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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Can Aliens Be Saved?


The speculation that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe has been current for many years; and recent statements Christian theologians are debating the existence and nature of sin in the universe, and whether aliens can or should be saved.  The answer for such questions has become all the more urgent since a scientist at SETI has estimated that given the super-powerful radio telescopes being developed (China has just inaugurated the world’s largest), it might be only twenty years before contact is made. 


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There are many sides to the argument.  Creationist Ken Ham, for example, observed that: 
Earth was specially created by God and the sin committed on Earth would affect the rest of creation. The Bible makes it clear that Adam's sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam's sin, but because they are not Adam's descendants, they can't have salvation. Christ's work of salvation can only apply to humans as the descendants of Adam.  
Other Christians disagree, noting that although God’s dominion extends to all beings in the universe, if  an extraterrestrial lacks a spiritual aspect, an eternal soul to save, then it does not need saving.
Christian Weidemann, a German Protestant theologian takes a somewhat different tack suggesting that  perhaps extraterrestrials aren't sinners, like humans, and therefore aren't in need of saving.  But given the fact that all known intelligent beings (human beings) are sinners, it is likely that all other intelligent life in the universe would also be.  

Assuming that the latter argument is true – all intelligent life must sin – than God may have incarnated himself multiple times according to the particular configurations of sin and intelligence on other planets.  Clara Moskowitz, a journalist writing about space and religion reports on another of Weidemann’s speculations:
Another possibility is that God incarnated multiple times, sending a version of himself down to save each inhabited planet separately.
However, based on the best guesses of how many civilizations we might expect to exist in the universe, and how long planets and civilizations are expected to survive, God's incarnations would have had to be in about 250 places simultaneously at any given time, assuming each incarnation took about 30 years, Weidemann calculated.
Nathan O’Halloran, a Catholic theologian, suggests that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross here on Earth was the moment of salvation for all intelligent life in the universe:
So why can his death not include other alien races too…?  Maybe what Jesus assumed that is important is not the human form, but the rational free spiritual form, and this is what he redeemed, thereby including all personal races, alien or human.
In other words Jesus, the cross, and his resurrection are at the heart of all salvation.  Thus not only for all humans but all aliens as well:
All things were created…through Jesus and for Jesus… He is before all things, he holds together all things. In other words, he stands as the head of the cosmos, as its beginning and end, its past and future…  Nor can there be other Jesuses, since Paul is clear that it was “by the blood of his cross,” that peace was made.  It is unlikely that if Jesus was incarnated on another planet he would be killed there by a cross as well…  He would be killed in some other way.  But Paul is clear that by the blood of his cross, this Jesus saved all things, whether in heaven or on earth.


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It might seem odd that with more than enough sin to go around on Earth, evangelists and theologians are considering extraterrestrial salvation.  Yet for those within the religious community, the issue is not trivial, for it goes to the heart of the nature of God and Jesus Christ.   If God is omnipotent and omnipresent, and if he saw fit to send his only begotten son to save a race of human sinners, how could he be so indifferent to the needs of others?  If Jesus Christ is in fact the incarnation of God; if he did indeed suffer for mankind on the cross; and if he is the only hope for eternal salvation, then how could his sacrifice be so limited?

If God can save alien races without Jesus, then what does that do to the notion of the uniqueness of his earthly divinity?   It is hard for many Christians to accept the fact that Christianity is but an incidental occurrence – important but simply one of billions of configurations.  

Those who insist on the primacy of Jesus Christ can only conclude that he must have appeared – or will appear – to alien races for the same spiritual reasons.  Those who prefer the primacy of God the Father (a  non-orthodox belief dismissed once and for all at the Council of Nicaea in 325) assume that salvation can occur without Jesus; but no 0ne who calls themselves a Christian today can deny the mystery of the Trinity – one God in three divine persons – and based on that belief, Jesus is central to salvation wherever it may occur.

The existence of sin, the importance of suffering, and the redemptive power of grace are all tenets of Protestant Christianity. To dismiss them as irrelevant would be to deny the foundations of the Church.  Yet what if aliens are not humanoid at all and exist in some non-corporeal form, perhaps just as an intelligence suffused throughout the universe which makes itself known to lesser races from time to time?

For Hindu theologians this possibility already exists, for the One, Brahma, is an eternal essence that has always existed throughout the universe and beyond.   Moreover, Hinduism is not the punitive religion that Christianity is.  One is not punished for one’s sins by a retributive, judgmental God, but only forced to live additional lives until final spiritual revelation is achieved.  Aliens would not be distinct creatures but as much a part of God’s ineffable universe as human beings.  Sin, redemption, and salvation are not issues.



However, for a believing Christian to abandon them for the sake of a universal diversity would be to abandon the very principles that motivate, encourage, and discipline faith.

Perhaps the first aliens that visit Earth have long since been saved, and are examples of a post-sin evolution.   While Jesus and his disciples never promised a heaven on earth, but assured only an after-death salvation; perhaps alien races took their words more to heart, followed the lessons of the parables, walked in the way of the Lord, reformed themselves, defeated Satan, and transformed themselves into a Christian utopia.  Jesus would never have spent so much time preaching about the dangers of sin and the benefits of right living if he had not at least hoped for a reform of Jews and pagans before the Apocalypse. 

For Muslim theologians, some of the verses of the Quran seem to make Mankind the central axis around which everything revolves:
Don’t you see that Allah has made subject to you (men) all that is on the earth, and the ships that sail through the sea by His Command? He withholds the sky (rain) from failing on the earth except by His leave: for Allah is Most Kind and Most Merciful to man. (22:65)
And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day hath he (also) made subject. (14:33)
Do ye not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made his bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, (both) seen and unseen? Yet there are among men those who dispute about Allah, without knowledge and without guidance, and without a Book to enlighten them! (31:20
But other verses reduce the importance of humans in the Universe:
Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men; yet most men understand not (40:57).
Assuming the aliens that Man were to encounter were similar enough for communication between races to exist, then the Muslim reaction would be:
To  suspect that out of the 124 000 prophets sent by God for guidance to the World, as mentioned in the prophetic tradition, quite a few might have been sent to our non-human brethren, and we will thus likely try to search for common elements between Islam and the aliens’ belief system.
After all, as emphasized by many Muslim authors, God is described in many places in the Quran as the Lord of the Worlds (plural). We may surmise that debate and even proselytism will follow suit, encouraged by the fact that according to the Quran, all the living creatures will be accountable before God for their deeds on Judgment Day (Islam&Science) 
Dealing with the issue of alien salvation is particularly problematic for Christians whose  concept of the Trinity, the nature of each of its divine parts, the nature and meaning of the Resurrection and a hundred other doctrinal points have been debated for 2000 years.  Evangelism to aliens brings into question the tenets of the faith far more than other religions for whom salvation is not the be-all and end-all of belief.


While this debate may seem silly to most secular observers concerned more with the practical benefits that might accrue from contact with a superior intelligence or with the dire consequences of a hostile, predatory alien race than any question of salvation, it is far from trifling to Christians who know that their very Earth-centered story of Jesus may be thrown into question or even dismissed entirely.

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