Many would define “God” as a powerful person who created the universe. While Biblical and historical Christianity agree with this description, they also portray God, as C.S. Lewis puts it, as “beyond personality.” Scripture identifies God as more than a person, but as truth and love itself. This raises the question: what do truth and love have to do with one another? In an unlikely way, the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Chosen Realm” answers this theological question.
God as Truth and Love
Before diving into the episode, let us examine the scriptures identifying God with truth and love.
When Moses asks God his name, He responds “I am that I am,” which people typically transliterate as Yahweh or Jehovah. This is more than a name, but how God chooses to describe Himself. Theologians interpret this phrase to mean that God exists fundamentally, without beginning or end, not depending on anything else. In this way, He exists as essential truth, and everything else that exists or is true, depends on Him as creator and copies His nature of existence.
In case it seems like a stretch to relate “I am that I am” with truth, Jesus further identifies himself, who is God the Son, as truth when he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Earlier in the same gospel account, Jesus refers to himself and to truth interchangeably in expressing what sets people free from sin.
The apostle John even more clearly identifies God as love twice in his letter to the churches. In the first instance, he writes:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4: 7,8)
John does not merely describe God as loving, but states that He is love. Like truth, it flows from God. It is His nature. If one participates in loving, they experience and know God.
With this scriptural background, let us turn to the Star Trek episode to see the reconciliation of truth and love.
As the Enterprise travels through a mysterious region called the Expanse in Season 3, the ship falls under the control of religious extremists. In many ways, the episode seems like a poor hit piece against Christianity and Islam, as it brings up and lumps together numerous hot-button issues like suicide bombing, religious war, creationism, opposition to abortion, abusive leadership, etc.
Of all the extremists’ failings, the show most emphasizes how the leader, D’Jamat, murders “unbelievers” and sacrifices his people’s lives to wipe out heresy. To emphasize the absurdity, they have been fighting a century-long war over whether or not the mysterious spheres in the Expanse were created in nine days or ten.
Throughout the episode, Enterprise Captain Jonathon Archer and D’Jamat criticize one another’s worldviews. While D’Jamat emphasizes truth, Archer focuses on the immorality of taking innocent life. The audience, of course, relates to the captain as we share the moral indignation over the religious zealotry. In a final conversation, they repeat themselves:
Archer: One of my crewmen is dead. Six others wounded. My ship is damaged.
D’Jamat: None of that is important. All that matters is the sacred truth.
Inseparable Truth and Love
Despite what presents itself as an over-simplified critique of religious people, “Chosen Realm” culminates in a profound theological paradox. D’Jamat upholds truth as most important, and given all his failings and the suffering they cause, the episode implies that his views are incorrect. Indeed, we relate to Archer’s perspective that what matters is not truth, but people, and we must treat them well. In other words, we must love all people.
Of course, when Archer upholds loving others as most important and necessary, he puts forth a truth claim. Consequently, the tension does not exist between truth and love, but between two truth claims:
- Everyone must believe the spheres were made in 9 (or 10) days.
- We ought to love one another, which at a minimum, means not killing them because they disagree.
While the second claim is obviously the correct one, the point remains that at least one truth will always be most important. Which truth? The truth that all persons have value which we ought to acknowledge and act accordingly, i.e. we ought to love all persons.
To clarify, this reasoning does not argue that all truth or every fact is identical to love. Instead, it prioritizes one truth over all others. As this truth says that persons have value that we ought to acknowledge, this truth itself values persons. This truth loves. The most important truth is love.
Next Steps with Truth, Love, and God
In summary, that which is fundamentally true is the same as that which fundamentally loves, which Scripture identifies as God. As the implications are plentiful and out of the scope of this blog post, I encourage you to check out posts discussing:
How the moral ideal must be a person (From I, Robot)
How God as love must be Trinity (From Plato’s Euthyphro)
How the Good News of Jesus logically flows from love being the most important truth
Of course, philosophy can only take us so far. Though the above reasoning begins to explain how love and truth relate to one another, no logical insight compares to the depth of understanding that comes from God’s revelation. Ask Him to reveal Himself as truth and love, and it will be more profound and more beautiful than any logical argument.
6 thoughts on “Finding Truth and Love in Star Trek Enterprise”
Thanks for highlighting this tension between truth and love. It reminds me of the Reformation-era maxim “In the essentials, unity; in the uncertain, liberty; in all things, love.” Allowing space for mystery and doubt for competing truth claims is critical to a life of faith, and no one is aware of this more than those who lived during violent religious upheaval. I haven’t seen this episode, but it seems Djamat learned this the hard way.
This also reminds me of the Deep Space Nine Season 2 episode “The Collaborator”. Multiple characters, all deeply religious, have to navigate their own paths between truth and love. And their choices all speak deeply about who they are and the character of their faiths.
Thanks! I’ll have to check out the DS9 episode.
A real blessing as always! We are called to appraise all things spiritually and you do a great job of that.
I understand this way of taking sci-fi or fantasy narratives. George Lucas as well as Tolkien have sometimes challenged me to consider theological issues – creationist as well as eschatological ones .
Agreed. There’s so much spiritual insight in Star Wars, it’s probably discussed in a third of my blog posts. It has especially challenged me on the concept of balance.