I mean space aliens. The E.T. kind. When I saw the title of this post on io9.com — “How Would Christianity Deal with Extraterrestrial Life?” — I expected it to be some kind of smarmy parody of how those ignorant Bible-thumpers would respond to a visit from Mr. Spock (“Get off’n my property, ya pointy-eared demon!” <shotgun blast>).
But it’s actually a very thoughtful look at possible Christian responses to contact with alien life from someone who at least takes Christianity seriously:
But, many Christians have thought about it and have rejected the idea that alien intelligence is irreconcilable with their beliefs. “What is misleading here is the assumption that the Christian religion is fragile, that it is so fixed upon its orientation to human beings centered on Earth than an experience with extraterrestrial beings would shatter it,” wrote theologian Ted Peters in the 1990s. “To the contrary, I find that when the issue of beings on other worlds has been raised it has been greeted positively…. I advocate exotheology—that is, speculation on the theological significance of extraterrestrial life.”
Kuhn, having heard multiple views, says there are only six possibilities for Christian salvation in the context of sentient life beyond Earth:
- Jesus’ death and resurrection on Earth covers all beings on all worlds and at all times.
- Jesus goes through a similar process of life, death, and resurrection on innumerable planets to save innumerable beings and creatures.
- Human beings, as galactic missionaries, will ultimately colonize the universe and spread the Word of God to heathen ETs.
- There are other mechanisms to attain salvation on other planets.
- Salvation is not offered to other beings and creatures on other planets.
- There are no other sentient beings on other planets anywhere; humans are utterly unique.
When people ask a question like this — “How would the religious respond to aliens?” — my response is, “How would the irreligious respond to aliens… if it turned out that the aliens were religious?”