July 12, 2019

Time Traveling for Jesus

pocket watch in the sand

When I was a child, I found the subject of time travel to be a fascinating one. If I had a time machine, what would I do with it? What points in time would I visit and why? I enjoyed TV shows and movies involving time travel, but one thing that always irked me was how so many of these mixed up time travel with other kinds of travel. If I had a time machine here in Mississippi and I used it to travel back to 1955, I'd be in Mississippi in 1955. That's a scary thought! It never made any sense that a time machine would take me to different points in time and to different physical locations at those points in time. Needless to say, the Bill & Ted films fell apart for this reason in spite of their positive message.

Unfortunately, it seems like much of the appeal of time travel involves this idea that we could not only travel through time but through space as well. The idea of being able to visit important historical events is appealing, but doing so would almost always require this combination of time and space. The alternative would be to have a portable time machine one would take to the right location and then use the machine to go back in time. Thus, if I wanted to see what my father was like at the age of 16, I'd have to travel to the correct city in California first and then use my time machine to go back in time.

Countless Christians have told me that they'd use a time machine to travel back in time and meet Jesus. The location issue now becomes a serious problem. If I traveled back that far in time from my location in Mississippi, I'd have no way of getting to Jesus once I was in the correct time period. Even if we set that aside, we'd have to face the very real possibility that there was no historical Jesus at all. That could make for a very disappointing time trip.

And what about the unfortunate person who attempted to use a time machine to see dinosaurs? That would have been one of the first things I would have wanted to do as a child. Such a person would punch some crazy year into the machine and go back long before the Earth had even been created 6,000 years ago. Satan wouldn't have even hidden the "fossils" yet to trick us! If one were to travel back before the universe existed, could one even get back to the present?

A Christian once told me that he'd want to travel back in time to spread some sort of "gospel." I don't recall the details of his rationale for wanting to do so, but I do recall laughing until I was in pain. Still, I don't think that idea is quite as nutty as Mike Pence's creation of a Space Force to proselytize to aliens.

I'd guess that the appeal of using time (and space) travel to witness historical events would fade quickly and be replaced more blatantly self-serving uses. Who among us hasn't fantasized about being able to go back to some previous point in our life with the benefit of all the knowledge and experience we've accumulated since then? Those are the time travel scenarios that quickly get interesting for all the questions they raise. When I go back in time to handle a high school bully differently, what happens when I run into my 16-year-old self? Can the current me and the previous me co-exist at the same time and in the same space without serious consequences? And what about all the unintended and unforeseen consequences? If I managed to go back far enough to kill infant Hitler, is it at least possible that the eventual result might not be as great as I imagine?

In the end, I think that pondering questions like these is a big part of what makes the idea of time travel so appealing. Some people are going to make it all about Jesus because they have been trained to believe they are supposed to make everything about Jesus. You and I probably consider that unfortunate because we recognize that there are so many more worthwhile subjects.