Every science fiction writer in history has been convinced that they know what the future will, or at least could, look like. Almost every time, they have been wrong. In many cases, it is not because they were too outlandish, but because they were not imaginative enough. It is true that humanity has yet to colonize other worlds or create flying cars, but some of the issues that people are already facing on Earth are straight out of science fiction. The bizarre nature of the situation, however, does not excuse people burying their heads in the sand and hoping time will reverse itself so that the world can go back to what it was in the past. That is not how reality works. As such, people need to be ready to face the challenges the future will bring, and Christians are no exception to that rule. Here are some issues straight out of science fiction that Christians must be prepared to handle.

Clones

Cloning is a staple of science fiction, but there is a very good possibility that it will become a fact of reality in the relatively near future. The technology to clone complex mammals has been around for some time. So far, it has not been used on a human being, but the genie has been out of its bottle for years. It is only a matter of time before someone decides to clone a person. The experiment may be done with permission, or like the recent CRISPR baby experiments done by China’s He Jiankui, it may be kept secret until the clone has been born.

For Christians, the issues of cloning run deeper than the massive ethical issues inherent in any form of human experimentation. Clones are, by definition, a copy of a person who already exists. Genetically and physically, they are identical to the original person. What about their soul? When human cloning is done for the first time, Christians will have to grapple with the question of whether or not clones are human beings in the religious sense. Biologically, they are a human being, but they are not unique. Is the same true of them in their soul? Do they have a unique soul? Do they share one with the original person? Do they have a soul at all? Sadly, the church will have to decide eventually how it is going to treat those who are, essentially, artificial humans.

Sentient Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is another classic science fiction trope, and it is normally associated with utter disaster. Small-scale A.I.s are already in use. The popular Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa are both A.I.s. So far, there is no artificial intelligence in existence that comes even close to approaching human-like thought. That said, constant improvements in the technology with the deliberate aim of making A.I.s more lifelike and better able to think like their human counterparts makes it extremely likely that one day there will be an A.I. that becomes self-aware. When that happens, the ramifications will be enormous. The immediate concerns, of course, are ensuring that this A.I. is not dangerous. There are endless numbers of sci-fi movies warning about the dangers of a machine that can think for itself. That danger, however, means that the church will have to grapple with whether or not this A.I. is to be considered alive. If so, can its creators justify killing it in order to avoid potential catastrophe? Would placing controls or limits on the A.I. constitute slavery? Would this self-aware machine fall under the same rules as the rest of creation, especially the command to “be fruitful and multiply?” Does an artificial intelligence, created by humans, have the same rights as a creation of God? Would the sudden appearance of sentience turn an A.I. from a human creation to one of God? Does an A.I. have a soul? The appearance of sentient machines will force all of humanity, but especially the church, to decide exactly how much the “artificial” part of artificial intelligence matters when it comes to human rights.

Aliens

No discussion of potential future problems would be complete without a mention of aliens. It may seem out-there to consider, but the statistical likelihood of humanity being alone in the universe falls every year. As such, it is likely that Christians will eventually have to grapple with the existence of an entirely separate, intelligent race. What will that mean for Christianity? It will certainly mean there are a lot of questions to answer. The biggest issue, of course, is how aliens fit into God’s plan for salvation. Did Christ’s death save the aliens as well? Were they touched by sin in the first place? Did God become incarnate on their planet as well? Are Christians responsible for baptizing and converting the aliens? This issue is unlikely to really come to a head until either Earthlings or aliens invent faster-than-light travel. Until then, visiting each other would be impossible. The identification of and possible communication with alien life, however, is not as far away as many think. SETI has already identified over two dozen planets in the habitable zone of their solar system, and any one of them might have aliens looking back at Earth and wondering if that little blue rock has life on it, too.