I don’t usually do these daily prompt challenges, but this one caught my eye. Your local
geek habitat electronics store has started selling time machines, invisibility helmets and teleportation doors. You have enough money for one, but which one?
It got me started on thinking about some of the implications for my Christian faith.
A helmet of invisibility would, at a stroke, pull the rug out from under the simplistic materialist argument that if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Potentially a helpful (un)visual aid for talking about the spiritual. Then again, it rather ties in to the Islamic idea of the jinn rather than standard Christian doctrine of angels and demons. The jinn are more or less just like us, personality-wise, except non-corporeal. Angels and demons are moral and immoral beings respectively.
So perhaps not quite so useful. Also, the temptation to dishonesty would be immense. Theft, spying, public immorality and gossip are just the beginning. You’d need to sell those things with a “hold harmless” agreement.
Time travel would allow us to prove or disprove the contentions of so many churches that “the early Church did thus-and-so”. Whenever anyone says this, you need to read it as code for “We do thus-and-so, and this is our justification”. It would also be superb for Bible scholarship, though potentially embarrassing if we’ve been getting the wrong end of the stick for generations. We’d have the opportunity to go back and ask Paul exactly what he meant by “because of the angels” in that controversial passage on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:10). What the situations were that prompted this or that comment in the Epistles. The historicity or otherwise of the Deluge, Abraham, even the Exodus. Better still, we could go back and actually meet Jesus. Be an eyewitness of the crucifiction and resurrection.
It would be amazing. Still, we would almost certainly get a shock. It would test and stretch our faith to discover, for example, that Paul didn’t match our image of him. And as a witness to the crucifiction, you’d need a strong stomach.
It’s easy to sanitise the past. But some of the past really was brutal, and in all of it you need to be aware that they really did think differently on any number of points.
Which brings me to the teleportation door.
The implications for global missions are unparalleled. (Still, so are the implications for larceny. Open a door into the vault at the bank… It’s another device that would need proper ethical screens in any commercially-available variant.) Nowhere is unreachable. No more worries about plane tickets or hiking up into the mountains of Bongo Bongo. Even visas might become a thing of the past – how is a nation going to regulate who lives there when there are teleporters available?
Of course, it would have its down side, even for missions. It would be too easy. No need for cultural adjustment when you can commute to the field. Why bother? And if we don’t adjust our thinking and cultural expectations to more closely resemble those we are going to, we will naturally communicate a foreign Christianity that panders to foreign priorities and addresses foreign felt needs.
So I think that on reflection, I’ll just keep the money, thanks. Though if pushed to choose, I think I might be able to make better missions use of a teleport door than some people.