Alpine Summit

Monday, May 01, 2006

Revelations on Revelation

Trackedback at: Common Folk Using Common Sense

For my New Testament class, the teacher had us compare the Book of Revelation to the Sci Fi genre of storytelling. I got a good grade on it, and found the exercise quite enjoyable. So, you all get to read what I wrote! It's pretty self-contained, though, so enjoy!

The reason the author or revelation (from here on to be referred to as “John”) would have chosen the sci-fi genre is because it provides for settings and situations outside of human experience to describe an all-to-human scenario. Many times, Sci-Fi is also used as a prophetic vision for the future—whether it is good or bad. One difference in Sci-Fi from the apocalyptic account in Revelation, though, is that of symbolism. Regardless of how sci-fi is used, the genre itself provides a much wider and deeper canvas for storytellers to express themselves.

An example of something John would have come up with if writing Sci-Fi in this time would be “Lord of the Rings,” or “LOTR” for short. It is the story of a society on the same land that has banded together—despite their differences—to destroy an ultimate evil. The idea behind LOTR is that everyone on the good side bands together to destroy the ultimate evil once and for all. Ironically, but keeping with a more biblical account, the least among them has the greatest task—to cast the source of evil’s power into a river of fire. LOTR has many fantastic creatures: some good (giant eagles), and some bad (orcs). Similarly, Revelation contains plenty of ‘fantasy’ in the form of dragons (12:3) and unnatural creatures (4:7).

Another Sci-Fi story would be “Equilibrium.” It is an apocalyptic piece about a society that has eliminated all emotion. The story itself concentrates a lot on how the society became the way it did. Paraphrasing one of the characters, he says: “its symptom is hate, its symptom is war, its symptom is sadness… by eliminating the dizzying highs of emotion, we have also eliminated its abysmal lows.” We learn the society is a result of accepting emotion as part of our policies in the world. It takes place after an extremely destructive war where only a select number of people survived for the ensuing “utopia” which turns out to be nothing of the sort. Revelation does this extensively in the first half of the book when writing the letters to the various churches. He follows their behaviors through to their logical conclusion and sort of plays a thought experiment asking “what if” to each church in the form of a message from God. By the end of the story in “Equilibrium” the corrupt society is destroyed, and the proper “emotions allowed” (i.e. “good”) society is reestablished for all time.

Where Sci-Fi may be lacking when compared to Revelation, is in the idea of symbolism. Revelation uses so much symbolism that it’s sometimes hard to understand exactly what John is trying to say will happen. One reason for this is that the terms were widely known at the time and the symbols were self-evident during the time Revelation was written.

Just like Sci-Fi, Revelation is a much more creative and attention-grabbing way of getting a point across than simply telling people things the author feels they need to know.