Would Christianity “survive” the discovery of alien life-forms? Does such a question even make sense?
Last week we reported on the Royal Society’s “Detection of Extraterrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society” conference. This week, a survey presented at the conference offers more news for our consideration. Theologian Ted Peters of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary surveyed 1,300 individuals, asking whether they thought the discovery of extraterrestrial life would pose a problem for their personal religious views, for their religion as a whole, or for other world religions.
Of respondents who classified themselves as religious, only a third agreed that the discovery of extraterrestrial life would pose a problem for world religions. That proportion jumped to over two-thirds for those who identified themselves as nonreligious. However, few respondents—religious or otherwise—agreed that the discovery of alien life would shake their own faith.
New Scientist quotes Arizona State University astrobiologist Paul Davies, who claims that finding life in space would cause problems for Christians. “They believe that Jesus came down to earth to save humankind—not dolphins, Neanderthals or extraterrestrials. To make sense of this, either you need multiple incarnations or a reason why this planet and this species was singled out for special attention.”
Answers in Genesis has made similar points, actually, but we don’t agree that Christianity wouldn’t “survive” the discovery of extraterrestrial life—or even that the question makes sense. First, referring to the “survival” of Christianity treats it as a mere sociological phenomenon—a specifically anti-Christian presupposition. Second, the question also presupposes that the existence of extraterrestrial life is an open question—i.e., that there is a nonzero probability of encountering aliens. (Thus, the question may be akin to asking an atheist if his views would be threatened were God to create new life-forms.) Also, we note how vague phrases such as “extraterrestrial life” are; finding bacterial life (i.e., as simple as it gets) on Mars would have a very different meaning than intelligent life far from earth.
As we have explained before, the Bible makes no explicit statements as to the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise. For that reason, Christians would have nothing to fear if alien life were discovered. However, starting from Scripture, we see that earth is the focus of God’s plan; earth existed before other heavenly bodies, was the site of Jesus’ death and resurrection; and is the centerpiece of the new creation in Revelation 21. Furthermore, nearly all the hype we hear about finding alien life comes from evolutionists or those with compromised, New Age-like perspectives on God; if one holds to a biblical worldview, he sees the astonishing lack of evidence for extraterrestrial life—especially considering how actively man has searched for it for decades. Thus, there is not only no reason for the Christian to believe aliens exist, but reason for the Christian to believe aliens don’t exist.
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