The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Benek
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
Recently, MSNBC published an article (found here) as to whether or not bacteria existed trapped inside meteorites that fell to earth decades ago. While most seem skeptical -this was MSNBC’s lead story invoking the ever-present question: Is extra terrestrial life out there? As one who seeks to follow Christ, I personally have to answer that question with a resounding “YES”.
There are supposedly 70 sextillion stars in the universe. That is 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars and one really bored dude counting them all. According to CNN that’s about 10 times as many stars as grains of sand on all of the worlds beaches and deserts. And you’ve got to think – with that many options there at least statistically has to be a chance of ET life out there – maybe even Steven Spielberg’s ET. On top of that now many scientists believe that there are even multi-verses – or a “hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including the historical universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws and constants that describe them. The term was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James. The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes.”
So before you think that I’ve gone all Bizzaro Superman on you I should point out that the world’s religions don’t necessarily contradict such scientific speculation.
Hinduism speaks of countless universes:
Because You are unlimited, neither the lords of heaven nor even You Yourself can ever reach the end of Your glories. The countless universes, each enveloped in its shell, are compelled by the wheel of time to wander within You, like particles of dust blowing about in the sky. The śrutis, following their method of eliminating everything separate from the Supreme, become successful by revealing You as their final conclusion”
(Bhagavata Purana 10.87.41)
Islam’s Quran states that there are seven heavens – (no the 7th one is NOT the Aaron Spelling show) – they are thought to be actual places:
So [Allah] decreed them as seven heavens (one above the other) in two days and revealed to each heaven its orders. And We [Allah] adorned the lowest heaven with lights, and protection. Such is the decree of the Exalted; the Knowledgeable. ”
And Christians, depending on denomination, believe in heaven, hell and some even purgatory or levels of purgatory. The famed Christian Apologist C.S. Lewis, for instance, seems to have an affinity for purgatory-ish ideas in his writings (The Great Divorce for example).
Then we also have this strange saying of Jesus where he says:
16 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.” [John10:16]
Now whenever I point John 10:16 out to people they either get super-serious and dismiss the statement as Jesus talking about Jews and Gentiles and the such OR they immediately jump to X-files conclusions telling me where Nessie really lives, how they feed a real live Sasquatch in their backyard, and how they actually believe that Cartman was abducted by aliens.
I don’t know about any of that stuff but I do know that the best of Christian’s wonder about whether there are extraterrestrial’s out there and what that means for their faith. This really hit home one day when after watching a movie that had a “surprise” alien ending my dad poignantly asked – “Well, if they (aliens) do exist doesn’t that somehow go against Christianity?”
My explanation to him, as I understand Christianity, is that Jesus is God’s revelation incarnate to human beings. Jesus is a savior to humans – and we are called to follow him. As for ants, cats, dolphins and platapuses – I don’t know what the expectations are for them. This also would be the case for ET’s or for the guy stranded on the island who never had the chance to hear of Jesus – I might suspect. Aliens don’t seem to change that equation one bit – nor would I necessarily assume that they are bound to Christ as Savior – unless they somehow are the “sheep” of another “fold” – which I suppose is a possibility.
My dad’s response was simple: “Oh that makes sense. I never thought of it that way”. In truth, he had thought of this plenty of times – and if you are a believer – I would bet you have too – just from a slightly different perspective.
For example –the Bible talks about angels and demons – all the time. They aren’t terrestrial are they? Well that would make them extra-terrestrial. That’s right – if you believe in Angels or Demons – you already believe in aliens. Also, if you think the account in Revelation 4:6-8 has any factuality to it whatsoever – I would definitely call those creatures aliens.
I know I know – you want little green men. Sorry I’ve not heard of any actual accounts of Yoda-esque creatures just yet. But who knows? – it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t out there.
The Good News is that – even if they are out there – they aren’t a threat to your faith and, if we are truly followers of Christ we seek to be, we’ll hopefully be the ones who get to say: “We come in Peace”.