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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A People Not Yet Created: A Theological Case for Extraterrestrial Life.


For some inexplicable reason, maybe over a decade ago, my mother allowed me to watch some spooky documentary-like paranormal movie with my sister and a couple of friends.

Its effect on me was not negligible and that night I removed my analog clock  from my room (for you Generation Yers, analog is the one with the pointy things sticking out from the center) because the ticking of the hands was terrifying me.

Not exactly anyone's vision of a super fun movie night.

However, I walked away from that evening's experience with something else, something other than fear: a firm belief in extraterrestrial life.

In fact, in the hey-day of my belief, I started the “Extraterrestrial Prayer Ministry (EPM)” which was “committed to praying for our brother and sisters in other galaxies” or something like that (hey, cut me some slack; once I go all in, I go all in).

Now, before you write me off as having gone off the deep end, I don't actually believe there exists physical evidence for aliens.

All such proof, including that presented in the documentary, is easier and better explained by something other than intergalactic visitors who couldn't find anything more interesting to do than mess with a few cows, abduct a person here or there, or craft designs in an Iowa cornfield.

In fact, I don't even stop by that section at the bookstore, conveniently located between the Tarot cards and the ghost hunter biographies (I mean how's that for instilling confidence?).

Upon maturer reflection, I believe the case for alien life is most properly a theological question, not a paranormal, scientific, or biblical one.

What do I mean by that?

Well, the alien question is not a paranormal question because alein existence doesn't rise or fall on hypotheses related to unexplained phenomena that supposedly lie beyond the capacities of nature.

It could. But it doesn't.

More controversial, I would say it's not practically a scientific question, only in the sense that scientists have little reason to expect scientific confirmation of intelligent life comparable to our own (sorry, SETI!) and yet that still doesn't mean such life is nonexistent.

One such hurdle to scientific confirmation of aliens is the standard “life evolved from the perfect marriage of chemicals, proteins, warmth, moisture, and energy” explanation of the genesis of carbon based life.

That this happened once is so infinitesimal as to almost be zero and is something trained professionals in labs have been utterly unable to achieve (and not for lack of trying).

The idea that it happened twice, even multiple times, is incredible.

Secondly, our ability to broadcast and receive radio waves to and from our hypothetical intergalactic neighbors is severely limited by the vastness of the universe and the current inadequacy of even our best technology to pierce the darkness.

The graphic below shows how far (or not so far) we have been able to broadcast radio waves into just our galaxy much less the other 100 billion projected galaxies in the universe (look for the arrow).


So not only does it seem highly unlikely that aliens could have evolved from a protein-rich primordial soup (as some assume we did), if they managed that feat, the likelihood we would be able to contact each other is slim to none.

In fairness, these odds are technically not insurmountable and do not truly place the aliens outside of the realm of scientific inquiry, but as far as validating or invalidating the alien question, the tools of the scientific trade need quite a bit of updating.

Finally and maybe most surprisingly, I don't think this is a biblical question.

The Bible is book, divine in origin, given to human beings (as opposed to angels or animals, ect.) for their total edification.

It is not a science textbook or an exhaustive encyclopedia of all knowledge, so we should not be surprised it does not even broach the question of aliens, the conditions of life on other planets, or other related issues.

All attempts to read aliens into every fantastic vision in the Bible or description of a strange creature are unconvincing and find better explanations in the literary, historical, and socio-cultural settings of the passages in question.

If we're looking for a “this saith the Lord” in regards to aliens, we are bound to come up short.

However, I do think the Bible is key here, rendering the alien question first a question of theology.

Theology proper is the study of God (Himself), but is used to describe the study of the things of God, too.

Since I believe in alien existence, not on explicit biblical grounds, but based on a broad principle(s) taken from the Bible and applied to this question, this is properly considered theological speculation.

What is this principle?

The love of God.

That God chose to create is a stunning and marvelous fact because God had nothing to gain from creation.

If you are God, your ultimate and complete satisfaction comes not from outside Yourself, but from, well, being God.

This has led careful students of the Bible to conclude that the “good” of creation was our good.

The Bible says God loves the world. (John 3:16)
That He does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:11)
That He died for everyone. (1 John 2:2 )
That He wants everyone to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 John 2:2)

This love has no limit and manifested itself, not only in creation, but in God's sharing of Himself, the greatest gift He could give to us (The Bible says the end of all God's children is to “be with the Lord forever”, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The argument is simple: if God's love moved Him to create and if God's love is limitless, God's creative impulses of the same kind that brought about human beings about in the first place are also limitless, meaning they did not terminate in us but continue to extend to other creations of God yet unknown to us.

It follows from this, we are not alone in the universe (or at least the created order), but that God is involved in the most beautiful project of endless self-giving love with all kinds of sentient creatures, not just humans.

This may be on an intergalactic basis, as I suspect based on the sheer vastness of creation, or in other created dimensions, but it's happening, it's amazing,  and it's exactly what we would suspect from a God who has already purchased for Himself men from every tribe, tongue, and nation here on earth.