'That Marvel of the Universe'

In a comment on my post about the vast-but-finite boundaries of technology, Walter asks:

What is the Christian view of extraterrestrial life? Is is scriptural? If extraterrestrial life is discovered, must there be humans on the planet? If so, would their history include the same Biblical events that we experienced here on Earth.

I'll take the bait because, whether it's the certified geek or the aspiring theologian in me, I have always liked these kinds of questions. (Plus it's an excuse to offer this post's title as a small tribute.)

I can speak only for myself, but I think the foundational truth here is that whether life exists on other planets or not, it must remain consistent with God's established plans of creation, redemption, and salvation. As the few biblical scholars I have read who have commented on the topic (and whose theology I respect) tend to agree, if there are other conscious beings in the universe, they must find their salvation in the death and resurrection of God's Son in Jerusalem, Earth, 2000 years ago.

However, I don't find the existence of extraterrestrial life to be necessitated by Scripture, which places the spotlight of history clearly upon this world. While there is, of course, a realm inhabited by spiritual beings "in heavenly places," the Bible limits physical life to this planet.

Neither is its presence demanded by science, at least apart from the naturalistic presumption that if the biological life lottery was won once, then other worlds must have hit the jackpot, too.

As much as that might stir the imagination, how much more bewildering to think of the disproportionate attention given to humanity. Yet it seems to fit the majestic scale of God's grace to imagine that the whole story of creation centers on a few billion insignificant specks living on an insignificant speck within an incomprehensible universe. That He holds the whole of the cosmos in His grasp, yet He cares intently about my puny self down here on this rock.


I am of the view that man is a unique creation in the Universe, and that the entire UFO / alien life / alien contact phenomena is a deception. Beings purporting to be aliens are clearly deceptive about their origins and purpose here, they go out of their way to undermine Christian faith and doctrine, and are clearly connected to New Age and occult practices. May I recommend the following resources for further research: 1. Alien Encounters by Chuck Missler & Mark Eastman 2. Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men by Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples & Mark Clark 3. Alien Intrusion by Gary Bates 4. http://www.ce4research.com
Responding to the remark that “if there are other conscious beings in the universe, they must find their salvation in the death and resurrection of God's Son in Jerusalem, Earth, 2000 years ago.” How can that be? How can a moral being elsewhere in the universe be saved by Christ’s death for the sons of Adam? Was Erich Von Daniken correct in alleging ancient space travel by earthlings to other worlds? The reason Christ’s atonement is efficacious for humans is because Christ became a human (Heb 2:16). For Him to atone for another kind of moral being, He would have to take on their nature. But He can’t do that because He will always be a man. When the Second Person of the Trinity took on human flesh and nature, He became a descendant of Adam, not just for time, but for eternity. It is as a Man born of Mary – an earthling – that Jesus shall reign “for ever and ever” (Heb 1:8). If there are other moral beings out there and they sin, unless they died “in Adam”, according to 1 Cor 15:22 (cf. Rom 5:18-19) they cannot be made alive “in Christ”, the Second Adam. I think it’s a good instinct to say there can be salvation in no other than the man Christ Jesus. But I don’t think the corollary is that other beings therefore must find their salvation in Him. The corollary is that there must not be any other moral beings out there, or if there are (which I doubt), they, like the angels that sinned, are hopelessly lost if/when they sin. Not likely IMHO after what happened with angels.
Based on the growing amount of research that suggests our planet is very "privileged" in its position of the universe, there would be relatively few other places where any biological form of life as we know it could exist. However, if alien life does exist, I am not sure they would need salvation as we know it. I would suggest they could be like the angels and their status is based on their individual relationship with God. Just my two cents worth.
benjamin wrote: "But there's not really evidence *against* ETI either, is there?" Man, oh man, every time I think I have pretty good faith, I meet a SETI believer. ;-) Yes, benjamin, all we need are omniscience and omnipresence and our search for ET will be perfect. ...That is, unless ET is actually one of the characters from the movie "Alien vs. Predator", in which case we'd better have omnipotence, too.
"And besides, there's not a whiff of evidence for ETI. There's not all that much evidence for TI, for that matter, and especially in an election year." smile! =) But there's not really evidence *against* ETI either, is there? Moreover, doesn't recent (last 2 decades) discovery of so many extra solar planets, with the accompanying delightful thought that, since we don't really have all that great of detection methods (yet), there are probably hundreds or thousands (or more) earth like planets in the Milky Way alone? The problem, of course, remains faster than light travel, which at this point is both practically and theoretically impossible. So even if they *are* out there, we're not likely to meet any of them. Alas.
If I'm not mistaken, C.S. Lewis was of the mind that the bible was the record of God's activity with earth-man. What his activity and salvific work may have been for other possible worlds is not a narrative that we have access to.
I don't want to assume anything about Walter's intentions, but in my experience the topic of ETI is usually brought up in apologetic debates because the questioner hopes it would invalidate Young Earth Creationism. The idea is this: YEC has claimed that The Fall affected *all* of Creation - including the entire cosmos. If, in fact, there is an extraterrestrial civilization that was unaffected by The Fall - blissfully unaware of their need for a Savior and living in perfect harmony with one another - that would seriously damage the YEC claim. It would make the atonement of Jesus a local phenomenon at best, affecting the Earth but not the "heavens". And it would call into question why God would allow The Fall to have its effect here, and not everywhere; is He capricious in His judgements, like Allah? The fallacy is that YEC is not the same as Christianity. The Fall could have affected only the Earth (in spite of Romans 8:22; Paul may have meant that only the Earth - but all of it - groans). If Jesus only atoned for Earth, so what? That doesn't mean you, as a human, don't still need salvation through Jesus. However arbitrary they may be, rules is rules. And besides, there's not a whiff of evidence for ETI. There's not all that much evidence for TI, for that matter, and especially in an election year. But if we were to find that the cows from the Alpha Centauri system make excellent steaks, then hey - it's just one more thing to rile up PETA.
I think you're right on, Dennis. It's certainly conceivable (though, again, not necessary) that God could have placed animals throughout the galaxies. If so, they would exist for the same reason as the rest of creation -- to glorify Him. I find it less likely that there would be personal beings elsewhere, simply because of the uniqueness of God's relationship with His children on earth. But then again, that relationship is more than I can comprehend in itself.
Travis, It also strikes me that whenever there is a conversation about the existence of extaterrestrial life it is always assumed intelligent life that we can communicate with. It is possible that there is unintelligent life on other planets. Just as there is life in the depths of the ocean. Who knows? I do agree with you that any life would have to conform to God's plans. The Bible does give the distinct impression that we humans are uniquely created in His image. Can there be intelligent life on other planets? Sure. After all the universe belongs to God and He can do whatever He wants to do in the universe without first consulting us humans.

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