Welcome to week 4 of “I heart Japanese Monsters Month”. This week on Geek Devotions, our friend Nathan of The Monster Island Film Vault Podcast wraps up our I Heart Japanese Monsters Month! This week he talks bout the monster classic, Varan and the balance between Science and Faith.
Today’s devotion is on an obscure 1958 Japanese monster film called Varan the Unbelievable. In this, a reporter, a photographer, and a scientist travel to a remote Japanese village to investigate the mysterious deaths of several men, including the reporter’s brother. The villagers worship a god named Baradagi (aka Varan) and say he killed those men for trespassing. Prof. Uozaki denounces this “superstition”—until Varan appears and starts wrecking everything.
The first half of this film is quite interesting, especially when you view it as a commentary on the burakumin, who were a discriminated social class in Japan, but then it turns into a by-the-numbers kaiju story after Varan leaves the village. Before then, the scientifically-minded characters clash with the superstitious villagers. Prof. Uozaki tells them, “It’s ridiculous to believe such a thing [Baradagi] ever existed.” The village priest’s reply is quick and zealous:
“Hold your tongue! I refuse to fill my ears with blasphemy.” If that wasn’t bad enough, later when the villagers refuse to cross a fence to rescue a boy who wandered into Varan’s forest, the professor gives a speech that would make the famous atheist Richard Dawkins proud: “We can never believe such nonsense! This is the 20th century. How can you be so foolish? It’s true, we have met with many strange phenomena out here. But they have nothing to do with Baradagi at all. Now, get rid of that silly superstition and help us find the boy.”
The scientists say Varan is a dinosaur, but he does destroy the village seemingly out of divine wrath. The Director of this film Ishiro Honda leaves it to the viewer to decide what the truth is in this matter. there are many in the scientific community who think science and faith particularly Christianity—are opposing forces. They often present Christians as unthinking deniers of scientific facts. When in fact, the practice of science started hundreds of years ago with Bible-believing Christians like Galileo and Isaac Newton who sought to understand how God constructed the universe. This is what theologians call “general revelation,” as in learning about God through His creation, among other things. Unfortunately, as time has gone on, many scientists have tried to distance their practice from religion because the existence of God can’t be proven with its methods. This is an oversimplification, obviously, but the fact remains that science can’t explain everything, so what it can’t explain is discarded, leaving huge gaps in people’s search for meaning.
“…then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is
done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it
out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out”
Ecclesiastes 8:17 (ESV)
In other words, humanity can never fully understand God’s creation, let alone God Himself. There are limits to our understanding. We are finite beings seeking to understand an infinite God. It simply can’t be done. However, that doesn’t mean the Bible is anti-science. The famous apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote, “‘The Bible is not a scientific textbook’ is true in the sense in which we have just spoken. But many people today use the statement in a different way – that is, to say that the Bible does not affirm anything about that in which science has an interest. When the statement is used to mean this, it must be totally rejected. The Bible does give affirmations about that in which science has an interest.” Science, like all practices, was created by God for His glory. It can’t teach us everything, but as Solomon said in Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” Science can, and should, point people to Him, but it must be subservient to the truth revealed in His Word. All truth is God’s Truth.
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