Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Extra-Terrestrial Life

Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? One of Philip's friends once asked us to add our computers to a nation-wide project that searches for patterns or messages that may be coming to earth as other life-forms attempt to communicate with us. At first I thought he was joking. As much as we may have fun with Star Trek and Babylon 5 and other science fiction, there is no complex life anywhere but on Earth.

But how do I know? What if I'm wrong? Maybe there is, and I'm just close-minded.

Last month, we had a movie night at church, watching a documentary, The Privileged Planet. It wasn't from a Christian perspective, or even a religious perspective. It was simply the science of Earth's unique characteristics: the iron core which gives us the magnetic field we have; a location in a particular belt around our sun, not too hot and not too cold; our location in the Milky Way; the chemical make-up of our atmosphere; the abundance of liquid water to moderate the climate; gas-giant planets to help protect our solar system from cosmic junk; etc. These things (and many more) are necessary to sustaining life.

But how do we know whether --in the vastness of the universe-- there might be other places with intelligent life? Or if life there might look very different from life here, and not need the same support system?

Does theology tell us what science can only guess at? I think so.

1. Either there is life elsewhere or there is not.

2. If there is life elsewhere, it is similar to human life, or it is not.
2a. If it is not similar to human life, then it is not made in the image of God. Seriously, do I care if there's life elsewhere in the universe if it's an amoeba or a speck of fungus?

3. If there is life that we'd recognize as "like us," then they are sinners or they are not.
3a. Is it possible for there to be life without having them be sinners? Romans 8 tells us that the whole creation has come under the curse and is waiting to be released. Luke 15 tells us that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Is it theologically conceivable that there could be life out there that has continued since creation without sinning on their own, and without being sunk into sin by Adam's fall?

4. If there is life out there, and if they are sinners, then they were saved or they were not.
4a. God left them to be damned? Um. No.

5. If God saved them, how could this happen?
5a. God saved them through Jesus' work on our earth. But how would they hear? As Luke 24 shows, it's not enough that Jesus die for sin. It must also be preached.
5b. God saved them through another Savior. Impossible. There is only one Son of God.
5c. God saved them through Jesus' work on their earth. But Scripture tells us His sacrifice was once and for all. This would mean He had to be in two places at once, with His life, suffering, death, and resurrection happening there in those other worlds exactly at the same time as He dwelt among us.

It's looking to me like a little logic, in combination with what the Bible says, rules out every option except "There is no intelligent life-form elsewhere in the universe."


  1. I've never been able to believe in other intelligent life just for those reasons. The only exception is angels/demons, and they aren't mundane creatures like we are.

  2. Comment on section 3: Angels may not live on another planet, but they are created. If another Angel-like race lived on another planet, what would their purpose be?
    a. If we never encountered them they would have no purpose, and God would have had no reason to create them.
    b. If we did encounter them, their perfect works and perfect confession of God would be an irrefutable logical proof of God's existence. Logic is not faith. God would not allow that.

    Comment on section 5.a: How did Moses hear of Christ Crucified? Is it not possible that Aliens are out there right now living under Old Testament Law until they make contact with us and learn the Gospel of Christ?

  3. Moses was circumcised. Moses had heard the promise made to Abraham.

    The people in OT times were not living under "Old Testament Law." Those who were saved were those who believed the Gospel which was given first to Adam & Eve, and then passed down and expanded upon through the generations. Every human on the face of the earth lived at a time when God's promise had already been given.

  4. Very well, I shall change my phraseology. Moses was living under the Old Testament GOSPEL. A Gospel that LOOKED FORWARD to the day when the son of God comes. Is it so impossible to imagine that there could be aliens living in an Old Testament Gospel. Aliens who have been given the promise of a savior on another world, and who are now waiting for the New Testament Gospel to reach them?

  5. I'm trying to figure out how that fits in with God becoming MAN. Remember that thing Luther wrote about genuflecting during the Nicene Creed, and how God did not become an angel or an animal? We were made in His image. He came to save US. And He became a MAN. So what would that mean for aliens?

  6. This point would necessitate a change in argument 5a. so that it would read along the lines of, "God saved them through Jesus' work on our earth. But how could this be? Aliens are not human, and just like it would not have been enough for Christ to come as an angel or animal, so it would not be enough for an alien to be saved by a God-MAN."

    This argument stands well. However, it would need further clarification on point 2. What does it mean to be made "in the image of God"? Is it sentience? Is it our psuedo-free will? Is it our genetic code?

    Certainly, under normal circumstances it would be right and proper to simply dismiss someone who asked such a silly question as, "what does it mean to be in the image of God." However, in the case of discussing the possibility of alternative forms of sentient life, such questions are the heart and soul of the matter.

  7. Pastor usually stresses that the "image of God" is about a community of loving persons, giving and receiving love, from which another proceeds. It also includes those things you mentioned, things like sentience and language and will. I am still convinced that it's also got something to do with genetics and appearance -- not that Jesus became like us so much as He made us in the first place to look like what He was/would be in His incarnation.