Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Chrfistianity

A reader has recently requested my thoughts on the subject of fantasy. No, not daydreaming; fantasy literature, rather, and by nature I would also suppose science fiction, and related products of the genre.

Let me start with a few caveats and summations:

For this commentary I will sub-divide into two subject areas:

  • Christian objections to the genre. For brevity I will simply refer to the whole of the smorgasbord as "fantasy" without distinction, though it will include sci-fi, cartoons, comics, etc.
  • Analysis of specific expressions in the genre. Limited to what I know, though I will also invite certain qualified readers to add their own comments.
  • Christian objections to the genre.

    It's not hard to find all sorts of Christian sites that refer to specific expressions of fantasy as Satanic, evil, etc. In some cases the evaluations are justified; sometimes they are not. Here are some representative arguments from various sources that I have culled, and our thoughts on them.

    • "Fantasy can affect our minds."

      We agree. I have been arguing this very thing with respect to The Da Vinci Code and can hardly say otherwise, especially having drawn an analogy to how another work of fiction, Uncle Tom's Cabin, helped overturn an early American social paradigm (slavery). "It's only fiction" is not a good argument -- expect for persons whose minds are too strong to be swayed.

      There are two basic "answers" to this problem of effect. The answer most of these anti-fantasy sorts give is, "Stay away from fantasy -- all of you." The answer I prefer is, "Learn to discern."

      The latter is to be preferred in our view; the former is analogous to the person who "answers" Bible problems and contradictions by rationalizing them away, or ignoring them, or by hitting a Skeptic on the head with their umbrella. That is a band-aid solution that in the long term causes more problems than it solves: It is contrary to the boldness we are to have in Christ, and insinuates that the case for Christ is so weak that we are unwilling to confront that which stands against it.

      "Stay away" may be good advice if you are a "weak brother" but the Bible's clear indication is that we are to not remain babes drinking down spiritual milk. We are to grow past our weakness, and as required, serve the Body of Christ on the front lines of our culture, and/or transmitting the Gospel to it. The Apostles did not regard insulation as a final answer, but confrontation.

    • "Non-believers could interpret these works, if accepted by Christians, as endorsements of their own sins."

      Ie, and I have seen this actually said in so many words: "Witches may read something like Lord of the Rings and think it means witchcraft is acceptable." (Or, as another has said, the "mass proliferation of occult philosophy and practice" makes such works dangerous.)

      The argument would be false in any event (for reasons we will discuss below) but this isn't much of an argument since non-believers could just as well do the same with the Bible itself; anyone who thinks otherwise I will introduce to Acharya S and Deepak Chopra. The answer the critics give is, again, avoidance; the answer we give is education and boldness.

      Ask yourself: Did Jesus educate his disciples and confront his enemies? Or did he avoid his enemies and tell his disciples to hide themselves from them and their views?

    • "Fantasy uses pagan imagery."

      So it does. But until I see the critics stop patronizing Midas mufflers, Saturn automobiles, and so on, they're not arguing to any effect.

      There's also a class of objection that takes issue with Christian composers who "sanitize" pagan images for use in their material. Such objectors ignore clear precedent in the Bible and the early church to claim "pagan" imagery for our Sovereign Christ, who rules the world and owns it all. Paul did not avoid pagan poets; he quoted them and turned what they said to advantage. Paul did not avoid writing methods of his day; he learned and used Greco-Roman rhetorical skills to his advantage. The early church took the picture of Mithra slaying the bull and recast it as Samson slaying the lion. There is clear precedent for us to practice "cultural one-upsmanship".

    • "(Strange commentary.)" What's this for? People who say that fantasy is bad because it "lies" by having things like talking animals. Those who judge a book based on a single word in a simple description from a book catalog are not worthy of our consideration.
    • "The Bible says to avoid myths."

      There are those who quote passages like 2 Peter 1:16 ("We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.") and 1 Timothy 1:4 ("nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work -- which is by faith.") to this effect. The end result is predictable, as ALL fiction is condemned, even Louis L'Amour Westerns.

      But context tells us that these verse address rather fables and myths that were being passed off as truth -- the arguer reads far too much into what would have been, in that context and time, stock rhetorical turns of phrase (to call your opponents' position a "myth" was standard argumentative practice as a response to error; it had nothing to do with the practice of writing fiction with no intent to pass it off as historical truth).

  • Analysis of specific expressions in the genre. As noted, I will limit comment to material I have read or know about; but readers are welcome to make their own contributions.

    • J. R. R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings. I have read all the books and seen all the movies -- several versions, in fact, including Rankin-Bass' rendition of The Hobbit and Bakshi's rather contrived-looking version of LOTR.

      The chief objection out there about LOTR seems to be it's use of "magic and the occult." I think at the core of these objections lies a fallacy that Skeptics have also offered, and that is the post-Enlightenment distinction between the natural and the supernatural, as well as a misunderstanding of the Biblical bans on the use of witchcraft.

      Our dichotomy between the "natural" and the "supernatural" is a contrived one. In our view, miracles are merely God doing Himself what we could do (theoretically) with enough power. We lift a box; that is not called a "violation" of the law of gravity. God lifts a box -- and it is called a "violation" of the laws of nature? That makes little sense.

      In this light, however, the Biblical ban on witchcraft is more complex than what critics conceive. Witchcraft is no more or less than asking (via request or ritual) some other being to perform X action on your behalf. As such, it is viewed in the Bible as a practice that impugns God's sovereignty. Witches were asked to circumvent the will of YHWH, as it were, and assume control (by themselves or with the use of other beings) over that which YHWH claimed exclusive province.

      Ask this question: If this is not the case, then why would it be wrong to ask a witch to make rain, but not wrong to ask a cloud-seeder to do the same with an airplane and with science?

      There is more: In the ancient world the witch was one who engaged in a brokerage relationship between some power and the person making the request. In the Bible God alone serves as the patron/suzerain to whom one is to make petitions. To engage in brokerage with a witch was to, again, deny God's sovereignty and exclusive patronage.

      In this light, objections to the use of magic in Tolkein are misplaced. Tolkein has envisioned a world in which persons like Gandalf are credentialed brokers for the power of God. They are to be read in terms of prophets -- persons authorized to broker God's power and favor. If this is not so, then we are forced to explain why ie, Elijah or Elisha causing flour and oil to multiply, or parting rivers, is not "witchcraft".

      I would add that I am quite disgusted by one writer (who like Voldemort, shall not be named -- yes, I know that much at least about Harry Potter!) argued that Tolkein "missed" the boat on the occult nature of his work because he was Catholic. That is simply shameful and deserving of contempt, so much so that I feel that this writer-who-will-not-be-named deserves to have six points he made about Tolkein specially addressed.

      • 1) The Identity of God - Tolkien wrote in a letter that the chief purpose of life is "to increase our knowledge of God," but the idea of God contained in his writing is very different from the Biblical revelation of God. Dr. Ralph C. Wood, an expert on Tolkien's work, described Tolkien's concept of God as "a remote supreme being who rules the universe through 'lesser gods' or ruling spirits, an idea much closer to Norse and Celtic mythology than the caring personal God of the Bible."

        That may be true, but there are a couple of points the writer needs to consider. The main one to consider is that the only real reason in the Bible that God takes a direct hand in things is because we make such a mess of things in the first place. Tolkein's world by all appearances is one in which matters are far simpler, and that by itself would explain the remoteness of God in his scenario; but there is more: The argument is rooted in a modern falsehood that views God and Jesus in terms of being our "buddies".

        The fact is that for most of the time the Bible covers, it is clear that God made overwhelming use of "brokers" -- the prophets. Barring the false dichotomy between natural and supernatural, there is no functional difference between Tolkein's Gandalf and the Bible's Elijah. Both are authorized brokers of God's power and authority; both "stand in" while God remains "aloof" (though in fact, God is not aloof; He is enacting the proper role of an ancient sovereign). It is the arguer here who has a misinformed view of God -- not Tolkein.

      • 2) The Finished Creative Work of God - (As a Catholic) Tolkien affirmed his faith in the One God who created the universe. But his mythical God stopped creating before the work was finished, and then turned the rest over to a group of lesser gods or "sub-creators." In other words, Tolkien invented a hierarchy of deities that defied the Biblical God's wise warnings concerning both real and imagined idolatry.

        This is again nothing more than brokerage, and our writer is obviously without concern for the point that the Bible reports such a thing itself of our world: For example, the angel Michael is described as Israel's protector in Daniel.

        The slippery word used here is "deities" -- we do have a hierarchy in our world that includes angels as well as ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. Is this writer going to say that this means God is not sovereign in our world?

      • 3) Tolkien taught reincarnation - Besides his extensive use of unbiblical themes such as elves, gnomes, dwarves and wizards and other creatures empowered with magical skills, he gave his elves the certainty of unconditional eternal life teaching overt reincarnation. Humans, on the other hand, are not afforded such in Tolkien's fantasy. Their lives -- with rare exceptions -- must end with their physical death.

        The writer does not say where Tolkein allegedly taught this (or "ancestor worship" as is claimed); perhaps someone else can say where. But it is hard to see how "elves, gnomes, dwarves" etc. are "unbiblical" (aside from the false understanding of "magic" noted above). By the same token, likewise unbiblical are toaster ovens, automobiles, and flush toilets.

      • 4) Both Tolkien and Lewis endorsed drinking alcohol and smoking and did so in their personal lives - This may seem trivial to some but it should be pointed out. Lewis wrote these themes in his children's books and also included swearing in the stories as well. Tolkien's Rings includes characters engaged in smoking.

        I'll buy this as a point, provided that the writer is thin, has low cholesterol, and doesn't bite his nails. I should note that alcohol use by itself isn't really a problem (the Bible allows moderate use, but not drunkenness); smoking is more of one, from what I know of it, and as for swearing, someone here apparently has never read verses like Ezekiel 23:20 (but then again, I recall no such swearing in any of those books; maybe I have forgotten it).

      • 5) Paganism Sympathy - Perhaps the reason that Lewis and Tolkien showed pagan sympathy in their stories is due to their affiliation with one Charles Williams who was a member of the highly satanic, Qabalistic "Order of the Golden Dawn."

        I leave this aside as something that begs the question of impropriety by Lewis and Tolkein. It is well-poisoning, not germane to the issue. However, Tekton Research Assistant Punkish notes: Charles Williams left this cultic order in 1927, whereas Lewis first wrote him in 1939.

      • 6) Occult Desensitization - If it happened to Tolkien and Lewis then it could happen to us. I have pointed out consistently for several years that the Harry Potter books were conditioning unsuspecting minds worldwide to accept the occult as normal.

        This is merely a repeat of the ideas and arguments we have already addressed.

    • C. S. Lewis -- Chronicles of Narnia, science fiction trilogy -- Lewis is an old favorite of mine (and he was an INTJ, too!). The objections I have seen to his work are fairly well the same as those used against Tolkein, so there is no need to re-invent the wheel for the present.
    • Dragonball Z -- some time ago, when TheologyWeb first started, an atheist with time on his hands started a thread on Internet Infidels wondering of the fact that I used a DBZ character (Vegeta) as an avatar on TWeb.

      Yeah, I admit it -- I watched the stuff for a while. Why? For the same reason I watched Iron Chef and enjoyed Crichton's Rising Sun: Ever since I took an elective course in Japanese history in college, I have had a fascination with this culture. Watching these shows is fun for me, because I like to pick up on the background and see how much I can understand For example, I've seen people comment on how weird it is that the characters, when fighting, will just stand (or float) there for long periods of time, doing nothing. The "bad guy" will sometimes mock the good guy for doing this. It's odd to us, but to the Japanese this has a certain significance. As one study now offline explained:

      Do not be concerned with silence or long pauses. While periods of silence during a meeting can be unnerving to a westerner, Japanese business people are usually using the time to ponder a comment, question or reply.

      In this light, when Goku pauses in a fight he is doing something admirable and proper -- the enemy who wants to get the fight going is to be seen as a crude barbarian.

      And what of DBZ as a fantasy, and its ideology? The visions it espouses of heaven, reincarnation, and so on are so crude that to someone like me, they're a harmless caricature. I can't say the same for others.

    • Pokemon -- I'll say from the start that this show is one I find so inane I can't bear to watch it even for cultural insights. On the other hand I'd like to offer some comment on an article titled "The Problem with Pokemon" by David Brown. Brown seems sincere, and I can't take issue with his evaluation of the moral flaws in the characters, or of the crass materialism indicated by the promulgation of various Pokemon products. (Of course, this is not a problem unique to the fantasy genre: Just go to a Bible bookstore and see.) On the other hand, I find comments like these just a tad over the top:
      Without apology, I acknowledge that I am writing this pamphlet from a biblical perspective. And, I believe there is a battle going on for the minds of our children and grandchildren. In fact, Satan and his diabolical hordes want to corrupt the minds of children and adults as well! One of the problems is that Satan is getting the upper hand because Christians are oblivious to the tactics the adversary is using to pollute the minds of men, women, boys and girls. While many Christian adults would catch blatant demonic doctrines, the truth is, Satan seldom mounts a direct assault. Rather, he, through his human helpers, uses subtle, clandestine and deceptive methods to advance his evil doctrines.

      Naturally a lot of my take on this has to do with my views as a preterist that Satan is bound (as are his "diabolical hordes") and I would add that even if he was not, I'd think he'd be above such trivia as taking a direct hand in things like Pokemon. Human sin and evil is enough of an explanation either way.

      Brown's critique of the moral flaws of the characters is spot on, as noted; but his comment that the characters "do NOT portray biblical values" seems to miss the point that there are plenty of Biblical characters who do not "portray Biblical values" either. He also says:

      Pokemon has supernatural powers. "Some Pokemon grow, or evolve." This is facilitated by the "Energy cards" that "make your Pokemon bigger and more powerful." And what is the source of this power? It is the pantheistic power of the occult, not the supernatural power of God. I have found two cards that make this very clear (there are likely more). They are Abra and Kadabra. Yes, these are their actual names. "Abra kadabra" (or abracadabra) has been a word long associated with occult magic. Webster's dictionary defines it this way - 1) a word supposed to have magic powers and hence used in incantations, on amulets, etc. 2) a magic spell or formula. It is no accident that the two Pokemon called Abra and Kadabra are psychic cards with magical powers.

      I would seriously doubt that these character names were chosen for any other reason than consonance (and that as well by English translators, not the original Japanese creators). Nevertheless we may relate this to our points above re the brokerage of power. Pokemon tales are set, it seems, in our own world and this does raise the question of how the occult is portrayed.

      Brown also notes influences on children, but I'd say that Pokemon is more of a symptom than a disease here. On the other hand, one wishes that Brown would not trivialize the Scriptures in manners like this:

      Could Pokemon influence the children who play it? I pray that it does not happen, but I wonder how long it will be before a grade school child, tries to do what is written on the Weepingbell - Razor Leaf Pokemon card. It says, "It spits out poison powder to immobilize the enemy, and then finishes the enemy with a spray of acid." Does this line up with what the Bible has to say about how to handle our enemies in Romans 12:14-22? I think not! It is clear that Pokemon leads the player's imagination down the wrong path. The Bible says that we are to abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9). Poisoning, paralyzing, etc. your enemies is clearly evil and no one should occupy their minds with such thoughts, game or no game.

      With apologies to Brown, this is simply poor exegesis of Romans 12:14-22, and if used as he uses it, would also forbid the use of weapons of war even against totalitarian regimes. There is also such a thing as taking the matter too seriously -- next we will also hear of the evils of Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff, and the wickedness of the Three Stooges.

      Brown would be better off without commentary like this which only makes the Christian appear to be looking for a most desperate way to strain out a condemnation. In the end, I would tend to agree with Brown that "the best place for Pokemon paraphernalia is in the trash can" but there's no need for Brown to get into the trash can afterwards and start jumping up and down on the Pokemon paraphernalia as a way of emphasizing his point, nor to forbid those among us who have the spiritual strength to enjoy Pokemon our own way.

    • David Eddings -- never heard of him? Eddings became a favorite fantasy writer of mine with his series featuring Belgarath the Sorceror. As light fiction, it is good. As theology, it is terrible. Eddings offers (in this and another series) a sort of peculiar dualism in which a good and an evil supreme being of equal power and ability vie for dominance, demonstrating supremacy by having everyday people battle on their behalf in a sort of cosmic wager scheme.

      There's nothing compatible with Christianity here -- if you're theologically sensitive, you won't like it. I don't take it seriously, so it doesn't bother me.

      On the other hand, Eddings did offer some decent insight into the nature of prophecy at one point, as his character Belgarath complained to the "good" deity that prophecy was too vague to follow at times. That's the same objection I have often heard from Skeptics, and the deity's answer is a good one -- make a prophecy too clear, and you'll have people trying to enact it and make a mess of things in the process; better to make it so that it is only clear in hindsight (unless you have a specific purpose -- as in the case where Cyrus was named by Isaiah, which appeased the historical Cyrus such that he gave Israel special favor; likewise Alexander after he read Daniel, according to Josephus).

      That's all for now, but if you want me to comment on some article you find, or if you want to contribute your own analysis of some work, by all means submit it to me here. Now my co-author offers his own excursus titled, "A Christian's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy."


      A Christian’s Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy

       

       

      When Paige Patterson was my pastor, he knew of my interest in science fiction and fantasy (otherwise known as genre or “speculative fiction” or “SF”).  His advice was for anyone who read SF should spend twice the amount of time reading the Bible.  I don’t know if “twice” would be the “magic” number, but, the bottom line is, the Christian should be thoroughly grounded in the faith, to know the reasons for belief and for morality, and to be skeptical of the values advocated in SF.

       

      Growing up I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The Planet of the Apes series.  Star Trek.  And later, the Star Wars saga and Babylon 5.  But they all advocated philosophies antithetical to the Christian paradigm. 

       

      The common denominator in all these productions is – where is God?  The Christian paradigm is that He is active in His creation, either on a personal level through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, or on a macro level such as restoring Israel as a nation after hundreds of years, or His involvement with the foundation of the United States.  In the secular SF universes we see in Forbidden Planet, 2001, Apes, etc., God is nothing more than a concept.  Impersonal.  A simple belief.  Or, a “force.”

       

      In the secular SF universes, if God exists, then He is callous.  He turns His back on His creation. He allows a sentient race to wipe themselves out in Forbidden Planet.  He allows mankind, as well as the Earth, to be destroyed in the Planet of the Apes series.  He is regarded as a myth in Star Trek, and his own existence is threatened to be replaced by the Genesis Project “in favor of a new matrix,” if we are to believe Dr. McCoy.  In Marvel Comics, God allows Norse and Greek pantheons to compete with His glory.  He allows an entity called Galactus to devour entire populated worlds.  He allows a powerful Phoenix to incinerate a star system with billions of inhabitants.  In DC Comics, He allows entire “multiverses” to wink out of existence.  This is God?  Certainly not.

       

      Evolution is another common denominator.  2001 had that “Dawn of Man” sequence where primitive men were not men at all.  They were monkeys!  This was Adam and Eve?  Made in the image of God?  I don’t think so.  But to those who buy into evolution, Kubrick’s presentation served to illustrate and promote that belief.  And who can deny the cinematic genius of Stanley Kubrick?

       

      But let us not forget that 2001 is a work of art.  It is fiction.  It is not reality.  And reality is what the Christian paradigm is based upon.

       

      We Christians take comfort from the fact that -- when one applies the same standards of evaluating human testimony of actual historical events, as told by reliable trustworthy eyewitnesses unrefuted by those with the means, motive and opportunity to do so -- the testimony from the Scriptures is true.

       

      The Christian paradigm is that for the individual, we’re unique.  We’re special.  We have a purpose, and a reason we were created.  Not so in the Star Trek universe.  There, we have a “mirror universe” with an evil twin, or infinite other universes containing different versions of ourselves which exist depending upon a path one chooses.  (In Escape from the Planet of the Apes, this is known as the Hasslein hypothesis.) [JPH note: This is not to be confused with the view held by those of Molinist persuasion that God in His omniscience is aware of what would happen depending of what path we choose; in that case, as opposed to Star Trek, alternate realities like our own are theoretical and not actualized.]  We can also be cloned.  In a secular SF universe, we are no longer special.  We are no longer unique.  We are insignificant.

       

      If we are to believe Carl Sagan, we are nothing more than “star stuff,” the end result of countless eons of star-ejected matter spreading throughout the universe.  When Charlton Heston blows up the world in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the narrator tells us, “The universe, at present, contains billions upon billions of spiral galaxies. In one of them, one-third from the edge, is a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.” According to Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a human being is no more than “an ape descendent from an insignificant blue-green planet in the unfashionable western spiral arm of the galaxy.”

       

      Contrast that with what Jesus tells us:

       

      Matthew 10:29-31

      29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

       

      Luke 12:6-7

      6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

       

      In the eyes of God, we are unique.  We are special.  We are made in His image.

       

      Genesis 1:27
      So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

       

      Genesis 9:6
      “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

       

      Contrast that to Gene Roddenberry’s opinion, who twists the concept as uttered by Dr. McCoy in Star Trek: The Motion Picture: “Of course!  We all create God in our own image.”

       

      What else do we “learn” from Star Trek?

       

      Truth is relative.  (The Vulcan IDIC, plus various episodes in general)

      It’s not what you believe that counts, it’s that you believe.  (“The Rightful Heir,” episode 149 from Star Trek: The Next Generation)

      Machines (Data) and holograms (The Doctor from Voyager and Vic Fontaine from Deep Space 9) can have souls.

      Pagan rituals and masochism is acceptable.  (The Klingon lifestyle, such as slicing hands)

      Redemption comes from “good works.”  (The religions of Bajor and the Klingons)

      Necromancy is acceptable.  (Chakotay’s “vision quests” in Star Trek: Voyager and Wesley Crusher’s communication with his father in “Journey’s End” from Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

       

      From Doctor Who:

       

      “Eternal life is a curse, not a blessing.”  (“The Five Doctors”)

       

      From The Tomorrow People:

       

      They are “The next stage of human evolution.”

       

      From Star Wars:

       

      Truth is relative.  (Ben Kenobi’s explanation to Luke about his father in Return of the Jedi)

      “Only the Sith believe in absolutes.”  (Revenge of the Sith)

      Necromancy is acceptable.  (Luke’s communication with Ben Kenobi after Kenobi is slain)

      Not all men are equal.  (Only certain humans can be endowed with the “force,” The Phantom Menace)

      A mortal, evil being has an immaculate conception.  (Anakin Skywalker, The Phantom Menace)

      Redemption comes from works.  (Darth Vader is redeemed when he slays the Emperor)

      The “light side of the force” is neither emphasized, nor defined.

       

      These are examples from stories set in secular-based universes.  Does that mean they can’t be enjoyed?  No.  These stories do have visual appeal.  They have fascinating characters and situations, and they do stimulate the imagination.  That is the essence of speculative fiction, to stimulate the mind and explore the possibilities of “What if?”

       

      But it’s important for Christian readers/viewers of SF to be well-grounded in their faith, and to know the reasons for their faith.  Why?  Because – in addition to its humanistic philosophies -- secular SF does and will challenge the Christian faith, if not directly, then metaphorically.  Fortunately, in the arena of ideas, this is a challenge that educated Christians can meet and overcome.

       

      Christian apologist J.P. Holding states, “It is contrary to the boldness we are to have in Christ, and insinuates that the case for Christ is so weak that we are unwilling to confront that which stands against it. ‘Stay away’ may be good advice if you are a ‘weak brother’ but the Bible's clear indication is that we are to not remain babes sucking down spiritual milk. We are to grow past our weakness, and as required, serve the Body of Christ on the front lines of our culture, and/or transmitting the Gospel to it. The Apostles did not regard insulation as a final answer, but confrontation.”

       

      Hebrews 5

      13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

       

      So, for the educated Christian, it may lead an opportunity to witness:

       

      1 Peter 3:15
      But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

       

      What else can Christians do?  If one has a predilection of literacy, and if the Lord so leads, one can write speculative fiction.  Let’s write stories more in tune with reality, in which God is in control of the universe, that he does interact with his creation, that Man is special and has his own God-given gifts, that there are consequences to sin and rewards for those who obey God’s instruction for our lives. Give us heroes that are proper role models, exemplary of that which is noble and just in the eyes of God.

       

      Why let secular humanists have all the fun?

       

       

       

       


      One of our regular readers, Kyle Winslow, has taken up our invitation to offer comments:

      I remember first seeing your 'vegeta' icon some time ago & thought it funny & interesting that you had used it. Vegeta is a facinating character. The truth is that whether or not they intended it, the creator of that series has many things about it that parallel christian morality quite closely. Goku is clearly a christ-figure, and a truly well done example of such. He an innocent, but no fool. He is unwavering in battle, but makes every attempt to give an opponent the opportunity to surrender. He nearly begs at some points that his enemies would renouce their evil & pursue a life of good. His final battle with Freiza on Namek was a phenomenal example of his desire to be merciful even to the last.

      Vegeta is an excellent example of pride, loss & angst, all rolled up into one tight little ball. He could have easily been another Freiza, he went right to the edge, but by grace (via Bulma, Goku & others) was taken back from it. Watching his growth from simple villian to conflicted hero is well worth the time to see. I suppose in some ways he is a more 'human' hero than Goku, more earthy, more cynical, more selfish. Heh, more like us in other words! Perhaps it's seeing him deal with his own selfish, prideful nature that gives it such resonance.

      As for the Lord of the Rings: I disagree with people who give Eru (The One) the role of a distant, uninvolved deist. I think that Tolkien makes it clear that he is still quite involved with his creation, but that involvement is difficult to see from our very limited perspective. However, when one understands a bit more about Tolkien's mythos, the creator's influence can be seen more easily.

      His first created beings, the Valar, are not 'deities' as some call them, indeed, they most closely resemble angels. Though their roles & powers seem to be expanded from our understanding of those mysterious beings. Indeed one of them, Orome even creates life. He fashioned the race of dwarves from the rock of the earth. They also seem to be 'handmaids' of a sort in the creation of the world as well. In the accounting of the creation of the world in the Simarillion I got the impression that Eru allowed them such things to give them pleasure in the interpretation & execution of his thought. However, a ll of them are subservient to Eru, except for one, Melkor, who wants to usurp the glory, power & authority of the one who made him. And boy howdy doesn't that sound familiar?

      Your arguement for Gandalf as a proxy becomes even more dramatic however, when you realize that he was more than a prophet. Gandalf was a spirt being as the valar (though it suprises me how many LOTR fans don't seem to realize this). He was a 'maiar' an angel of an order slightly lower than the valar. Indeed Sauron & the Balrog of Moria were maiar as well.

      Now the chief of the valar, Manwe, was not the most powerful of them. That 'privilige' had been reserved for Melkor. Manwe's primary trait was that of insight. He more clearly interpreted Eru's thought & intention than any of the other valar. That does not mean the others (besides Melkor) defied Eru, just that apparently Tolkien allowed for the valar to make mistakes. But it is Manwe's characteristic of unwavering obedience to Eru that also helps to defeat those who might say the valar are just pagan gods by another name. Manwe would do nothing if he were not positive it was a correct application of Eru's will. Tolkien's mythos functions just like an ancient monarchy, as you said in your article.

      A good, though subtle, example of Eru's saving grace comes through of all things the eagles. Think of the many times Tolkien had those great birds come to the rescue at the last minute, both in the Hobbit & the LOTR. I know some who complained that Tolkien used them too much as a 'deus ex machina' to get out of a tight situation. Yet they do not realize the irony of such a statement, because eagles were *direct* servants of Manwe! They were his chosen servants in Tolkien's world. So, every time you see the eagles come to the rescue, you are seeing the direct actions of the chief valar, Manwe, acting on the desire of Eru. Very cool, neh?

      Pokemon I don't know much about it either. My older & younger brothers were both pokaholics though, so I gleaned a little knowledge of it via osmosis. I don't know if christians objections to it are *entirely* unjustified, but I think the danger doesn't come from pagan & occultic influences so much as the obsessive need to play that all humans are prone to. If it wasn't pokemon it might be baseball cards! A person could be just as crazy & unbalanced collecting them as collecting pokemon.

      "Learn to Discern" was the phrase you used, and that's well said. Having said it however, I think we must admit that there are legitimate dangers out there. I probably tend towards what many would consider the 'paranoid' edge, but perhaps that's in reaction to our relativistic culture, where "Saving Private Ryan" can be lumped into the same worthiness category as "Dumb & Dumber". It's the complete *unwillingness* to think critically about what one is putting into one's mind that really upsets me. Far far too many christians these days seem to avoid discernment like the plague, and just allow any entertainment, of any kind, to peddle its wares in the marketplace of our hearts & minds.

      Consider Joss Wheadon & his creation 'Firefly'. Beautifully written, with terribly engaging characters that are very well acted, but because of its creators hatred of christianity, it must be watched with a terribly discerning eye, if watched at all. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend renting it & watching up to at least episode 4, "Jaynestown". It's somehow both unsubtly vulgar in its condemnation of biblical faith, and quite subtle indeed at the same time.

      http://www.tv.com/firefly/show/7097/episode_guide.html (short synopsis of the episodes)

      http://twiztv.com/scripts/firefly/season1/firefly-104.htm (full transcript of ep 4, if you're interested! ^_^)

      I know some might consider this harmless entertainment, but it's not. Mr. Wheadon created something here that practically borders on propaganda. It's terribly unfashionable these days, but I still hold to the dusty & archaic notion of "Author's Intent". It's important to find out why the artist created a particular thing, not to mention what they hoped to accomplish with the work. Perhaps even to learn a little bit about the author themselves.

      I've talked to others about this before, but it bears reiterating. It was a very very well-made show, with an engaging storyline & engrossing characters, but it is totally hostile to Christianity. *Unless* that Christianity is a mushy, emotional, non-doctrinal, non-judgmental one that applies to no one else but the person who believes it. That attitude is pervasive throughout the show (and indeed much sci-fi has that as well, Babylon 5 being a prime example) but in the episode "Janyestown" Mr. Wheadon comes right out & clubs his viewers over the head with it. Here's a quick & dirty synopsis-

      "The Serenity sets down at the mudder colony of Canton where it turns out Jayne is a hero for having dropped a bunch of money there years ago that he and his partner Stitch stole from the local magistrate. The drop was unintentional but Jayne doesn't turn down the attentions. Meanwhile, Kaylee and Simon dance, River rewrites Book's bible, and Inara beds the magistrate's son, a virgin.

      The magistrate turns Stitch loose to get revenge and tell the townspeople what went on, but they don't seem to care and one sacrifices his life to save Jayne, a sacrifice he has trouble understanding. With the son's help, they manage to get away." http://www.tvtome.com/Firefly/season1.html#ep4

      Jayne is a rough-and-tumble type, a mercenary in name & deed. He's a likeable character but is always looking out for number one. At the end of this episode, when Jayne is talking with his captain about why these people still consider him a hero (even after the truth comes out) the captain tells him it was because they needed to. There is anothers scene where "River" (a super-genius driven mad by government experiments) is 'correcting' the pastor "Book's" (a preacher who is travelling with the crew) bible. Book tells River that you don't correct the bible, she tells him "But it's wrong." He then tells her that it's a matter of faith to trust the bible, you believe in your heart that it's true. Obviously saying it's a 'hope against hope' kind of faith or 'hope against the evidence'. Mark Twain once said that faith (in the bible) is "believing what you know ain't so." This is exactly the faith that Book supports.

      When you combine these two events in the story together it is obvious Mr. Wheadon is saying that believing the bible and it's proclamation of the gospel through Jesus Christ is nonsense. It can be believed for any emotional needs it might fulfill, but it has no basis in reality.


      Reader commentary on Harry Potter:

      I was reading your essay regarding fantasy and I noticed that you refused to comment on Harry Potter, saying you have never actually read them. I can certainly understand this. I, for example, would not offer commentary on, say, the Dragon Quest games, when the only ones I've ever played are the first (and even that has been years) and Dragon Quest 8.

      However seeing as I not only live in a household of HP fanatics (my father and sister are both obsessed with the series), but have, in fact, read and enjoyed all of the books, I feel I can (and should) at least semi-competently comment on them. One minor note however, most of the complaints against HP have to do with the series supposedly teaching the religion of Wicca. Unfortunately my knowledge of Wicca is limited to discussions with a friend of mine who is Wicca. So I will try to keep my comments brief and more tongue-and-cheek.

      As I said above the main complaint against HP is that the things Harry (the protagonist of the series, for the completely ignorant), learns are actually practiced by the Occult religion Wicca. However even a cursory knowledge of Wicca will reveal how un-true these accusations are. Most of the magic in HP consists of waving a magic wand and muttering some unintelligible Latin-esque words, something Christians in the Middle Ages erroneously believed of witches, but which modern Wicca's do not believe at all! In fact, when I first heard of this, I asked my above mentioned friend what she thought about the above issue and her response was "I'm actually a little offended; it shows how ignorant people are of our (Wiccan's) beliefs if they actually think we believe in unicorns, dragons, and magic wands." She went on to point out that the closest thing to Wicca practices in HP are the things Harry learns in his Divination class. However divination is one area of magic in HP that hardly ever works (usually humorous results, one particularly memorable piece in the books is when Harry and his friend Ron are asked to use astrology to predict their futures for the next month. Harry and Ron make it up by simply writing as many tragic things as possible (their teacher loved to predict tragic things) and end up getting 'A's). On the other hand the actually beliefs of Wicca (the 'Earth Mother' goddess, 'communing' with nature, controlling the elements ect.) are completely absent from HP.

      Some people like to cite J. K. Rowling (the author of the series)'s as saying that as much as 1/3 are based on things people used to believe in Great Britain. I haven't found such a quote outside of HP critics. But even if we suppose such a quote is real, it seems to be pointing more towards things like the Philosophers (sorcerers) stone, an item alchemists in the middle ages were looking for, the hand of glory, a middle ages legend about a hand that when holding a candle gave light only to the one holding the hand, and other such things that may have been believed by ancient/middle ages Britons but not by modern people and certainly not by modern Wicca's.

      A couple of more humorous arguments. The Onion, a parody newspaper on the internet, did a story mocking the HP critics, which included quotes from children such as "After reading Harry Potter I know how to summon demons to kill anybody I don't like." The problem? None really except that a few critics are actually quoting this story as proof of their positions. Looks like critics of the Bible aren't the only ones who need to learn some discernment.

      And finally some people cite Voldermort's (the villain of the series) quote from the first movie "There is no good or evil. There is only power and those too weak to seek it." Saying this line represents the basic ideology of the HP series. However just because a particular line in a writing says something doesn't mean the writing as a whole teaches that. For a rather extreme example of what I mean: Did you know that the Bible says there is no God. Yep, it's right there in Psalm 14:1 "There is no God." Actually the verse says "The fool says in his heart 'there is no God.'" However my point is that by taking individual lines out of context, you could claim that just about any piece of writing supports just about any view. In the case of the quote from HP. it comes from a guy who is known to lie, and even rumored to use mind control on people to get followers. Also in the fourth HP book we learn about 3 'unforgivable curses, which can only be cast by truly evil people. At one point Harry even tries to cast one of them, but fails because he's not evil. So I think we can safely conclude that HP does teach the existence of good and evil, although we can question whether it perfectly matches with the Biblical view of good and evil, but that is a completely different subject. On a more minor note, the quote in question is only found in the movie, not the book, perhaps not completely relevant to the issue at hand, but it is worth noting.

      In conclusion, while I don't think HP is the best thing for children to read(especially if the children haven't yet learned the difference between fantasy and reality) but it's really no worse than other fantasy stories. I would say if you let your kids watch Disney movies (or play the Disney/Square-Enix game Kingdom Hearts) then you should let them read Harry Potter.


      Reader commentary on Firefly:

      It is true that Joss Weadon is an atheist and somewhat hostile to Christianity. His main character (Malcolm Reynolds) in Firefly is a Christian turned Atheist. Shepard Book (the Christian preacher) I would also agree is at times rather wishy-washy theologically. However, throughout the entire Firefly story line there are a number of instances where a Christian could get on board so to speak.


      1. Malcolm Reynolds and Shepard Book are often butting heads. Their entire relationship is one of the more interesting aspects of the story line. (At one time Mal tells Book: "You're welcome on my boat Shepherd, God isn't") Mal Reynolds lost his faith when, during the final battle of the independence war (The battle of Serenity Valley) it became obvious that his side was losing (He was an Independent fighting the totalitarian regime of the Alliance) the war. For me, this loss of belief is highly representative of most every Atheist I have known, namely turning from God purely from an emotional reaction.

        Several years after the war Mal owns a spaceship freight hauler (Firefly class) which he names Serenity. He and his crew do various odd jobs to keep food on the table and his ship fueled. At this point Mal has lost all direction in life and is a much tormented individual. He simply lives day to day with no ultimate goals or hope.

        It's interesting that Joss portrays this Atheist character in such a light. Mal seems to be an atheist who actually follows through to the ultimate conclusion of his atheistic world-view. Joss does not sugar coat atheism in any sense.

        Then enters: Shepard Book, (who often throughout the telling of the story gives hints as to his own troubled and perhaps violent past,) is a man who is a very grounded and rational individual. His character is the antithesis to Mal's tumultuous and unpredictable nature. Book very quickly becomes Mal's conscience and anchor to reality. Book is definitely not portrayed as some limp wristed, pasty faced pastor. He is very capable in holding his own and stands firmly by his convictions. This is very much in contrast to Mal's float on the wind mentality.

      2. Mal tries very hard to be the hard nosed and unrelenting does-not-care-for-anyone-but-himself type of person. However hard he tries to suppress his Christian upbringing and Christian morality it often seems to creep through. Much to his annoyance it seems. As much as he wishes to deny it he often realizes that Shepard books rational and moral guidance is the right thing to do. It becomes more and more apparent that Mal is angry with God rather than simply disbelieving in him.

      but it is totally hostile to Christianity. *Unless* that Christianity is a mushy, emotional, non-doctrinal, non-judgmental one that applies to no one else but the person who believes it. That attitude is pervasive throughout the show

      I would disagree with this statement. Yes, on the whole Book's theology is atrocious, but I give credit to Joss for not portraying him with the typical Hollywood stereotype of a Christian. I don't look to Hollywood for sound theological reasoning, but it is refreshing to have a Christian character such as Book being portrayed (by an avowed atheist no less) as a strong, rational, intelligent, and moral person. Book is essentially the moral voice of the crew and he never minces words about what is right or wrong. He stands by his convictions. Book's vocalized theology may be wrong but his actions speak loader than his words.


      Two things need to be understood about Harry Potter:

      1. The imagery is derived largely from medieval English Christian literature, and follows in the same tradition as Lewis, although the style is more Tolkien-esque (symbolism, rather than allegory). (Thanks to John Granger's Looking For God In Harry Potter for introducing this idea to fandom.)

      2. Harry Potter is a Hero Myth.

      And a note on the author: J. K. Rowling is a professing Christian and a member of the Church of Scotland, who refuses to discuss her faith because then "every intelligent reader from 10 to 60 will know what is coming next" in the books.

      I. The Harry Potter series follows a general formula. In every book thus far, Harry dies and is resurrected symbolically. He is saved by "love in the presence of a Christ symbol," sometimes by the Christ symbol itself. (Quotes are from Granger's book, which I unfortunately do not have at hand.) In the first book, it is the sacrificial love of his mother's death which saves him from Voldemort. He collapses (his "death" is always portrayed as the moment when he believes all hope is lost and he gives up on his own ability to survive), waking up in the hospital three days later. (Three days. Ahem.) It should be noted that the Christ symbol present was the Philosopher's Stone. (The Philosopher's Stone turned dross to gold and granted eternal life.)

      In the second book, he uses a sword brought to him by a phoenix (the resurrection bird, ahem again) to slay the evil serpent (thump on the head). The serpent wounds him mortally in its death throes, but the phoenix cries its healing tears into the wound, saving Harry. The phoenix, as described in the books, also gives itself sacrificially for the human it is allied with and can carry immensely heavy loads (*cough*sin*cough*). Phoenix song (ahem, the Holy Spirit) gives courage to the pure of heart, and strikes fear into the hearts of the impure. (This is all from the HP books.)

      The White Stag (used by Lewis as well, for those who do not remember their Narnia) and the hippogriff also serve as the climaxes' Christ symbols, along with several others in the books. Rowling plants several other literary Christ symbols in the books, including the Red Lion (again, also used by Lewis).

      Granger addresses the issue of "magic" in some detail, as well as the various behavioral deficiencies on behalf of Harry and his peers which so many critics complain about. (I don't remember if he said this, but if the worst thing I ever did was break a few school rules and lie to my teachers occasionally, while showing unbelievable courage in the face of danger, I would be fairly content with myself.)

      II. The Hero Myth is a specific type of story which bears certain specfic characteristics: the hero is born into unusual circumstances, someone attempts to kill him when he is young, he is not raised by his biological father, he refuses his mission, he is exiled, he returns triumphantly, etc. (See more on this issue here -- JPH.)

      Lewis converted to Christianity from simple theism because he became convinced that Jesus was the "True Myth," and that all the other myths that rang with the human heart did so because they were a pale reflection (as in a glass, darkly) of the Truth. He believed (and I agree with him) that part of the eternity which God has placed in the hearts of men is a sort of set of preprogrammed responses. These myths are all wildly popular because people naturally recognize the truth in them (even people who loathe the Christian faith), and they give well-informed and patient Christians an outstanding tool with which to present the Gospel.

      Now, I must admit a slight bias: I love Harry Potter, and John Granger is a fellow jarhead (he served USMC '89-'95; I am active duty). Take from that what you will. But John taught me to look beneath the surface of what I was reading. I have never loved literature as I do now. (He even got me reading Jane Austen. Lawd a-mussy.) You can check out his website at http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/


      On Space: 1999 - I did watch this show, but never understood it much. A reader has these comments:

      As has been pointed out in this article, most modern science fiction stories have a decidedly anti-God, anti-Christian bent to them. But there have been three examples in the last 30 years where this has not been the case, (although as we will see, the theology is suspect.) The first and earliest of these is Space 1999. I have to admit, this was my favorite show as a child, and back when I was aspiring to get into the film business as a screenwriter one of my “fantasy” projects was to write an updated big-screen version of this show.

      The show was, at the time, the most expensive program produced by a British television network, and only partly due to the special effects, which stand up well even today. The show was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who created the cult shows Captain Scarlett and Thunderbirds. The director of special effects, Brian Johnson, later did the visual effects on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back, and the special effects cinematographer Nick Allder worked for George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. The series first season starred future Oscar winner Martin Landau as Commander John Koenig, his then-wife, multi-Emmy winner Barbara Bain (as Dr. Helena Russell), and the man who originated the role Tommy Lee Jones won his Oscar for (The Fugitive – Lt. Phillip Gerard) - Barry Morse (as Dr. Victor Bergman). The show became the “Love Boat” of British television, with guest stars like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Brian Blessed, Joan Collins, Margaret Leighton, Leo McKern and Catherine Schell (who would join the cast in the second season) as well as directors Lee H. Katzin (Mission Impossible, Miami Vice) and Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob, A Fish Called Wanda)

      The premise revolved around the moon being ripped out of orbit by a massive nuclear explosion, hurling the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha into the far reaches of space. Despite some complaints about the preposterousness of the premise (Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison published scathing reviews), and laboring under hit and miss writing, the show proved popular worldwide. While the series has been the butt of jokes at times – Judge Frank Easterbrook in a Federal Court opinion wrote: "Many things — beating with a rubber truncheon, water torture, electric shock, incessant noise, reruns of Space: 1999 — may cause agony as they occur yet leave no enduring injury.", the show also garnered serious academic study in the book Exploring Space: 1999, An Episode Guide and Complete History of the Mid-1970s Science Fiction Television Series.

      Biblical references were found as early as the pilot episode Breakaway, when faced with the prospect of evacuating the base, Commander John Koenig (Landau) initiates Operation Exodus before discovering that the chance of success was almost zero. This foreshadowed Space 1999’s modified “Exodus” theme: an unguided journey through the wilderness of space, blindly searching for a suitable planet to evacuate to and restart the human race. Underlying the entire first season was the idea that an unseen hand was guiding the journey being undertaken.

      This was never more evident as in the third episode, The Black Sun, in which the Moon was being drawn into a Black Hole. Bergman and Koenig devised a shield in which to counteract the gravitational forces inside the black hole. However, it was a ruse by the Commander and Doctor to keep the crewmembers from giving up hope; both Koenig and Bergman thought the situation hopeless but refused to panic the base. The two men, talking as they wait to cross the event horizon to their deaths, speak about their journey:

      116. INT. COMMAND OFFICE

      VICTOR: "John. Have you ever wondered…just how and why we've survived?"

      KOENIG: "Not until now."

      VICTOR: "Have you got any answers?"

      KOENIG (leans forward): "You're not referring to God...are you?"

      VICTOR: "Oh, I don't know exactly… I, I, I, I'm a scientist, I don't know anything about God, but, no, ah...a sort of... 'cosmic intelligence' is what I've got in mind."

      KOENIG: "Which intervenes at the right moment?"

      VICTOR: "It's one answer." ((Pause)) "Ultimately, I suppose we...all believe what we want to believe.. Perhaps that's what reality is. One thing, though. The line between science and…mysticism. Just a line. Huh." ((Amused)) "Y'know, sometimes it makes me feel quite old."

      Almost sounds like an endorsement of intelligent design.

      Just a little later in the episode, after the moon has entered the black hole, in an homage to 2001, A Space Odyssey, Bergman and Koenig, now grown decrepitly old and in a mystical shimmering realm, are visited by a female presence:

      KOENIG (VO): "Everything is everything else, and the whole Universe is living thought."

      VOICE (young woman's, VO): "That is true."

      VICTOR (VO): "Who are you?"

      VOICE (VO): "A friend. Come with me." ((fade from silver world to one of isolated dazzling lights))

      KOENIG (walking after, VO): "Every star is just a cell, in the brain of the Universe." ((Sc 129))

      VOICE (VO): "That is a lovely way to understand it."

      VICTOR (VO): "Why have I never talked with you before?"

      VOICE (VO): "Because of time. You think at what you call the speed of light. In eternity, I have no hurry. I think a thought perhaps, in every thousand of your years. You are never there to hear it."

      VICTOR (VO): "Are you...God?"

      VOICE (VO): "It was good to have known you."

      KOENIG (VO): "Wait..!"

      VICTOR: "Gone."

      So clearly this is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, although some of the conceptions of this “god” are recognizable – transcendence of space and time, interest in the affairs of humans, and mysteriousness. One can even make a half-hearted stab at saying “…the whole Universe is living thought" is referring to a misunderstanding of hypostasis.

      But while some of these references are probably coincidental, the writers were familiar with the Bible. The story of Genesis 1 gets an evolutionist’s twist in the episode Testament of Arkadia, which finds the moon stuck in space by a mysterious force near a dead planet. A landing party discovers Sanskrit writings; proof that human life on Earth originated elsewhere. Two Alphans have visions that they are to repopulate the planet, and once firmly ensconced on the planet (after stealing supplies that threaten Moonbase Alpha’s survival), the moon resumes its journey. Koenig does refer to the story of Adam and Eve as a myth, but clearly he sees the parallels.

      A number of first season episodes dealt with themes Christians understand intimately from reading their Bibles – forgiveness, sacrifice and justice (Voyager’s Return), the corruptive nature of power and immortality (Death’s Other Dominion – my favorite episode of the series, which features Koenig telling the inhabitants of Ultima Thule that he prays for them), revelation and transcendency (A Matter of Life and Death; Another Time, Another Place; Collision Course), self deception (The Last Sunset – in which one regular character becomes a religious fanatic when he discovers a new food source that appears due to the actions of an alien race), trust vs. blind faith (Collision Course), and the consequences of our sinful thoughts and actions (War Games – in which an alien race begins to systematically destroy the base following Koenig’s fearful decision to fire upon an approaching ship that refused to respond to a radio hailing. Seeing his base being destroyed and being powerless to stop it, Koenig nonetheless refuses to give in: "We have survived. How, I don't know. There's no rational explanation for it. What I do have is an absolute faith in the strength of the human spirit and the belief that someone or something is looking after us, God, if you like. And we will survive!" It turns out that the destruction of the base was merely an illusion.) The episode Dragon’s Domain was a retelling of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon.

      While neither the God of the Bible or Jesus is directly addressed, the writers of the first season weren’t afraid of the Bible either, if in a very modernist interpretational kind of way. The second season is much more problematic given the changes that new producer Fred Freiberger (producer of the first two seasons of Wild, Wild West and the last season of Star Trek, both considered to be the worst periods in those two show’s histories) made to Americanize the story. Gone were Barry Morse, a good number of other regulars, and the sometimes complex storylines that had become popular with audiences. With the focus on action rather than serious philosophical/religious themes coupled with American television's lack of ability to take Science Fiction seriously, there was little room to explore larger issues.

      IMHO, that is what killed the show - while Catherine Schell did a fine acting job as Maya, and she was certainly easy on the eyes to this 11 year old, the whole concept of a shape-shifting former Bond girl morphing into various badly costumed monsters to save the day was typical American campiness. Call it the "Batman" syndrome, if you will. Few American SF TV shows escape it - the first two seasons of Star Trek (ironically killed by Freiberger), The X-Files, and now Stargate SG-1 and the new Battlestar Galactica. Good SF television, at least in the U.S., has that element of the metaphysical, or at least doesn't shy away from talking about it. And in the second season, Space 1999 definitely shied away from God.

      In Space 1999, the characters struggled for survival against a hostile and uncaring universe, yet they slowly came to realize there was something bigger than themselves that has not only taken an interest in their plight, but actively sought to help them. This realization was moving a group of unbelievers towards God. One might call it progressive revelation, but unfortunately their lessons were cut short by commercial concerns that ultimately did them in. That is an unintended lesson for the American church.

      I’d like to thank Michael Faries, Ariana, and Isis of the OnlineAlpha mailing group for their assistance. Ariana points out there is an additional article of interest on her website http://www.space1999fiction.com/story.asp?id=godin1999


      Expansion on the Topic of Lord of the Rings

      John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (a.k.a J.R.R. Tolkien) and his work have been a source of many interests and controversies. Many have looked at him with adoration as one of the greatest writers of all time while others have looked at him with contempt for keeping the fantasy genre alive. Some are obsessed about studying (yes that’s right) his work and others are obsessed about trying to condemn him for whatever reason.

      In the Christian community, reactions have been just as varied. Some have looked to Tolkien as one of the few wholesome sanctuaries for Christians in the fantasy genre while others have practically tried to disown him as a Christian (primarily because of the magical element in his work). As one who is closer to the former camp, I will defend Tolkien’s work using Holding’s answers as a rubric to expand upon.

      J.P. has already given a sufficient answer concerning rejecting Tolkien’s works on the idea that the magic element smacks of Satanic influence, so I will not add anything to the actual argument. However, I do wish to add that one would not really even need this argument in most cases.

      On the side of evil, we read of magical powers belonging to: Melkor (the great villain in The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s version of Satan); Sauron (a Maiar); the Balrogs (Maiars in corrupted form); Saruman (of the Istari); Glaurung (the first dragon); Ungoliant (a somewhat enigmatic spider character); and a few others. These villains were naturally given great power by Eru Illuvatar (God in Tolkien’s world) but wrongly used that power for evil (Glaurung was apparently a spirit that was put in a dragon body). There are some miscellaneous villains whose names I can not recall at this point that performed magic in the real occultic sense, but even so, one could argue that Tolkien included magic for them simply to enhance their villainess (since they would be trying to undermine the sovereignty of Eru Illuvatar).

      On the side of good, we read of magical powers belonging to: The Valar (of which Melkor is one); the Maiar (a lesser order of the Ainur, which is also what the Valar are); Tom Bombadil (a somewhat enigmatic character); Gandalf (or Olorin of the Istari) and Radagast the Brown; the Elves; and (to some extent) Aragorn and others of the Dunedain (the lost people of Numenor). Of these, all but the last two classes were naturally given great power by Eru Illuvatar. The Valar and Maiar are comparable to angels with expanded powers. Gandalf, Radagast, and Tom Bombadil all belong to the order of the Maiar and were thus naturally given their powers (Gandalf’s were increased when he became Gandalf the White). (Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman are part of the order of the Istari, a sub-order of five Maiars). Even so, since they use their powers for the proper purposes (indeed, purposes that were assigned to them), we can say that they are brokers for the power of Eru Illuvatar (since he did grant them their power).

      The last two are a different story. These beings were not naturally granted any power that they have, but rather learned their power from other sources. Does this make the anti-Tolkien crowd’s argument valid to some extent? No, they too are brokers of the power of Eru Illuvatar. The magic they use is either for combating evil or for healing. In this regard, there is no essential difference between them and the prophets and apostles.

      Now let’s move on to expanding on the six points on which Holding refuted “Voldemort”.

      On point 1, Holding has once again given a sufficient argument. But let’s back that up with some more background from the books. The only times we see Eru Illuvatar take a direct hand in something are when serious screw-ups have taken place. The first time, Aule—one of the Valar, especially gifted in craftsmanship—created the race of the Dwarves. Eru Illuvatar was about to destroy this race that was wrongfully created, but Aule repented and begged for mercy. Eru Illuvatar pardoned Aule, but proclaimed that his race of Dwarves would have to go into a deep sleep until after the Elves had awoken. The reason all this happened is because Aule was getting impatient with the coming of the Children of Illuvatar (Elves and, much later, Men) and decided to create his own race. The second time, a large fleet of the Numenoreans (comparable to the mythical inhabitants of Atlantis) tried to attack the Undying Lands of the Valar in hopes of obtaining immortality (an idea they believed due to the deceit of Sauron). At the request of the Valar, Eru Illuvatar punished the Numenoreans and also reshaped the world in the process. Aman (the Undying Lands) was taken out of Arda (the world) and Numenor was destroyed in the reshaping of the world (there were survivors of course).

      Other times, we can see that Eru Illuvatar is acting, but we do not see a direct reference to him (much like many miracle reports of the OT and in many instances afterwards do not reference God when miracles are performed). Such instances include the many times of timely salvation of armies in various battles, the sweeping away of the darkness in the Siege of Gondor at the coming of the Rohirrim, Earendil making it to Aman, and many other such cases. In truth, Eru Illuvatar is no more distant than Yahweh.

      In the case of ruling through the Valar, J.P. was right in saying that this is not really a problem. The true God has made extensive use of brokers in the past (as is proper for a sovereign); I don’t know why it is a problem for Eru Illuvatar to use them.

      In addition, I would agree with J.P. concerning the idea of regarding God as a “buddy” who one can interact with like one interacts with a sports buddy. What gives us the idea that we can approach the ultimate king of the universe with such irreverence for His holiness as to treat Him like an equal?

      As far as I can see, there is nothing to add to point 2 except to simply point out that the Valar are no different than the angels except that the Valar have more extensive power. Holding is correct in regarding them as brokers in the act of creation.

      As for point 3, there is plenty of background to add here. First, the objector claims that because elves have eternal life (unless they are killed or die from grief, IOW NOT unconditional eternal life), this teaches overt reincarnation. Does anyone see a logical chain there? Does this mean that the concept of the afterlife being eternal means that we are constantly reincarnated?

      In the case of specific examples the objector may or may not have had two instances where bad exegesis might yield an idea of reincarnation.

      The first instance is the story of Beren and Luthien (the Romeo and Juliet of The Silmarillion). Beren (a man) dies trying to retrieve a Silmaril (a magnificent jewel) from Carcharoth (the greatest werewolf in the history of Middle-Earth). He does this to satisfy a bride price made by Thranduil, Luthien’s father (Luthien is an elf). Beren is able to give the Silmaril to Thranduil, but dies shortly afterwards. Luthien eventually dies from grief and goes to the Halls of Mandos (this is a holding place for those who are dead until the End). There she sings a song of grief before Mandos, the Valar who guards the dead. Though known for his sternness, Mandos is moved by this song of grief so much that he looses both Beren and Luthien from his Halls. He allows them to live one more life together as mortals. This may sound like reincarnation, but it is not. These two are merely allowed to live once more. This is closer to resuscitation than reincarnation (it is not resurrection because they are in the same bodies, not glorified ones).

      The second instance happens with an elf named Glorfindel. One does not see it happen in the story, but one notices that two elves have the same name. One is an elf who dies when he and a Balrog fall off a mountain while fighting. The other is an elf who suddenly appears in the appendix of The Return of the King that comes to the aid of the survivors of Arnor and makes the prophecy concerning the Witch-King of Angmar (that he would not die by the hand of a man). One could pass this off as the two simply having the same name, but there is a bit more too it than that. The article below explains that there is some controversy about this.

      Was Glorfindel of Rivendell the same as Glorfindel of Gondolin?

      From: The Tolkien Less FAQ by William D.B. Loos

      Yes. This has been a matter of great controversy. It was unplanned by Tolkien, and therefore was something he had to decide after the fact. The only direct information in any of the books is a comment by Christopher in The Return of the Shadow (The History of Middle-earth Series VI):

      Some notes that were scribbled down at Sidmouth in Devon in the late summer of 1938 (Tolkien: A Biography, p. 187) on a page of doodles evidently represent my father's thoughts for the next stages of the story at this time:

      Consultation. Over M[isty] M[ountains]. Down Great River to Mordor. Dark Tower. Beyond(?) which is the Fiery Hill.

      Story of Gil-galad told by Elrond? Who is Trotter? Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin.

      ... Very notable is "Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin". Years later, long after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, my father gave a great deal of thought to the matter of Glorfindel, and at that time he wrote: "[The use of Glorfindel] in The Lord of the Rings is one of the cases of the somewhat random use of the names found in the older legends, now referred to as the The Silmarillion, which escaped reconsideration in the final published form of The Lord of the Rings." He came to the conclusion that Glorfindel of Gondolin, who fell to his death in combat with a Balrog after the sack of the city (II. 192-4, IV.145), and Glorfindel of Rivendell were one and the same: he was released from Mandos and returned to Middle-earth in the Second Age.

      The Return of the Shadow, 214-215

      ["Trotter" was the original name of the mysterious stranger later called "Strider" (who at this stage of the composition was a hobbit); II and IV refer to other volumes in the The History of Middle-earth Series series.]

      A number of reasons have been advanced for not taking this at face value. Since Christopher's report of Tolkien's conclusion was not part of the rough drafts, the question of whether rough drafts can be canonical does not arise in this case. The suggestion that lack of premeditation is grounds for rejection also seems inadequate, since many elements were introduced with little thought of future consequences yet later became important parts of the mythos.

      It is true that we have no examples of any other elf journeying eastwards to Middle-earth during the Second Age (though some did visit Númenor), but this is not enough to disprove the possibility of Glorfindel's having done so. There were in fact no direct statements either way, which means that Tolkien could have established whatever background he wanted to any story he might have written. The previous lack of specific information on this matter was no constraint.

      The strongest objection is that the way Christopher presents this inspires less confidence than it might because he doesn't provide any direct quotes - rather, he merely describes a "conclusion" that his father eventually "came to". Evidently, Tolkien never actually wrote his conclusion down. The matter therefore reduces to a question of how much one trusts Christopher, and whether one supposes that he might attach too much importance to a casual statement. The majority of readers appear to accept that this was indeed a thoughtful conclusion that Tolkien reached only after long deliberation (we do know that he and Christopher discussed the matter of Middle-earth often). A significant minority continue to reject it.

      In the last analysis, of course, certainty either way is impossible, since no evidence beyond the above exists. On the one hand, we can at least say that Tolkien apparently saw no objection to the idea that a re-embodied Glorfindel could have returned. On the other hand, the usual caveats concerning unpublished material are even stronger than usual in this case, since he not only might have changed his mind before publishing but also might have done so before he wrote the story, or while he wrote it (not an unusual occurrence). Still, there seems a good chance that he would have stuck to the one Glorfindel idea, since he seems not to have come to the decision lightly.

      References: Return of the Shadow (The History of Middle-earth Series VI), 214-215 (First Phase, XII)

      Even if this was Tolkien’s final conclusion, we need to keep something in mind. When we think of reincarnation, we think of someone spirit being reborn into the body of an animal or (in some circles) that the spirit takes over the body of another. In this case, Glorfindel was rather re-embodied. He was given a body resembling the one he had before and all of his memories were substantially intact.[1] Once again, closer to resuscitation than reincarnation.

      As for the ancestor worship, that is simple eisegesis and poisoning the well. Tolkien’s works are quite extensive and there is never a single clause about ancestor worship or anything resembling it.

      As for humans and death, this is not really a bad thing depending on how you look at it. Some in the books called a mortal life the Doom of Men while others called it the Gift of Men (or the Gift of Illuvatar). It simply depends on perspective. But mankind still takes part in the Second Music which creates the perfect world (what does this sound like?). For more, see the excellent article here. (Note: if you notice, there is something which resembles the Semitic Totality Concept here).

      There is nothing to really add to point 4 except that J.P.’s memory is not faulty—there was no swearing. How much poison does the well really need?

      I also do not have anything to add to points 5 and 6. Holding has already sufficiently answered the skewed understanding of magic.

      I would like to thank J.P. for allowing me to write this contribution to this fantasy article. If anyone has any questions about this article, contact me here. If anyone has further questions about Middle-Earth, you could ask me or see this site or the forums here.

      Notes: 1. http://tolkien.cro.net/elves/reincarn.html


      Reader submission on Yu-Gi-Oh (I've never seen the stuff, so use your own judgment)

      Reader submission on Dungeons and Dragons (ditto)

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