Sunday, November 23, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar: Where Man’s Best Theories Intersect God’s Best Story

some spoilers…...

“Love is observable and powerful. Love is the artifact that points beyond time and space.”

I took advantage of a holiday weekend rainy day to finally see the Christopher Nolen film, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey and a great cast. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie- almost 3 hours of visual excellence, heart tugging performances, and mind stretching narrative.

I have been impressed by the amount of work that has gone into the film, including using theoretical theorist, Kip Thorne, to keep the movie within the current thinking regarding black holes and the applications of relativity.

I  enjoy entertainment in the genre of science fiction. These stories allow us to dream of an improved future and subconsciously explore social issues of contemporary society. I especially enjoy storylines that blur time, space, and dimension; it prepares us to accept concepts that challenge everyday experience.

As a Bible-believing follower of Christ, it also puts me squarely into the never ending debate of science, reason, and faith. Whenever I seek to offer insight into spiritual applications of these beautiful stories, I am not attacking the credibility, excellence, experience, or intent of the story teller. I also do not claim any scientific expertise in these issues. I am merely offering an analysis of why these movies pull cords deep inside our quest for meaning and connection.

A trend in the debate surrounding faith and science is to separate scientific logic and reasoning from any part of faith. This view is sometimes referred to as NOMA- (Non-overlapping magisteria). In this ‘2-story’ model, ‘reason’ and ‘faith’ each have their own domains and the two do not overlap. Science and religion may co-exist… but they do not join together in human existence.

My initial experience with ‘Interstellar’ is that it serves as a loud rebuttal to NOMA. In a story inspired by some of the most exciting theories of science, the draw of the movie is that human beings explore and apply these theories within issues like love, trust, sacrifice, fatherhood, ethics, and survival.

In fact, the ‘stuff’ of science has little value apart from the realm of meaning and human relationships. Even the robots in the plot of this movie are programmed with human transcendent attributes of humor, discretion, and conversational communication of tone and emotion. The test tube particles of life always overlap with humanity and humanity always overlaps with questions of meaning, family, community, and survival.

In fact, what resonates in these movies is a connection to the greatest story that  is always in the background of human drama. If you asked me to explain the movie.. I wouldn’t talk about the science...even though it is SO COOL!

The basic storyline of Interstellar is a spiritual tale..

Faced with a world of decay, a father makes a loving sacrifice where he promises to return. It is a very difficult decision, but the survival and well being of his children and human beings requires him to take an action based on faith, hope, and love. His children are left with an equally difficult problem. In the father’s absence- can they hold onto hope..even when doubts arise about the faithfulness of humans to act within the bounds of integrity?

C.S. Lewis’s change from atheism to Christianity began with an observation by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien challenged Lewis to consider the Christian gospel as a foundational story to all the stories that Lewis admired and those were the ones that penetrated deep into his heart.

The gospel is what pulled me into this movie: a father’s love and his promise to return.

A few other interesting observations:

The Challenge of Communication Through Dimensions: The communication of unknown information is always a challenge. The limitations of the extra-dimensional "tesseract" meant that Cooper could only interact with Murph through what she thought was morse code, later discovered to be binary information that solved the problems to the equation that would later save the world. God Himself is challenged in revelation… How can the infinite be understood by the finite?  God’s path has taken place over time..He has chosen space, time, and history to reveal His nature through creation, his Son, and a divinely inspired written communication. When Cooper encounters Murph later in life, she says, ‘No one believed me”- but she held true to her faith that the communication was truth.

A Blight in Scientific Theory and Application: We all benefit from scientific discovery, But the movie indicates a ‘blight’ in science as deadly as any  disease that began destroying crops on the future planet earth. Man has presuppositional biases that can cause him to twist data and perpetuate untruths based on hidden agendas. Part of the problem in the planet’s ecosystem were decisions by a ruling class of elites who made important allocation of resources more on political pressure than on what was truly the best course for mankind. But a larger problem was that ‘good men’ knowingly changed scientific findings and data to sell a lie. Professor Brand lied in sending the interstellar crew and Dr. Mann lied to draw a rescue party to his location. Pure science does have a self correcting mechanism in place, but all of us worry about what perversions may be held in science based on prejudice, human error, and human fraud.

The Black Hole of Mystery: The power, mystery, and intrigue of black holes amazes all of us. The movie does an excellent job of keeping us awestruck by the black hole named Gargantuan. The crew continues to wonder at the power of Gargantuan and live in reverence and proper fear of a power where all things go and nothings escapes. The characters in the movie ask the proper question about the wormhole and the black hole…. WHO put it there?

A Privileged Planet: The movie captures another amazing fact.. the planet earth is one special speck in the dust of the cosmos. The location, and make-up of the planet to support life is rare and beautiful. Not only does it sustain life, it is placed as an observation deck to discover the beauty of its spectacular and privileged position. The social commentary regarding the dire position we would be in if we wrecked the eco-system in a great reminder of our responsibility to be faithful stewards of this treasure. I call on Christians everywhere to stand boldly in favor of those who have the heart to use good judgment and sound science in protecting what we have been given.


In the end, all stories that portray a shadow of gospel truth fall short of the beautiful truth of eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ. The glory of God shines in the sun, moon, and the cosmos. When we trust Him, we never find a condition where we cast off all hope and are relegated to live in lies.

Man’s best theories never solve life’s greatest problems. In this life, the players all grow frail and pass away. Not only do earthly fathers fail to keep promises, they only become ghosts and fleeting memories to those who continue to tread upon the spinning globe.

Something in us longs for a deeper truth. There is One who claims to have returned from the black hole of death and promises to take us to an eternal home. There are others who saw this and gave their life as a testimony to the truth of the claim.

We want to believe in extraterrestrial life as a hope to the decaying world of man. Yet, we don’t want to believe in the existence of God and, sadly, we resist the beautiful claims of life in Jesus Christ.

What story takes the greatest faith to hold on to?

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