Is Science Fiction Prophecy? Is Prophecy Science Fiction?

Is Science Fiction Prophecy? Is Prophecy Science Fiction? June 25, 2017

Cartoon by Tom Gauld
Cartoon by Tom Gauld

One of the questions I posed in my class on religion and science fiction last fall was about the relationship between prophecy and sci-fi. The key question is whether predicting the future and getting it right is the point of these two genres. On the one hand, if Jesus predicted the end of history and full dawn of the kingdom of God during the lifetime of his hearers, does that invalidate his message the same way that the presupposition of breathable atmospheres on Mars and Venus undermines our enjoyment of C. S. Lewis’ space trilogy? And on the other hand, is the fact that Star Trek was right about doors that would slide open as we approach them the point of the series, and what makes it valuable to us, any more than that disaster struck Israel soon after Amos of Tekoa delivered his warnings of imminent doom?

If the point of both genres is really much more about social commentary on the present than predicting the future, as has often been emphasized by commentators who study ancient Israelite prophecy or science fiction, then we may be able to better to appreciate older examples of these genres – or perhaps we should even speak of them as a single genre, characterized precisely by the use of predictions about the future as a means of communicating critiques of and warnings about what is happening in one’s own time?

Below are links to some other posts related to this theme. But before turning to those, let me recall an earlier post here inspired by discussion of this topic in my class. It was suggested that perhaps Christianity might survive, even thrive, as a “meme” independently of archaic church buildings and structures. As it turns out, a recent article highlighted the role that church buildings are playing in drawing younger people to faith.

Elsewhere, David Brin looked back at Heinlein’s vision of the future.

Charles Stross suggested that sci-fi matters more when the future looks dangerous.

on why Jesus hasn’t come back yet (and the answer may shock you)

guess what: prophecies aren’t predictions of the future (you can look it up)

Apocalypse? We’ve All Been There

20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with a Message of Social Justice

Sunday Meditations: The Book of Revelation, the Bible, and Us

Doonesbury isn’t sci-fi, but its cartoon about a Trump candidacy is still interesting as we think about prediction in literature and the arts.

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