Back to the Future and the Existence of God

by Lenny Esposito

We made it! It’s finally 2015, that famous year Marty McFly visited in the 1989 Back to the Future sequel. For years, Internet blogs and commentators have been waiting to see the hoverboard, flying cars, and the Nike self-lacing shoes. Some of these are actually getting closer to being a reality, while others may never be seen.

I’ve always been interested in the way people envision the future. It actually says a lot about humanity. Sometimes, sci-fi writers get things pretty accurate; Jules Verne’s submarines and Star Trek’s flip phone/communicators are prime examples. But other times they get things terribly wrong. Two such predictions can be seen in Back to the Future II: flying cars and a fax machine in every room. The reason for this is not technological. Both flying vehicles and fax machines exist today. Instead, there are other considerations that come into play. For me, there are significant parallels in the way people misunderstand the future and the way unbelievers misunderstand God. Using the flying cars and the fax machine examples from the movie, Let’s briefly look at two ways people get God wrong.

People Overestimate Themselves

Let’s begin with the flying car example. People have been predicting them almost as long as the Wright Brothers safely touched down at Kitty Hawk. But there are some incredible dangers that are attached to flying. First of all, safe driving requires the attention of the driver. But if you’ve ever

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commuted to work, you know that as people become more comfortable with their daily routines, they tend to over-estimate their ability and begin to drive and eat, drive and put on make-up, or drive and text.

With flying cars, however, there wouldn’t be merely a single plane of traffic flowing horizontally, but there would be multiple planes where other vehicles could approach yours. Cars could merge from above, below, or diagonally. This is why we currently use air traffic controllers who watch all the planes in the sky and direct traffic. Now, imagine the millions of vehicles we use to commute all take to the skies. Who will make sure everyone is behaving appropriately in the sky? What kind of risk would a “crazy driver” place you in in the air? And, as Christopher Neiger notes, if your flying car breaks down, it will fall out of the sky and you can’t drive them if the weather’s bad.1

Similarly, when I talk with people about the existence of God, they over-romanticize their view of what God should or shouldn’t do…

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