Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Is Science Fiction Inherently Humanistic?

Science fiction. A genre in which I freely admit it is difficult to find quality works that are not totally incompatible with Christianity. In fact, it's super easy to rank in Amazon's top 100 Teen and Young Adult Christian Science Fiction category. But does that mean it's all bad and must inevitably turn readers away from God?

What I found in my research is that many object to science fiction on the basis that it promotes humanistic ideals and elevates both man and science to the level of God, thus replacing Him. Science fiction is often based upon Darwinism, excludes God from the narrative, promotes the idea that our salvation rests in the technology and inventions of man, and encourages moral relativism, as well as building its pseudoscience upon ideas easily disproven by true and commonly accepted science—some prominent examples of such an attitude being the works of Arthur C. Clarke and certain episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Laughlin, Manlove).

Yet a predisposition towards humanism is not a necessity in science fiction: “Typically, science fiction and faith are circles that don’t intersect. In the instances when they do meet, however, it is usually one throwing stones at the other . . . . Bradbury’s stories weren’t like that, though. He wasn’t afraid to revere the Bible in his seminal work Fahrenheit 451, or to allegorize man’s search for a savior (whether on this planet or the next) in short stories like The Man. Rather than despising faith, he often embraced it, and sometimes—horror of horrors—even glorified it” (Nietz).

Furthermore, there is nothing inherently wrong with pseudoscience. Sure, hard sci-fi readers won't appreciate it, but if you're writing pseudosciencey stuff, are they really your readers? Pseudoscience and technobabble are plot devices and elements of worldbuilding, just like magic can be. They're ways to tell stories. They're methods by which to explore themes. They're a manner in which writers warn people about future dangers of many kinds. Is it evil to use FTL travel in your book when it will probably never actually exist? Will it damage people's faith to write about time travel? I certainly don't think so. They're stories and stories that can be used for amazing purposes.

Science fiction can and has been used to explore faith rather than to elevate humans above God. It is a creative way to explore creation and an apt genre for exploring the dangers of technological and social ills. For instance, Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands trilogy explores the vices of ancient Babylon in a futuristic setting, speculating about the evils Christians would face when trapped in a city ravaged by STDs and filled with debauchery, forced to reproduce to maintain the population because they are the only ones uninfected. Kathy Tyers’s Firebird series takes a different path by imagining what would have happened had humans gone to space prior to the arrival of the Messiah. 

These writers may be few and far between, but truly, science fiction can explore themes of faith, God, ethics, humanity, the dangers of trying to play God, and much more. It does not have to promote anti-Christian ideals and can indeed do quite the opposite.

Besides, sciencey things and pseudosciencey things are fun and cool and just one of many ways to use our God-given imaginations.

Speculative Fiction: Suppose There Was a World...


Laughlin, David. “Science Fiction: A Biblical Perspective.” Answers in Genesis, Answers In Genesis, 1 Aug. 2001, https://answersingenesis.org/culture/science-fiction-a-biblical-perspective/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Manlove, Colin N. Christian Fantasy from 1200 to the Present. Macmillan, 1992.

Nietz, Kerry. “What I Learned From Ray Bradbury.” Enclave Publishing, 9 June 2012, https://www.enclavepublishing.com/what-i-learned-from-ray-bradbury/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

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