About a dozen years ago, I was invited to team-teach an Honors class at our University entitled “Christianity and Science Fiction.” Some of my colleagues suggested that it should be called “Christianity vs. Science Fiction,” but that was not the point. From my perspective, both inspirational fiction and science fiction deal with the same challenge: the unknown. And the answer in both camps is the same as well: we base our speculation on the unknown on what we do know.
Religion is based on belief. Science looks at facts, data, evidence. But scientists don’t hesitate to speculate in areas that can’t yet be proven, despite what some may say. (I had one physicist friend who used to tell me, “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” To me, that flies in the face of a lot of things we take for granted, and even limits where science can go as well.)
I know a lot of scientists who are too busy with science facts to think about science fiction, but there are many that do both. In fact, some of the best hard-core science fiction writers are scientists. Isaac Asimov wrote a lot of textbooks on physics as well as the hundreds of science fiction books he is famous for.
The issue comes in blurring the lines between Christian fiction and science fiction. Many in both camps have a problem with that, but when you realize that many of the questions we all have (“Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?”) are fodder for both science and Christianity, then you see the possibilities. What makes writing Christian science fiction difficult is that one has to be knowledgeable in both fields. In addition, it’s not enough to believe and have a PhD in physics, you have to be a pretty good writer as well to pull it off.
Most of the stories I have seen in this area have either leaned more toward the science (“The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke, for example) or toward the religion (C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra series). That’s probably why Christian speculative writers tend to write what might be classified Christian fantasy than Christian science fiction. It doesn’t take the scientific background. Christian fantasy has its place, but it’s not the same, and wouldn’t appeal to the same audience.
Where I have issues with writing in this area is when (1) the Christian writer uses the story as a thinly veiled attempt at proslytizing, or when (2) the scientist somehow makes fun of belief in the same way. There is a bunch of science fiction out there that is anti-religion, especially in areas of evolution or the future of mankind. Christians who read science fiction need to either steer away from that type of story or accept it for what it is. My graduate studies involved reading a lot of literature that I didn’t agree with, but it was necessary, and approached in the right mindset, it didn’t hurt me at all. In fact, sometimes it’s good to challenge what you believe; you either discover your belief system was in error or you end up being stronger.
So why even bring this up? Because I think there are strong possibilities for stories that combine elements of both fields without losing respect for either science or religion. I have been thinking about this issue for a long time, and I suspect that I am not alone here. If you have issues with what I have said, or the whole concept, speak up. At the same time, if you are considering the possibilities, please do the same.
You know where to find me.