Thanks for checking out this series! If this is the first blog you’re reading on ‘Writing Speculative Fiction as a Christian’ then please see my intro on post #1 for context on the reason I’ve put this series together.
Today’s subject was touched on a bit in Part 3: Salvation for Other Species, but it’s time to dive deeper into this topic and address the hardest puzzle for many Christian speculative fiction writers when it comes to people living in other worlds.
Do they have a way to God that is not Jesus?
The verse that makes this question an issue in the first place is John 14:7 where Jesus states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” A highly contentious verse as it seems to say that nobody is getting into heaven except Christians.
It’s a verse that raises many serious questions, even among traditional Christians like myself who normally feel fine just taking every verse at face value. But looking at the Bible as a whole, this notion of only Christians entering heaven raises an apparent contradiction, for there were many people who lived before the time of Jesus, including the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs. Are we to assume that they didn’t make it because they were born at the wrong time?
Pastors have offered possible solutions to this issue, but most will admit (as I must here as well) that all we can offer is guesses and not provable answers. One thing we do know is that, yes, many people before the time of Jesus will somehow be saved, because this is mentioned in Hebrews 11 (verses 13-16 in specific), saying that they died before receiving what they had hoped for but they saw it from afar. And I think Jesus is somehow involved in the visions these people saw. We can know with greater certainty that Jesus was encountered or at least envisioned by David and Job, even if in a pre-incarnate form. (Psalm 110:1, Job 19:25)
But how does this fit with John 14:7?
While I take this verse very seriously in that Jesus is the only way, the word in this passage that I think may have a broader meaning than most of us realize is the word through.
You see, the Gospel message – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and what that all means – presents to people a question – a question I can best try to summarize as “Will you continue to try to earn your way into heaven or will you allow God to carry the burden for you?” It’s a question that is simple enough to be expressed in many different ways but, until you’ve heard the full Gospel message, the full meaning, impact, and practicality of such a question would be lost on most people.
Still, it’s a question that can be asked even if not fully understood, as I myself failed to fully understand it until I’d reached a certain level of maturity, even having been Christian my whole life. My personal suspicion (and the idea that I offer as a context for this writing topic) is that everyone who has ever lived or ever will live is in some way asked this question at some point in their life. Do I know this as a fact? Absolutely not. This is, once again, simply a guess.
It’s also a question simple enough to be rephrased in whatever ways necessary for any aliens or fantasy races who might have similar issues with evil and sin. Stories paralleling the sacrifice of Jesus are particularly popular among Christian fantasy writers. You can see probably the best example of this in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In all of these cases similar themes are expressed in different forms, and they all in some way pose the question I mentioned above, in terms that are often simple enough for children to understand, and certainly the creatures of that very world. So you can already see examples of how it can be re-illustrated for your own story and fantasy worlds.
As I’ve said in an earlier post, I don’t think aliens or fantasy races would struggle with sin and evil the same way humans do, at least in the sense that I don’t think they would be impacted the same way as God’s Image-bearers are impacted.
So a follow-up question is do they even need a saviour in the first place? My answer would be that any ‘fallen’ race would be in need of redemption. Since it is your story and your own hypothetical scenario you’re writing, you can decide for yourself whether you consider a particular species to be fallen or not, but any that have sinned would have fallen short of the glory of God.
Would they need Jesus? I would go back to John 14:7 and say yes, but again, the word through may have a broad meaning, and that can get even broader when writing science fiction or fantasy.
Personally, I would say that whatever solution you have for your fallen races would need to somehow involve the second member of the Trinity. How direct or indirect you are about it depends on your own choice of how subtle or explicit you want your Christian themes to be. You don’t even necessarily need a specific plan in mind, as long as you’ve at least decided that it involves God the Son.
I don’t have specific salvation plans for my own sci-fi or fantasy creatures, I just know that Jesus is involved in whatever salvation plan He has for them (if they were real). I keep being surprised by how broadly God’s grace works, so it’s not even a question in my mind that if all of these creatures suddenly somehow turned out to be real, He would have a salvation plan already in store for them.
We’re almost done this series. For the final post I’ll address a couple of trickier subjects when it comes to content, looking at the use of magic and mythologies in Christian literature…