Noodling the Question of ET and God

Noodling the Question of ET and God March 13, 2015

A friend writes:

What if extra-terrestrials, for example, are just highly complex critters, something like porpoises or thinking computers with opposable thumbs, but are not called additionally, gratuitously and blessedly to the beatific vision?  In this case planet earth is not diluted within a universe of billions of possibly life-sustaining planets populated by rational thingamajigs, and the centrality of original sin in salvation history and the Incarnation is not undermined . . . and one need not rush off to baptize any martian (lower case) who might make a request (another off the cuff ambiguity voiced by Pope Francis).

An alternative view is that the gratuitous Incarnation would have happened even without the (added) dimension of undoing our original sin–the view of Blessed Duns Scotus (whom Pope Benedict holds in high regard).  Commentators point out that Christ is more than damage control.  Then, I suppose, one might baptize martians if they would ask, and the Church itself as the Body of Christ would be the instrument for opening the beatific vision to complex beings otherwise constrained this side of the veil by some sort of supercosmic glass ceiling impenetrable to rational complexity alone, and who unlike us are rooted in neither original sin nor a more original innocence.

(I have difficulty imagining that the Incarnation is multiple across the galaxies, although the Mass is something like this–on each altar a day a singular re-presentation of Calvary, but also “numerically distinct” each time the words are spoken.)

But, then again, do incomprehensibly and highly advanced clusters of rational complexity and Warp-10 technological skill actually have souls capable of receiving baptism?  Or would their request still be merely a complex kind of barking in the dark, not unlike Simon Magus?

Mike Flynn, author of Eifelheim, tussles with the “Baptize aliens?” question here: Basically, for the medievals, as with  Augustine, rationality was the mark of the human, whatever the physical form:  So the approach (had it ever come up as in Flynn’s Eifelheim) was “better safe than sorry” if we happened to meet dog-headed men or monopods or any of the other beings medieval traveler’s tales told in place of Star Trek.  By the way, you really should read Eifelheim because this is one of the central questions of the book and Flynn’s hero approaches it in a thoroughly Thomistic way.

Here’s a thought/teaching possibly bearing on our recent topic of email discussion, the hypothetical baptism of hypothetical aliens.  Pope Pius XII…..

“Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision” (Humani Generis, n. 26).

I suspect the question is whether He would, not whether he could.  God can do as he pleases.  But I wonder how intellectual beings (who, being capable of reason, can come to know God exists) would be able to endure forever living in sight of God, but never being able to come to union with Him. I have a notion that God, who is Love, would be able to endure it even less than they.  But then, what do I know? 🙂  Whatever might be the case, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

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