Hey! Watch Watch Where You Put Your Theology!

Posted: August 24, 2012 in Inkspots, Musings, Scribe Scribbles
Tags: , , , ,

It’s been a month of lousy weeks, and lousy books to review. So I decided I was going to switch some around and treat myself to  Kerry Nietz  The Superlative Stream  this week. I was really enjoying it, until I slammed imagination-first into a simple sentence of theology.  After the stars cleared out of my minds’ eye, I gave a sigh and stared down at the print, willing the words away.  They didn’t go anywhere.

This is the power of Science Fiction, and the danger of it, it’s chalk full of ideas. Ideas are dangerous, especially if you don’t  recognize them for what they are; a set of theories, not facts, held to by an person or group.  The sentence that stopped me cold is this one, on page 16:

For a young star, Betelgeuse is highly irregular. An enigma. Though only a few million years old, the number of years it has before going supernova could be just thousands.

Did you see the idea in there? And catch the theology behind it? It’s right here, and looks as innocent as a kitten (if you think kitten are innocent looking, I think the look like they’re plotting world domination):

For a young star, Betelgeuse is highly irregular. An enigma. Though only a few million years old, the number of years it has before going supernova could be just thousands.

Why is this such an issue? Well because the idea that the universe is millions of years old is in direct conflict with what I believe (and numerous  prominent Christians scientists believe*) the Bible  and the testable evidence  of created matter says about creation.   An old earth, and old universe directly effect the salvation message.

That one fragment of sentence there, is a rather hefty little thing.

It’s a world-view and a theology point.  It sits there as innocent as a world-domination plotting kitten, in a book written by an author I admire.   And, it’s slid in there as if it is fact. It’s not fact. The whole idea of light-year as a measurement of distance and how light travels is still in the realm of theory.  Most of science (not that any one will admit this) is highly educated guess-work.  There’s so much we don’t know about everything, and starlight and our universe is included in that everything,  that it’s  startling to me to  see ‘millions of years’ plunked down in a book written by a Christian, and  presented as fact.

Does this mean that I’m not going to finish, or like the book?

No. 

Does this mean my opinion of Kerry Nietz has changed?

I’m reserving judgement until I’m done with the book.  I’m a little heart sore. I trusted him.  Hopefully he pulls off some amazing writer’s tricks and I wind up posting about how fantastic this book is as well as  A Star Curiously Singing. 

Does this mean I now have my imagination  sieve/filter at its highest setting to guard against other theology ninjas trying to slide by me in his work?

Yup. 

Which books have surprised you, Scribes, by a stray theory/theological point  that was submitted as truth?

*Here’s a list with some links to bios

For those interested, click here for some of the issues  with the idea of ‘old stars’  and some of the assumptions that you must make if you keep the light year as a consistent unit of measurement. 

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Comments
  1. Kaleb says:

    I read a lot of classic science-fiction, so if I had guards up for theological falsities, my shield generator would be over-loaded and I’d explode. I don’t worry about theology in novels.

    • I worry about world-view more than theology. Not for myself, I know what I believe and why I believe it. I worry about people who don’t realize that there is world view and theology in science fiction. I read and enjoy it, both secular and Christian. But I also am aware of it when I come across it. It’s like a bear trap. Once I see and know its there, I make my way around it and am not damaged. I’ve met readers however, who do get their world view or theology from what they read in fiction. Only, they don’t know that’s where they’ve gotten it from. It takes a while to show them why they are having some issues with Christianity.

      • Kathy Black says:

        This is exactly why many Christian parents ban ALL science fiction from their children. We as Christians should be exactly this observant Michelle. And I laughed out loud at this sentence: It’s a world-view and a theology point. It sits there as innocent as a world-domination plotting kitten, in a book written by an author I admire. Great way to get your point across.

        Thanks for reminding us that ALL words have power Michelle.

  2. davidrlar says:

    As far as bad theology\worldviews that I’ve encountered in books, there haven’t been many, but the one that comes to mind is Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and the way it treats God. I found the book fascinating, but there was some strange philosophy. The main character of the story is more of the opinion that he should just curse God and die, but he believes that his son is almost divine, perhaps the last remnant of God on earth. The son has a similar opinion of the father, and in fact prays to his departed spirit, which is condoned because of a somewhat pantheistic view of God as being in all things (and that’s partially true, but you know what I mean). Then on the opposite end of the scales, another character says, “There is no god and we are his prophets.” That view is never condoned or discounted.

  3. Chila Woychik says:

    Michelle, I always consider several things when I encounter something like this:

    1. is the book speaking of theology or just speaking? in other words, is it the author’s intent to impart theology? if not, it’s likely he or she is simply speaking to the layperson in terms they can understand, in terms that don’t scream, “I’m a young earth creationist!” or even from “within the head” of a different viewpoint character. yes, it can be disappointing, true. it takes a very wise author to deal with these type of things in a way that doesn’t offend /someone/.

    2. (and someone else mentioned this somewhere) is it the author or the character speaking? like i was mentioning in #1, narrow down the source of the p.o.v. and that should help.

    3. is some kind of metaphor being employed? i often use metaphor that some could construe as biblically whatever, but often it’s just that, a metaphor meant to ask questions or broaden our sometimes stilted understanding of the unknowable mysteries of God. i hate pat answers, and God is far beyond our little theology books. funny, but i was just thinking about that today on the way home from town ….

    personally, i’m a young earther, but i’ve discovered that some of the very best writers i’ve ever read are not. i let them hold to their theories while i hold to mine. but yes, i see where you can be saddened by the lines in question. maybe it’s all about coming to some sort of terms with yourself, or better yet, write the author and ask him what he meant by it. kerry is accessible enough.

    best & chin up,
    chila

    • It really doesn’t come into play in the book at all. It’s the computer AI telling the characters things about the star.

      Later in the book, there’s serious, serious theology that is hashed out. I tell people think 2001 crashed full-steam into C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy and you’ve got the same “kinds” of things happening. Serious social commentary and really deep theological ideas flash by like comets caught in the gravity well of a star.

      I think because this whole series is neck deep in theology, and I agreed with most of it, that particular phrase really surprised me. I still can’t figure out why he put it in there, except that this is part of what Nietz himself believes.

      That’s all right, we are all entitled to view points. Now I know that Nietz and I are not as close to one another in view as I thought we were.

      That’s a little sad, and it does still bother me that he put that in there as if it were truth, and not theory. It’s okay though, he fits right in with my other writing heroes, his feet match their clay ones.

      Kerry’s books are so well written and different. I’m not sure that I like the ideas behind his words, but I’m in love with his words. He makes my head buzz with thoughts like bees around a rival hives honey.

Be brilliant, be peculiar, be peculiarly brilliant.

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