• Clint

Should Aliens Affect My Theology?

I was 6 years old when I first saw Star Wars - the original trilogy. (Feel free to debate which trilogy is best in the comments - great topic!)

It was digitally remastered onto VHS in 1995 and someone must have got it for my birthday that year.

I was hooked. The notion that there were other worlds, planets, and beings out there took over my imagination. I realized of course that it was fictional, but still, blasters, lightsabers, the Force! I mean, c’mon, those were some of the coolest ideas getting around in those days.

As I got older, it dawned on me that there were people who were convinced that aliens were real. Maybe not ones that looked exactly like Chewbacca and Jabba the Hutt, but at least some kind of extraterrestrial intelligent life.

Sci-Fi is chock-full of sagas depicting first encounters with alien life and the benefits and challenges such an event would present. It’s all super interesting to me, and worth thinking about to some extent. What would our nation’s or world’s response be to a visit like that? Maybe it has already happened? After all, would I even know about it if our government(s) had experienced a first contact?

At one level, it doesn’t matter much what I happen to think concerning whether aliens actually exist. They, in fact, have or have not, do or do not, will or will not (to paraphrase Yoda) regardless of what I think.

But on another level, it does matter to the extent that my worldview may be impacted by their absence or presence. That is, if it is possible or even likely that aliens exist, then I should “make space” for that fact in my worldview (shameless pun). Perhaps I currently hold beliefs that imply aliens don’t or likely don’t exist. If so, and it turns out that they likely exist, I should reassess those beliefs.

One thing I’ve had to consider is how the possible existence of aliens interacts with my theism, and in particular, the brand of Christian theism that I endorse. I was curious as to whether there is some aspect of Christian theism, broadly considered, that would preclude the existence of aliens.

For what it’s worth, you certainly don’t hear much of anything about aliens in the Bible. Though, some creative folks have argued that some stories may be the ancient Israelite way of recounting an alien visit.

I think where it can put pressure, or at least open the door to interesting adjustments, is where it comes to God’s involvement with intelligent, sentient beings. That is, anything God would do to interact with human beings out of love for them, you might suspect God would do similar “outreach” for alien creatures that are relevantly similar to human beings.

Would alien civilizations have their own unique versions of a “chosen” people like the Israelites, and an incarnated Messiah, and some atoning act by that Messiah? All I’m really saying is that I’d like to keep conceptual space in my theology for that possibility.

I want to be careful of adopting a theology that forces a “no” to those questions.

The Church has been embarrassed in the past for clinging to certain scientific ideas for too long when they didn’t really have to (eg. geocentrism). I’d like to avoid that going forward.

We talk about this, the Fermi Paradox, and other related ideas in this week’s episode.

You can listen now on your favorite podcatcher, like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or watch on YouTube.

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