Posts Tagged ‘Truth Chronicles’

For reasons unfathomable [OK, I was reading one of Tim Chaffey’s Truth Chronicles novels], I found myself thinking about time travel the other day. Whether it has occurred to you or not, time travel is a bit tricky to deal with in a Christian novel. Why? Because whether we’re dealing with the past or future, we [as writers] must take into account God’s sovereignty.

When dealing with the future, we must make sure we are taking into account as-yet-unfulfilled Bible prophecy even if our story does not deal with those events. For example, you cannot write  a novel in which the future Earth is destroyed and mankind moves to the stars because Bible prophecy tells us that Israel and the Middle East play important roles in the End of Days. To give another example, if you travel to a future where mankind has colonized other planets, you might want to ask yourself what Christ’s Return would look like across space and time! I mean, what does Jesus splitting the Easter sky look like on another planet, on the Moon or even on an orbital space station?

We can also ask ourselves how far God would allow us to travel into the future. It stands to reason that the period in which there is no more sorrow, nor tears, nor dying would be off-limits to sinful humanity simply because the time traveller’s intrusion would change that state of affairs instantly!

Of course, we have much more leeway with future time travel than we do forays into the past; that is, we can account for future prophecy events in our storytelling with a bit of creativity because these events have not actually happened yet, whereas history is set in stone.

As a creationist, it occurs to me that certain types of time travel into the past are pretty much off-limits where the Christian novelist is concerned. For starters, one could never go back millions of years because time itself only began about 6,000 years ago [give or take a century or two]. One cannot time travel beyond time. Time is the highway a time traveller journeys upon. He is bound by its limitations. So the furthest we could conceivably go back would be the beginning of time itself.

I’ve wondered if we could go back and see the days of Creation. This seems like a tantalizing possibility at first, but then we realize that God declares each day “good” at its terminus and “very good” at the end of the seventh day. The presence of sinful time travellers [even if they were noncorporeal and could not interact with the environment physically] would forbid such a declaration. We also have to note that sinful man is prevented from entering Eden by seraphim. It would not be unwarranted to suggest that this also prevents time travellers from entering Eden. Man fall then would act as a space-time barrier for the time traveller. If you wanted to use time travel to see the days of creation, you would be limited to some sort of technology that allows you to see into the past without being there.

What about the post-Edenic pre-Flood world? Nothing revealed in Scripture really prevents a person from going back to that time, so now we move on to whether we can affect the course of history. Three related issues  naturally concern us: the butterfly effect, paradox and alternate histories. The butterfly effect is the idea that the wind off a butterfly’s wing in New York can lead to a tsunami in Tokyo. When applied to time, it is often connected to evolutionary ideas. For example, Ray Bradbury wrote a short story called “A Sound of Thunder” in which a time-travelling big game hunter named Eckels steps on a butterfly in an evolutionist’s fictional “age of the dinosaurs,” resulting in changes in an election, everyday behavior and even the way words are spelled. Even when unconnected to evolutionary ideas, the butterfly effect suggests that minor actions in the past can have significant effects on the future. For example, imagine our time machine lands on some poor soul in the tradition of Frank Baum’s Dorothy Gale and this leads to Hitler’s Germany winning WWII instead of the Allies. We have just created an alternate history, a mainstay of sci-fi popularized in the TV series, Sliders. Unfortunately, this sort of butterfly effect infringes upon God’s sovereignty. The Bible paints a picture of God orchestrating the major events of history for His purposes. If major world events change as a result of a time traveller’s interaction with the past, as entertaining or instructive as such a story may be, we nonetheless have left a Biblical basis for our writing. The concept of alternate histories or multiverses is an evolutionary concept that suggests that our timeline is but one of an infinite number of timelines of an infinite number of universes. Stephen Hawking has presented the multiverse hypothesis as a way of having our fine-tuned universe without having to bow the knee and admit to a Creator as a necessary Being. It’s his way of having a beginning to the universe without having to admit to a supernatural uncaused First Cause.

As I said, multiverses and alternate histories infringe upon God’s sovereignty for it suggests that things did not have to pan out according to God’s will. In fact, it should be noted that the time traveller will find himself prevented from changing the immutable past. At the worst extreme, he may find his dog or donkey warning him that the path he’s chosen ends with an angel killing him before he reaches his destination! We suggest he won’t even come close to disrupting history in even  minor details. If God allows time travel, He will in His sovereignty account for the time traveller’s actions in the unveiling of history as we know it. Which discovery could be a story unto itself!

Now we should say that interacting with the fallen pre-Flood world wouldn’t have much effect on the modern world anyway, as every living creature died upon the face of the earth in whose nostrils was the breath of life when the Flood came, except Noah and his family. Humanity of the pre-Flood world are more or less “dead men walking” from a practical sci-fi standpoint. It should be said that extracting a fallen person from the pre-Flood world should be impossible from the standpoint of God’s sovereignty. If they chose to ignore God’s warning and find safety in the Ark, there’s no reason to presume they merely prefered a time machine instead.

We should also be careful to avoid paradox. For example, imagine what would happen if God allowed a time traveller to kill Noah before his first child was born. This would create a paradox in which the time traveller [a descendant of Noah, as we all are] prevented the building of the Ark which allowed humanity to continue on to produce the time traveller. As stated, I do not think God in His sovereignty would allow such a thing to happen. But this brings up an important point. If God allows time travel and accounts for the time traveller’s actions in His sovereign plan, we can also assume that God will not allow the time traveller to go back and prevent his own birth or the invention of the time machine or a particular time travel episode, etc. In other words, what’s done is done.

Writing a time travel novel with God’s revealed sovereignty in mind would be challenging to say the least, especially if the time traveller makes more than one foray into a particular time frame, but the reward is well worth the effort of the extra consideration required.

If you have any thoughts on time travel in Christian sci-fi, I’d like to here them.

-Tony, DefGen.org

Author of the up-coming superhero sci-fi novel, Johnny Came Home.

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“We need more science fiction,” writes Paul Chiariello for The NewHumanism.org in a post called Science Fiction vs. The Bible.

As a Christian author who happens to be a rabid sci-fi fan, I couldn’t agree more with that statement. At face value anyway. I could not disagree more with his insistence that this necessarily requires an abandonment of revealed truth, specifically the Bible.

While Chiariello begins with assurances that he likes the Bible, that much of it still inspires him and he can still find value within its pages, and that “it is clear that the Bible and other revealed doctrines have played an important role in society,” he feels we “simply need to move on. And what we desperately need now is more Science Fiction.”

Why? Well, he thinks that the point of sci-fi is “to ask questions about your beliefs and to outline new pictures of the world. When reading Orwell’s 1984 and other dystopias you simply cannot help but wrestle with the warnings they give. The future is not guaranteed to us and it is this complacency that is the real enemy of any dystopian novel.” To a certain degree, he’s right, except that he supposes that the certain truths revealed in the Bible somehow lead to complacency of thought. Has he sampled the bevy of Christian sci-fi dealing with eschatology [the theology of future events] recently? If he bothered, he’d find a wide range of explorations of the possible fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy.

In attempting to make his point that we need more fiction and less Bible, he makes the mistake of comparing and contrasting the terms science and revelation. In his opinion, “while revealtion hands over a set of givens, science provides a method for being justified in discovering them.” But the scientific method doesn’t really apply to imagineering a future possibility, though I can understand his confusion on the subject given the sheer amount of imagineering that’s gone into concoting an all-natural history of the cosmos in the name of science! In any case, Chiariello seems to suppose that a trial-and-error process of discovering the truth is somehow better than truth revealed by God. He complains that “the very word ‘Revealed’, implies a truth outside our grasp.” But why would it matter whether truth was “dictated to us” rather than having been discovered by some method contrived by humanity, so long as the truth was actually true. His problem seems to be that he cannot disagree with revealed truth without being wrong. He laments that “It will never be the case… that new information will prove old revelations false. When the Revealer is omniscient by definition, if your interpretation brings to light some inconsistency in the book, you simply have the wrong interpretation.” To put it another way, “Revealed truth… claims to have no errors or exceptions.”

Chiariello prefers the safety of a future what if or might be to revealed truth, because he supposes that he can then be free to shape whatever future he prefers. He complains that “Within the worldview of most revealed truths, all new ideas must be found consistent with the past through a Habit of Interpretation. When tied down like this, dreaming our own dreams becomes impossible.” This is an odd objection considering the fact that he freely admits that “It doesn’t take much to realize there is only one future and we will face it, no matter what our beliefs are.” I should add that not only is there only one future we all will face, we will face it regardless of science fiction dreams to the contrary!

A good deal of his argument is based on a logical fallacy, an appeal to novelty. Chiariello false assumes that old revelation becomes irrelevant when facing new problems. For example,  noting that understanding revealed truth still requires that we comprehend the historical [and grammatical] context in order to correctly determine the Bible’s intended meaning, he objects, ‘But how do we do that when asking radically new questions, like those we now face about the Internet or Climate Change? When these prophets had no idea even how the climate worked – besides ‘God did it’ – how can we unearth their hidden wisdom?” It sounds all well and good, but he’s completely inconsistent… and he’s inconsistent because he’s wrong. The questions we face about the Internet and Climate Change are simply the same old questions with slightly new subjects. There is nothing new under the sun; despite all the voyages of discovery, new inventions and men who pursued big idea, we are left with the same old all-too-human problems: survival, morality, meaning, purpose, happiness, etc.

It is these questions which revelation addresses authoratively and which science fiction addresses speculatively. To clarify, science fiction might ask moral or teleological questions about an imagined, perhaps even possible future, but the Bible addresses these questions authoratively. Unless of course Chiariello is suggesting that morality is subjective and situational. If he is, does he have any nonarbitrary, logically consistent basis for condemning the Holocaust or even for saying we ought to have more sci-fi and that we “must dethrone the words of dead giants locked in dead contexts.” Anytime, we state that we ought to do something, we invoke morality and if it really were subjective, he’d have no basis for telling anyone else we ought to abandon the Bible for speculative science fictions.

Of course, this is exactly what humanists and other evolutionists have done in embracing millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution; they’ve exchanged the truth of God for all-natural science fictions of their own imagineering!

In his fallacious appeal to novelty, he ignores the axiom that those who neglect the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them. He seems to recognize this indirectly, offering as a concesion that he’s not saying that “devotees of Sci Fi cannot ‘stand on the shoulders of giants to see farther.'” He just doesn’t want us standing on the authority of God’s revealed Word, the Bible.

His closing statements are revealing:

“If it is in fact the case that our future problems will be unlike anything we have already faced, our only real hope lies in preparing for new contexts by dreaming big, focusing on what we know and acknowledging that we could easily be wrong… Without any revealed truths given to us we are confronted with an infinite sea of possibilities.” Of course, it’s impossible to focus on what we know, unless we stand on the shoulders of dead giants, as it were. Our present knowledge consists of what was learned in the past, not speculations on the future.

And as far as “an endless sea of possibilities,” isn’t this the same fellow that admits earlier in his essay that “It doesn’t take much to realize there is only one future and we will face it, no matter what our beliefs are”? As he admits, “Sci Fi is understood as fiction and makes clear from the outset that it is fallible and only a tentative exploration.” So why does he suppose that science fiction speculations better than the certain truth of Biblical revelation? Would you listen to someone who said, “Hey, our guide isn’t always right and you might well perish on this trip if you follow him. It’s soooo much better than a certain and infallible guide”?? Of course not!

To borrow one of Jesus’ illustrations, we’d be better off to build our house on the Solid Rock of His revealed Word than the shifting sands of man’s speculations!

This is not to say that science fiction doesn’t have benfit. In fact, I heartily agree that we need more science fiction. Through science fiction, we can explore enduring human questions and demonstrate that the authority of God’s Word can be trusted in any future imaginable. For example, Tim Chaffey and JoeWestbrook explore both human questions and questions of Biblical authority in their delightful series about four kids in a time-travelling hovercar in The Truth Chronicles series. In Johnny Came Home, my soon-to-be published novel, I explore questions of racism, purpose, what it means to be human, creation and evolution, and Biblical authority in a tale filled with future tech, conspiracy theories, super-powered battles, flying saucers and Biblical truth. It is my profound hope that we are seeing the beginning of a Christian sci-fi boom that will explore the enduring questions of the human  condition while affirming the truth and authority of God’s revealed Word.

Till Christ Comes [a revealed truth of which you can be certain!],

Tony Breeden