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The Theology of the Future

Isaiah 44:6 – This is what the LORD says– Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

When I was young (and even today when I am not so young), I loved to watch shows like Star Trek, Star Wars and seaquest DSV. Those shows spoke my geeky side and, at the same time, kept me compelled with what I thought could be a very plausible future.

In some ways, it is quite plausible. In others, not so much.

For example, in Star Trek, there are quite a few technologies that exist today that people thought were crazy. One is the transparent aluminum armor, also called aluminum oxynitride. We first learned of this in Star Trek IV when Scotty trades the secret for transparent aluminum for a few sheets of plexiglass.

And what about those hyposprays that the doctors used to give injections? Turns out that the technology for those actually pre-date Star Trek. It has been around for a long time and called Jet Injections. But another medical device, Geordi’s visor, was an inspiration for the bionic eyes that exist today.

Even more than all the tech, though, I was always jealous of Captain Kirk, Han Solo, and Nathan Bridger for being able to travel all over the world, and to other worlds, just by making the decision to do so. Now that I am much older and have spent a considerable portion of my life traveling all over the world, I find that I am more content just waking up next to Mimi every morning and saying “Good morning. I love you.” Reminds me a lot of George Clooney’s character in the movie Up In the Air when he realizes that it is a very shallow and hollow life to lead when you live on the road.

But what about the theology of those kinds of movies and those shows in particular?

Science fiction and theology have always been somewhat diametrically opposed in their views. Science fiction is a literary exploration of the universe in which we require a self-conscious suspension of belief. Theology is the body of beliefs that help link a familiar world to the mysterious. Religion deals with sets of beliefs about a particular world.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth

But for years, the 20th century creation of science fiction has led to authors and film writers providing hefty doses of theology along the way.

Star Trek has been studied by theologians and philosophers for ages. There are many people who trace, for example, the Bajoran religion to Kabala. There are others who feel that the Next Generation series was about secular postmillennialism. Still others see Spock as a Christ figure.

At the end of the day, it is someone’s imagination.

And I, for one, enjoy the imaginative worlds that are created.

Gene Roddenberry, however, was a member of the American Humanist Association. In the end, Roddenberry was more pantheistic than humanistic. He believed that the cosmos itself was divine and that there is a cosmic soul.

Acts 17:24 – The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands

What about Star Wars? I am pretty excited about Episode VII coming out this year and Episode VIII starting to film a few days ago. If you haven’t guessed, I am also a Star Wars fan.

But the basic argument of Christians and Star Wars goes something like this: Christians have God, Star Wars has the force. The force does not translate to the doctrine of God. Therefore Star Wars teaches a non-Christian worldview and is, therefore, evil.

Again we see pantheism, but this time in George Lucas. Lucas said, himself, that he “wants to make young people think about the mystery and ask, ‘Is there a God?’”

The major thing that comes up time and time again not only in sci-fi but in many different genres of movies and book is pantheism, the belief that the universe is God and everything composes a universal God. It comes from two Greek words, “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.”

It teaches that everything, all the planets, the stars, the wind, the rain, the oceans, the trees, and us are all part of what makes up God. It teaches that God and nature share the same nature and essence.

But Biblical Christianity teaches that God is separate from His Creation.

Christians believe that pantheists are believing in an uncaring god. Actually the reverse is true. pantheists are very “in tune” with their god as they have a significant reverence toward the totality of their life in relation to god the universe.

They feel that everlasting life devalues it. There is a simple cause and effect to their decisions. Some might call it karma, but even that is too devaluing for the pantheist. There is no eternal life, only life here, so enjoy what you are given.

The difficulty in pantheism is that there is little to no true responsibility taken. There are no moral absolutes. It is about feeling more than about understanding. If I believe that murder is acceptable, I can go ahead and do it.

Romans 1:21-23 – For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures

Pantheism is basically a “get to become god quick” scheme. If everything is god, then you are part of the greater existence of god.

In Christianity, God is completely separate from us (that is His transcendence) but He has chosen to become one with us through the incarnation and live among His believers (His immanence). It is impossible to confuse who God truly is in the Christian worldview. We are both finite and fallen while God is both infinite and holy.

So am I going to stop watching movies and TV shows like Star Trek and Star Wars?

No.

But I will go into them with the knowledge and wisdom that neither reflect a worldview that is similar to my Christian one.

And, honestly, that makes it a little easier for me to simply enjoy the movie rather than pick it apart theologically.

Colossians 1:16-17 – For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together

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One thought on “The Theology of the Future

  1. Nelson Bengel on said:

    Fred, pantheism sounds somewhat like how the Navajo believe. Although it was explained to me while in NM that they have many Gods, like the earth, the sky, moon, sun, fire, etc. Sounds like pantheism is somewhat different.

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