Because life is a series of edits

Life on Other Planets: Some Thoughts

In Church, Humanity, Movies, Nature, Places, Science, Theologians, Travel on August 7, 2009 at 8:43 am

A friend of mine and I sat through the movie Knowing the other night. While one of the worst movies I've watched in a while (incoherent plot, numerology silliness, Nicolas Cage once again playing Nicolas Cage), the film did serve one purpose: it got us talking about the idea of life on other planets.

Despite my X-Files affections, I tend to doubt that we have neighbors in the universe: other populated worlds aren't mentioned in the Bible, and most scientists say the odds against are just too huge otherwise. Maybe I'm your typical egocentric human, but when astronomer Carl Sagan said that if life didn't exist elsewhere in the universe it would be "an awful waste of space," I guess I feel kind of special.

At the same time, I recognize that just because the Bible doesn't record the existence of life on other planets doesn't mean there isn't. Remember: the Bible is a historical-redemptive narrative, not an all-encompassing science book. And speaking of science, there are plenty of scientists who do not share my doubts, running huge scientific initiatives and spending a boatload of money in hopes of making some kind of contact with other beings.

Despite my doubts, and certainly different from the typical evangelical Christian line, the argument for other life in the universe does seem plausible, if for no other reason than the very nature of God as Creator. But here's the question I think it all comes down to: The Scriptures attest to our fallen nature as created beings, but is that to mean all that is on the Earth or all that is in the entire universe?

The question is important because, while we have the account of God redeeming Earth through Christ, if there are indeed other beings in the universe and the universe is indeed fallen, then was there a plan of salvation for other planets as well? C.S. Lewis believed so, namely that when the Bible talks of "creation," it is in reference to the Earth and not necessarily the universe. From this perspective, the idea of other created beings without need of redemption is possible; we just don't have a record of it.

Thinking about all this is particularly interesting in light of mankind's desire to explore space. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says that the only way humanity can survive is to figure out how to leave the planet; hence, the importance of the U.S. space program. This, of course, begs the question: If the Earth is the only fallen part of God's creation, what does our going out into a non-fallen universe mean? Does it matter? And what would it be like to meet other creation who are intact in their creation perfection?

This is what I understand Lewis' Space Trilogy
to be about: man
leaves Earth
(called the Silent Planet, as it was cut off from the rest of the
universe because of its evil), to colonize elsewhere in the universe
(Perelandra) among beings not in need of redemption. These innocents, though not fallen
themselves, are nevertheless affected by humans and Earth's evil
before it is all finally resolved in the Siege of Deep Heaven against
the Bent One of Earth. In other words, sinful Earthlings contaminated another part of space which, until their arrival, had not been so. Thankfully, however, good overcame evil.

I've always thought of and understood the Fall applying to all of God's universal creation; thus, I differ with Lewis' premise that creation perfection is alive and well outside the surly bonds of Earth. Having said that, however, if God so chose to redeem other inhabitants of his universal creation, I'm assuming he has both prerogative and means to accomplish his will. In my finite, self-centered self, it's just easier to think about me and Earth, especially since God gave us a record of all he has done for redemption here (not to mention that I have no plans or desire for leaving).

Still thinking on this, but I'll stop for now. Anyone have a more formed/informed thought?

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  1. Nope, but I loved the Space Trilogy so much. I read a lot of great sci-fi in highschool too. A series you might like Craig is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever – by Stephen Donaldson. No mocking me for my sci-fi kick! Remember, I introduced you to Chaim Potok!! :)

  2. Who’s mocking? Didn’t know you were so sci-fi, Jess, but I’m not surprised (you continue to amaze). In light of your recent revelation here, surely you have a thought or two you’re not sharing with us.

  3. Totally interesting post! There are actually quite a lot of (fun) speculations to make. Most people either think that aliens are benign (a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind) or malevolent (a la Independence Day). What you said was particularly interesting with regards to this idea. You wrote that:
    “If the Earth is the only fallen part of God’s creation, what does our going out into a non-fallen universe mean? Does it matter? And what would it be like to meet other creations who are intact in their creation perfection?”
    If indeed there is life out there, and it is exempt from the effects of the Fall, then it seems like our meeting it would never take place, for that which is “holy” (for lack of a better word) would not be able to stand that which is unclean–thus, no alien visitation on earth or in space.
    However, if the effects of the Fall did reach the cosmos, then aliens (should they exist) would be under the curse as well–thus, evil aliens who visit us (it seems as if Mulder was right). Obviously, there is no where else this can go except the realm of speculation, but it is quite fun to think about. And I’ve always wondered about the veracity with which some people claim to have seen UFO’s and such.

  4. I agree for the most part. I don’t think there is intelligent life inhabiting other planets.
    However, it should be noted that holy angels have been able to interact with humans. And so has, of course, the holy Second Person of the Trinity. From those precedents, the meeting would probably be more of a problem for us than for the alien.

  5. Hi, Following up on our original conversation, I certainly don’t want to come off as one who needs to wear a tin-foil hat! I wanted to follow-up on the part of the discussion regarding LDS belief about Jesus appearing on the American continent. I don’t roll that way. But it does seem different to consider other planets. Merely speculating, but it does seem interesting to consider God taking form in human form, in history, particular time and place to rescue us. That spectacular event in our history does tell of us of the overwhelming actions of God to rescue us (which Lewis is writing into his fiction). And to quote another writer, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are taught in your philosophy.” That may not be exact but only an approximation! Live long and prosper to you all! Augustinian

  6. Good writing. My honest thoughts..there has to be inhabited planets (and by humans) otherwise I see no particular reason for this creation other than making us lab rats for Gods muse. I very much doubt this. The reason we haven’t encountered anyone (aliens) so far must be God was smart enough to keep us all separated so we wouldn’t go to war against each other. About how the aliens look, I bet they look just like us and not like what we popularly imagine. It just wouldn’t make sense in terms of surviving out there with 3 digit fingers.
    Just my thought.

  7. I love science fiction. The amazing things authors come up with blow me away. Beholders’ Eye by Julie Czerneda was one.
    I like to think (ie, not informed thinking) that somewhere God has a planet of people created in His image, and He kept Lucifer away, they aren’t fallen, and He can have some relief from us by spending time with them. Full of theological holes (and me creating Him in my image), but sometimes when I’ve fouled up yet again, I want that for Him.

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