In God’s Good Time – An Analysis of Steins;Gate (Part 1)

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.

Playing God

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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General Disclaimer: Beneath the Tangles does not necessarily advocate the theological views expressed in any article labeled “Guest Post.”

While we are a Christian website, one of our goals here at Beneath the Tangles is to foster discussion with anime fans of all religions. We hope that you enjoy reading what our community has to offer and will consider submitting a guest post of your own. Remember, we welcome posts from all writers, regardless of their beliefs!

5 thoughts on “In God’s Good Time – An Analysis of Steins;Gate (Part 1)

  1. Great post here James. I haven’t read part 2 or 3 of this series of articles yet, but so far your writing style is refreshing and different. I enjoyed pondering if God is the one that is enacting justice to Okabe for time traveling….there are some things humans are just not allowed to mess with, and if we do nothing good comes from it. Changing the past is impossible, but we can change the future by learning from the past. In a way, we don’t time travel but we can certainly learn from time and become better from it.

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    1. Thanks, Samuru! The theme of humans suffering because they don’t have the sense to not violate the natural order of things is a favorite of mine that can be found in many stories. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park sums it up really well: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

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      1. Well sir I am waiting for part 3 ..
        Well Steins Gate 0(anime) is here ..You should really check that out ..
        And i think you will like the way the anime explained where you left at part 2..
        And if u have seen the anime already you can check my thoughts on the Steins Gate 0 opening lyrics ending part..

        There is n@ god, Wonderful New World ( the real meaning) [ Contains Spoiler ] ..

        Lets start then.. I think about the statement like this(Just my opinion,but carefully crafted after a lot of research and some discussions ) ::: ->

        In the alpha and beta world-line we already knew that the future is doomed, and how is that information obtained by Okabe? That information about the future is brought by the people who trying to “playing God” by trying to bend the space and time trying to change the past and the future (in this case it’s Okabe and friends(they were not doing it by choice) and another party from the future->Leskinen(well he was doing it arrogantly).

        Well u can check at these instants in the anime , these are the dialogues of Leskinen.

        Steins gate 0 episode 18 at 11:06 -> All so I could obtain the power of manipulating time.
        at 12: 38 -> Defy Casuality, overcome convergence , all so I can shape the ways of this world on my own .

        He basically brainwashed Kagari to make her believe that he is God (Well this proves who the opening Steins Gate was referring to by God, it;s not targeted to actual God but to those assume themselves as it , the arrogant one).

        Steins Gate 0 episode 21: at time 21:46 is where Okabe demolishes the so claimed “God” , and you know what the song plays at that moment , yes exactly this one->”Fatima-Steins Gate op” , not a coincidence right?..

        And now, why “There is n@ god”, because the conclusion of 0 story is to find a way to reach Steins;Gate Worldline, and when s;g worldline is reached by Okabe in original series, the world is free from all kind prophecy of the future (at least well we set aside s;g movie for a moment (it isn’t canon) ), no one should been able to foretold what’s going to happen anymore except the God Himself, not the people who “playing God”.

        So for me “There is n@ God” not aimed to the God, but aimed to the people who “playing God” (remember Okabe comment on Leskinen about Leskinen thought that he’s a God in ep 21).

        That’s also why “wonderful new world”, because when the conclusion is been reached, it’s a new world with unknown future (Okabe monologue in last episode of s;g when he reunites with Kurisu), so maybe the writer is implying to live the present of the new reality you hoped for (in this case it’s Okabe’s hope that both Kurisu and Mayuri can live along) to the fullest without worrying so much about what’s going to happen in the far future.

        Also the writer of S;G story himself(Naotaka hayashi) , has referred to God directly or indirectly at different places in the whole series, just look first line of the show in episode 1 of S;G , Okabe line when he is in the middle of argument with Suzuha in episode 1 of S;G 0 also and when Okabe arguing with Maho on rooftop in episode 16.(there are more)

        Also this writer of the song “Fatima-S:G 0 opening” ( Chiyomaru Shikura)also wrote the song Skylad Observer (steins gate VN opening,also plays at end of Steins Gate ep 23a) , the starting lyrics are like this

        –The world created by God is perfect and absolutely balanced.
        –It’s a confluence of small coincidences, stacked into an astronomical miracle.

        Also in the new Steins Gate 0 Ending 2 [World-line] by Asami Imai has the line:->
        Please don’t repeat the desecration of the Celestial God ( Taken from translation by Funimation Dub)

        Every single bad event or bad outcome in both Zero and the original is the product of time travel in one way or another, be it due to the lab members themselves digging themselves deeper within the Alpha attractor field, be it SERN creating a dystopia, any of the huge timeline manipulations that take place in Zero with the objective of placing one country above another, there are plenty of examples.

        So the world , the final Steins Gate timeline , is indeed created by God and it’s perfect and absolutely balanced . You try to mess up with it , and something bad happens . Also do you notice whats unique to the true happy Steins Gate worldline , it is the worldline in which humans haven’t messed up with time at all …. (The first time Okabe sent the Dmail was by mistake, and that lead to all this, ….amazing story indeed)..

        So in essence, the rebellion against God in the series are the abuses of time travel, but accomplishing the final goal even through using that very power ends up balancing order in the universe finally leading to an acceptable outcome. That’s the beauty in the story.

        Okabe is the hero here, he struggled so hard to erase every bit of anything related to time travel so that no one will be able to “play as God” anymore.

        So that is meaning of the statement ” There is n@ God ,Wonderful new World”
        So I don’t think the writer of the above song meant it in an Atheist way.

        But I agree the way its put up in the song is confusing and a normal viewer will think it like above.
        So I won’t be recommending this song to anyone though it has a deep meaning , but to any regular person it won’t make
        sense, he/she will misinterpret the end lyrics.

        But who knows what the actual truth is except God, that’s only my interpretation.. El ..Psy ..Kangroo

        **There’s a God, Wonderful Current World.**

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