Edward Bellamy: philosophical science fiction

Latest post in my blog on popular science:
Edward Bellamy: philosophical science fiction


1 Like

I recall that Lewis said that he was the first one to imagine human beings inflicting harm on other worlds, rather than the other way around.


“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

I’m not sure if it would have been the case at his time, but it is today AFAIK–most science fiction authors write from a secular worldview, and thus believe nonsense like “man is inherently good” (how they can believe that after even the most cursory view of human history is a mystery–perhaps another example of what Screwtape said about their best work being in keeping thoughts out of men’s heads). And if man is inherently good, then evil is going to come from outside.

Lewis, of course, was a Christian, and a fairly consistent one at that. He understood that the human heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Of course, if man leaves earth, he will take trouble with him.

What surprised me was that Bellamy, being a Calvinist, had this idea, that an appropriate change in the organization of society could deal away with most of sin. Of course Lewis, like Chesterton, was deeply aware of Original Sin.


That sounds like someone who hadn’t given very careful thought to the implications of his belief system, though the myth of indefinite progress was exceedingly popular in the late 19th Century. Certainly, social changes can reduce the occasion for certain sins, but the true issue is with the heart.

OTOH, many Calvinists hold a postmillennial eschatology, which bears a passing resemblance to this belief. Postmils recognize that Christ’s words in Matt. 28:18 are in the past tense[1]: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” They therefore believe that he is reigning on earth now, his kingdom is here, and his church will continue to grow until it encompasses every tribe, tongue, and nation, at which time he will return in judgment and usher in eternity.

Like indefinite progress, postmillennialism is an optimistic belief system. Both hold that the world will, on the whole, improve over time (and I think both allow for temporary setbacks–postmil certainly does). And thus, at a glance, the positions might be confused, but there’s a critical distinction. The former holds that things will continue to improve because man is good; the latter holds that things will continue to improve because God is good, and he is reigning on earth today.

  1. Yes, what I quoted is the present perfect tense, not strictly the past tense. I understand that verb tenses work differently in Greek than in English, and if he was speaking Aramaic at the time, that’s no doubt another layer of tenses. My point is that he is speaking of his possessing all authority on earth as a then-present reality. ↩︎

I didn’t know that. Perhaps Bellamy was a postmillenial Calvinist, but I don’t have the information.