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Star Wars, Star Trek and Cosmic Loneliness

I have recently become drawn to the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica. It is set in a star system far away where Cylons and humans are struggling for dominance. As the series progresses you can't help but get drawn into the various characters and plots. It takes the life of its own and before long you feel you are part of the drama with your own favourite characters and heroes. You become part of a larger story, without in reality being part of it. I am on series three, and hope to say more about it in the future!  Why are we drawn to such fantasy stories? 

This question has been ringing in my head particularly since I watched two fascinating science fiction documentaries earlier in the year. The first one was Jedi Junkies (2010) which features the world's most dedicated Star Wars fans. From lightsaber wielding martial arts academies to a filmmaker who built the world's only life-size Millennium Falcon. From a Monster Garage-esque sculptor whose professional livelihood is building custom lightsabers to metal-bikini wearing dancers who embody Slave Leia. The documentary is an eye opener into the fan's obsessions with the Star Wars franchise.

The second documentary I watched was Trek Nation (2011) which tries to examine the positive impact (no negatives) that Star Trek and creator Gene Roddenberry has had on people's lives as seen through the eyes of his son, Eugene Roddenberry (Rod). It includes interviews with cast members and crew from all five Star Trek incarnations as well as various fans and celebrities who were markedly influenced by the show whilst growing up. In fact quite fascinatingly, there's a part where Rod Roddenberry visits the Skywalker Ranch to interview George Lucas (father of Star Wars) to discuss any cross influences.

Whatever one makes of Star Trek and Star Wars one thing that cannot be doubted is that the fans are very devoted. I was really challenged by that and wished I was that passionate about God, as these fans are about their fictional programmes. After all God is real and Commander Data is not. But I was also more generally intrigued with what drives their commitment. These fans yearn to try and bring fiction into physical existence. They want to be in a Star Trek and Star Wars universe. Theyfeel awfully inadequate in the present world. Why is that? 

Two authors I have enjoyed reading recently seem to answer this question with different language but essentially getting at the same point. David Paul Tripp in 'A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger Than You' has this to say :
There is woven inside each of us a desire for something more—a craving to be part of something bigger, greater, and more profound than our relatively meaningless day-by-day existence. Maybe that's why a human being would ever want to climb Everest, traverse the oceans in an all-too-small sailboat, or attempt any feat not yet accomplished by a fellow human. Perhaps that's why we get hooked on politics, sports, or a myriad of causes that give us something to fight for. We simply weren't constructed to live only for ourselves. We were placed on earth to be part of something bigger than the narrow borders of our own survival and our own little definition of happiness. The desire resides in each of us, and it is called transcendence.
David Wilkinson in his excellent book 'Science, Religion and the Search for Extra Terrestrial Life' lists five problems all human beings face that explain the human quest to reach out to the stars  : a) cosmic loneliness - we feel isolated or alone in life;  b) cosmic purpose - we want to find out about the purpose of our lives in the universe; c) cosmic identity - we are all on the quest to find ourselves;  d) cosmic fear - there is a sense of vulnerability in the face of the universe and what surround us; and finally, e) cosmic salvation - we are looking beyond the present for hope.

I have found that these five reasons adequately capture not only why people are chasing for money, sex and power, but also why they take on science fiction personalities and live like they inhabit a different universe in the here and now.  These five challenges remind us that there's at the heart of the human existence a deep void. No matter how much money we have, how much love we receive, and what power we have, we can never be satisified.

History is littered with examples of men who have built their mansions and shriveled away in tiny rooms in those mansions, gradually estranged from family, friends, and at the end even themselves. Charles IX, who ordered the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacres, said at the end of his journey, "What blood! What murders! I know not where I am. How will all this end? What shall I do? I am lost forever. I know it." For all his power and brutality Charles IX ended life unsatisfied. 

The question is why are we unfulfilled as human beings?  It is not because there's not plenty of things around us. The reason is that human beings were created with needs far deeper than the material universe can fulfil.  King Solomon said that God has "put eternity in the hearts of men" giving us a longing far beyond the present. To such an extent that even if we had all we wanted, at the end we will still cry, "meaningless, meaningless, it is all meaningless".

This is a truth that St Augustine recognised when meditating on God. He said "you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you". The fall of man at the beginning of creation severed the ultimate link we have to the Creator and we are now left like ET desperately trying to dial home in any way we can. For some that process of dialling leads them to what the Jewish political scientist Louis Rene Beres has called the "Kingdom of the Herd" - just following the crowd and desperately hoping the answer comes from somewhere among the mob.  

The appropriate response is to recognise with Sinclair Ferguson that "there is never enough in this world to satisfy us". Our needs are clearly serious and genuine. The problem is that no only are we broken and sinful human beings but we also live in a broken universe! Hence we have needs which can only be satisfied by someone larger than ourselves and the universe. Only God can truly satisfy us. 

King Solomon gives us a sense of the problem when he observes, "just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied". (Proverbs 27:20 NLT). Only something bigger than death itself can satisfy us. There really is a God shaped hole in our hearts, despite the shameful abuse of this truth by televangelists! And that whole cannot be plugged by movies, music or pretending to be happy people. 

What we need is God himself to re-establish eternity and fill the void He has left behind. The great news is that God in Jesus Christ has already doe that by sending His Son to be the substitute penalty for our sins! Only when we embrace the Son do we find true fulfilment. 


  1. I'm a Christian and a sci-fi fan . . . and I was right with you until you your final lines.

    I agree that what people are really searching for is God and spirit. We humans will never be fully satisfied until we have God in our lives. Even then, we still have many things to strive for spiritually. But we can do it with a sense of purpose and fulfillment that is lacking when God is absent from our mind and heart.

    However, the idea that Jesus was a substitute penalty for our sins simply isn't in the Bible.

    Search as you will, you will not find any place in the Bible that says Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. I've spent hours trying to find a passage that says this, using every search I can think of--and it just isn't there. I challenge you to do the same. You will find that the Bible talks about taking away the sin, not taking away the penalty for the sin.

    Wherever the Bible speaks about penalties, it always attaches them to the one who sins. Dying for our sins, taking away our sins, and being a ransom for our sins are not the same as paying the penalty for our sins--something the Bible simply never says.

    The idea that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins comes, not from the Bible, but from Anselm of Canturbury, who originated this non-Biblical idea a thousand years after the Bible was written. Look him up, and you will see.

    Jesus came, not because God was so angry with the world, nor because God demanded justice from the world, but because God so loved the world.


      Thanks for these comments.

      Glad you like Science Fiction! Are there any specific ones you like?

      Incidentally, have you read Wilkinson's book? I suspect you may like it.

      On penal substitution. I respect your position. I know that there is there are many Christians who hold your position against penal substitution. And they do so because they stand on their interpretation of God's word.

      I am also aware that debate has been raging with many books written on it. I am also under no pretence that I would change your position! You sound to me as you thoroughly convinced.

      A book that has recently helped me on these issues is Salvation Accomplished by Peterson. Worth reading it if you haven't. Even though you hold a different position you may find something of value there.


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