We’re excited to introduce the first post in a three-part guest series by James, a research associate with the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. He writes regularly at their website, tifwe.org, and a sample of his work can be found here. He wrote a series for us about the visual novel Planetarian in September 2014, so if you haven’t read that yet, check it out!
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[Note: this analysis is derived from the visual novel, as are the quotations. Huge spoilers below!]
The universe has a beginning, but it has no end. –Infinite.
Stars too have a beginning, but are by their own power destroyed. –Finite.
History teaches that those who hold wisdom are often the most foolish.
The fish in the sea know not the land. If they too hold wisdom, they too will be destroyed.
It is more ridiculous for man to exceed light speed than for fish to live ashore.
This may also be called God’s final warning to those who rebel.
If time travel ever actually came to exist (assuming it could), there would no doubt be some scholarly uses for it. Historians, paleontologists, and all manner of academics would leap at the opportunity to find out if the past is how they imagined it to be.
However, the vast majority of people would probably want to travel through time for more practical reasons: to see what the future is like, or to change something about the past—whether a personal tragedy or the existence of Hitler—and “set things right.”
The story of Steins;Gate revolves around this common desire, and masterfully deconstructs it. In the process it shows us a great deal about the nature of free will and our own hubris. Above all, Steins;Gate can be seen as a brilliant illustration of the truth that God, in his love for us, lays his plans for our benefit.
Those who want to change history almost necessarily have a great deal of self-assurance about their own judgment. Surely it would have been better if Hitler had never been born, yes? Or if those airplanes had never crashed into the World Trade Center?
From a Christian perspective, such confidence that history made a wrong turn somewhere is astoundingly arrogant. After all, it is written, “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:11), and “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). To profess a desire to change history is to say not only that God messed up in allowing things to happen a certain way, but that we know better.
The characters in Steins;Gate are well aware of this. When Okabe proposes using the PhoneWave to change the past, Kurisu accuses him of “trying to play god.” Okabe says elsewhere that the “forbidden fruit [of time travel] has the potential to grant us godlike power.” He reiterates this later in triumph after successfully changing the past with the lottery D-Mail: “We have the power of a god!”
By the end of the story, events have left Okabe severely chastened. As he reflects on the tragedies that have befallen him and his friends, he thinks, “Does time travel bring nothing but pain? We built a time machine out of curiosity. We were fools.” In Kurisu’s ending he says it is better for humans to be unable to travel through time:
Time travel is too much power for any human to wield. We don’t need D-Mails or time leaps. Even if nothing in the future is guaranteed. Even though I may die tomorrow. Life was never meant to be redone. And that’s fine by me.
Okabe recognizes some degree of justice in his suffering after the first attempt to save Kurisu in the true ending, wherein he himself is the one who stabs her to death:
This reality is too much to bear. But I realize that this is retribution, my just punishment for taking the godlike power of time travel and using it to distort the past.
But is this punishment being meted out according to some impersonal law of the universe, or is this indeed “God’s final warning to those who rebel”? And if God is at work, is punishment all he has to bestow?
(continued in Part 2)
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