Saturday, May 31, 2008

Does Christianity permit life on other planets?

This question is rather important to some people and less to others. The opinion varies from denomination to denomination. Conservative non-denominational evangelicals usually tend to think that our planet is the only planet with life in the universe. Answers In Genesis holds this view, of course they go so far as to claim life on other planets is based on "evolutionary" and "humanistic" assumptions (yes they can tell the difference between evolution and Secular Humanism, they simply choose not to I guess). On the other side of the extreme the Roman Catholic Church has embraced the idea of extraterrestrial life, they even go as far to say that space would be a missionfield to spread the gospel to other civilizations.

My personal belief is that there is life on other planets, possibly even intelligent life (which sometimes I wonder if it is yet to arise on this planet). There is nothing unscientific about the idea of life on other planets, the main question when it comes to Christianity is a theological one. These intelligent, humanlike aliens if they exist would have freewill. Thus they would have the ability to sin, and thus they would need Christ to save them. The problem is that Christ only died for humans, unless God has a radically different plan for them or he decided to just let them all burn in hell (which I think is very unlikely) Christ would have to visit each planet and die for each races sins. if we are talking unintelligent (or the other term presapient) life then the problem evaporates. The Pheonix probe which landed on Mars on March 25 is searching for water, and life on Mars (microbial life of course). They have even discovered something which might be ice on the surface. This is no problem for Christians. God simply also created life on Mars. Intelligent life isn't necessarily a problem either.

Now if Christ died for all sapient beings in the universe on earth. This problem would not be as bad. It could be that God created all sapient life in the universe about the same time (note this does necessarily mean special creation). At first they were all perfect, then Satan fell from grace and went about causing thousands if not millions or trillions of races to fall from perfection (although some of them may fallen simply because they made the wrong choice and Satan had nothing to do with it). Some would fall but others would resist temptation and right now would be perfect Utopian societies where there is no death, no suffering, no injustice, and no misery. Then there would be their fallen counterparts which would be much like the human race. Being capable of Godlike feats (such as science, humanitarianism, and contact with the creator of the universe) and at the same time being capable of unspeakable evil (such as genocide, rape, etc.). And when Christ died they now all have chance. It might even be humanities responsibility to bring the gospel to the universe, although I would count on it. No doubt God if he indeed exists has revealed himself to all these races and told them of Christs suffering on the cross. Now if Jesus died for each of them individually there are two options; if he did it simultaneously then it would be virtually no different except every culture would have a depiction of Jesus the savior. If he didn't do it all at once then it seems like it would be almost a cycle that all races go through independently. First they would be born unfallen and without flaws, then if they fall into sin they would be a fallen race. Then Christ would come, die on their planet (or at least one of their planets) then they would be a "semi-redeemed" race which is in the process of being restored. Finally there is a Redeemed race; which is back to prefall perfection being ruled directly by God. This idea seems far to De-Chardinish for my taste. Most likely the other view that Christ died simultaneously for the sins all race had or ever would commit is correct, the reason being that there is no scriptural support for a cyclic pattern in the redemption of sapient beings. There are also Christians who think aliens are really demons, well I don't think so, they would probably be on the same level as us.

At the moment this is not a particularly important question since no life in outer space has been discovered. But it is still interesting to talk about.


Logic Lad said...


If you believe in evoloution then you must also except that it xould well work at differing rates on different planets. Even on two 'identical' planets there would be massive differences thanks to the slightly random nature of mutation. So sentience, as a result of evoloution, will not have happened at the same time on all planets, even if all potentially life sustaining planets came into existence at the same time. Indeed by the whims of chance some beings may have only achieved sentience in the last 2000 years, now is God going to damn all these creatures for all eternity because they got unlucky?

On a slight tangent, this whole being damned for all eternity thing. It seems just a little harsh to give people 70 odd years in which to judge them for the rest of eternity, i mean on a more human scale it would be like takeing a newborn baby and putting them in jail based on their actions of the first second of life. Now regardless of personal faith, surely no one can justify that kind of knee jerk reaction.

I suppose I would be more comfortable with the concept of heaven / hell if there was some suggestion you could move between the two. I mean sinners would clearly want to repent, and given sufficent time ( all eternity) you would expect some form of repreive. Equally with all eternity to play with surely some 'souls' would stray from the straight and narrow in Heaven, i mean thats a whole lot of time to get bored. Pushing boundaries is something all people do.

Or do you lose your free will in Heaven? In which case there is a pretty good argument that it is better to be free in hell than a slave in heaven.

Created Rationalist said...

The reason I said thjat God created them all (or I guess allowed them to evolve) at about the same time is because it seems to stretch it that there are new sentient races being created as we speak. There is nothing necessarily unbibilical about the idea, the bible doesn't say it is wrong, it just seems a bit better to say that by divine plan all races evolved within a few thousand years of eachother. Now with Christ dying for all of them, there are two way which it could be answered, one being that if a sentient race was created (or evolved)last tuesday and they fell into sin then Christ's death would be sufficient for them. Whichever one makes sense.

It is hard to understand, being punished for all eternity. But one thing which might help is that, it won't be eternity in the same sense that we think. In Heaven and hell there is no time in the same sense as is on earth, so it might just be one continually frozen moment of pain and agony, no time would pass. Meanwhile in Heaven it would be one eternal moment of joy and celebration. The reward of Heaven is pretty mind-boggling as well if you think about it. By doing one or two things in this short 70 year span will win you a reward of eternity in paradise.

Logic Lad said...

The first part of your response seems internaly logical but it looks like you may have missed something of the end of the paragraph, unless i am just reading it wrong. However, if Jesus died on this planet to absolve the sins of all creatures everywhere then how do they know that

A) they fell in the first place
B) they have been saved.

I mean do you realy think that if the redeemer had appeared on another planet and then someone had written a scripture saying 'on this other planet, that you have never heard of and that there is currently no evidence for, some person you have never heard of died to save you from being fallen, a state you never new you where in.' do you think that anyone would have listened to that? it sounds like the kind of crazy stuff scientologists come up with.

So we have no concept of time in heaven/hell, ok, so how do we get to feel anything? without the passage of time there can be no sensation, so both your eternal joy and eternal suffering will be the same from the point of view of the indiviual, infact the concept of timelessness kind of lends it's self to the oblivion that most athiests see as the result of dieing.

On the other hand if the individual can percive that passage of time then eternal punishment becomes an indefensable position. the human mind is incapapble of understanding eternity, we are a creature the deals in finites.

As to the possit entry requirements for heaven, it is less a case of doing a few things, it as more a case of not doing things, quite a few of them abitrary and pointless, and then not doing them all your life, and slipping up once could mean that you are damned. no three strikes, no warnings just, for 69 years you where fine but today you are bound for the hot spot.

Created Rationalist said...

Well, you do have a point, there are two possible answers to this,

1. An unfallen civilization would not know about Christ dying on this planet until they fell into sin or...
2. Somehow all unfallen races have type 3 civilizations and have explored most of the galaxy. And have noticed Christ dying on our planet.

The first is more likely, of course we have not completely ruled out the idea of Christ going to each planet which contains a fallen sentient species individually, this may not be the case but I think Christ would have to die for all sentient races simultaneously. It is however possible that new sentient life is comming into being as we speak, then that would throw it off. Luckily intelligent extraterrestrial life has not been proven to exist yet so the answer to this question isn't imperative.

Well its not really no time as much as a different time then we are used to, on the other hand hell may have a different time then heaven. One idea is perhaps rather then being static, it would be time loop, where they keep on feeling the same suffering again and again. There are flaws with this view, but it works. Heaven might be about the same, a moment of joy repeating itself, never ending. Of course there are holes in this view too.

To set that asied and get to answering the question of why one needs eternal punishment in the first place. Well if God just said, "you will get a 70 years of suffering in hell if you choose the evil path in earthly life a person on in your earth might say "Well thats not to bad, afterwords I'll be able to go to Heaven afterwords." And this person will continue to walk in evil. Now a few would decide to follow God but many would not, this just wouldn't work. God wanted to make it clear you do not want to choose the wrong path, and he gave us as much reason as possible not to choose the wrong path. The Christian God doesn't want to punish humanity, he wants humanity to become his perfect children.

GT said...

I just cant wait until we discover more intelligent, more "perfect" life that is completely different in appearance (i.e. not in God's image) and can finally tell us how silly we are to believe in something that doesn't exist.