What Has the Trinity to do with a Warp Drive?

If a person wanted to read the whole Bible, it would take them about 90 hours to complete. If they wanted to watch every episode and movie of the Star Trek franchise it would take 530 hours to complete. There are groups of people who have done both, and both groups have questions that arise from what they have read or seen. One question that those who have read the Bible often ask is, “How can we make sense of a God who is one, and yet also three? What are we to make of the biblical story saying there is only one God and then saying that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Spirit if God?” On the Star Trek side of things there are also lots of questions that the show raises. One that could be asked is “How does the warp drive engine work? What happens that allows the spaceships to move so quickly through space?”

You may be scratching your head (or your beard if that is your preferred method of cogitation) and wondering what does the Trinity have to do with the warp drive? On the surface, they have nothing to do with each other, but there is a connection between the type of question that is being asked about both. How is God one and three? How does the warp drive engine allow the Enterprise to travel so swiftly? I want to submit for your consideration, that while these questions can be entertaining to attempt to answer, they are not necessary to answer. In fact, they are both impossible to answer and for the same reason. I won’t give that reason away yet, but keep reading and I suspect it will make sense.

Let’s start with the warp drive. In case you are not aware of what this is, it is the engine that makes the spaceships go extremely fast through space so that people can travel all over the universe. If you were to watch all 530 hours of Star Trek episodes you would undoubtable come away with the knowledge that the ships have warp drives. You see the engines at times, people talk about the engines, and the ships move through space real fast. There is no question that in the Star Trek universe warp drives are real and they work. Now imagine that you went to a Star Trek convention (yes, there really are conventions of Star Trek fans) and asked a simple question, “How does the warp drive work?”

You might be surprised to find that not everyone there agrees on how it works. If you Googled the question, you would find many sites attempting to answer the question of how the warp drive works. You would also find that no one really knows how they work. You might be puzzled that no one in the Stark Trek fan base has been able to answer this question. But there is a simple reason why they cannot answer the question. If you re-watched all 530 hours of shows, you will find out that the writers never completely explain how the warp drive works. They give hints so that we can rule out certain options, like it runs on diesel fuel or hamsters on treadmills, but they never answer the question how it works? This can be expected in a science fiction show since much of the technology is on the fiction side of things. That is not my point however, because from a strict story telling standpoint, the reason you do not know how the warp drive works is that they never told you how it works. Plain and simple.  Now let’s move to the Trinity.

If you were to read all 90 hours of the Bible (and you should do this over and over) you will come to the conclusion that there is one God. This can be seen in places like Deuteronomy 6:4 and James 2:19. You will also discover that the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. As you read the gospels you will be confronted with the Son (who is God) praying to the Father (who is God) and both the Father and the Son sending the Spirit (who is God). From this you will conclude that there is one God, and somehow this one God is three persons. This is fairly straightforward and does not take much mental gymnastics. Our struggle starts when we move from this simple statement that is derived from Scripture and attempt to answer how this works. How is God both one and three.

The church has done an admirable job of explaining that God is one essence in three persons. We can see this from scripture. All three persons are fully God and they are distinct from each other, but they are also each fully God. One essence (deity) in three persons (Father, Son, Spirit). What the church has not done, has never attempted to officially do, and I submit, cannot do is explain how the Trinity works. And the reason we can’t explain this is the same reason we can’t explain how the warp drive works: The Bible never told us how God is triune, only that God is triune.

Let me put it another way. There are “is” questions and “how” questions in theology. On the issue of the Trinity, an “is” question would be “is God triune?” To answer this question, we read the Bible and come away with the answer that indeed God is triune. We then ask a “how” question, “Since I Know God is triune, how does this work, how is He triune?” At this point, no amount of reading the Bible will adequately answer that question because the Bible does not answer that question. The Bible will show us that one God is Father, Son and Spirit, but how this works is not revealed. In the same way, Star Trek informs us that warp drives exist and work, but it does not tell us fully how they work.

Now, to be sure, both Star Trek and the Bible give us enough information to rule out certain answers to how each works. For instance, if you watch Star Trek you will know that the warp drive is not powered by diesel fuel or tiny hamsters running on treadmills. Likewise, if you read the Bible, you will reject ideas that say the one God plays three roles, but that there is no real distinction between each person (Father, Son, Spirit). This doesn’t work because in the Bible we read that the three persons talk to each other and exist at the same time. The wrong ideas about “how” God is triune have been rejected by the church, as well as all ideas that say He is not Triune. In the same way, if a person said warp drives do not exist in Star Trek the loyal fans would reject that person as soundly as Athanasius rejected Arius (Google both guys if you don’t get the reference). If a person said the warp drive runs on diesel fuel the fans would reject that idea just like the Nicene Creed rejected Sabellius’ view of God (again, Google is your friend).

So you see, there is a connection between warp drives and Trinitarian theology. The connection is that both canons (the shows for Star Trek and the Bible for Christianity) answer the “is” question, while leaving the “how” question unanswered. So I would encourage you to take comfort in knowing that some theological conundrums need not be answered, and in fact, our quest to answer them can lead us to unfortunately reject the “is” answer because we can’t answer the “how” question. But you see, you can’t answer “how” if the author doesn’t tell you, and the Bible has not told us “how” God is triune, but it clearly tells us that God “is” triune.

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