Saturday, 20 November 2010

Alien Jesus?

Earlier today I came across this article on the BBC News website.

It's another article speculating about a planet - this one only 20 light years away - that might have the right conditions to support life.  The article also speculates that there could be tens of billions of other habitable, or at least near habitable, planets within our galaxy - although of course even 20 light years is, for the foreseeable future, a long way out of our reach!

Is there life on other planets?  It's a fascinating question!  Even more though - is there sentient life?  As a Christian with an interest in Science Fiction and technology, I also sometimes wonder what theological implications this might have!

On one level, human beings are very similar to all the other animals on our planet.  We share something like 98.5% of our DNA with chimpanzees, 75% with mice and 40% with some kinds of fish!  In evolutionary terms, the earth is our mother - it gave birth to us and sustains us.  Even if you believe in a literal interpretation of the Biblical creation story, we are made from "the dust of the ground".  On another level though, it's not hard to see that human beings are fundamentally distinct.  The ability we have to alter and exploit our environment - for good or ill - is just staggering compared to any other species (at least on earth anyway).  We're in a league of our own.

In Christian theology, human beings occupy a God-assigned place within creation - that of the "image bearer" (see  Genesis 1:26-28).  We are made in God's image (regardless of the process by which that may have happened) and are called to reflect that image to His creation - to rule it wisely on his behalf - whilst bringing out the best in it by our endeavours as an act of worship back to Him.  Because of our rebelliousness though, and our resulting estrangement from God, God became a man himself in Jesus, showing us how to live out our calling and making a way - through his self-giving love, sacrificial death and resurrection - for us and God to be reconciled.

And that's the gospel in a nutshell - although it could probably do with some unpacking!  But what does all this have to do with life on other planets?  Just this:  If God became a man on behalf of the image bearers (us), sacrificed his life and was resurrected for our salvation, where do other sentient life forms (if there are any) fit into this picture?

Are there other image bearers on other planets?  Did they also rebel or was it just us?  Did Jesus (or his many tentacled equivalent!) have to die many times on many other worlds?  Or are there many other sentient life forms still waiting to hear what Jesus has done?

Are we God's image bearers to the earth only, or to the whole Universe?  Is this calling peculiar to our species or will we one day have to share it with others?

My instinct is that this calling is unique and for that reason I don't expect to encounter sentient life on other worlds, though I would be amazed and fascinated if we did!  But then before Galileo we thought the earth was at the centre of the Universe and look how badly wrong we got that one...!

1 comment:

  1. I like the thought of a many tentacled Jesus equivalent! Put me in mind of Kang and Kudos.

    "We must move forward not backward! Upward not forward and always twirling...twirling...TWIRLING towards freedom"


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