Extraterrestials are Christian?

Is ET a Christian? If ET exists, the Bible appears to say that he is a Christian. At least, this appears to be the conclusion of Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican astronomer. According to the report in an article entitled ET lives . . . and he's Christian by Ruth Gledhill published in the TimesonLine, Brother Consolmagno reaches this conclusion (which admits could be wrong) based on John 10: 14-16.

There is probably intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, and there is evidence in the Bible to suggest that it could be Christian, according to the Roman Catholic Church.

In a document published by the Catholic Truth Society, the official publisher for the Vatican, a papal astronomer speculates that "sooner or later, the human race will discover that there are other intelligent creatures out there in the Universe".

Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit, who is one of the Vatican's leading astronomers, concedes that he could be wrong. Ultimately, he says, "We don't know." But in the new book, part of the Explanations series designed to explain Catholic teaching in everyday language, he says that part of his hunch is scientific. With so many billions of planets, stars and galaxies, he says, "surely, somewhere in that number, there must be other civilised, rational beings".

To back up his hunch that the aliens will have been subject to Christ's saving grace, he cites the verses from John's Gospel known as the Good Shepherd passage. In John x, 14-16, Jesus says: "I am the Good Shepherd . . . I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd."

I recall several years ago reading an essay by C.S. Lewis in which he discussed the question of whether the existence of aliens disproved the existence of God. The argument to which C.S. Lewis was responding could be summarized as follows: Certainly, with all of the billions of planets in the universe, there must be millions of other species of life who would know nothing of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. The fact that these other species of life certainly exist and the fact that Jesus' death and resurrection were limited to this planet shows that Christianity cannot be true because it would save only those on earth and doom billions of others to hell. I am not sure if this is the exact objection Lewis was addressing, but it is a pretty good reconstruction of an argument that was made to me while I was in law school.

I have not seen the C.S. Lewis essay I am referencing in about 20 years, and so I am going to try to reconstruct what I remember about Lewis' answer because I think it is instructive as to what the Brother Consolmagno is saying. C.S. Lewis pointed out the large measure of speculation needed to make the type of argument that I have tried to represent. He noted the following speculations:

1. There is life on other planets.
2. The life on other planets is more complex than bacteria or slime-molds.
3. The life on other planets is intelligent life.
4. The life on other planets has fallen.
5. The life on other planets has not had the story of what Jesus did on earth introduced to it through God's miraculous hand.

Now, Brother Consolmagno has assumed that 1 through 4, above, are true, but he does so based only on statistical probability. Personally, until he is able to demonstrate how life arose on earth such that it is a purely naturalistic phenomena, I don't believe anyone has the ability to calculate or estimate the statistical probability of life arising on other planets. Attempts to calculate the odds (such as Amir Aczel's book Probabilities 1: Why There Must Be Intelligent Life in the Universe) are usually straight calculations of odds based upon estimates of how many stars are in a galaxy, how many of those stars might be hospitable, how many might have planets, and how many planets might have environments suitable to support life as we know it. The problem with these types of statistical calculations is that there almost certainly exists numerous other factors that work into the equation, but we cannot know what those factors are until we can show what conditions are necessary for life to arise spontaneously -- if it arises spontaneously at all!

Thus, I think that Brother Consolmagno makes a mistake in assuming that "surely, somewhere in that number [of stars and planets], there must be other civilised, rational beings". No, Brother Consolmagno, there doesn't have to be other civilized rational beings. There may not even be bacteria or slime-molds anywhere else in the universe. But even if there are such beings, does John 10 mean that they are Christian because God has gathered them? It seems to me to be a stretch to believe that John 10 is referencing extra-terrestials when there were so many perishing Gentiles just around the proverbial corner who these verses were most obviously referencing.

Even though I am personally not a Roman Catholic, I love my Roman Catholic brethren -- many of whom are the most intelligent, forceful and articulate defenders of the Christian faith I have ever met. Still, I think that this series is making a grave error in suggesting that John 10 could be applying to ET. It just seems to be stretching the text beyond its intended bounds based upon a faulty premise. Perhaps this needs to be considered a little more closely . . . .


Catez said…
I loved this, and featured it at BlogWatch.

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