Jesus Christ, Extraterrestrial?

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.

:::page break:::