Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You Can't Take the Sky From Me: Finding a Biblical Perspective in Firefly

Much could be said in the criticism of the works of Joss Whedon most especially when it comes to religion and Christian faith (River's scene with the Bible comes to mind). This won't be one of those articles as we're about building bridges here. I am willing to concede (as one of the articles states) some credit to Mr. Whedon for at least including a (seemingly) Christian faith in Firefly and having it play a large role.

Not to mention I love the show "Firefly."

If you haven't seen the show, go beg, borrow, buy or Netflix (haha, not steal!) the DVD box set, and watch the companion movie "Serenity."

Finished? Good.

Probably one of the best things about the show is that it is pretty realistic in some ways. Sure technology has advanced to an extent, but human nature has not. This show is an excellent example that no amount of technology can eliminate humanity's main problem - our sin nature.

Though I really like the show, one (of the many) things i wished they could have explored is religion and its role in the 'verse. There is a great opportunity to explore Christian faith in this series (one of the characters is a preacher, another is an apostate "Christian") I personally even think that though it's not obvious, a Biblical view of how God works can be discerned. Whether Mr. Whedon meant it to (or wants it to) or not.

The brief overview of religion in "Firefly" is this. Buddhism. Atheism. Some sort of institutionalized, Catholic-esque structure, run by the shepherds and somewhat respected by the Alliance (government) and regular folk. And some sort of immature Christianity, as practiced by one Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

The shepherd/Catholic-esque (Not to bash Catholics) structure could warrant further study. Whatever it is, it isn't necessarily Biblical Christianity, although they make use of the Bible. There are many examples of this, usually through something Book says, or the case of a shepherd sharing the Word with prostitutes only to take advantage of them for payment. In any event, like Christianity now, not all who minister within the shepherd structure are truly Christians.

Here are some interesting articles on faith as practiced in the 'verse.





How is it possible to get a glimpse of a Biblical model in this show of brigands, sinners and space hookers? Through Mal Reynolds of course. Ol' Capt. Tight-Pants spends pretty much all of the series in what appears to be an atheistic funk. The reality though, is that he seems to be more angry with God and cynical for "letting him down" than actually in disbelief.

The show opens in the midst of a civil war, the Alliance (core worlds with wealth) vs the Independents (the outlier worlds, with little wealth). The Alliance wants to control everyone's life, and the Independents just want to be. Mal is fighting in this war and hoping for a miracle. He kisses a cross necklace, perhaps indicating that he's praying to God and expecting God to hand him victory for the battle and the war.

His hopes are destroyed with the arrival of a massive Alliance ship force. The war is lost and so is Mal's faith in God. What Mal didn't seem to realize is that God is sovereign, not a cosmic vending machine. Something many Christians (including me) and even non-Christians sometimes fail to realize. The following passage highlights that God accomplishes His own will.

Ephesians 1:11

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Proverbs 16:1 - 4

1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. 2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. 3 Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. 4 The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Actually, the whole Bible is about God accomplishing His will, we humans can either choose to be part of it, or not. This article highlights many passages that specifically state God works out His own will.


Unfortunately for Mal, this means he ends up on the losing side of the war for independence. What Mal doesn't realize is that perhaps God had other plans for him. I wonder what would have happened had Mal's side won the war. In losing though Mal became captain of a spaceship. Had it not been for this, he never would have gotten a very important chance.

Enter passengers Simon and River Tam.

Long story short, the episodes of Firefly deal with Mal engaging in criminal behavior and sheltering the Tams from the law. During these adventures, his stance on God changes little, if at all. He does retain some moral code, as he takes odds with Inara's services as a sort of geisha (sometimes prostitute). Whether this is because of moral reasons, or he loves her could be debatable.

It's not until the movie "Serenity" that the captain really hits rock bottom (though losing the war would count too). He runs out of places to hide when the government sends an assassin to acquire River. Stuff happens, and Mal is left with nowhere to hide and no obvious option other than giving up. That's when things finally look up. God usually puts us into an impossible situation before He does His work.

Some of these include:

Leading Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 12 and after)

Joshua and Caleb trusted that God could deal with the giants in the land. (Numbers 13 and 14)

The book of Judges is filled with stories of how God did impossible things against the odds.

David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

All of the impossible acts culminate in the virgin birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Messiah.

It turns out all this time, River had huge secret. That is, the Alliance had tried to make people docile through a chemical in the air, only to have it back fire. Most of the people on this particular moon became so docile they just gave up and laid down, while the rest went insane and began raping and pillaging the planets as Reavers.

Mal sucussfully sent evidence of this across the solar system. While this didn't overthrow the Alliance, it did deal them a huge blow, possibly one with a greater impact than the Independents winning would have.

Not to mention, this is something that perhaps might have been God's will.

Ephesians 5:11 - 13

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

1 Corinthians 4:5

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

At this point, we could see how Mal not only served God's will but also how God did help him to gain an impressive victory over the Alliance. It wasn't in Mal's timing, or how Mal expected God to act, but undoubtedly one could see how God could conceivably have been at work. It's also possible that Mal's faith was restored, or at least the groundwork is laid for that.

Further reading:



I do think that Firefly is a pretty accurate view of what we could see in the future, if the Lord tarries. Who knows if Jesus will be here tomorrow, or in another 1,000 years. If humans ever do make it anywhere in space before the Lord comes (which i doubt) this is what it might look like. Though, we may be contained only within our own system.

But how could we know about prophetic events in the end times, that all mankind will know about?

Though i think it may be poetical (and I am taking it out of context perhaps) this passage does indicate that we can never run away from God, or escape His reach. Even if we make it to the planets, or even other stars, God can still reach us.

Obadiah 1:4

Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I've long been interested in the intersection of religion and science fiction -- most notably in books like Robert Sawyer's Calculating God (2009) and Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow (1997). Also, I have long enjoyed the realism of the Firefly series. It's nice to see the two brought together for some analysis.

    1. Praise God, glad you enjoyed it.

      Though Joss doesn't much like belief, or religion, I think he did a reasonably respectable job in at least allowing it in Firefly. The show had awesome potential to explore religion in space and unfortunately didn't get that chance.

      Another good book woul be "Blasphemy" by someone who I forgot. It's basically the LHC contacting something that says it's God. At first I was kind of offended, but now I'm like, how do you know it's not a fallen spirit? Good food for though anyways.

      I have another scifi post upcoming eventually, so check back.

      God bless!