S2 E18 – Elements of a Christian Worldview: It All Comes Down to Morality
Some Christians are concerned about writing certain types of material. For example, what if I'm writing sci fi or fantasy, and in my story world, there's a different mythology that seemingly contrasts to the truth of Christianity? This episode unpacks what to look for to make sure your story mythology doesn't undermine the key tenets of the Christian faith, especially in the area of morality.
This is why understanding humanity and theology can help make you a better storyteller, because we're actually reflecting those sorts of true moral values in our stories. Every story ultimately teaches morality. That is how you are either reflecting or undermining a true Christian worldview. Are you saying that certain things are good, when in fact, they are bad?
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THE STORYTELLER’S MISSION WITH ZENA DELL LOWE
Season 2: E18 Elements of a Christian Worldview: It’s All About Morality
Published December 30, 2021
INTRO: Hello, and welcome to The Storytellers Mission with Zena Dell Lowe, a podcast for artists and storytellers about changing the world for the better through story.
PRESENTATION: Last week, I argued that you can be a better writer if you have a better understanding of theology, and if you have a better understanding of human psychology. Right? Because our goal is storytellers is to tell the truth about the world as God actually created it, and about how we actually experience it. All right, so the reason this is important is because I often have people who are concerned about writing certain types of material. If you believe in Christianity, there are certain tenants that you also believe. You believe in Jesus as the Son of God, you believe that God created Adam and Eve, God revealed Himself through the Bible, which is the infallible word of God, God sent His Son Jesus to be born of the Virgin Mary and to save us from our sins, He paid the penalty of our sins in full.
Okay, so therefore, it begs the question, what if I'm writing in a genre that seemingly contrasts to the truth of Christianity?
For example, what if I'm writing sci fi or fantasy, and in that world, there are different rules, or there's a different mythology that has to be established? Right? Every story, by the way, has a mythology that needs to be established. There are things that are true in your story, like, if your character is a nerd, then the other characters have to be consistent with that mythology. That's part of the mythology of your world. And you have to justify why things are the way they are. And if things are going to change, you have to justify how they change, and make them change in a way that rings true to us. So, what are the rules of your world? What exists in your world? What do we understand to be true? Every story has that. So, whether it's in a particular genre or not, your job is to be consistent with the mythology that you have to establish to make your story world be true. And you have to make sure that everybody acts in accordance with the truth of the universe that you've created.
But what if you actually have a specific genre that seems to contradict with what we know or believe to be true about Christianity directly? For example, right now, there's this whole thing going around about aliens, right? I mean, there are so many shows and movies about aliens and extraterrestrials, and are we alone in the universe? And will we ever contact these intelligent beings and all these things? I mean, it definitely seems to be a predominant discussion certainly going on in culture right now. It's more prevalent in mainstream culture, not just in movie culture, but people in the actual scientific communities are talking about this more and more. So, the question becomes, what does that have to do with Christianity? What does it mean? And in fact, if we do encounter intelligent life on another planet, what does that mean for Christianity? Does that mean Christianity is false?
And in fact, there's been many a movie that has explored the idea of this, that have touted the idea that aliens exist, and because of that, it therefore demolishes Christianity, because Christianity, or the Bible doesn't talk about any of these things. And furthermore, since Christianity is Earth focused, Earth centric, clearly, if there is intelligent life on other planets, it must mean that that's just a false perspective of earthlings, because we think we're the center of the universe, but now we're being revealed to not be and therefore it demolishes the whole thing. Right? This is what people are saying. Now, I have answers to those questions, by the way, that are more theologically based. But first, let's address this story genre thing. Are you actually sinning if you are actually creating a movie, or a book, or a story that somehow talks about life on other planets or aliens and blah, blah, blah? Are you violating something sacred because you're developing a mythology that actually undermines the truth of Christianity?
Well, the problem is, is that it doesn't necessarily undermine the truth of Christianity just because you've created a story world where there are aliens. So, that's the first thing it is not true that just because aliens may or may not exist, that it somehow diminishes the truth of Christianity. There is no corollary there. It is not an if/then premise. So, it's a false premise.
However, the answer is, it depends. Because here's the thing. It's the same for any genre, just like I said. Every story has a mythology that needs to be established. But the thing is, it can't directly contrast with the specific tenets of the Christian doctrine. So, if you're a Christian, and you write a story that has a nihilistic worldview, that is sinful, I believe, because it's false, because you're lying, right? You're lying, if indeed, Christianity is true, and you're falsely representing the world as God created it. So, I would say, yeah, we are not allowed to do that. But that doesn't mean that we can't have an imagination and we can't make up things that exist outside of what we already know to be true. We can. It actually just means that you're reflecting the truth of the human experience within that world. Therefore, you can have a whole nother mythology, a whole nother universe. You don't even have to have anything in it that is even remotely related to Christianity. You can set your story anywhere at all. You can even set it on Earth and still not necessarily talk about Christianity directly. It just has to be that the human beings that are having experiences on that Earth are having them in a way that we know to be true about the universe as God created it. It should match what we know to be true.
This is primarily true in the area of morality. We know that good is good and bad is bad. We know. We all do. We know that certain things are wrong. The truth is, we know when we've done wrong, we just try to deny it. And when we do that, we're jumping through hoops. We're actually playing mental gymnastics to try to prove that what you think you know, or what you pretend that you think you know, or whatever you concluded that is false, is actually true, because you want to base it on this argument that there is no right or wrong. You want to argue that it's just a false construct. That moral relativism argument again. But you have to really do a lot of finagling to make that true. Because in your personal experience, you know. If somebody cheats on you, you know they've wronged you. If somebody murders your mother, they've done something wrong. If somebody steals your stuff, they've wronged you. The reaction that we have when people do bad things to us, shows us that we know and believe in universal objective morality. So, we know deep down in our heart of hearts, we agree that there is objective morality. And nobody had to teach you. Nobody had to teach me that when somebody took my things from me without my consent, that it was wrong. I knew that right away. Now I had to learn things like the concept of sharing. But even in that, what I had to learn is that I was fundamentally selfish, and that sharing was a good thing. Learning to share is a healthy reaction to what we know to be true about humanity. So, really, learning to share is about greediness and selfishness. It isn't about whether or not it's wrong for somebody to take something that is mine. Because we know how hard it is not to be selfish. So, everything in the human experience actually testifies to the truth that we know based on what the Bible has revealed, and that we would know even if we didn't know the Bible, if we were being honest about what we experience.
So, the first rule of any story is to tell the truth about the human experience as it actually really is, including those things that really refer to right and wrong. The things that are good or bad. Things that are noble or ignoble. Things that are honest reactions to sinful behavior. That's really what we're talking about here. What are good things and what are bad things in terms of human experience?
For example, you can never, ever have a hero be proclaimed a hero if they are cowardly. Cowardice cannot be present in a hero's nature by the end of the story. They can be afraid. They can even be cowardly at the beginning, but if they're supposed to be heroic, they cannot be a coward by the end. They can still be afraid, but they have to face it anyway. And that's what courage is. If they don't become courageous, then they are shameful. They are not heroic. And we know this. We know this on some fundamental level that is beyond our comprehension or our ability to articulate. We just know it in our Knower.
This is why understanding the truth, why understanding humanity and theology can help make you a better storyteller, because we're actually reflecting those sorts of true moral values in our stories.
This is really what we're talking about here. Morality. Everything in a story has a moral value. THAT is how you are either reflecting or undermining a true Christian worldview. Are you saying that certain things are good, when in fact, they are bad?
For example, are you saying that it's okay for a teacher to have sexual relationships with a student, as long as it's consensual, and they are truly in love? Because if you are, then you are violating something that we know to be true about human beings, which is, that we are not able to give full consent before a certain age because our brains aren't even fully developed. And we can be easily led astray. And it's so easy for people in authority to abuse us and to take advantage of us and to victimize us. So, if I'm promoting that in my story, then I am promoting a morality that ultimately undermines a biblical worldview, and what we know to be true from experience. There should be no story in which we are promoting a world where it's okay for adults to have sex with children. That is a fundamental violation of morality. So, if you're promoting something like that, you are violating what is true.
However, if you're promoting some sort of mythology that can't be found in Christianity because you made it up, who cares? That's fine. As long as, again, within that mythology, there is still true moral responsibility and understanding. There's true morality. Wrong is wrong and right is right, and you're not confusing them.
The only exception to that is if you promote a doctrine that is specifically and intentionally undermining Christianity. For example, Prometheus. You've all heard of Prometheus. It's a precursor to the Alien series. And for the record, I happen to love Alien and Aliens. I think they are wonderful films, wonderful films that actually tell the truth about the human condition and about heroism in terms of being in a very fantasy setting or sci fi setting. It's how we act (or should act) if we're trying to be heroic in a circumstance that goes beyond our normal experience. Ripley is a hero because she had to face her own fears. She had to be courageous and take on an alien. She had to do it because it's the right thing to do. She's not just trying to save herself. She was trying to save her crew. So, she wasn't being selfish. She was being selfless. She tries to rescue her men, she tries to make the right calls, she tries to be cautious, all of which is undermined by the corporate evil. There's no question in this world what is good and what is bad. There's no question of morality. It's clear. It's just the fantasy world that's false. And there's nothing wrong with that. Oh, and by the way, the alien is bad because the alien kills indiscriminately. So, even the alien supports a biblical moral worldview. The alien is an intelligent being that just wants to kill them and use them as hosts. And somehow, fundamentally, we know that that's not very good. Even though it's never really talked about, we assume it's wrong, and that the alien has to be stopped or they have to escape and get away. But nobody ever says, "Oh, but it's good that we're hosts for the alien."
So, aliens is one story. But Prometheus is a whole nother story. See, Prometheus is actually a philosophy bound up in a sci fi box or present. And it's one of many sci fi stories right now that has been developed primarily to explain the existence of man outside of God. That's what you need to understand about all this talk about aliens and extraterrestrials and whether or not they exist, and if there's life on other planets.... It actually isn't an honest inquest. It is actually something that has been examined or something that has been come up with to explain our existence outside of God. It's a philosophical position -- much like evolution is primarily a philosophy, not a science. And it's a philosophy to explain these existence of man outside of God.
And when we can do that, it gives us free range, see? It's supposedly relinquishing us from the chains of morality that are binding us. But in reality, what does it do? It makes it okay for us to be selfish. Now we have a justification for our selfishness. Even though we know deep down that it's wrong to be selfish, because that's why mom taught us to share, now we can dismiss what we know to be true according to our own experience, because we can justify it based on some philosophical principle of "Survival of the Fittest. And therefore, we're no longer obliged to be selfless or to do nice things for others. We give ourselves permission to be selfish because there is no God, and it is survival of the fittest, and we just get to take what we want, and as much as we want, when and whenever we want it. We even laud ourselves as being clever because we're able to do it. But see, it's a philosophical position.
And the same applies with this idea of aliens, because aliens is just another way to explain how we got here outside of the creation story that we find in the Word of God. We're here because aliens somehow, you know, left DNA, and we evolved because they planted us here somehow, blah, blah, blah. Which is another way of saying, all of the morality stuff that we got from the Bible and Christianity, it's all false. We're no longer accountable to it. At the end of the day, it's all about that. Don't let people fool you. They're not truly interested in what's true. They are interested in the moral implications of it. And guess what? We are really good at deceiving ourselves.
I'm not innocent in this, are you? We're really good at justifying our own actions. We're really good at living in bubbles of denial. There's no doubt to us, when somebody else cuts us off in line, "that person's a jerk." "That person needs to be brought to justice." But when WE cut somebody off in line, "Well, they were way too far behind. I mean, come on, look at that space, and I'm in a hurry. Come on, I gotta get over this." We can justify our own actions, but we know when somebody else violates OUR rights. So, we're really good at deceiving ourselves and turning blinders on when it comes to our own behavior. That's what we do best. That's part of the truth of the human condition. And it's what allows for a lot of terrible things to happen.
Self-deception and justification. Which is why the prerequisite of anything is honesty.
It starts with being honest with yourself. And when people are honest with themselves when they're exploring this idea of whether or not aliens exist, and what's going to happen to Christianity and all those things -- if they're honest with themselves, they'll realize that they're really interested in this because it is a moral question. Because now I've explained away God, and nobody's going to hold me accountable for my wrong deeds. And there's no such thing as eternal justice, heaven, or hell. I can do what I want.
So, going back to this question of are you sinning if you have a story that undermines Christianity? Well, the answer is yes. if you undermine what we know to be true about the human experience from natural revelation. And yes, if you undermine what we know to be true, about how the world came into existence, and who God is, and all those things from special revelation. If you're specifically attempting to undermine either of those two things, and you're drawing a morality that is false, then yes, you are violating a Christian worldview, and I believe guilty of sinning.
But what about if you're writing a show like Game of Thrones, right, where it's a different universe? Because see, Prometheus, which is basically a way to explain the existence of man outside of God, takes place in our same earthly universe. But Game of Thrones doesn't. It's a different universe, where they have their own gods and goddesses, their own mythology, their own creatures that we don't have here. It's a different universe. So, does that mean, since it's a different universe, that everything's fine there?
Well, again, we go back to this issue of, does that world support what we know to be true about how creatures are made? About the morality of the world? Do they know what is right and wrong? If they don't, then yes, even if it's in a world that doesn't have Christianity in it, they are violating it.
So, this happened in Battlestar Galactica, by the way, and it's kind of a dangerous one. Because, in that, what they're doing at the end of the day, what they're trying to do in Battlestar Galactica when they say things like, "May the gods bless you," is they're actually trying to show how belief in God came about as a cultural construct, not because it's a universal, Absolute Truth one. They're trying to show that people everywhere are going to believe in some deity. And that's all it is. It isn't true. It's just how human beings are. We have to grapple until we find some sort of deity to worship. So, they're actually trying to show a universal truth on one hand, which is, "human beings behave in this way," but on the other hand, they're trying to show that it's all false, and it goes against any sort of true belief in Christianity. So, I would say that that is truly problematic. And they're actually arguing that these things aren't real, that they're just constructs of culture.
Nevertheless, the real question in this universe is, are human beings behaving and experiencing the same sort of morality that we believe in, in Christianity? Then, I don't think you are fundamentally sinning unless you're specifically trying to teach something that goes against Orthodox Christianity.
Because I'm writing about a topic that God has already revealed on, it's my job not to change what He has revealed about. We can add to it, but not add to it in a way that changes it. We can extrapolate from it. We can flesh it out. We can include things that aren't talked about in the Bible, because there's some things that are inconsequential to God's revelation. He didn't talk a lot about aliens, or actually, He didn't talk about aliens at all. That doesn't mean that aliens don't exist, it just means it wasn't important for us to know about aliens to come to knowledge of salvation. Because what he was doing was writing salvation history. So, there's a lot of things He doesn't actually address in the Bible. That doesn't mean that we don't get to explore them. It just means that we can't actively contradict the things that He has revealed.
CONCLUSION: So, this is very long and possibly convoluted in terms of what I'm talking about here. The bottom line is I want to do explore or dive deeper into what a true Christian worldview looks like, and how it ought to be reflected in story. How does it need to be? How do you know if you're doing it? And when are we actually violating it, especially if we're writing for a specific genre that has the potential to add or to change or to challenge what we already know to be true in terms of God's revelation?
OUTRO: Thank you so much for joining me this week on The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe. May you go forth inspired to change the world for the better through story.