Star Trek Vs. The Bible

A friend and I were arguing a few weeks ago over coffee.  “Oh Star Trek,” he said, “the show where people just magically show up to work with no money and no incentive.”  I tried telling him about replicators and how the goal of humans in the Star Trek universe is to aggrandize themselves and a whole bunch of other things that made me sound, in his ears, like a pimply faced nerd wasting away in my parents basement watching Star Trek reruns ad infinitum.

For some reason, I just had to score a point for Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek).  I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie in any proper sense and neither would a proper Trekkie. I more so believe that Star Trek and its philosophy are incredibly important and influential.  So I told my buddy, “I think that the two most important opposing viewpoints of the contemporary world are the canon of scripture and the canon of Star Trek.”

He looked at me sideways, demanding an explanation.  Many of my generation, and of older generations, have rejected Christianity for something else.  Some millennials who reject Christianity, opt for some sort of universalism or vague spiritualism.  These philosophies all have something in common, a metaphysical explanation.  Nietzsche called Christianity, “Platonism for the masses.”  I think this is a fair description and most monotheist and spiritualist hold beliefs quite similar to Plato – we are not seeing the whole picture with our senses, there is something ultimate behind and beyond it all.

So if Plato, Jesus, and Deepak Chopra all think along similar lines, what about Kirk, Picard, and Janeway? Both sides, one we could call Platonism and the other humanism, believe in going beyond what is immediately apparent.  However, Roddenberry wouldn’t call this a spiritual endeavor, but simply a human one.  We are not separated from the beyond by sin or the flesh. It is merely our own self set limitations that separate us from a greater existence.  The Star Trek universe doesn’t buy into the realm of forms, heaven, or nirvana, but instead buys into the universe itself, believing in the infinite possibility of a seemingly endless cosmos.

The whole argument between the two canons comes down to this.  Should we be striving for a better world, one where people work to better themselves, rather than earn a paycheck?  Or should we be improving ourselves in preparation for a wholly different, probably perfect, world beyond our senses?  These are, I think, the defining questions of our time.  This is also why everyone should be reading their Bibles and watching their Star Trek

 

Live long and prosper and God bless

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15 comments

  1. thinkingliketheancients · January 31, 2015

    Your friend’s comment shows he assumes everyone is lazy by nature. That if there was no need for money no one would ever work. Such is just not true. The need for a payday is a product of the modern world. Long before eight-hour workdays, paydays, health benefits, and glass ceilings, we lived in a world in which we worked for ourselves. We worked to live, and we learned for the sake of learning, not so that we could make more money. So, who is to say that one day we won’t go back to what we once had but in a more technical age? The need for exploration knows no boundary and, if anything, people will always be willing to jump on a ship and sail to the unknown for no cash. Give people and adventure, and they will take it without asking much. Funny you mention the bible as well. God is definitely someone that needing nothing at all, decided to get to work and create something new an innovative for no apparent reason at all. Isn’t that quite Star-Trekkian after all?

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    • jayfel354 · February 2, 2015

      It’s interesting if you think about it like that, God as the ultimate innovator. For some reason, most people assume that the future will be exactly the same or worse. It certainly could be. Or possibly people can learn to change, improve, and figure out how to live better lives. Maybe, we will find some of the answers, not in the present, but in the past. There’s just way too many possibilities to know for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thinkingliketheancients · February 2, 2015

        People are a strange breed. The only thing we can really count on is change. Echoes from today will become the past of the future, and yet it will be little like the period in which those future individuals will live.

        God as the ultimate innovator (and therefore the ultimate scientist) is indeed an interesting idea; perhaps by developing it we can breech the gap between religion and science some day. Certainly also in tune with Star Trek mythology. I have to show my face and say that the past indeed contains the answers for the future, although only in the fact that others have been through similar yet fundamentally different experiences. We can take advantage of that, and try to solve problems in the future a bit more effectively. After all, Newton could not figure out why gravity worked the way it did, just that it existed. Einstein formulated a concept that showed part of how gravitational pull affected light, somewhat explaining it. Science depends on the past to make itself better, why not religion and humanity as a whole?

        Maybe I am too much of a historian and too religious to see it in any other way; who knows.

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  2. Citizen Tom · February 1, 2015

    Interesting start for a blog.

    I expect you have already found that in the act of writing we learn. Putting our thoughts on paper forces us to contemplate the ideas we seek to write about.

    I was a high school student when Star Trek first came out. I think you describe ideology of Star Trek well enough. Christianity? Not so well. When you lumped Jesus with Plato and Deepak Chopra, that spoke volumes. Even if Jesus were not God, neither Plato or Deepak Chopra come close to the historic importance of Jesus.

    In some respects, the Bible is a complex work. At its core, however, the Bible is quite simple. God loves us, and He wants to free us from sin. To accept His gift of salvation, we have to love Him, and we demonstrate that love — give life to our faith in Jesus — by loving each other. Is that Platonism for the masses? No, and it certainly has nothing to do with Deepak Chopra.

    Christianity is a relationship with Jesus, not the esoteric philosophy of a Greek philosopher. Because they studied the Greek philosophers, the theologians of the Middle Ages made much of Plato. Because pride is in our nature, we elevate the importance of what we know. Thus, without fully considering the irony, those theologians brought the perspective of Greek wisdom to the Bible. See 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

    The Bible is best understood unfiltered by our own preconceptions. Instead of trying to understand the Bible from your own point-of-view, try to understand what each author was trying to say to the people to whom he wrote. When John wrote to his contemporaries, for example, what was he trying to say? Then consider the possibility that God guided John’s hand. At that point, I think you will begin to discover a more personal application.

    Please check out => http://citizentom.com/2009/03/11/dismount-your-donkey-at-the-summit/

    In particular, click on the link for THE MYTH OF TOLERANCE. That article references a philosopher you may find interesting, Peter Kreeft of Boston College.

    Be egalitarian regarding persons.Be elitist regarding ideas.

    The Bible contains the best ideas.

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    • thinkingliketheancients · February 2, 2015

      The personal is nice. I love the BIble, its complexities, and its intricacies. Yet, having read it in Ancient Greek, Spanish, and English, I find more value in the connections to Greek philosophy, which are extremely evident. The Bible is a philosophical treatise as much as it is a religious and historical one. One cannot avoid that. It doesn’t detract from belief, though, if you are indeed a believer, or from its historicity, if you are historian. I think perspective only adds to the value of a book that has withstood the test of time. There is little need to defend it as a religious text applicable to the individual soul when there are so many aspects to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Citizen Tom · February 3, 2015

        Since I do not read Greek, I admit you have the advantage of me. Moreover, I have to concede that because New Testament was written in Greek (common Greek as I understand it) the authors of the New Testament conveyed their message in a manner Greeks would have understood.

        In fact, I doubt we disagree. I doubt you think the point of the New Testament was written to convey to the Greeks a Greek philosophy. The New Testament often references the Old Testament, but references to Greek philosophers are rare, at best. And yet, because the New Testament was written in Greek at a time when Greek culture dominated, New Testament writers undoubtedly approached the task of writing the Bible much as Greeks would have done.

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      • thinkingliketheancients · February 3, 2015

        Well, it is a complex question. Let’s say what we have, first, in common. Biblical Greek is indeed κοινή (common) Greek. This is the Greek established by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE. This alone causes changes to Hebrew which, by the time the Septuagint is written down in Alexandria by Greek-speaking Jews about one hundred years later is quite changed. The New Testament, written down in the 1st century CE and compiled by Catholics in the 4th century is never conceived in Hebrew, but by Greek-Speaking Jew exiles that lived either in Alexandria or Constantinople. Thus, as we know it, the Bible was written by Greek-speakers who thought and conducted daily business in Common Greek. I also should say that direct references to Greek philosophers are rare indeed. That much we agree on.

        Based on that short timeline of Bible creation, one can only admit that the thinking in the Bible is neither Jewish nor Roman Catholic, it is filled with Greek metaphors, Greek culture, and Greek philosophy. Terms like charity, cultural ideas such as the caring for guests, terms like synagogue, catharsis, or Sanhedrin are also thoroughly Greek. It is harder for me to see how the Bible could not actually represent Greek philosophical thought. Indirect references to Greek philosophy, including quotations, are predominant. Further, the great schisms of Christianity through the 4-6th centuries were over philosophical issues related to the nature of God and the physicality of Christ, all Greek platonian ideas of the physical world and nature. From Exodus to Revelations (in every other language the book is called apocalypsis, which is the Greek name) Greek thought, culture, and philosophy, dominate.

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      • Citizen Tom · February 4, 2015

        There is a bit of the chicken and the egg here. Long before Greek culture existed men debated the nature of God. I think it is fair to say the New Testament was written in the context of Greek civilization and intended to be understood by men conversant in Greek and familiar with Greek philosophy. I just think it overstates the Greek influence to state it represents Greek philosophical thought. To my ear, that makes it sound like Jesus was one of the Greek gods. That’s why it grates a bit.

        Why was the New Testament was written? Once we answer that question, I don’t we can say the choice of the Greek language was accidental. Obviously, it would have served as the best choice in that part of the world at that time. Moreover, I suspect the Greek language also served as the best choice to convey the philosophy we now call Christianity.

        jayfel354 mentions the “platonic dualism of “flesh” and “spirit” to illustrate the dichotomy between our sinful/fleshly nature and our spiritual nature made anew in Christ.” Since I don’t read Greek, I don’t doubt I cannot fully appreciate the extent New Testament writers borrowed upon Greek metaphors, Greek culture, and Greek philosophy. Just the same, when translators translate the Bible, those are also the things they have to translate in order to convey across cultures the message of the Bible.

        I had not considered this before, but Jesus spoke Aramaic. When the New Testament was written, its writers had to translate what Jesus had said into Greek. Did the fact Jesus spoke Aramaic mean His was an Aramaic philosophy? When Jesus spoke, did He not have to borrow upon metaphors, cultural beliefs, and philosophical ideas familiar to Aramaic speakers? I wonder what it would be like to read what Jesus said in the actual words He used.

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      • thinkingliketheancients · February 4, 2015

        We can certainly go the chicken and the egg route. Greek philosophy as we know it is 5th century BCE. The Greek gods were part of an ongoing discussion in the Bronze Age. Certainly between 1600-1400 BCE. Even then, Abram (later to be known as Abraham) questions polytheism some 300 prior to this latest date. While Sumerian Abraham is around ca. 2000 BCE, the one-god movement does not really take hold until ca 1245 BCE, when the Israelites leave Egypt and take over Canaan. Even then, most other societies are polytheistic (except a small stint in Egypt with pharaoh Akhenaten, who was eventually murdered). I mean, really, one cannot say that monotheism is prevalent until the Hebrew religion is picked up by the Romans in 1 CE and made official in 3 CE. The debate over god you mention does not really begin to take place, Church and world wide, until 325 CE. When the Hebrews wrote the five books of Moses (Pentateuch) they had been in exile in a land that believed in polytheism for forty years; then, they arrived home to find a bunch of Greek-speaking Samaritans, had to learn the language, and become acquainted with the Hellenic gods. We have to recognize the influence they may have had, especially since they were writing down stories that had been passed down only by word of mouth and, because of the danger of their possible disappearance, needed to be preserved. The stories were diluted, at best, by the world around the Israelites who remained. It is not so much that Jesus was one of the Greek gods, or one of the Mesopotamian gods, but rather that he existed in a world permeated by these gods and, therefore, was influenced by them as well.

        I agree with your viewpoint on Greek being the best choice for a work like the Bible at the time the Old Testament was composed. Consider, also, that it was the common language of the period. In the 6th through 2nd centuries, the Greeks were the powerhouse of the world. Greek was the ‘common tongue’ of the people around the Mediterranean. Even in Egypt, were Greeks took over in the 4th century, the elite spoke the language. It wasn’t just convenient, it was necessary.

        I think jayfel354 is right. Platonic dualism, prevalent before the Israelites returned from Mesopotamia, in the form of Pythagorean beliefs, already existed. The influence, as you admit, had to be there. However, when it came to translation, there were a ton of problems, from small errors in print to the fact that Greek became a dead language after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. If it wasn’t for the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome in the 5th century CE (notice that is 200 years after the Catholic Church was accepted in Rome) we wouldn’t even have a proper translation to a Western Language until the Renaissance (1400-1600 CE). Even then, Greek had changed, Latin had changed. Meanings were lost, philosophies forgotten. No one was thinking Plato in Western Europe in the Middle Ages (except for the Muslims in Spain – ironically – and they were kicked out in 1492), let alone trying to identify what philosophy the Bible contained or drew upon. You’d be surprised how many translators just do a literal work and not worry about meaning. Meaning wasn’t really the purpose of translating ‘the word of god.’

        A good point on Jesus speaking Aramaic, I can tell you its philosophy was much like that of the Hebrews in Israel, which was linked to the Greeks. Gnosis (search for knowledge) was huge back then. As a subculture, Aramaic was just a reflection of its mother tongue. Ultimately, Jesus believed nothing far too different from what everyone else believed. Of course… that assuming you don’t believe Jesus was an Essene.

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      • Citizen Tom · February 4, 2015

        I go with the Bible meaning pretty much what it says. I suppose some would call me a fundamentalist.

        When I was 17, I read the “Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine, and that prodded me to become an agnostic for about 35 years. Marriage, raising two girls and an interest in history and current events brought me to the point I took the time to study the Bible seriously. I considered what the people who believe it say about it, and I considered what the critics say, and I came down on the side of the believers.

        What are Fundamentalist Christians? Yes. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Fundamentalist?s=t

        Fundamentalist Christians believe the fundamental precepts of the faith and regard the Bible as an accurate historical record. That does not mean we don’t believe the Bible contains metaphors, similes, parables, symbols, and so forth. Of course, the Bible contains metaphors, similes, parables, symbols, and so forth. When it come to how to interpret different parts of the Bible, there is a lot to debate. Yet where the Bible doesn’t offer metaphors, similes, parables, symbols, and so forth, what is the point of pretending that any exist?

        The real issue is whether Jesus died for our sins. Once we get past the point where we believe that Jesus did die for our sins, believing the rest of the Bible gets much easier (even where it does not contain metaphors, similes, parables, symbols, and so forth). We don’t have reinterpret the Bible just to fit the latest secular gyrations in “science.” We can take the Bible as being what it says it is.

        It seems to me you must have studied the Bible with more care than I, but you remain skeptical. Perhaps it would help if you set aside the academic perspective. Just consider one question for awhile. What other book does a better job of describing us as we are? Then consider how the answer relates to a metaphysical question. Given our condition, what do we need?

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      • thinkingliketheancients · February 4, 2015

        Well, I am a Mormon. I believe in the Bible and Jesus Christ, as well as in God. I just approach religion and the Bible from a more scientific perspective by virtue of my training as a Classicist, I suppose.
        Fundamentalist Christianity is interesting, I just fall on a different kind of believer category.

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      • Citizen Tom · February 4, 2015

        As an expert in history, I probably don’t need to tell you that some religions have taught and some still teach some awful things. Mormonism doesn’t seem to be such a religion. If what people believe makes a difference in how they behave, then Mormonism is tolerable. Mormons make good neighbors. Just wish we could agree on which books constitute sacred scripture. Shrug! We can tell people about our respective faiths, but neither of us can make someone else believe.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thinkingliketheancients · February 4, 2015

        Indeed! 🙂

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  3. jayfel354 · February 2, 2015

    I find that being elitist regarding idea, as Dr. Kreeft suggests, is a good way to instantly stifle dialogue between opposing parties. This is not to say that you need to suspend your own belief in the name of tolerance, but elitism is more of an attitude than an idea and nothing makes people want to listen to you less than a bad attitude.

    I am very well aware of Kreeft (particularly through his Fundamentals of the Faith and Socratic dialog series) and his particular brand of Catholic apologetics (I say Catholic and not Christian because I don’t think you can get the full weight of Kreeft without being aware of his Catholic background). While Catholic apologist of this sort do an incredible job of defending their beliefs, they are often difficult to converse with, since they usually refuse to acknowledge in the slightest that any of their points could possibly be wrong. However, this is not merely Christian thing. I’ve met many radical atheists, feminists, and positivists that think along similar lines.

    Platonic thought was not a medieval addition to Christianity. Some secular thinkers have posited that Jesus, himself, was directly influenced by Platonism. I was never convinced that this was the case, but it would explain why Paul found it easy to adopt certain Platonic dualism when explaining Christianity. For example, Paul used the platonic dualism of “flesh” and “spirit” to illustrate the dichotomy between our sinful/fleshly nature and our spiritual nature made anew in Christ. While Plato’s dualism of flesh and spirit thought the flesh, or more specifically matter, to be ontologically evil, the christian dualism held that the flesh is merely corrupt and that matter is redeemable through the incarnation. I am missing a ton of theological nuances that different sects of Christianity couldn’t even agree on, but I think this is a fair overview.

    One small point of my article was that Christianity wasn’t esoteric. It took the complexities of the greek attempt to escape from the banal world before our eyes and made it something in which any person could participate. it made it personal and universal, hents Nietzsche’s phrase, “Platonism for the masses.” Does this mean that the two philosophies are not very different in many respects, of course not.

    Really, my simple article was just trying to say that the battle for western culture is being waged along lines of metaphysical philosophies versus humanistic philosophies. I’m not too sure if Peter Kreeft would disagree.

    Should Jesus and Plato be mentioned along similar lines in the same breath? Probably, people have been doing it for a centuries upon centuries. Plato’s influences on western society is incalculable. Should Deepak Chopra be included? Probably not – that was more of a joke.

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    • Citizen Tom · February 3, 2015

      Keep in mind that Dr. Kreeft suggests two things. Note what comes first.

      Be egalitarian regarding persons.Be elitist regarding ideas.

      Communication involves more listening than speaking.

      Kreeft is a Catholic. Every Christian or religious sect of any type thinks they have the Truth. Think about this quote from Thomas Jefferson.

      “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know. (from http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/jeffersons-religious-beliefs)

      Can Catholic apologists be difficult to converse with? As you suggest, I suspect that is more of a human trait than a purely Catholic trait. There is a reason “birds of a feather flock together.” It is comfortable; it is a comfort we all seek.

      As I observed in my reply to thinkingliketheancients, because the New Testament was written in Greek at a time when Greek culture dominated, New Testament writers undoubtedly approached the task of writing the Bible much as Greeks would have done. However, the New Testament revealed a starkly different philosophy, and the Roman Empire recognized that difference. The Romans did not persecute the Greeks; they adopted their gods and much of their philosophy. The Romans persecuted the Christians, sometimes quite ferociously.

      Is the battle for western culture being waged along lines of metaphysical philosophies versus humanistic philosophies? I agree with that observation.

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