Boldly Going Nowhere

“Space... the final frontier.” More than 30 years ago, television launched a series called Star Trek, in which the crew of the starship Enterprise promised to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” Three decades later, the fictional starship has discovered hundreds of new life forms and civilizations. As the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead might have noted, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” But in its three-decade jaunt through the galaxy, the program’s philosophical message has remained constant: that there is no personal God—at least, not the God of biblical revelation. Today, Star Trek is nothing less than a cultural icon. The Star Trek franchise has churned out seven movies and three spin-off TV series, all of which are still on the air. According to the New York Times, 13 Star Trek novels are sold every minute. Tens of millions of Star Trek fans around the world have been exposed to this 31-year-long outer-space philosophy lesson. And what is that philosophy lesson? Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, grew up in the Baptist church. But eventually, Roddenberry writes, he decided that “the concept of God was too great and too encompassing to be explained and appreciated by any single system of belief.” Late in life, Roddenberry came to believe that “relation to God as a person is a petty, superstitious approach to the All, the Infinite.” Roddenberry’s personal religious philosophy is fleshed out in the program he created. For example, Roddenberry filled the flight deck of the Enterprise with crew members from alien cultures, each possessing a fully developed alien religion—and all presented as equally valid. Another example is the 1989 Star Trek movie, The Final Frontier. In this film the Enterprise travels to a planet described as the “place where all the questions of existence can be answered.” Here, the crew believes, they will finally find the real God. But after a long and difficult trip, what the crew discovers is not God but a malevolent being imprisoned in a globe of energy. After the crew escapes, one character asks Captain Kirk: “So is God really out there?” The captain answers by tapping his chest and saying: “Maybe he’s not out there. Maybe he’s right here in the human heart.” Theologian Stanley Grenz, writing in Leadership Journal, says Star Trek spirituality emerges from a postmodern mind-set that has “given up the quest for a universal, ultimate truth”—a mind-set where all human interpretations are equally valid because all are equally invalid. In other words, because no one can know anything for sure about God, we might as well create our own belief systems. Of course, as Christians we know we don’t have to settle for this subjective, postmodern mush. When our kids sit down to watch the latest Star Trek spin-off, we need to remind them that our God is both transcendent and immanent—that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father and also living within us. Rodenberry’s Captain Kirk character was wrong. There is a God, “right here in the human heart”— but He is also the God “out there,” Who is objectively real. And knowing this, God is an adventure the crew of the Enterprise has missed.


Chuck Colson


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