A Wrinkle In Time and the Everlasting Conflict

If you have (or had) young children, you will understand the horror and mini panic attacks that pursue a parent every night right around 7:30 pm. The children have had a full day of eating, drinking, watching television, playing far too many video games, and hopefully learning something, and now it’s time to begin the bedtime routine. For some of you, perhaps even reading the previous sentence elicits anxiety that starts in the pit of your stomach and makes its way slowly up your spine. You and your spouse look at each other with a knowing expression, and you both know: this will not be easy, it will not be fun, but with luck, it will end before midnight, and without someone dialing nine one one.

We’ve had several nighttime routines over the past few years, and we are always tweaking things slightly to help improve the overall experience (this has yet to work, but hopefully, one day, we will get there).

Recently we began a new routine of reading a chapter book right after we’re in bed. We’ve read plenty of books in the past, but we felt that Nathan was old enough now to begin some material with a little bit of depth. I can’t quite remember what made me select A Wrinkle In Time. I remembered reading it in high school and liking it (not as much as the person who recommended it to me, but that’s another story). I am an absolute sucker for anything that involves space or time travel, and recollected that it had something to do with one or both, so I thought we would give it a go.

A Wrinkle In Time follows main protagonist Meg on an adventure through (you guessed it) space and time to save her father, who disappeared years earlier. Coming along on her adventure is her brother, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe, a friend of Megs. Charles Wallace, we learn early on, has some strange powers that aren’t entirely explained. He’s able to “listen” to people and things and gain information that a normal human couldn’t get. Somehow, Charles Wallace has come into contact with three “beings”, appearing as kindly old ladies. These ladies, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who, proceed to tell Meg and Charles Wallace that they know where their father is, and they need to leave immediately in order to save him. Meg and Charles Wallace are taken throughout the universe via a form of travel known as tessering. On their travels, they meet several strange creatures, and are also informed of an entity known as “The Black Thing”, which is essentially an evil blob that is taking over the universe.

/spoilerOn They eventually find their father and defeat The Black Thing. Oh, and the old ladies are witches, but are also celestial beings that look like centaurs that have existed for billions of years and were born from an exploding star. /spoilerOff

Overall, it was a fun read. Nathan enjoyed it, even though I think he was a little lost at some points. There are a few spots where they discuss the theory of tessering and other things that got a little complicated. Nathan seemed to connect with Charles Wallace, probably because they were a similar age, even though Charles Wallace does not act in any way like a seven year old.

What did catch me off-guard, and what I didn’t remember at all, was the extremely Christian overtones in the book. The witches tell Meg and Charles that Jesus is one of the beings who has been fighting IT (a physical manifestation of The Black Thing), and the book quotes several scriptures as well. As I dug into the history of the book, I found that it has remained controversial over the years since being published in 1960 (although less so nowadays). There are several reasons for this: 1) Some thought that the book was admonishing witches by including the old ladies, 2) While the book does have Christian themes, it also seems to suggest that several other people (Gandhi, Einstein, and Buddha) are in some way equal with Him, 3) It’s suggested that the book attempts to overlap science and faith, which some think are at odds with one another.

To the first point, I think I would simply reference books from other Christian authors such as C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien. I didn’t find anything in this book so different than series such as the Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. I would say there may be some ground since books such as the ones I listed are purely allegorical, and do not reference Jesus directly, whereas this book does. To the second point, I would say that there is some merit to the argument. While the book does quote verses from the Bible and hold it in high regard, it does tend to lump Jesus in with other historical figures, and I understand that future books even do this to a greater extent.

L’Engle, the author, finds herself in an all-too-common predicament. Her book is “too religious” for some and “not religious enough” for others (I’ll let you decide which group of people falls on which side). Of course, this is all very predictable. When has religion never been a controversial issue, especially as it relates to science? However, I think she can rest well, seeing how this controversial seems to have skyrocketed the success of the book (as controversy tends to do).

The third issue, I think, warrants some discussion, as I feel this is something that is poorly understood by many. There’s certainly nothing new about the conflict between science and religion. I think the first time this hit home for me in a major way was when I was watching The Planet of the Apes (the 1968 release, not the one that my ex-favorite director Mr. Burton created). Near the end of the movie, it’s discovered that the main antagonist of the film is trying to hide some “unfortunate” findings in a specific area known as The Forbidden Zone. The characters in the film do eventually make their way to this area, and are chased down by several of the apes. That’s when Dr. Zaius, a prominent religious figure, makes his bold claim, “There is no contradiction between faith and science… true science!”. His entire belief system is debunked in the next few moments of the film.

The reason these things have become at odds is relatively clear. In the past, when people saw something they could not explain though natural means, they would attribute the phenomena to God (i.e. when there was a storm, Zeus was hurling down lightning bolts from the sky). This is something that is done less and less today, but I believe this is likely where the rift, in part, began. It seems, as well, that non-religious scientist still believe that theists still hold this type of belief. However, this is not the case for the wide majority of God-fearing people.

Some people see science as removing God from the equation, i.e. the more we understand about the world, the less we need God in it. Others have postulated, however, that there is another definition of science, which can defined in short as the discovery of the laws and designs God has put in place in the universe.

Let me turn to Dr. John Lennox, who has devoted much of his life to clearing up this dilemma. He states the following:

The more we discover of the universe, the more we come to admire the God who created it that way.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dr+lennox

People such as Dr. John Lennox and C.S. Lewis provide us with answers on why science and religion do not necessarily have to be mutual exclusive. Their claim is that people should expect science to “work” because they expect law and order in the universe. If the universe is here by accident, and is the result of a series of random events, then why should we expect any type of order or foundation?

Here’s another quote:

C.S. Lewis’s comment on it is very apt: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.” In other words, far from their belief in God hindering their science, it was actually the motor that drove it. So I’m not remotely ashamed of being both a scientist and a Christian, because arguably it was Christianity that gave me my subject. That was your first part of your question. I don’t think there’s a conflict.

https://www.biola.edu/blogs/think-biblically/2019/can-science-explain-everything

Dr. Lennox claims that Scientists should fully expect to discover laws, design, and other intricacies in nature, and believing in a being who put those things into motion will only aid the scientist in their study. It’s no secret that we are continually discovering how complex the universe is (not to mention our own bodies). The idea of something coming from nothing and somehow creating this world seems to be drifting further away as we continue to make more discoveries.

Dr. Lennox does not stop at merely discussing the universe, but goes on to discuss something much more personal: our own brains, and the very basis of logic and rationality. He states that he has many conversations with other scientists that go a lot like this:

“You mean my brain?”

“Yes, I mean your brain. You do science with your brain. Well, tell me the story of the brain.”

“Well do you want the long story or the short?” I say, “The short.”

“Well, in short, the brain is the end product of a mindless, unguided process.”

And I look at them and smile and I say, “And you trust it?”

https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Intellectually_Fulfilling_Faith_Lessons_from_C_S_Lewis_page4

If you are interested at all in this topic, I highly recommend that you watch this video where Dr. Lennox does an excellent job of summarizing his views.

If you have questions or want to talk to me about any of these things, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

One last note: it’s clear that these are difficult and challenging issues. I think the right way to approach these things is with dignity and respect for your fellow man. Every one of us is attempting to figure out their place in this world. This is the hardest task in this life that we all must undertake.

Read On, my dear friend.

By Steve Bongiorno

I write about gaming, books, faith, and family.

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