about it.

Either that, or they’ve worked it out with fear and trembling.

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2 Responses

  1. I’m a geologist (retired) and a lover of both science and scripture and pretty much share your attitude. We, us humans, if we are thoughtful, seem to live in a certain tension between the facts as we see and experience them and faith in what we cannot see and only occasionally experience. But then, if God and heaven and the resurrection were facts in the same sense as my wireless keyboard on which I am typing is a fact, then who needs faith.

    Another note on the power of the “word”. It is fairly common knowledge that slave owners used scripture to justify their position and to keep slaves “in their proper place”. But once some slaves learned to read and read scripture, they said, in effect, “We now know what this book is about – FREEDOM.”

    Keep on keeping on.

    Paul R. Nevergold

    1. Great point. The Angels have faith by sight, and look at what kind of trouble they can get into.

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