In 2019, I jumped aboard a project with a fellow Christian author to explore faith in popular novels and series. While I was hoping to join the first installment that focused on some of the fantasy worlds that inspired my own work, I was delighted that he invited me to write for the second installment, and that he accepted my proposal to cover one of my favorite sci-fi series: The Ender Quartet. (Yes, I know there are more books, but there’s limited space in the devotional.) The following is an excerpt from my portion of the book, republished with permission.
Something is wrong in the world. We all sense it, whether we have faith or not. Some of us think we can pinpoint it in the horrible stories of evil we see played out on the world stage. Some of us just feel it in our guts as we slog through another day’s labor.
Orson Scott Card’s Ender Quartet begins with concepts akin to the former. Humanity seeks to repel a specific evil—an alien invasion—in Ender’s Game. But the sequels drip with the gut feeling of wrongness. In the only human colony on the alien world of Lusitania, they have no idea what ails them. They just know people keep dying.
Brilliant young scientist, Ela Ribeira, thinks she has an answer to the mystery in Speaker for the Dead.
“’No, I think it was a disease. A disease that struck across all species boundaries, that could adapt itself to any living thing. Of course, we wouldn’t notice that disease now because all the species left alive have adapted to it. It will be part of their regular life pattern. The only way we notice the disease— ’
‘Is if we caught it,’ said the Speaker.”
At the moment of landing on their new home, the people of Lusitania unknowingly contract the virus that will kill them by destroying their DNA. They call it the Descolada. Their scientists are able to develop a treatment, but it only delays the inevitable. The whole world is fatally sick. Card presents it with intriguing scientific details that explain how it has transformed an entire world and its ecosystems. It’s easy to geek out on the unique concept, but the undeniable theme stares back: something is wrong with the world.
The “something is wrong” condition is a standby trope of speculative fiction. In fact, it may be necessary for any fiction that satisfies our human drive for stories. But Card’s set up in Speaker for the Dead echoes deeper than a common trope or theme. It carries with it our unspoken terror of the unknown and unavoidable thing that stalks us through the uncertainties of life, wears us down in the day-to-day, and pounces on us in our weaknesses.
Cards fictional world mirrors our own. We face a disease that is degrading us and will eventually kill us. They call it the Descolada. We call it Death.
And like the alien flora and fauna on Lusitania, we’ve adapted to it. It’s part of our regular life pattern. We see the disease as normal—even natural—as grim, fearful, and sorrowful as it is.
But unlike our own hunches and our fiction telling us there’s “something wrong”, though normal, Scripture declares it as unnatural. The opening scene of creation presents a pristine world where pain and death are unknown. The disease of sin is unimagined.
In Card’s alien world, the characters later learn that the Descolada was not native to the planet Lusitania, either. It was introduced, and its introduction decimated the natural order.
Likewise, the Bible tells us how we got our disease. It was also introduced, and we inherited it from our first ancestors.
In Genesis 3:17-19 we read about our first transgression, and God in His justice reveals our sentence:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Passages like this, no doubt, inspired the Scottish pastor and early fantasy author, George Macdonald to write, “Low-sunk life imagines itself weary of life, but it is death, not life, it is weary of… When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are.” Who has never felt inclined to collapse under the thorns, thistles, and sweat of our existence?
Throughout the rest of the Bible, the curse stalks everyone, but the Apostle Paul offers the briefest prognosis in Romans 5:12 “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Much like the Descolada virus brought death to Lusitania, sin was the carrier that brought death to Earth. And we’ve all contracted the sin virus ever since, and thus the curse of death.
Without faith, there is no escape, no clever scientific solution to our problem. Even the people in Card’s novels must rely on a solution outside of themselves and their world. Without faith, the curse is the only natural order: there is life, and then there is death.
But praise God that he does not leave us there! In addition to diagnosing the solution, Scripture gives us the ultimate cure. A few verses later in Romans 5:19, Paul explains, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul summarizes how God eliminated the sin virus: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
With the sin problem resolved, God can also address the ‘wrongness’ we feel. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Cor 15:21-22, 26 emphasis added.
Having provided the remedy for sin, Jesus now, in our current days, offers the opposite of everything we feel is “wrong with the world.” He offers life to the full! (Jn 10:10).
And in the end, He has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes, destroy death itself, and remove the curse (Rev 21:4, 22:3).
If you’ve enjoyed this excerpt and would like to read more, I encourage you to check out the book on Amazon.
My other entries include several more devotionals based on the Ender Quartet, as well as some pulling spiritual lessons from my own novels, including:
- “Can We Know What’s Right?”
- “The Voice From The Sky”
- “The Trouble With Human Saviors”
- “Walking in Darkness”
- “Miracle vs Magic”
- and more
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