The Twilight Zone God

I’m sort of a nerd. I haven’t always been that way. I grew into it. I’m not ashamed of the fact.

I have always enjoyed movies. But when I was younger I didn’t care much for black & white films. I was entirely disinterested in Science Fiction.

I actually laughed at my dad when I caught him watching Star Trek in the living room. Not anymore. No sir. Not anymore.

Today I enjoy reading theology books and contemplating the mysteries of the universe. When I want to wind down and detach from the world a bit, I watch a sci-fi film. I like to feel like I’ve entered another dimension of reality. It’s therapeutic and stimulating all at once. I told you I’m a nerd.

I have especially grown to love Rod Serling’s TV episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959-64). There are so many theological and ethical messages that are nicely illustrated in the original series.

The original Star Trek episodes are of the same sci-fi strata.

In the future, I’m gonna use some old sci-fi to help us rethink God in Christ.

I’ll begin with the last five minutes of “It’s a Good Life” (season 3, episode 8) from The Twilight Zone.

A little boy named Anthony has divine powers that are wreaking havoc on everyone in his world. He does some really bizarre things. The neighbors witness him create a three-headed gopher and kill it because he can. When he gets angry at people for the slightest reason, he makes them disappear.

He even turns someone into a jack-in-the-box before sending them to the “corn field” never to be seen again. Right before he makes it snow on the crops in the middle of summer, destroying the harvest.

Anthony doesn’t even allow people to think bad thoughts about him. So his parents and neighbors all try to convince each other that Anthony is really good after all. They dare not question the justice of Anthony, or else.

He can do it because he’s Anthony. And it’s The Twilight Zone.

I think this episode epitomizes the idea of some really bad pop-views about what God is like. Some call it Calvinism. I call it The Twilight Zone God.

Don’t you think it’s time for someone to knock some bad theology over the head? Isn’t it time that we seriously consider how Christ is the full revelation of God? Let’s say “No” to The Twilight Zone God

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

* This post inspired Greg Boyd’s message: Escaping the Twilight Zone God.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

14 responses to “The Twilight Zone God

  • Tim Chisolm

    i can hear the music and Serling’s voice introducing this episode.

  • jimpuntney

    Within the family of man, and especially what many refer to as ‘church’ there is the ‘Unknown God’. The amazing aspect of this is how much folks talk about Him. I like to call this the ‘elephant in the room’. Often we talk about the elephant, yet not to the elephant.

    I fully agree bro it’s high time to unlearn what we think, and relate what we know.

    I also get a kick out of how you ‘see’ via sci-fi.

  • Pat

    Great Post David! Enjoyed the video. Thanks for sharing.

  • David D. Flowers

    Hey Jared, would you like to see my list of books to read? My point with this post was not to systematically dismantle Calvinism. But I should think that you know exactly what I’m addressing in this post and how it confronts many common Calvinistic perspectives.

    • jaredcburt

      David, I guess my problem is that the post seems to trivialize Calvinism as though it were not a respectable theological position. There are different strands, of course, of Calvinism. I may not have a problem had you said “hyper-Calvinism” or something along those lines. But you just said Calvinism and then called it a “pop-view of God.” Calvinism may be many things, but certainly not a pop-view. “The New Calvinism” has grown more popular over that last several years, but the fundamental beliefs dates back to Augustine (or Paul? or Jesus?). When I think of pop-culture I think of the newest, latest, fad. What does seem faddish, however, is the notion that God must (i.e. required to) love everybody equally or He is not good and worthy of worship. This is a god made in our own image.

      • David D. Flowers

        Jared, I suppose if I were teaching a theology class, or giving an exhaustive treatment of the subject, I would have given all of the history behind Calvin’s ideas, going back to Augustine, and made distinctions between those who hold some form of Calvinism today. I can’t do all of that in a short piece to stimulate the thinking of busy readers.

        So, I generalized a “pop-view” that is rooted in Calvinism, to be sure. This video doesn’t drift too far from the sort of things I have heard from Edwards, Piper, Mohler, etc. about God. This is what has become the “pop-view” today. It’s what many a man on the street think about God. Even during the time of the production of this Twilight Zone episode.

        Origen (3rd cent) came before Augustine (5th cent). And Origen would have scoffed at the original Calvinistic interpretation of predestination… and certainly at the “New Calvinism” of the 21st cent.

        So, I wouldn’t call it “faddish” to propose that God loves everyone equally and that Christ desires all people to enter the Kingdom, or that God’s work in creation is always loving. He doesn’t do whatever he likes because he can. That’s not power or sovereignty that looks like Jesus.

        The counter-arguments to Calvinistic proof-texts are much better than those given by Calvinists to argue that God doesn’t love the whole world. I know we disagree on this, and that you already know it, but I must say that I’m appalled at all forms of Calvinism. As Boyd has remarked on several occasions, I can understand how someone can come to those conclusions, but I don’t know how anyone could like it.

        For me it’s really simple. The god of Calvinism isn’t the God we see in Jesus. Period.

  • Gioia Morris

    The TULIP used to be one of my most favourite “flowers” in the field. I loved the way it made me feel – I liked it’s smell – I found a lot of comfort and truth in this flower… today – I don’t have one favourite flower any longer. I see each flower for it’s unique qualities and can see some beauty and truth in most of them because each one has an ability to reflect some very small and sometimes minuscule part of the Lord 🙂
    At one point in my life I thought this flower was my identity – today I realize it’s in the creator of the universe…

  • Cindy Skillman

    That was creepy. To be fair, though, I’ve never personally met a “Calvinist” who fully believed in double-predestination. (Though I’ve met them on-line.) Growing up, all I ever knew about Calvinism was that:

    “Baptists believe in once-saved, always-saved. They call it predestination.”

    Most of my friends had never heard of Calvinism, and even fewer had heard of Arminianism. They’re a mixed group — some Calv background and others Arminian. The Calvs seem to know a bit more than the Arms, but that’s probably just my own wee microcosm.

    They have heard now, since I’ve told them a little bit about these two views, but it surprised me that they needed telling, even though I myself only learned about any of this in the past year or two. Honestly, most of us haven’t got a clue!

    I’ve gone to Arminian leaning churches my entire life and for most of my life I attended regularly. And I’m in my 50s. Why did I not learn any of this until I quit going to church? This still mystifies me. Most of the people I know are sort of Calv/Arminian, which you can only ever be (imo) if you don’t understand the views and/or don’t think much about them. Or you could be a Christian universalist or an annihilationist, and accept some tenets of both theologies and just drop the ECT.

    Although (sorry — I can’t resist) if Anthony had just quickly and painlessly torched his opponent, it wouldn’t have been a lot better. Maybe it would have been worse.

  • taylormweaver

    I understand what you are getting at, even if some of the previous readers do not and see this as a mischaracterization of Calvinism. Whether the general populous identifies themselves with the term (ha! doubt it. Most do not have the slightest idea of what Calvinism is), they do identify with a rather simplistic view of God as some sort of omnipotent micro-manager. I believe you may have shared recently a great post by Greg Boyd that spoke to the same problem. It is a fad, and it is a serious problem. Whether or not it is the “correct” view of God is not even the main problem, in my opinion. The major problem is that Christians do not often even think about their theological views or presuppositions. They may talk the Christian language and use this language during times of tragedy, but they are not fluent in the discourse. God is ambiguous, and if one substituted “Fate” or “destiny” in his place nothing would really change…

  • Jepne

    I am glad to read that something good came out of ETBU. I spent some wonderful time there in the music department.

    I enjoyed the clip from Twilight Zone – at first I thought it was the grown man who was representing God in your view.

  • David Marshall

    From one nerd to another (I’ve had Mario and Zelda bedsheets ever since I was a baby, and I still use them; no shame), I appreciate your love for the Twilight Zone and Star Trek (I’m an SW guy myself, but that’s neither here nor there) and your love for revealing God’s true way of Jesus. I shared this on my Facebook, and I can guarantee it’ll lack any major activity… but that’s okay. I don’t share stuff to get a response. I share stuff because it makes me think, and I want to make others think. Blessings, brother!

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