Why is this pleasant—and what does it have to do with faith or religion? Because, dag-nabbit, I get so frustrated with sci-fi novels that insist there is such a thing (and, believe me, there’s a slew of them out there). Be these nirvanas stumbled upon or manipulated into existence by the “correct” politics, the absence of religion or the perfection of humanity through science, these novels fail to realize the single most important thing about the human race: sin.
Now, sin may be in its throes of death (Romans 6), but there’s no way—at least from a biblical standpoint—we’ll get heaven on earth until God says so. We are living in the “not yet”, the middle of the Grand Story. When God erases sin from his creation, we’ll find ourselves in a utopia none of us can comprehend on this side of the Story’s grand finale. Until then, however, this world, our societies and our future have to deal with the consequences of sin’s existence and sway. The only way to deal with sin and overcome its hold on us is through and in the new life Jesus so abundantly gives. Our own efforts at creating that kind of life, however noble (or lame-brain), will only fail.
So, what are these novels I’m talking about? The first is Return to Mars by Ben Bova. This near-future (with technology that’s actually excitingly plausible) novel is a sequel to Mars (which I read after NASA’s rovers landed on the Red Planet and started sending back those incredible pictures) in which a manned trip to the planet nets the discovery of life in the form of lichen—and the possibility that intelligent life once existed on that planet. In the sequel, another manned mission returns to explore those discoveries—and here’s the paragraph (the thoughts of the narrator as he contemplates the indifferent, cold landscape before him) that had me reaching for my black ball-point pen:
The real dangers are those we carry with us: envy, ambition, jealously, fear and greed and hate. We carry it all with us, locked in our hearts. Even here on Mars, we haven’t changed. It’s all here with us because we brought it ourselves.That could be a paraphrase of Romans 1. Kudos to Bova. The novel itself? The premise is a bit of a stretch, it’s got a soap-opera feel at times, but it’s an okay read (two out of four stars, perhaps).
The second novel I just finished is Vitals by Greg Bear. Bear is known for his hard-science fiction (I read his novels just as much to learn about the science as for the plot), and this novel combines that with some fanciful rumination about man’s search for immortality. The novel is laced with biblical imagery (multiple references to the Garden of Eden, Tree of Life, Jonah, figurative flaming swords, etc.) and plays with the idea of what would happen if we discovered a path towards delaying inevitable death—and it isn’t pretty. Heh, Wikipedia’s summary puts it best (warning: big spoiler): by the end of the novel “the main characters are all either dead, irrelevant, or the victim of mind altering xenophages.” Man’s sin-tainted attempt to return to Eden twists it into a hell on earth. So, no utopia here, either—which leads me again to give kudos to the author. As for the novel itself, it’s not Bear’s best (and it is very sin-tainted, if you get my drift). Like Return to Mars, I’d give this one two out of four stars.
While both of the these authors may be familiar with religion and/or faith, I don’t think either of them (that I’m aware of, at least) are religious themselves or hold to the Christian faith. However, at least in these two novels, they do recognize something about human nature that’s reflected in a biblical world view: we are all bent towards sin. And that, my friends, precludes any destiny of heaven on earth by our own efforts.
tags: books ruminations sci-fi