The Three-Body Problem

There was much about Liu Cixin’s award winning The Three Body Problem, a hard science fiction (or perhaps we can call it SCIENCE fiction) novel, that was interesting. And I do mean much, but in the interest of brevity, I’m only going to focus on a few pieces, particularly since they integrate well with my specific interests.

I think this novel’s awareness of spiritual things is fascinating, though it paints those spiritual things in scientific colors. The driving force throughout the novel is a minority of the human race who has become convinced that humanity cannot solve its own problems and needs help from outside. This minority is a growing population that is working to pave the way for the alien invasion that will either utterly wipe out humanity or if not that then at least bring their advanced technology (which must make them more morally upright than we are) to set the Earth’s civilizations to right. Liu nails this truth of the human race. We can’t fix our problems on our own. We have ruined the world we live on and done irreparable harm to millions–perhaps billions–of people throughout our history, and so we do need help from the outside. But you want to know something crazy? The help already came. And though it came from the outside, it did so by becoming one of us and taking on all the messiness of a human body, all the dependence of flesh and blood, and redeeming it all.

In Liu’s postscript to the novel he writes,

The appearance of extraterrestrial intelligence will force humanity to confront an Other. Before then, humanity as a whole will never have had an external counterpart. The appearance of the Other, or mere knowledge of its existence, will impact our civilization in unpredictable ways.

Wow! Liu nails it again. An external Other, one who is distinctly not human, cannot help but change human civilization irrevocably. But where Liu is looking for an alien other to accomplish this encounter, the reality is that this world was fashioned by an Other who has been actively working throughout the ages of human history to accomplish a particular plan. Though the world was made through him and he has made his reality plain for all to see, the world no longer acknowledges his existence, and as one of this Other’s most ardent disciples notes, we have no excuse. And this Other? He’s the very same one who came in from the outside to take on humanity and by dying to put sin and Death to death. And by rising to new life, he brings us with him.

This quest for an external other is, I think, a deep-seated recognition that we were made for encounter with a Divine Other. In the depths of our souls we know we’re not alone in this universe (or in this multiverse if you prefer), but because we’ve taken God out of the equation we’re looking beyond the walls of the world for someone who is, in reality, near enough to hear our quietest whispers. We can continue to look beyond our solar system for an intelligent other–and we may just find it–but we don’t have to. The Other for whom and through whom and to whom we were made is waiting for us to call out to him, even if we cannot muster strength or breath enough to speak. He is ever near. And as another of his disciples once said, our souls are restless til they find their rest in him.

So let us all find rest in the One who is truly other, but also truly one of us.

His name is Jesus.

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