In his latest “Books Besides the Bible” column, Christ and Pop Culture’s Ethan Bartlett discusses the way that many Christians, in his experience, have expressed skepticism of or displeasure with science fiction as a genre. Both the column itself and the discussion in the comments are well worth reading. My own experience has included Christian scoffers and fanboys in relation to SF. As Bartlett and the commenters make clear, there are plenty of Christian SF fans and creators out there. One of my favorite blogs is James McGrath’s Exploring Our Matrix, not least because he has spent considerable time exploring the theological implications of my beloved Doctor Who. By the same token, as commenter Geoffrey R. said, there are many SF enthusiasts who champion the aspects of the genre that celebrate or endorse an explicitly atheistic worldview. Another of my favorite sites, io9, covers the intersection between religion and science in our culture, and while the bent of the staff overall can’t be characterized as “anti-religion,” I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that the stance of most writers is unsympathetic. Bartlett locates the tension in the relationship of Christianity to SF in the collision between religious eschatology (which anticipates the End Times and God’s judgment) and scientific humanism (which anticipates a progressive evolution of the species). That is certainly a component to it. The column also mentions that there may be a generational gap between older folks who grew up with SF as a pulpy, inconsequential waste of time and a younger generation that has grown up with SF as a legitimate, dramatic form in which social issues and interpersonal dynamics can be dealt with seriously. That is also a component. There’s another one that I didn’t see mentioned, though. Continue reading
Tag Archives: hermeneutics
Stories have been retold for ages. The Romans stole the Greek pantheon, changing the names, tweaking the stories, and reselling Greek mythology as Roman mythology. Thomas Malory assembled known tales about Arthur and his knights into his grand compendium, Le Morte d’Arthur, which serves as one of the ur-texts of Arthurian legend, even though it was more a personalized feat of scholarship rather than an origination. And how about the Bible? Hundreds — thousands — of stories have re-interpreted the tropes of the Christ story in various ways to different purposes. One of the most venerated retellings of Biblical mythology, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, is my favorite work of literature to date. And what of that most famous of English wordsmiths, William “the Bard” Shakespeare? Besides his historical dramas (which are unsourced reinterpretations of well-known events), many of his other plays are also based on pre-existing stories and legends, some of which had already been dramatized by other playwrights. James Joyce’s Ulysses, considered by many to be the greatest novel of the 20th century, is an imaginative reworking of Homer’s Odyssey. Continue reading
The celebrated eleventh chapter of Hebrews — the “by faith” soliloquy — opens with a delightfully simple and perfectly maddening definition of concept. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The writer goes on to cite numerous examples of Old Testament figures that would have been familiar to his readers, asserting that their faith in the Almighty saw them through unimaginable hardships and miraculous blessings. But then, in verse 39, he hits us with a sucker punch: “These [people] were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…” Ouch. The author’s point is that they were looking forward to the incarnation of Christ, even if they didn’t know it. What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that the religion of “Christianity” at this point was still mostly a small splinter cult of Judaism. Not only did all the people whose faith the writer lauds not know to what, precisely, they were looking forward; it’s likely they might not have recognized it. Faith, then, is something a bit amorphous in definition, even when it’s centered in a specific person or concept, like Jesus or the Messiah. According to Hebrews 12, the God in whom we’re supposed to place unconditional faith might go out of his way to test believers and force them to endure hardships as a test of discipline. Personally, I think it’s kind of a weak argument to make for the problem of pain and injustice in this world (God wants us to endure hellish torment so that we’ll be better people? What?), but I don’t think that’s the takeaway lesson from this bit of Scripture.
The lesson that emerges to me is that faith in itself does not compensate for the troubles of living life; it does not, in itself, explain pain and injustice. Faith exists separately from and beyond the problems of what we might as well call “evil,” and it is in drawing a line between faith and worldly experience that a “person of faith” (as we’re often called) faces a great deal of spiritual difficulty. In short, the nature of faith is dependent entirely upon the individual who possesses it. It is human nature to look for evidence to support one’s faith paradigm. Kurosawa may have approached the question of faith from a humanist perspective, but faith is faith, and Rashomon articulates its pitfalls brilliantly. Continue reading