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In the process of doing research for a pending project —  Christian Sci-Fi: On the Compatibility of Biblical Worldview and the Science Fiction Genre — I have interviewed several novelist friends about that subject. Why is science fiction written by Christians so sparse? Is science fiction inherently incompatible with a biblical worldview? One of the authors who agreed to discuss the subject was Kerry Nietz, Kerry’s written over a half-dozen novels. The first in his Dark Trench series, A Star Curiously Singing, won the Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award for Christian Science Fiction and has over a hundred 5-star reviews on Amazon. Here’s a few of the questions I lobbed Kerry’s way about the intersection of Christian storytelling and the sci-fi genre.

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MIKE: Thanks for addressing this topic, Kerry! Some Christians avoid SF on the grounds that it is built on atheistic/materialistic premises, deifies Man/human ingenuity, and promotes relativism, pantheism, transhumanism, etc. How would you counter the suggestion that SF, as a genre, is incompatible with a biblical worldview and that Christians should avoid it or, at the least, read with caution?

KERRY: To start where you ended, I think Christians should read everything with caution—even Christian fiction. In fact, perhaps more attention should be given to literature that claims to be Christian, than literature that doesn’t. No better way to sneak in false theology than under the guise of truth, is there?

That said, I can understand why Christians would be suspicious of science fiction. There are certainly writers in the genre that promote all the things you mention and more. I also know that I’ve been a science fiction reader and fan since childhood. (Which is also when I became a Christian!) SF has presented challenges to my faith at times, sure, but also has encouraged and reinforced it. My earliest memories are of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury. I never felt my faith attacked or belittled by their works, and they were great imagination expanders. They fully exercised the power of “What if?”

Science and technology belong to Christians as much as anyone, so why not the fiction that delves into their uses and effects?

I don’t find Science Fiction inherently incompatible with a Biblical worldview. No one mandated that it be that way. (Though I’ve heard that some publishing houses now try.) Science and technology belong to Christians as much as anyone, so why not the fiction that delves into their uses and effects?

MIKE: What aspects of the SF genre most resonate or align with a biblical worldview?

KERRY: A large part of Science Fiction is cautionary. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is a perfect example. Who can forget the line spoken by Ian Malcolm, the character Jeff Goldblum played in the movie: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The message there is simple: Science is great, but morals and ethics matter more. What could be more in line with a biblical worldview than that? Scripture is replete with examples of similar statements: Think about what you’re doing! Weigh the costs! Seek a higher calling! As early as Genesis 4 we have the Lord saying to Cain: “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Ray Bradbury once said “People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.” 

That’s what we as Christians want too. Not more, but better.

MIKE: What is the most compelling reason you think Christian novelists should use the SF genre as a medium for their storytelling?

Just one reason? Wow.

One of the most compelling reasons to use the SF genre is because it speaks to where our culture is right now. Many of the bestselling series and highest grossing films—from Arrival, to Hunger Games, to the X-men—are science fiction. We’re a culture immersed in possibilities and questions. Why shouldn’t Christians be presenting possibilities and answers of our own? I think people will listen if we aren’t lazy about it.

Crafting science fiction requires more than imagination. It demands a working knowledge of science and culture. Two common misconceptions of Christians are that they a) have disconnected their brain, and b) are at war with science. What better way to show the world we’re not those things than by crafting a plausible and well researched science fiction story?

That’s one thing I delight in with my books—and why they sometimes take longer to write than I might like. I love to pull in actual science where it applies. To give small Astronomy or Physics lessons, or dig into how a biological system might work, even if they are typically non-scientific systems like vampires or zombies.

At the end of the day I hope even the secular reader can say “I may not agree with his message, but I can’t fault his writing or his research. That guy knows his stuff.”

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You can connect with Kerry Nietz on his website or his other social media platforms.

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Real “Resistance” Means Fighting What You Hate

Image StarWars.com

CAUTION: Spoiler Alert for Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

I liked a lot of things about the new Star Wars, but there are some genuinely eye-roll worthy scenes. One of the most dramatic (and most eye-roll worthy, imo) is when Rose Tico, a young Resistance fighter, saves Finn, another Resistance fighter, from death. However, Finn’s impending death is his own decision. He chooses to stop a massive First Order weapon by piloting his craft into the weapon. Finn’s actions are a shocking, but incredibly noble sacrifice.

Until…

…Rose swoops down and crashes her vehicle into Finn’s, driving him from his target, preventing his sacrificial rescue, destroying both crafts, and inevitably killing herself. What follows is a predictable, ham-fisted, quasi-inspirational, quote:

“We’re going to win this war, not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”

And then she expires.

Apparently, many consider it a poignant moment in the film. The phrase has become a call to arms, of sorts and is now oft re-Tweeted, typically cited by those of #TheResistance. Who is this Resistance? Best I can tell, they are those on the political Left — progressives, feminists, activists, pro-abortionists, anti-capitalists, and embittered Democrats. Basically the ragged remnants of the #ImStillWithHer movement. For them, the new Star Wars films speak to our current social and political climate. As a result, they have hijacked the imagery and rhetoric of the films for their own ideological aims. In their story world, the First Order are cisgendered, male, white supremacists, and corporate CEOs, while #TheResistance are the compassionate, tolerant, inclusive, brave, #NeverTrumpers.

I suppose this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as many of those attached to the re-making of the SW franchise have been vocal about their disdain for Trump and their support of an aggressive diversity agenda. For example, two writers of Rogue One openly attached their left-leaning politics to the film. One, Chris Weitz, tweeted “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” Gary Whitta, an original writer for the project, responded similarly: “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.” And “brave women” are the order of the day for #TheResistance. The bravest of them all, perhaps, being Vice Admiral Holdo in TLJ (played by Laura Dern) who issued this rousing, none-too-subtle speech to the freedom fighters:

In every corner of the galaxy, the downtrodden and oppressed know our symbol, and they put their hope in it. We are the spark that will light the fire that will restore the Republic. That spark, this Resistance, must survive. That is our mission.

If you’re wondering who the “down-trodden and oppressed” are you need look no further than the filmmakers’ own politics. Indeed, CNN declared that the film “appears to lean into the political fray, from its egalitarian message to a more specific critique of callous plutocrats. …The latest batch of ‘Star Wars’ movies have also made a conspicuous effort to be more inclusive in terms of female and minority characters, after the original film was criticized for its all-white vision of space.” Thus the swing towards a more politically correct galaxy, far, far away.

This is the backdrop upon which Rose’s “inspirational” last words are overlaid.

In both universes — theirs and ours — #TheResistance stands against hate. Conveniently, the objects of that hate take the same form as those of contemporary progressive persuasion. Thus, the “down-trodden and oppressed” in both worlds are strikingly similar — namely they are the marginalized, multicultural, gender fluid, ethnic, immigrant ensemble that is being exploited by white straight males wielding too much power. In this world, the enemy is the Patriarchy, gender-heteronormativity, big government, white guys, and Judeo-Christian morality.

How is such an “enemy” fought?

If you’re looking to Rose for the answer, good luck. Other than providing an inspirational meme or a hashtaggable quote, Rose’s actions provide little more than a muddled conception of both love and war — a hallmark of squishy progressivism.

How can we “save what we love” if we don’t fight what threatens it? In Rose’s (and the Resistance’s case) what threatened them was NOT the death of one fighter (via Finn’s kamikaze tactic). No. What threatened them was that big ass cannon aimed at them. Finn’s actions are more in line with Rose’s inspirational quote than are hers. He was saving what he loved by attacking its enemy. In fact, just moments before that, Rose was doing the same thing! She was attacking their common enemy. What turned her? Her love for Finn? If so, Rose risked BOTH their lives with that maneuver, not to mention the lives of the entire Resistance. Rose’s “success” could have meant that she saved Finn while allowing the First Order to destroy dozens of their friends and comrades.

Spock was right, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” However, according to #ResistanceLogic, it’s just the opposite.

I suppose Rose’s dilemma is reflective of #TheResistance’s at large. After the release of Rogue One, the #StarWarsAgainstHate campaign was begun. What was the “hate” that these noble freedom fighters were resisting? Well, it was basically Donald Trump. Of course, that included a litany of associated evils — racism, sexism, white supremacy, corporate greed, xenophobia, etc.

So does being a freedom fighter mean standing “against hate” or “not fighting what we hate”? In the case of #TheResistance, as long as what you “hate” endorses a liberal cause, it means whatever makes the best meme or hashtag campaign. Hate. Don’t Hate. Love. Fight. Who cares. As long as I get to wear my Resistance pin and feel good afterwards.

Okay, so I still liked the film. It’s just that these philosophically mushy, politically correct resistance campaigns make me want to vomit. My apologies, but real resistance means fighting what you hate. Which means that hating the right things is critical.

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AI and the Antichrist — Pt. 1

Shiva statue at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

Both the Bible and Science predict/envision a Singularity[1], a landmark event that will rock the world and redirect the course of human history forever. While Science’s Singularity is the culmination of technological advance, the melding of Man and Machine in an advanced, autonomous artificial intelligence, Scripture’s Singularity is the culmination of spiritual forces, Man’s rebellion against God, which leads to the rise and/or creation of an entity that will both unite and then deceive the Earth.

The current confluences of forces suggest that both may be true.

One such force is the convergence of physics and metaphysics. Whereas Science was once seen as antithetical to Religion, now an odd synthesis is blossoming. In his show Cosmos, Carl Sagan introduced the idea of an intersection between science and religious mysticism. Sagan is quoted in THIS ARTICLE:

Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, no doubt, by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half of the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.

Apparently, Hinduism is attracting more interest from scientists lately. Why? In this case, it’s Hinduism’s view of the cosmos, or the cyclic destruction and recreation of matter, that elicits a nod from the normally non-religious scientist. Unlike the Judeo-Christian worldview which sees the world as having a strict “beginning” (Gen. 1:1), Hinduism describes a universe in constant state of “reincarnation.” The Hindu scriptures suggest that the universe is successively born every 4.32 billion years. This position aligns closely with the Oscillating Universe Theory, a theory that was abandoned by cosmologists and is only now seeing a comeback.

Chuck Missler, in his book The Creator Beyond Time and Space describes just why the Oscillating Universe Theory fell out of favor.

The first problem for the Oscillation Model is that there is not enough mass in the Universe to cause it to re-collapse. As the mass of the Universe moves rapidly away from its point of origin, the force of gravity acts upon it to pull it back together. The Oscillation Model proposes that all the mass in the universe will eventually be forced to re-collapse into another Cosmic Egg which explodes again. However, even the most optimistic calculations show that there is not enough mass in the universe to both reverse the expansion and accomplish a re-collapse.

So why are scientists like Sagan inferring viability upon a once defunct cosmological model? Some suggests that it’s simply a way to avoid the notion of an Absolute Beginning. From Scientists Abandon the Oscillating Universe Theory:

According to Princeton physicist Robert Dicke, an infinite number of these cycles of expansion and contraction of the universe would ‘relieve us of the necessity of understanding the origin of matter at any finite time in the past.’ The creation event becomes irrelevant, and our existence could be attributed to one lucky bounce. After all given infinite number of bounces, it is argued that surely one would produce all the conditions necessary to convert particles and atoms into human beings through strictly natural processes.

This embrace of a Reincarnating Universe as a means of avoiding “finite time,” especially when done in the name of Science, is quite fascinating. Essentially, it allows for a synthesis of Science and Religion, Technology and Metaphysics. So whereas Science and Religion were once viewed as ideological opponents,  more recently they can be found cozying up to each other.

Take for example the statue of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, erected at CERN. From the aforementioned article:

On June 18, 2004, an unusual new landmark was unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva – a 2m tall statue of the Indian deity Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. CERN is Switzerland’s pre-eminent center of research into energy, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory and the place where core technologies of the internet were first conceived. The statue, symbolizing Shiva’s cosmic dance of creation and destruction, was given to CERN by the Indian government to celebrate the research center’s long association with India.

In choosing the image of Shiva Nataraja, the Indian government acknowledged the profound significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s dance for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which is observed and analyzed by CERN’s physicists. The parallel between Shiva’s dance and the dance of subatomic particles was first discussed by Fritjof Capra in an article titled “The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics,” published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1972. Shiva’s cosmic dance then became a central metaphor in Capra’s international bestseller The Tao of Physics, first published in 1975 and still in print in over 40 editions around the world.

Shiva and CERN are just one example of this strange new movement, a movement seeking to merge physics and metaphysics, to join some deity’s cosmic dance with “the dance of subatomic particles.”

Nowhere is this merger more fascinating (or ominous!) than in the story of the ex-Google engineer who is creating a “robot god” and its “first church of AI.” The Daily Mail reports:

An ex-Google engineer who has registered the first church of AI says he is ‘raising a god’ that will [take] charge of humans. The robot god will head a religion called Way Of The Future (WOTF), which will eventually have a gospel called ‘The Manual’, rituals and even a physical place of worship. Anthony Levandowski first filed papers with the Internal Revenue Service in May, and named himself as ‘dean’ of WOTF, giving him complete control until his death or resignation. He claims the good will be a ‘billion times smarter than humans’.

Of course, if one could install an entity a ‘billion times smarter than humans’ at society’s helm, why not render obeisance? Especially if the ultimate aim of said AI, according to its maker, is to “contribute to the betterment of society.” Nevertheless, the first church of AI and the idea behind it have not met with universal applause. For example, Stephen Hawking has been vocal about his concerns. From Newsweek:

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to destroy civilization and could be the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity.

Speaking at a technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Hawking told attendees that mankind had to find a way to control computers, CNBC reports.

“Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it,” he said. “Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”

Despite the warnings, the Singularity appears inevitable. And with its approach, the synthesis of Science and Religion.

A good example of this may be Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin, which tackles the subject of God and AI, Religion and Science. In this book reviewwhich contains SPOILERS — the author unravels the book’s plot, describing it as “a frontal assault on organized religion.”

…throughout [Brown’s] book you are led to believe that the Catholic Church–more specifically, a very powerful Bishop–has engaged in a holy war to kill a staunch and brilliant atheist named Edmond Kirsch to prevent his “groundbreaking scientific discovery” from going public that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that life evolved entirely on its own (through so-called abiogenesis) and, ultimately, that God does not exist.

For those that are interested, Kirsch makes this discovery by creating a quantum computer, which also gives birth to Winston, that simulates Earth’s initial conditions (the famous Miller-Urey experiment) and shows that, by running the clock forward in time, matter naturally self-organizes into life. The “God of the gaps” has been officially killed, Kirsh proclaims.

Now, there are a lot of twists and turns on how all this plays out (Kirsch is assassinated by a religious zealot before he presents his discovery to the world and the symbologist Robert Langdon must follow the clues to figure everything out) but, throughout the book, the basic message and plot line is to convince the reader of the following: religion is evil and will do anything necessary to preserve its power–whether that be through killing, lying, stealing, destroying people’s lives, etc–all “in the name of God.”

Indeed, Brown has been candid about his belief that AI collective consciousness will replace God:

‘Origin’ was inspired by the question ‘Will God survive science?’, said Brown, adding that this had never happened in the history of humanity. ‘Are we naive today to believe that the gods of the present will survive and be here in a hundred years?’ Brown, 53, told a packed news conference. Brown said technological change and the development of artificial intelligence would transform the concept of the divine. ‘We will start to find our spiritual experiences through our interconnections with each other,’ he said, forecasting the emergence of ‘some form of global consciousness that we perceive and that becomes our divine’. ‘Our need for that exterior god, that sits up there and judges us … will diminish and eventually disappear,’ he added.

Brown answers the question, “Will God survive science?” with an emphatic… sort of. Make no mistake, from the author’s perspective, organized religion and “the gods of the present,” namely the One  “that sits up there and judges us,” will “diminish and eventually disappear.” God and Religion as we know it are dead. However, the spiritual hole created by this technological coup does not result in atheism, according to Brown, but by reverence for a new god. Or as he puts it, “the emergence of ‘some form of global consciousness that we perceive and that becomes our divine.'”

Oddly enough, the biblical Singularity suggests as much. However, the future envisioned in the Book of Revelation is not just the culmination of Man’s (scientific) knowledge reaching an end-game, it also involves the confluence of religion and spirituality. The biblical Singularity finds its culmination in a person, a being, an entity that is deified and worshiped. He/It is typically called the Antichrist. 

Continued in Part 2

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[1] The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence. — source, Wikipedia
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