Time Travel Theology

When I was a child, I was raised with PBS as a major source of media in our home. Being that I grew up in the north, PBS involved a great deal of British programming. I became well acquainted with British wit and drama at an early age, and have been forever grateful for it. My mother was also a Trekkie, and so it was a natural conclusion that I would become a science fiction fan. This love of sci-fi led to British programs such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Dr. Who. I’ve found that appreciation for British culture in America is almost seen as some sort of higher literacy, somehow not for the average person, which a shame. When Hitchhiker’s Guide was released in its recent incarnation as a motion picture, I went with a close friend that is younger. She had several college friends with her. Out of a group of 8 or 9 of us, myself and one other person laughed. The rest just looked confused. That’s just tragic.

As happens frequently with great story concepts, BBC began a modern continuation of the saga of Dr. Who a few years ago. In today’s age, the special effects are present to do the epic story lines justice, but, as with most British media, the story is at the heart of the production…it doesn’t rely on eye-popping visuals. This is what I love about Dr. Who: the mind-bending plots steeped in time-travel theory, as characters pass themselves in the past and irrevocably alter the future…how an event that inexplicably occurs years from now is tied to the character’s actions during a trip 100 years into the past that in turn causes something to happen today…the paradox, the fact that the timeline melds into one big sphere instead of a linear progression.

While I could spend a lot of time writing about the Christological metaphors that saturate the current incarnation of Dr. Who, I really am fascinated by this transcendent view of time that is presented here, because I really think that it effects one of the oldest debates in the history of theology: how much of our existence is God’s sovereignty, and how much is our free choice?

Depending on where you fall in this continuum of perspectives, your worldview can be dramatically altered. Great harm ends up resulting from the debate, as everyone seems to come out with an “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality…the tragic flaw of all theology. I think, though, that much of our misunderstanding of this (because, at the end of the day, I think we’re all wrong) is, at its core, a misunderstanding of time. Or, rather, a confined perception of it. As finite humans, we see time from a linear perspective: we’re born, we grow, we live, we die, we go to eternity. Now, if God gives us freedom when He creates us in His image, then He gives us the freedom to make choices. Yet, if He is omniscient, then He already knows the future and knows what choices we will make, so does that mean that they’re really our freedom of choice…you see how this gets complicated. But what if the issue at hand is, as Krista Tippett points out, simply that God views time differently than we do? After all, He created the concept, right? It stands to reason, then, that God stands outside of it, not seeing it as a linear creation as we do, but rather spherically, intertwining, everything dependent upon what precedes and follows it….just like good time-travel theory in sci-fi shows. That being the case, then God does see our future of decisions, just as He sees us pondering them now, and simultaneously in our pre-ponderance (is that a word?) of yesterday, all at once.

It either takes the wind out of the whole debate, or it confuses everything further, I’m not sure which. As headache-inducing as it is, though, I think its worth considering.

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