Christ Shows Up in Fantasy and Sci Fi

I read a particularly interesting post this morning, in light of the recent discussion about the existence of God. Some science fiction and fantasy fans, in analyzing the genre, have discovered an abundance of Christ figures in movies and literature. Sci Fi & Fantasy Lovin’ Blog has this to say:

So I guess I’m just wondering why. Why is it that science fiction, that is often supposed to be more about the rational mind, falls back on our religious superstitions? Is it simply that the creators of our favorite fiction find themselves going back to their childhood traditions? Even unconsciously? Or is science simply not enough to fill our need to know why we are here?

Well, I’m glad you asked! 😉 (Never mind that she didn’t ask ME. As I’ve noted before, I’m not shy about voicing my opinions!) Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician, philosopher and physicist, suggested that there is a need in Man’s heart for God:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [Pascal, Pensees #425]

The Bible makes it clear that God shows Himself through what He has made.

that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made …
-Romans 1:19, 20

I’ve always understood the “through what has been made” part as mountains and stars and photosynthesis—the natural world, in other words. But He also made Man, and something in us also shows God. More than the other stuff, actually, because Genesis says were are made in His image.

What does any of this have to do with Christ figures in science fiction and fantasy? I don’t have the time to develop this point right now as I wish I could, but I’d suggest the presence of Messiah figures is indicative of this part of us made to reflect God. We long for a True Hero, someone so self-sacrificing, so good, so fair, so accepting that we feel completely safe—and so empowered—because we were made for relationship with the Ultimate Hero. Putting him in our fiction shows what we want in our lives. Some authors do so because they long for what they haven’t experienced and some do so to demonstrate what they do enjoy.

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14 Comments

  1. We long for something better than humanity. Those who are “satisfied” with exalting humanity are the most unsettled of all because no matter how they study what has been made, they will never know it all. The complete answers will always elude them. The perfection they desire to see in the evolution of mankind will never happen no matter what they do or who they exterminate to perfect it. That vast intelligence they claim to have by not admitting to a nonsensical God will always confound them because their reasoning will always fall short of truth. They don’t see it. Veiled eyes. Unwilling hearts. Lost.

    We have all been there in varying degrees. At some point we must ask if it really is a better place to be.

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  2. >>>>Some authors do so because they long for what they haven’t experienced and some do so to demonstrate what they do enjoy.<<<<

    Well said!

    It reminds me of Augustine’s prayer:

    “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

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  3. It seems natural to me that Sci Fi gravitates toward a messianic story because the author is free to “start from scratch.” What really mystifies me is how to imagine a story without the great themes that lead to the need for rescue. How would a story with no sin seem interesting.

    Peace,
    Mike

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  4. Before I became a Christian, I read Sci Fi and fantasy. So much of those genres pointed to the Idea of God in one form or another–and so made me think. My genesis as a woman of faith began with the contemplation of deism, which then led me to what Mike mentions–the need for rescue–and what Sally speaks of from Augustine–the search for my soul’s ease. Sci Fi and fantasy writers have a wonderful opportunity to reach such as I was and to do it in non-threatening, thought-provoking ways.

    Normandie

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  5. I’m not sure the initial analysis produced a valid conclusion. What is the definition of “Christ figure”? Are we not perhaps inferring too much because of our own faith-base perspective? Is it simply an abundance of a particular heroic archetype? To me, there is more to being a Christ figure than being a savior. There is a lifestyle that should mirror the values of Christ as we read in the Bible. I’m not too sure we’ll find a lot of heroes that fit that bill in movies and literature.

    However, I fully agree with your point, Rebecca, that man does have a need to know his Creator.

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  6. Maybe “types” of Christ might satisfy Kameron’s perspective a little better. In the publishing business everything it seems must have a label attached to it. Anymore everything else does too, I guess. Anyway, the characters demonstrate Christ-like tendencies or characteristics much like the biblical “types” who pointed to Christ. Does that work?

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  7. Nicole, Normandie (glad to hear from you again, btw!), Mike, Sally, I really appreciate your comments. Your contributions add dimension to this discussion.

    Yours too, Kameron. The key thing in this post, I think, is that these assertions of seeing Christ figures in movies and books came from a non-Christian. Yep, non-Christian, unless referring to religion as superstition means something I don’t understand.

    In her post she gives these parallels: But Neo has everything it takes to be like Christ. He can perform miracles and gather the faithful. …

    Superman, especially in the latest version of the Superman myth–“Superman Returns”–is IMO deliberately crafted into a Christ figure. There is science behind Superman. He draws power from the Sun and comes from a planet of different gravity. But he is a man separated from his God-like ancestors and though he could be self-serving if he wanted to, he fights for mankind, putting his life between that of mortal man and that which would destroy us. I found the scene in “Superman Returns” in which Superman sits over his son and says “The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son,” especially telling. …

    And what about resurrection? I can’t begin to think of how many times I have seen my favorite sci-fi characters resurrected after we assume they’re dead. In fact, this has happened so many times that I am surprised when the hero isn’t brought back from the dead. C.S. Lewis openly used Christian themes when he created “The Chronicles of Narnia,” but a lot of sci-fi also taps into the Christian theme of resurrection. Spock came back from the dead for crying out loud.

    Then she asked her questions—why do writers put Christ figures in their stories?

    Those who aren’t Christians can’t be expected to represent Him with perfect accuracy. In fact Christians can’t be expected to represent Him with perfect accuracy because we still don’t see Him face to face. Someday. 😉

    Becky

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  8. Nicole, I do think the accurate term is “types.” It alleviates the expectation of a perfect one-to-one correlation of the character and Christ.

    Becky

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  9. I’m so flattered you chose to mention my post! I wasn’t looking to make a particularly religious statement, but I do think Christianity is the basis for a lot of messianic figures in sci-fi. I wish I titled the post Sci-fi Messiahs…….

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  10. Becky,

    I’m grateful for your thoughtful blog–something I’ve missed when looking at FIF in recent months. Sally pointed me to the blogs…Thank you, Sally.

    I keep hearing from you that the CBA isn’t interested in fantasy. Have you thought of heading for the ABA? Here at the marina, fantasy seems to be a sought-after genre. As a matter of fact, there’s an entire used book store for sci-fi and fantasy in Berkeley. I know the CBA has a place, but I really love the idea of Christians finding a niche in the world from which they can slip in Christ messages, camouflaged just enough to get in under the wire, but evident enough to draw in the lost. Can you believe that The Last Temptation of Christ worked to prod my metamorphosis from unbeliever to believer? Merely because it discussed a Jesus who had actually lived, a notion that I, from an atheist and then Unitarian household, hadn’t considered. God can use anything, even something as un-Christian and inherently repellent to the Christian as Kazantzakis’s book.

    I know we’re all called to different ministries–and ours is lifestyle evangelism from our boat (www.windofgodministries.com) and, someday I trust, via the printed word. But if the CBA isn’t working for you, you might think in terms of becoming the next CS Lewis or JR Tolkien.

    Just a thought, which I’ve probably expressed before on FIF.
    Blessings,
    Normandie

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  11. Yeah, I think “types” works better, or just “messiah/savior” as SQT says. And, of course, if non-Christians are making the comparison, then there will undoubtedly be disparity.

    And I wasn’t calling for a “perfect” replication. There are still mysteries about Christ and the rest of the godhead that we won’t solve until we reside in Heaven. However, the character of God–and thus, Christ–is completely revealed in the Scriptures.

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  12. I’m a guest contributor at Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog and it was pretty cool when I saw SQT’s post.

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  13. SQT, I thought you were right on with your observations. You had reasoned thoughts and particular examples to support your point. Great thinking.

    Normandie, the ABA isn’t out of the question. I want to finish the revision of book 3 that I’m working on right now, then try more aggressively to get an agent. (That actually might be somewhat simultaneous).

    Kameron, I do understand your comment about perfect replication. I didn’t mean “perfect” in that same vein, either. I was referring to a closer one-to-one representation, so that if the character is to represent Christ, every time he shows up, he acts in the way Christ would act. I don’t think that’s necessary for a type, or even a symbol, though I think that’s a tempting way to write.

    Becky

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  14. Karen, I forgot to ask—so Fantasy & /sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog is a team blog? What days do you contribute? OK, you said “guest” contributor, so not regularly, then. I’ll have to stop by there more often.

    Becky

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