Skip to comments.Jesus Christ, Extraterrestrial? If life is found on other planets, does Christianity come unraveled?
Posted on 07/01/2011 6:19:36 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
The Veritas Riff is a group of friends who combine deep faith with world-class expertise in subjects ranging from politics, science, culture, business, medicine, and more. They offer their informal take on the big questions facing us all. I'm the host of the Veritas Riff, Curtis Chang.
For centuries, humans have asked whether life exists on other planets. In the last decade or so, astrophysicists have made actual progress in answering that question. As more exoplanets—planets outside our solar system—are discovered, the chances of locating extraterrestrial life rises. But how would the discovery of extraterrestrial life impact religion, and particularly Christianity?
Today we're talking to an expert uniquely suited to address this topic. Jennifer Wiseman is Chief of Laboratory for Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics at NASA. She's also the director of the Dialogue of Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association of the Advancement of Science.
Jennifer, where are we headed with this current pace of discovery? Is science on track to discover the presence of extraterrestrial life any time soon?
My personal opinion is that if we get the support we need in the next twenty years to build more sophisticated telescopes, we'll find several planets that are earth-sized, perhaps in our neighborhood of stars, that support atmospheres similar to earth's atmosphere. I don't think that's enough time to do what we would like to do, which is actually to find incontrovertible biomarkers, as we call them. A biomarker is a chemical signature in a planet's atmosphere that is a telltale sign of life. I think there will be so much ambiguity at first that we won't be able to say such a thing.
Now, if you ask me about fifty years instead of twenty, then I would say at that point we should have a great inventory, including all the spectroscopic studies, of hundreds of neighboring stars, including a detailed study of their atmospheres, and we should be able to say whether or not there's at least simple life on those planets. And now I'm getting into my true speculation, but I really believe there's a chance we'll find a signature of simple, single-cellular-type life somewhere out there. If Earth is as abundantly full of life as we think it is, then I have to think that other planets could be the same.
Take off your NASA hat for a moment and speak to me as a scientist who happens to be a Christian. If we got the news flash that there is intelligent life out there, how do you imagine that would impact Christian thought?
I imagine two steps in the Christian response. The first has to do with the idea that creation is good. That's set forth clearly for both Jews and Christians in scripture. Creation is a good thing, and God has created abundant life. Now, "created" could include evolutionary processes, but the point is that since God is the author of all of it, whatever is there is good.
So, with that theology when we see the abundance of life flourishing on this planet, we could simply broaden our view of God to include life elsewhere. If God is the author of life on countless other worlds, it increases our sense of wonder and appreciation.
The second step is this. In Christian thought, humans have a problem in their personal relationships with God. We're separated from God by our own sin, we need restoration of that personal relationship, and that restoration has been provided by God becoming human. God became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ and walked the surface of the earth, guided us, and then died and rose again. That restored our relationship with God.
So if there are other intelligent civilizations out there, how has God interacted with them? Have they sinned? Have they needed redemption? Did Christ visit them in their forms? Or did his work here on Earth suffice for all life everywhere?
We get into a conundrum about the exact work of Jesus Christ on this planet and how it could pertain to life all over the cosmos. That's particularly important in Christianity, because it's really only humans in Christian theology who have this problem of sin. That's where we get into a really interesting theological case.
This is the sort of territory C.S. Lewis explored, of course, in Perelandra. What if we drill down beyond this abstract level of theological reflection to actual Christian communities? What is their range of reaction to news of extraterrestrial life?
I suspect the range of reaction, if we find simple life elsewhere, will be mostly positive. It's similar to when we found unusual life forms at the bottom of the ocean. It simply broadens our view of life and creation. If we find intelligent beings, that requires more thought. But if they're there, they're there, so it has to be incorporated into the theology.
I have some quotes from theologians and believers across the spectrum of Christian belief. Billy Graham said, "I firmly believe there are intelligent beings like us far away in space who worship God, but we have nothing to fear from them because, like us, they are God's creation." That would be one reaction. Another Christian leader in a ministry here in the United States felt that if we found extraterrestrial life it would actually make a mockery of our Christian faith, since the entire focus of creation, in his view, is mankind on this earth. In this person's view, finding life elsewhere would be a major shock to the way he had conceived God's work on earth.
So I'm not sure how people will react. Most, when asked, seem to think it would simply enrich their view of God, and they would be all the more awestruck. But for some, it would create this feeling of disorientation, like maybe what they've believed all along isn't right. It might strike a chord of fear and reexamination.
It seems to me that the fear and anxious reexamination might be concentrated in certain church traditions that elevate this personal God-and-me relationship over and above everything else in their teaching. Recently I drove by a church near my home, and the church had a sign: "God loves you as if you were the only one there is." What would happen if we discovered we aren't all there is? Would the discovery of extraterrestrial life threaten Christian notions of significance?
If we're looking at things from a Christian perspective, we have to examine where significance comes from scripturally. It never comes from a person's life span or location. Sometimes it's overt. The psalmist, for example, tells us that we're made of dust, and we're like grass that's here today and gone tomorrow. Yet we're constantly reminded of God's great love for us as individuals, so much that God even knows the number of hairs on our heads.
God's love is by choice, not by merit of place, time, or character. So I think we can expand that too. We already know that the universe is vaster than our wildest imagination. We have literally hundreds of billions of galaxies, each one with hundreds of billions of stars. We're looking at a universe that's been around for over 13 billion years and is still expanding. So the universe should already make us feel quite, quite small and insignificant in a spatial or temporal scale. But that does not at all translate to whether or not we're significant in the sight of God.
This should give Christians great comfort. Biblically, our significance is based on God's choice to love us.
No (to the headline).
God Created the heavens AND the earth.
People refuse to believe in God but they’ll accept aliens.
Do extraterrestrials have knees? Then they will bow.
I wonder if Jesus’ death on the cross applies to extra-terrestials... if we meet them, should the gospel be preached to ET?
Pagan people would LOVE such a find, but other than possible microbes transported by solar winds, nothing will ever be found. Read Dr. Hugh Ross on the subject. Two decades ago, there were Martian rocks that were trumpeted to contain possible microscopic fossils. The news that the grooves were formed by natural processes vanished quickly. Bob
Trying to say when we find life on a another planet is sillier than trying to give a date when Christ returns. The proof that there is life on another planet is that it makes sense to the people that believe that they will find life on another planet. What if they hide from us how much longer will it take?
Evolutionist Richard Dawkins believes that SPACE ALIENS may have seeded our earth with life! Good thinking, Link! LOL
If they choose to hear the gospel..
Unless Jesus died on a cross on multiple other planets or didn’t much care for those on other planets, or had a different plane of salvation for them, I doubt ET will ever be found. IMHO (just sayin’)
When we find these aliens I’ll let you know.
When we find these aliens I’ll let you know.
“Evolutionist Richard Dawkins believes that SPACE ALIENS may have seeded our earth with life! Good thinking, Link! LOL”
And just Who Seeded them, Mr Rich Dickheadens? and then again!!! Dude we ran out of time.
It was “Man” that screwed himself over in The Garden of Eden. If there is life in outer space they no more need The Gospel than horses or birds do.
Are you planing to write the book.
“To serve aliens”?
Maybe they are the other sheep...
“Besides we don’t need life we can talk to, we need life we can eat.”
I hope the aliens don’t share that feeling when they meet us :)
Planet of the hot wings awaits.
why should the discovery of extraterrestrial life disprove Christianity or God ?
Somewhere I read that "they" had subjected water to immense pressures of 50,000 atmospheres. "They"observed that the water molecules resolved themselves into long double helix forms ~ kind of like DNA. No doubt a new star spewing water would have more than 50,000 atmospheres pressure to work with, but there you have it.
Just a matter of doing some base pair substitutions in those molecules and you could have "life" itself being spread directly from new stars into every nook and cranny of their new environment.
Wouldn't be a question of looking for life as a rare thing but as an overwhelming thing.
Consider that in some sectors of our current universe there are entire galaxies that seem to "connect" that have in some manner suppressed new star formation. There are benefits ~ one of which is this suppresses the production of high levels of radiation, and another of which may be it keeps new stars from producing yet more new life forms with all the angst and terror that probably yields up.
"Empty space is like a kingdom, and earth and sky are no more than a single individual person in that kingdom. Upon one tree are many fruits, and in one kingdom there are many people. How unreasonable it would be to suppose that, besides the earth and the sky which we can see, there are no other skies and no other earths." -- Teng Mu, a Chinese scholar of the Sung Dynasty (960 -- 1280 A.D.) *
Christianity become unraveled? Absolutely not. What do you mean by life found on other planets? Plants, organisms on rocks? If you’re talking about E.T. kind of creatures, or the “Vs” then they would be of a spiritual nature and most likely be demons manifesting and masquerading as E.Ts.
Thank you for posting this very interesting article. I believe that if “space aliens” are real that they are really demons from the pit of hell..Jesus said that people will believe “the lie”..maybe “aliens” showing up are what He was referring to...just a thought..
It really shouldn’t come unraveled. Truth is universal.
It is the teachings of Jesus that should be most important, and that isn’t limited by place or time.
There is nothing in the Christian faith that precludes life on other worlds.
I believe there is life on other planets but animal life not human or intelligent life that is. With the universe this size I can imagine millions(billions?) of planets that are paradises untouched by man’s sin just waiting for us to discover and I can’t wait to discover them.
What is this about, just because ET may not look like us, they are demons?
Is there other life? Other “Sheep” using the bible’s term for creations of free will?
The Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
This does not neccessarily mean Jesus was talking about people on other planets, but it very well could be.
Maybe intelligent life could be found that simply lives, dies and that’s the end. God can do as he chooses. This should have no impact but it will.
Might be what Jesus has been up to these last 2000 years....imagine having to die for a planet’s sins over and over for thousands of different planets.
Maybe Earth is the only planet where people needed Jesus. All the other planets listened to G-d and obeyed him.
When posed with this question by a couple of well-meaning cardinals about 10 years ago or so, Pope John Paul responded that any planning about that would be very premature. He stated (quote is imperfect):
"...we only know that Mankind sinned; creating a gulf between us and our Maker, thus requiring a Savior to redeem us. Yet, for all we know, any extraterrestrial beings we meet may be like angels compared to us!"
If they followed a similar path that we did, then I imagine God has a similar plan for their redemption.
Gosh, does that mean Christ had to do it over and over again??!!!
I think Larry Norman had it right back in the 70’s; “if there is life on other planets, Jesus went and died for them too...”
Seems logical to me.
And you base this on...?
Yep, its baffling beyond belief why people might believe that Aliens evolved on another planet just as we did here, but cannot accept that there might be a mythical sky fairy...
It would be neat to meet an ET and ask him “Is there a God?”
And he reponds, “Sure, but he didn’t have to come visit us because we didn’t screw up.”
>>> People refuse to believe in God but theyll accept aliens.
They’ll do more then accept aliens. I’m persuaded that Jodie Foster’s movie “Contact” correctly predicts that if we find hard evidence of intelligent alien life, people will start to worship them. A modern Cargo Cult. Hail Vega.
>>> but other than possible microbes transported by solar winds, nothing will ever be found.
Lichens and other very basic plants seem reasonable. Which is still very high up the ladder from the primeval soup. Aliens in spaceships, not so much.
The Resurrection is the central event of Christianity.
Without the Resurrection, Jesus Christ was just another Tony Robbins wannabe.
He died ONCE for all [sons of Adam].
The Bible deals with God’s relationship to human beings. Not dogs, not cows, not lions, not any other living thing on any planet.
.. Will Perelandra succumb to this malevolent being, who strives to create a new world order and who must destroy an old and beautiful civilization to do so? ..
Hmmmmmm . . . Sound familiar ?
Looks like the whole point is, let's try everything to discredit the Christian faith and Jesus. Funny, you never see them going after Buddha, Allah, the 300 million or so Hindu gods, ect. just the God of the bible and Jesus. When people curse it's always using God's name, Jesus, Christ. You never hear anyone say Buddha d*mn.