Posted by: Ken Brown | October 24, 2009

Stargate, the Christian Story, and the Role of Humanity in the Universe

Hubble Deep FieldPart of the Hubble Deep Field; every speck of light here is an entire galaxy. Copyright NASA.

Space is big.  Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Bible includes many claims that are difficult to believe–talking animals, a worldwide flood, divine appearances, and of course the resurrection–but Paul’s claim that “creation waits with eager longing for the revelation of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-23) must rank fairly high. Perhaps that made sense to those who believed “the heavens” were a hard dome overhanging the earth, but what about today?

People have always recognized the universe is big, but we now know that “big” does not even come close to doing it justice. In truth, the universe is so unimaginably vast that nothing in our experience can even provide a suitable analogy. You could imagine the whole earth were the size of an atom (but can you really imagine how small an atom is?) and the universe would still be bigger by comparison than anything can see.

Voyager 1 - Pale Blue DotRemember the famous image of Earth as a “pale, blue dot”? This picture was only taken from the edge of our own solar system, and our sun is just one of more than a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone. How many is a hundred billion? If you started counting stars today, one per second, it would take you three thousand years to finish our one galaxy. Imagine how long it would take to visit all those, much less the uncountable multitudes of other such galaxies that we know must exist. The idea that the inhabitants of this one tiny speck could have a central role in such universe is, on the face of it, patently absurd.

Stargate Universe well illustrates the problem (watch it on Hulu). The show follows a group of people who have been transported to an ancient starship hurtling through the far reaches of the universe, “several billion light years from home.” The ship, called The Destiny, has been travelling faster than light for hundreds of thousands of years to get this far, yet even its fantastically long voyage has only brought the ship through an infinitesimal portion of the universe as a whole. You could imagine its entire journey as a single thread dropped into the Pacific, and you would barely approach the vastness of space though which it has traveled. The point should be clear: humanity could spend millions if not billions of years colonizing the stars, and we would still fall far short of visiting–much less remaking–the whole of creation.

Of course, Paul was certainly not thinking of converting aliens in distant galaxies when he wrote of creation awaiting “the revealing of the children of God,” but that doesn’t really solve the problem of the incarnation in such an unimaginably vast universe. Paul’s point was that God’s coming in Christ–and the gift of God’s spirit–had fundamentally changed the game–the universe as a whole is different this side of the incarnation. That Paul didn’t realize how small a part of the universe the Earth actually occupies doesn’t make his claim any easier to swallow. Whether he realized it or not, there is simply no way we have the ability–in ourselves–to play such a central role in the cosmos.

Then again, the biblical authors were hardly unaware of the absurdity of humanity’s place in the universe, even if they would not have described it in the same terms we do. After all, it wasn’t as though we needed to learn about distant galaxies to realize that, in the grand scheme of things, humanity is a small thing. As the Psalmist put it:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)

In other words, the significance of humanity relative to the rest of the cosmos–if we have one–rests not on humanity’s inherent prominence or abilities, but solely on the grace of God. Nor is it so absurd that a small or rare thing could have such significance. Children are common but invaluable; diamonds are valued precisely because they are rare.

On the one hand, if intelligent life is unique to earth after all, then our small size relative to the whole is totally inconsequential. If, on the other hand, humanity is but one among many races of thinking beings spread across the universe, then things are more complicated, but until we actually go out and see for ourselves what those others are like–or if they even exist–we cannot really know whether our religious conceptions will stand up to the encounter, or only be revealed as wild hubris. But we can speculate, and perhaps no mainstream science fiction has gone further with such speculation than the Stargate franchise.

Stargate, admittedly, has not always been friendly to religion. The basic premise is that the ancient gods were actually highly advanced aliens who transplanted humanity across the galaxy (if not the universe). A major theme of the first Stargate series (SG1) was the attempt to free the galaxy from slavery to these “false gods” and their armies of brainwashed followers. Still, the idea that humanity might not be restricted to Earth does suggest a broader significance that is explored in a variety of ways in the first two series. As the story progresses, humans from Earth are indeed instrumental in saving the peoples of several galaxies, human and non-human alike.

As far as Christianity itself is concerned, the previous series have been notably ambivalent, as seen especially in season 3 episode Demons and in the transparent caricatures of fundamentalist Christianity in the season 8 episode Icon and the Origin story-line in the final two seasons. Stargate Universe, however, has so far taken a much more positive approach.

For instance, the two most recent episodes, titled Darkness and Light, include characters praying the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer at key points in the narrative and embody a fairly clear, if symbolic, death and resurrection story-arc. Like Battlestar Galactica (to which it owes a great deal), SGU clearly recognizes that religion will not simply disappear as technology advances and new frontiers are opened, and its effects need not be negative. Also like BSG–and rather unlike previous incarnations of Stargate–our heroes here are broken people, variously prideful, needy or both, and as much in need of enlightenment as they are likely to bring it to the superstitious masses. In other words, they are just like us: clinging to their religious heritage, and interpreting their experiences in its light, no matter how far from home they get, not because they have it all figured out, but because it is the best they know.

Stargate SGU Blood 1The more interesting question is whether their religious conceptions have any merit beyond psychological comfort, and here again SGU is more like BSG than previous incarnations of Stargate. This was particularly seen in the third part of the Pilot, titled Air (spoilers follow). When the ancient ship’s life support system begins to fail, the crew is forced to travel to a desert planet in search of materials necessary to fix it. The episode is positively dripping with Christian imagery, highlighted by several flashbacks of one character’s own history with the Christian church.

Stargate SGU Blood 2First, there is the fact that they must go into the desert–a symbol of death–to seek life, and while there they repeatedly test the sand with a red chemical that looks like blood, each time pouring it out onto the ground. The symbolism later becomes literal as a few of the team give up hope and decide to try a different planet that The Destiny had warned them against. Two people go through, and are never heard from again, but a third is prevented from going when the others shoot him–spilling his blood but ultimately saving his life. At the climax of the episode, another man is on the verge of death when he sees a vision of a crucifix standing over the very spot he had been searching for, then collapses into a dream. He is a teenager, confessing his sin to a priest, who assures him: “We have redemption through his blood.”

If this symbolism were not enough, the episode supplements it with a second set of imagery involving water. They travel to this planet through a portal that looks like a pool of water, and at the end of the episode one character holds the portal open by sticking part of his body into it, knowing it could close at any moment and kill him. He does this to buy his friends enough time to escape themselves, before all three pass through the waters to life. Nor was this act of self-sacrifice the first instance of baptismal imagery in the episode. Dehydrated and dying, the same man who saw the crucifix also meets an apparently sentient whirlwind, which offers him water in the desert, reviving him and revealing the material they need to fix their life support system. Here again is biblical imagery: The whirlwind symbolizes the Spirit of God, which is associated with revelation and new life in a variety of biblical texts. Isaiah speaks of the Spirit bringing forth springs in the desert; John says “the spirit blows where it wills”; God addressed Job from the whirlwind.

In the end, like the rag-tag crew of The Destiny we do not know what sort of beings might live in the far reaches of the universe–was that intelligent whirlwind truly God’s Spirit, or a previously unknown form of embodied life, or perhaps even God working though such an alien being?–but it appears that even out there God’s presence can still be felt, redemption is still on offer, humanity still has a grander Destiny, even if we do not yet know where it is taking us.

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Responses

  1. I’ve found the science fiction of both Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica, to offer a great venue for religious discussion. I’m an avid watcher of them all. Stargate does seem to offer some “religious”, or “spiritual” truth in the form of ascension – which Daniel attains, and chooses to return to humanity from. One could also take the ascended spirits ambivalence about human matters as a dig at deism.

  2. I haven’t followed any of the Stargate series, so this is interesting, especially (to me) the differences in the writers’ ideas about God in the first series as compared to the most recent. If there is a God, and if he has a plan for creation and a desire to save and redeem creation, it creates story lines with greater nobility, I think. Humanity is searching for its purpose, God is protective of his creatures, sacrifice and life have meaning, etc. In a universe devoid of God, living creatures simply live and love (and hate) and die in a rather meaningless and random series of events. It’s far less satisfying, both for the characters in the story and the audience watching.

    But aside from making for more interesting stories, the search for meaning and God also resonates with most of us, and probably draws viewers more into the stories. A good thing.

  3. Yea Stargate (up until Universe) has been a thoroughly ‘modern’ storytelling, where each episode closes in on itself, and the only true arc is in the enemy they are facing.

  4. Yeah, in the previous series, even when they allowed for higher beings or an after-life, they were usually quick to offer some sort of (pseudo-)scientific explanation. Still, the value of a show isn’t necessarily in its literal truth–if they don’t affirm Christianity, forget them, right?–and Daniel’s story-line especially was in many ways religious, even if given a scientific veneer. And of course, the franchise has always been filled with religious imagery, just never quite like this.

    Thanks for the stimulating comments!

  5. I haven’t been able to maintain interest in either of the earlier Stargate series, but SG-Universe is holding my attention, so far, and from what I have seen, I’d say your comments are on target. BSG started out interesting from a religious or spiritual angle and became either less so, or so convoluted that it was just impossible to figure out where to jump in. For my money, the prize for respectful and intriguing presentation of religions, including Christianity, in space & the future, still goes to Babylon 5.

    • My money for respectful treatment of religion in science fiction goes to Firefly, short-lived though it was (and Serenity, as much as I love it, didn’t quite do this aspect of it justice).

      I never got into Babylon 5, though I see that it is available on Hulu, so maybe I’ll have to give it another try at some point.

      You’re certainly right that BSG got convoluted by the end, though it still managed to do some very interesting things with its religious themes. For instance, see these two posts of mine, and Carmen Andres’ many excellent posts on the series, like this one.

  6. Beth, I just can’t get into the crazy creatures in Babylon 5. I can’t suspend belief for the story to take hold. I’ll have to try again sometime.

  7. I’ve not gotten into Stargate yet, though I may at some time, based on your post and Robert Picardo being in it (or so I heard).

    One things that’s interesting is that some Christians have used that Romans 8 passage to argue against life on other planets. I think the idea is that the Bible is so earth-centric, and, if Jesus’ work for people on earth affects the entire cosmos, then there must not be life on other planets.

    Okay, that may not make much sense, but I’m not sure how to phrase it. Here’s a quote from a Christiananswers.net article:

    “What bearing does this have on the question of extraterrestrial life? The timetable (and the whole reason) for this destruction and re-creation clearly seems to be based on God’s plan for us Earthlings. If God had created intelligent life on other worlds, it is hard to imagine that their lives would be calibrated by the failures of Earth’s inhabitants. It seems unlikely and unfair that their distant planets would be destroyed by God because of His plan for Earth. The implication of Scripture is that there are no other intelligent beings besides man, animals, and the angels.”

  8. Richard Picardo only plays a minor and occasional character who first appears in season 7 of SG-1, and at various points in SGA. It isn’t until the last season of SGA that he really becomes a main character.

    I’ve heard plenty of Christians claim we must be alone (usually as some sort of back-handed attack on evolution), but I’ve not seen so direct an argument for it. It seems to me that Paul’s Earth-centric perspective should instead discourage us from extending its point to distant planets. If for Paul “the world” means Earth (first and foremost), then it is to the Earth that we should apply his comments. Any implications they might have for other worlds can only be speculated about, certainly not proved.

    That said, I think the quote you offer depends on a very particular interpretation of the Fall, which sees a perfect creation that is fundamentally altered by a historical act of sin by the first humans. I think that is one version of Christianity that can safely be dismissed in light of what we know of the cosmos. When we can look out and see galaxies billions of light-years away (not mention fossils on our own planet from millions of years ago), it is rather difficult to argue that the universe has been fundamentally altered within the last 10,000 years or so. It sure doesn’t look like it has. If on the other hand, God created the world “very good” (but not perfect), and gave us a role in bringing it to final completion, then our sin did not alter the universe itself, it merely derailed God’s plan for its completion. In that case, Jesus’ death and resurrection can still be seen as the turning point of the universe, not because the universe itself has been changed, but because he has made it possible for humanity to get back on track, so to speak.

    The deeper problem for me, as I suggested in the post, is that God himself would become man. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that God would do over and over again on different planets (then again, we really cannot know that), so why is Earth so special? I guess the short answer is: It’s not, but God loves us anyway. I suppose that’s the same answer as you’d have to give for “why did God choose the Jews?”, but that leaves a lot unanswered.

    • So when Romans 8 says the creation was subjected to bondage (or something like that), are you saying that means God’s plan for his creation was derailed?

      • On Paul’s statement that “creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (8:20-21 NIV), since decay (entropy) clearly predates humanity, I would apply this statement to the original creation state, though I admit that is probably not what Paul meant. I don’t think “the fall” was a historical event so much as a description of how all of us choose pride over obedience and so cannot be allowed to take for ourselves eternal life (that would be part of the bondage). Only as we come to trust ourselves entirely to God can we be trusted with such power, and can creation begin to find its own freedom–all by God’s grace alone.

        That’s admittedly speculative, but so is most everything one might say about the ultimate origins and destiny of things.

  9. Great post! When I read stuff like that about our universe it makes me want to shout praises to God. It amazes me that he would even consider a speck like me worth saving!

    Thanks bro.

    • That’s the other side of it, eh? If God really did become human to save us, it is that much more incredible in a universe like ours.

  10. [...] skeptical about. Here are a couple of excerpts that bear on the conversation in the comments on my last post: The doctrine of a universal redemption spreading outwards from the redemption of Man, mythological [...]

  11. [...] Christian Carnival 300 This week’s Christian Carnival is number 300–is it really possible they’ve been doing these for nearly 6 years?–and is hosted at Brain Cramps for God. It includes my post on Stargate, the Christian Story and the Role of Humanity in the Universe. [...]

  12. According to Joe Malozzi, Origin is more a take on Islam than any variety of Christianity. Christianity has its moments, though. In one episode they revealed that Teal’c had read the entire Bible, and he seemed to have nothing negative to say about it. They made it clear in Demons that Sokar had suppressed typical Christian beliefs to capitalize on one element of them, and they notably have never had Yahweh as an alien the way they have with every other divinity. But they clarified that Sokar was using already-existing elements of Christianity. It wasn’t that Satan in Christian thought had originally referred to him.

    It would have been interesting to have a Christian character thinking through how these revelations affected their faith, though, the way they did on B5 with Brother Theo and his monks, especially in “Passing Through Gethsemane” (and even moreso in the recent direct-to-DVD episode about an actual demon trying to escape Earth, which I found absolutely fascinating).

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned DS9. They took on religion in that show and often did a decent job.

  13. It seems to me that Origin (like the Cylon religion in BSG) is meant to implicate fundamentalist monotheistic religion in general, not just Islam (or Christianity). For instance, the Ori war is called a Crusade, not a Jihad. That said, the picture is by no means uniformly negative towards Christianity (which is why I said “ambivalent”), and the same Origin storyline also includes SG1’s most explicit use of Judeo-Christian symbols for good, particularly the “Sangraal” (Holy Grail) and Ark of Truth. It is also in one of those season 9 or 10 episodes (I cannot recall which) that Mitchell remarks that just because aliens play at gods doesn’t prove that there isn’t a true God behind everything (though I think he qualifies it with: “at least, that’s what my grandma would say” heh).

    Similarly, and as you noted, the portrayal of Christianity in “Demons” is not wholly negative either. Certainly the Bishop offers a very negative caricature of the Catholic Priesthood, but in contrast the villager who helps SG1 evidences genuine faith, and it is his perspective that wins out. It’s also in that episode that Teal’c explicitly denies that any Gu’auld “possesses the necessary benevolence that I have read about in your Bible” (Jack’s reaction is classic, BTW), and the episode even implies that the people’s deliverance by SG1 could be interpreted as an answer to prayer.

    I agree about DS9 as well, and Voyager and Enterprise also attempted something of the same respectful treatment of religion, with varying success.

  14. [...] (named “Adam” and “Eve”–Man and Life–or otherwise). As I wrote not long ago: When we can look out and see galaxies billions of light-years away (not to mention fossils on our [...]

  15. LET’S BE HONEST,

    WHAT DOES STARGATE AND THE BIBLE REALLY HAVE TO DO WITH ONE ANOTHER?

    In the Bible the sun and stars are moved by God, God holds the earth firmly stationary, and likewise demonstrates his power by occasionally shaking the otherwise stationary earth, again only something God can do. But it remained a far COZIER cosmos than the one astronomers have shown we actually inhabit. Sure the ancients had their own fears concerning what the god/s might do to the cosmos, let it drop to so speak, not hold it together, or hold their kingdom together unless they were worshipped. Or they feared the god/s might send lightning, storms, invading armies to punish them, as least that was how they interpreted every major disaster that happened back then, as direct intervention for a personal divine reason. (The Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Hebrews interpreted major events in the same fashion.) Or they praised their god/s for good harvests as and interpreted them as result of personal divine favor. So they felt COZY AND SECURE in a world held solidly together by their god/s, the earth was solidly held in place by a peronal force, and they believed that if they obeyed together certain “divine” laws (Shamash gave laws directly to King Hammurabi just as Moses as said to have rec’d his directly from Yahweh) that would ensure blessings for the nation and/or avoid disasters. But when things went wrong they found some scapegoat to blame rather than dump their theology and understanding of god/s personal providence. And god/s had to be appeased, preferably with blood and fiery sacrifices so the god/s could smell the “soothing aroma.” Hence the trail of blood in the ancient world and throughout the Bible. But is the life in the blood? No, it’s in the central nervous system including the brain.

    If anyone wishes to interpret the Bible as poetry fine, the world is filled with poetry from Egypt, Mesopotamia to today, it all can inspire. But what good reason can you give a person for remaining a Christian if the Bible begins and ends with myths? Why exactly is the myth of a bloody jealous God so important to anyone today? Moderates/Liberals obvioulsy have interpreted away such depictions of God or forgotten about them. But surely they realize that they are the ones doing so, picking and choosing and interpreting which words are divine or “most divine.” Others, like conservative Calvinists interpret such verses differently, that’s for sure! How can you honestly convince yourself that the Bible is “all that and more,” and inspired above all collections of Scriptures on earth, and ought to be adhered to by all people? Why not simply enjoy it as literature and poetry along with a host of other books? Besides, anyone reading the Bible can come up with plenty of verses that seem questionable, or barbaric, not just beautiful and poetic. Or each person can look for the best in every book and every person. I think the later view makes more sense. I suspect fear of death and the need to find SOME connection with SOMETHING that seems secure is the reason many grad students wish to continue to promote a specific religion and its specific holy book, so that they can feel they hold onto at least a mimicry of something firm in this crazy whirling cosmos.

    Lastly I agree with you that Stargate is interesting. But don’t you see that the science of astronomy and the uncertainties of existence in this cosmos as a whole has overshadowed the Bible for most viewers of Stargate, and that you are now trying to read some vague poetic “biblical ideas” back into this modern day cosmos instead of allowing the cosmos itself to speak to you mutely about its uncertainties and weirdness and blank stoical face?

    THE GALACTIC HABITABLE ZONE

    What fraction of stars in our Galaxy might play host to planets that can support multi-cellular life? Lineweaver and others have calculated the probable extent of hospitable space for complex life in the Galaxy, called the “Galactic habitable zone.” The criteria include distance from deadly supernovae, enough heavy elements to form terrestrial planets, and enough time for life to evolve. Based on these criteria, the Galactic habitable zone is an annular region between 7 to 9 kiloparsecs from the Galactic center and contains about 10% of the Milky Way stars with ages between 4 to 8 billion years old. [The Milky Way, like most of the 100 billion other galaxies in the cosmos, contains roughly a billion stars.]
    – Science, Vol. 303, Jan. 2, 2004 http://www.sciencemag.org

    Keeping in mind the above “odds,” there may be plenty of possible planets on which life might exist. But what does that imply about the Bible’s understanding of the cosmos as in Genesis and the New Testament? See the following quotations. . .

    “A NEW HEAVEN?”
    EVEN FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN DISTANT GALAXIES?

    According to the book of Revelation a “new earth” and a “new heaven” will be created after Jesus returns. Occupants of other planets throughout the hundred billion galaxies of our present “heaven” will no doubt be surprised to receive such an unearned favor, all because of what happens on our little world. Or is this simply another example of how the Hebrews viewed the earth as the flat firm foundation of creation with the heavens above created simply for the earth below?
    ____________________________

    Though it is not a direct article of the Christian faith that the planet we inhabit is the only inhabited one in the cosmos, yet it is so worked up from what is called the Mosaic account of creation, the story of Eve and the forbidden fruit, and the counterpart of that story, the death of the Son of God–that to believe otherwise renders the Christian system of faith at once little and ridiculous, and scatters it in the mind like feathers in the air.

    Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
    ____________________________

    So long as people believed, as St. Paul himself did, in one week of creation and a past of 4,000 years–so long as people thought the stars were satellites of the earth and that animals were there to serve man–there was no difficulty in believing that a single man could have ruined everything, and that another man had saved everything.

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Fall, Redemption, and Geocentrism,”Christianity and Evolution
    ____________________________

    Did Jesus die uniquely to save the sins of human beings on planet Earth, or is he being strung up somewhere in the universe on every Friday?

    Michael Ruse, “Booknotes,” Biology & Philosophy, Vol. 14, No. 1, Jan. 1999

  16. Just a few points:

    1. Stargate, like a great deal of Western art and media, reflects the symbolism and worldview of a (post)Christian culture in numerous ways both conscious and unconscious. As far as it, or anything else ancient or modern, reflects themes that I find compelling, I’m happy to explore their implications and use it as a springboard to think through subjects that might otherwise appear dull to the average reader, like theology, ethics, philosophy, or temple mythology.

    Such reflections are necessarily speculative, and they are almost certain to go beyond the conscious intentions of those who produce these shows,films, books, etc., but hey–I’m also willing to speculate and go beyond the conscious intentions of the biblical authors (as far as those can be reconstructed in any case). That’s half the fun of reading.

    2. Your point about the differences in worldview between us and the ancients is certainly a good one, but I’m not convinced they would have described the world as “cozy.” Our world may be bigger (conceptually), but our experience of it (at least for most of us in developed nations) is far less dangerous and unpredictable than it was for them. Sure, some of them clung to faith in a good God, but they had no delusions that the world was cozy and safe.

    In fact, I happen to think we in the pampered West could learn a thing or two from them, hence my appreciation for Cosmic Combat mythological symbolism. Though I don’t actually believe in supernatural monsters of chaos, they at least give a more visceral image of the terror and threat of natural disaster than plate tectonics or meteorology, scientific accuracy notwithstanding.

    3. As for the legitimacy of trusting in a Bible that is so full of myths and immorality and other embarassements, I discuss (some of) my reasons in this post, just in case you hadn’t run across it yet. I might also note the interesting conversation I enjoyed with John Hobbins on this subject just a few weeks ago.

    4. Though I suspect Brownlee and Ward (Rare Earth) are correct that intelligent life is likely rare in the universe, I have no commitment to it being unique to this planet, nor do I think that has much bearing on whether God is concerned about humans or not. If the God of Christianity exists (i.e. infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscent, omnibenevolent, self-sacrificial, etc.), then it hardly matters whether we are the only intelligent species or one of billions. If God can care about an individual human among billions (and that has been the experience of myself and countless others), why could God not care about an individual species among billions? And just as every human’s experience of God differs, I have no reason to assume that every species (however many there may be) must be treated exactly the same.

    Granted, it is speculative to assume that this is the case, but the whole question is speculative from start to finish. Unless we actually meet an alien and get to have a conversation about religious experience (or lack thereof), all we can ever do is speculate. Nothing about our current religious experience depends on the outcome of such speculations.

    ADDED: OK, I guess that was more than “just a few points”!

  17. I enjoy your blog very much, and your command of the language and willingness to ask plenty of questions.

    I would add that the combat motif is not found in all creation stories not even in all Mesopotamiam creation stories. And in Genesis 1 the combat motif is likewise muted to an enormous degree, certainly it depicts a far more cozy cosmos than our own.

    I will have to read your exchanges that you mention above.

    I notice however that you do not argue FOR the Bible and/or Christianity being true, nor offer any evidence, but rely on your imaginative powers of interpretation and rationalization to try and explain why the Bible and Christianity might not neccesarily be untrue.

    As I said, I found it easier to admit that poetry and beauty exist in many books and many people. I try to seek what’s best, based on a lifetime of learning and experiences. That is how I think we all seek, whether we know it or not. But sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking it’s “The Bible” talking to us and THAT is the “thing” that adds stability to our lives, perhaps a security blanket of sorts. And we dare not “let it go,” or put it on equal footing with every other major influence in our lives I think discovery is the thing in itself, curiosity, the encounters with others and with life itself.

    Or as Alan Watts put it, beliefs are like rocks sticking out of water that people cling to, but faith is like letting go of such rocks and learning how to swim.

    Or as Robert Anton Wilson puts it, people are capable of multiple reality tunnels, not just one. Scientists employ several simultaneously in the case of some odd physics phenomena. I myself think I have a theistic side, and an atheistic side and others as well. But in the end, I must admit it’s the whole lifetime of study and experience that matters and that leads us onward and continues to challenge each of us just as we challenge each other, being social communicative creatures.

  18. Thanks! I’m sorry if my first response to you was a bit snarky; I’m glad it didn’t derail the conversation.

    I’d agree with most of that last comment. It’s true, I’m less and less concerned with “proving” that Christianity is true in any empirical sense–I think that’s a very modernist way of looking at things. But that’s not because I think these things have no basis in reality; it’s because I think faith is more about an existential trust in God and each other than it is about believing certain facts. On that score, I like how Alan Watts puts it. I’d love to read the original quote if you have a source for that.

  19. You weren’t even a bit snarky.

    The Alan Watts quotation should be in Behold the Spirit, written when he was still an Anglican priest. Though it might be in his later work, The Book of the Taboo (against knowing who you are). Both are interesting, since they lie at either end of his journey, and he expresses himself so well, being a Brit and all. He was pretty well known in the 60s, around the time when Thomas Merton was also popular.

    On the difference b/w ancient cosmologies and ours, I sent this to a friend recently:

    They interpret acts of nature as direct acts of God, personally decided upon by the Deity. Crops fail? God had a reason. Plague, war? God’s will. Good harvest? We have pleased God. Today we try to find ways to beat nature, not accept our fate as if everything that happened was God’s personal decision being foisted on us. We invented the lightning rod for instance. (Catholics used to ring holy bells and say prayers to avoid tall church steeples being hit by lightning.) And we developed medical and agricultural science. And we have peace-making committees and movements. Neither do we sacrifice goats before rolling up our sleeves and doing cancer research. We don’t imagine we can actually change God’s mind or obtain blessings or avoid curses with sacrifices and prayers. We wear seat belts. We do statistical analysis to determine where the greatest most likely dangers lay, or where the most likely profits may be gotten. At most, we say a little prayer, just in case God’s listening. Most people don’t pray and fast for days or practice literal sacrifices to try and get things done in this life. We’ve gone from religious to practical. But back then it was considered practical to build the biggest damn ziggurats that could be seen for miles in every direction, or pyramids, or other temples. Temples were big business, the more gorgeous and expensive the better. GOD MUST BE SHOWN HOW MUCH WE BELIEVE IN HIM AND HOW CERTAIN WE ARE THAT HE WILL HELP US! HE MUST BE APPEASED! HE MUST BE PETITIONED INCESSANTLY. THAT’S WHAT PRIESTS ARE FOR! IT’S THEIR JOB! Today, if we worship anything, it is CAUSALITY. We try to figure out how things work, from engines to electronic circuits to the synapses of the human brain. We seek causes by looking outward with telescopes and looking inside with microscopes, even electron microscopes. And we certainly don’t fear peeking in in God’s backyard with telescopes or sending probes as far as Pluto or walking on the moon, even after KNOWING what happened to the folks who tried building a brick tower to heaven, and even though we know that “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but God has given man the earth.” ONLY the earth.

  20. Thanks for the Watt’s source.

    As for the differences between us and them: you are mostly correct (though I would note that argriculture and technology were also pursued and advanced pretty vigorously by religious believers, even in the Middle Ages). Nevertheless, that’s a fairly cynical view. No, we don’t perform sacrifices; we look for a cause, but much of the difference can be seen as growing up.

    Children depend on their parents for a great deal, and are more likely to ask for something difficult than try and provide it themselves. And why shouldn’t they? They paint us silly little pictures to show how much they love us, not because it accomplishes anything practical, or because they are trying to appease our wrath, but simply because they love us.

    In time, we try to teach them to learn to do things for themselves, but hopefully as they do so, they don’t decide they’ve had enough of our meddling and ship us off to the old folks home!

  21. Is there a name for the response you just offered? The “developmental defense” of the Bible’s inspiration, perhaps? Is the OT for children, but the NT is for adults?

    The NT still features the three-tier cosmos with beings/people “under the earth,” and God in “heaven above,” and shedding of blood as necessary before God can forgive anyone anything.

    What exactly was the point of having human beings develop from apes and having early ape species eventually go extinct, and even some early human species go extinct, until we reached the point where we developed language, and later reached the point where we could handle “fire” and “invent the wheel?” And tens of thousands of years later, if not a couple hundred thousand years later, we developed art and even writing, and people were probably so astonished at the invention of writing that they naturally began to assume that “words” were somehow divine, god-like?

    And that line of development was all part of what, “a fall?” Sounds like we weren’t falling, at least not out of trees as our pre-primate ancestors once did. Sounds like we were rising.

    And through all that time, what revelations were given to various hominids species from the Biblical god? Animism seems to have been the earliest form of religion, as even evidenced by a recent altar in Turkey with animals pictures carved into it, or by the caves in France with animal totem-like pictures drawn there.

    God waited for Moses to finally write down Scriptures? Did Moses exist? Other nations already had entire civilizations and sacred writings for long before the days of Moses. And God saw fit to PRESERVE those writings more ancient than the Bible, from Egypt and Mesopotamia. Those writings appear on stone and baked clay tablets. But God couldn’t come up with a similar form of preservation for His holy word that allegedly reaches much further back in time?

    I don’t even see a recipe for soap in the Bible, let alone anything that’s so special in its revelatory contents that only God could have revealed it to Moses.

    So, does the development defense really stand up? “Oh they were simply childish back then?”

    Yes, evolutionists would agree, humanity was childish, for millions of years in fact. But how does that prove anything special about the Bible, how does that demonstrate special inspiration? Again, you seem to be arguing that maybe the Bible isn’t as questionable as some say, rather than proving it IS inspired. I don’t see Christian existentialism as a way out of this dilemma. There’s many forms of existentialism.

  22. [...] I’ve been enjoying with Edward Babinski in the comments (especially here, here, here and here). We’ve covered a lot of ground but one issue Edward keeps coming back to is [...]

  23. Zecharia Sitchin explained all Sumerian knowledge came from the Gods/Aliens ,also mentions the creation of Earth from the collision with the Orbit of the planet that cycles every 3600 years,,,In Revelation 4:1, John wrote, After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.John was taken, in vision, up to heaven to be shown something that was to take place in the future. The first thing that he saw, in vision, was the throne of God, and he wrote down a description. In verse 6, he says, And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal. .(Stargate Technology?)
    Revelation 21:2-3, And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them. .
    It is God that is coming to this earth, it is Satan that wants to go to heaven.

  24. As entertainment value is concerned, I find the Stargate: SG1 series to be among the best that has ever been on Cable TV. However, as a Christian, I find the show to be very nullifying. The other day I imagined myrself writing an episode of Stargate in which the characters actually travel to a destination where they truly meet God (Jesus Christ, The Father, Holy Spirit). The characters of Stargate would do their best to refute God. God would not argue with Daniel Jackson. God doesn’t need to. As with Jesus Christ, God would probably not throw a bunch of miracles at them to prove his existence. In the end it would be a pretty boring episode and unless God gave Daniel Jackson some prophetic insight in a dream that causes him to have “FAITH” in God, I believe they would come back to earth with questions of Gods existence.

    What would this episode yield on the Christian who is new to the faith? What does Stargate, the story, say to those who don’t believe in the God of the Bible? What I get from Stargate is that it is constantly refuting the possibility of their being a real God. It is constantly assuring us that gods are fake and they put all of us into slavery to serve them. There is never any real understanding conveyed in the series of the existence of a true God. We do have some of the characters who had relatives that were Bible thumpers but the characters themselves do not profess there belief. Also, some episodes have dwelt on the validity of God and the Bible but leave us lacking. In the last episode the General played by Beau Bridges appears to have a Bible sitting on his table where he is playing chess with Mitchell.

    It doesn’t matter if you believe what I am saying. It is just an opinion.

    Try to ask yourself,”What would God say or think about this?” What would God say about any film or TV series we watch? If you can honestly say that God doesn’t care about the progressive brain washing that is going on in all entertainment then I say,”Peace”! God Bless!!


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