ET and Christianity – a brief literature review

Orthoanalytika show: 26 September 2010


Lesson on the Cross. The Cross is more than a mythical symbol.



UFO Expert, Biblical Scholar, and Christian Michael Heiser offers his commentary on the 9/27 UFO Press Conference at the National Press Club. Retired Air Force officers and airmen sharedtheirencounters with UFO’s that occurred at sensitive military (often nuclear) sites in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Michael has spent a lot of (well-used) time looking into this issue and his thoughts are well worth reading. His final take? The reports are real, but the vehicles are probably man-made, perhaps based on the further development of secret Nazi technology obtained by the USA and USSR after WWII.

Pope’s astronomer says he would baptise an alien if it asked him. Is this an example of fuzzy theological thinking? What would it take for aliens to benefit from Baptism? Christianity? Below, we look at how other Christian scholars have answered this question.

UN to Appoint space ambassador to act as first contact for aliens visiting Earth. Personally, I’d rather the Jesuits sent Emilio Sandoz!

Here’s a nice insight into the politicization (and resulting myopia) of the ET “debate”. Liberal alien worshippers demonize the religious right for demonizing ET’s. The second thing lost in this kind of thing is truth/objectivity… the first (and far greater loss) is charity. As listeners know,I agree with Michael (see his comments) – it is statism (automatically seeing the government as the “hammer” for every “nail”) that is the real danger… and one that neither political party is willing to confront.



Listener Mail:

Dear Fr. Anthony,

I enjoyed finally meeting you the other week during the Festival. I also have been enjoying your topic on ET and the possibilities to Christianity. As a biologist and someone who’s extremely interested in Exobiology I find it intriguing. I wanted to share an experience with you an experience of when I was teenager. At this time in my life I was suffering some health issues and had to have surgery. After the surgery I went home and was on bed rest for a few weeks before going back to school. One night I went to sleep after watching “Alien Encounters” on TLC, such wonderful educational programming. I awoke in the middle of the night to the sight of a creature standing in silhouette in front of my window inside my room. It was the quintessential alien, large head, tiny body with tiny arms. Behind him outside my window was flashing blue and white lights. Needless to say I was petrified; I mentally kept repeating “oh God, they are real.” After what seemed like an hour (I’m sure it was now it was only a few minutes) of watching this creature look around my room by turning its head back and forth, I made a break for my TV remote (believing TV would scare away an interplanetary visitor). As the room began to illuminate I saw what my alien was. A Mylar get well balloon had floated in front of my window. The body of the alien was a song book and music stand from my keyboards. The spaceship was a police car that had pulled someone over in front of my house. Circumstances plus heavy painkillers can really play tricks on you.

I did want to make a serious comment on the topic of extraterrestrial life. As a scientist and biologist I can promise that life exists outside this planet. I’m not referring to ET, Klingons, or Ewoks, but microbes. I know they are there because we are the ones that sent them. Since the days of sending man made machines into space we have been sending microbes. The US has done the best job of sterilizing our spacecraft, but other nations have not. But even the US isn’t perfect. In the 70s when a manned lunar mission brought back pieces of a previous lunar mission they thought they found evidence of lunar microbes. However what they found were microbes that were living on the moon that we left behind. So life is outside this world, at least to the moon and most probability Mars. So when we talk about ET and life beyond this world we need to understand we have already began expanding life beyond it. I look forward to your next podcast!

Many Years!



Back to the Gauntlet.

The Challengers:

Paul Davies on the incompatibility of Christianity and the Existence of Intelligent Aliens.


Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason. 1704.

Quote from Part One, Section 11:

But, in the midst of those reflections, what are we to think of the Christian system of faith, that forms itself upon the idea of only one world, and that of no greater extent, as is before shown, than twenty-five thousand miles? An extent which a man walking at the rate of three miles an hour, for twelve hours in the day, could he keep on in a circular direction, would walk entirely round in less than two years. Alas! what is this to the mighty ocean of space, and the almighty power of the Creator?


From whence, then, could arise the solitary and strange conceit that the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependent on his protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our world, because, they say, one man and one woman had eaten an apple? And, on the other hand, are we to suppose that every world in the boundless creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a redeemer? In this case, the person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of deaths, with scarcely a momentary interval of life.



Steven J. Dick, “Cosmotheology: Theological Implications of the New Universe” in Steven J. Dick (ed.) Many worlds: the new universe, extraterrestrial life, and the theological implications. 2000. Templeton Foundation Press.


In order to give a hint at what the impact of ETI might have on theology, we can first look at the reaction to previous discoveries. We can also look at the anticipatory debate. Good science fiction can also help. Examples include: David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), Olas Stapleton’s Star Maker(1937), C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End(1953), and Mary Dorrit Russell’s The Sparrow (1997) and Children of God(1998). Movies and series also help prepare us. Listed examples are: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Alien (1979), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982),Independence Day (1996), Contact (1997), Star Trek, and X-Files.


Dick suggests his own answer to ETI: Cosmotheology. Its principles are:

1.Humanity is not physically central to the universe. Anthropocentric religions still have not adapted to this reality.

2.Humanity is not biologically central to the universe, nor are we likely to be the “special object of attention of any deity”. (201)

3.Humanity is “most likely somewhere near the bottom, or at best midway, in the great chain of intelligent beings in the universe… Sure this has relevance to the question of our relation to any universal deity.”

4.The conception of God must be grounded in cosmic evolution, the biological universe, and the three principles above.

5.Morality must include reverence and respect for all life.


Mankind must adopt this kind of religion or go extinct (202). The God in this new religion is part of creation (the universe), not outside it. Only such a God can be shared (and merged) across cultures, races, etc. He is, “by definition, not supernatural, not transcendent “. He can be reconciled with science. Such God would not be necessary, although he could serve as the “God of the gaps” [he used other words] and satisfy the yearning of our minds for something greater (until we outgrow it or point it towards the cosmos itself).



Jill Cornell Tarter, “SETI and the Religion of the Universe” in Steven J. Dick (ed.) Many worlds: the new universe, extraterrestrial life, and the theological implications. 2000. Templeton Foundation Press.


ETI’s exist or don’t; God exists or doesn’t. There is no sufficient evidence for either, but one has no effect on people’s lives while the other ruins countless lives (Crusades etc.). If God exists, then a single, universal religion, one compatible with reality (science) is possible. Since ETI’s are bound to be more advanced, their understanding of this God and religion will be more advanced. We will need to convert to their more advanced way. If there is no God, then their technology and understanding will show our religions to be false and irrelevant. Either way, earth-bound religion loses. If we do not interact with the ETI’s, but only see evidence of them, it will polarize religion, leading them to become either more exclusivist or cosmopolitan. “The major religions of the world may be able to accommodate the idea of extraterrestrials into their current dogma, but some of them may be quite discomforted by the information revealed by the fact of extraterrestrial technologies.” (148)



Nothing New Under the Sun: how the questions has been handled in the past:


Michael J. Crowe, “Extraterrestrial Life and Christianity” in Arri Eisen and Gary Laderman (eds.) Science, religion, and society, and encyclopedia of history, culture, and controversy. 2007. M.E. Sharpe.


Ibid, “A History of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate” in Zygon, vol. 32, no. 2. June 1997.


Ibid, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900. 1986. Cambridge University Press.


Ibid, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate: Antiquity to 1915, A Source Book. 2008. University of Notre Dame.


Crowe’s great contribution is to show that the debate over ETL/I has been going on since at least the time of the ancient Greek philosophers and to describe how that debate has changed over time. Based on his study, he believes that “the impact of the detection of an extraterrestrial civilization would have substantially less effect on terrestrial religious views than is commonly believed.” Both of these go against popular wisdom which assumes that the debate is new and that Christianity cannot handle the introduction of ETI.


A brief review of the debate (page numbers from the Zygon article): The Epicureans/Atomists (ancient Greeks) had an atheistic and materialist worldview. They believed there were many worlds, but each was earth-centric (remember, this was a theoretical construct, not one based on astronomy). The “infinity of the atoms” (not God) was the source of the “Plentitude”. Plato opposed this view because multiple worlds would decompose and challenge the uniqueness of the Creator. Aristotle also challenged multiple worlds based on his cosmology.


Neo-platonic theologians of the early Church were “generally opposed to extraterrestrials” (149) because it fit their spiritual (i.e. anti-materialist/atomist) worldview. Ditto for Augustine and Aquinas. But in 1277 Etienne Tempier, the Bishop of Paris, condemned doctrines that would limit God’s powers. This set the stage for the Christian “Principle of Plentitude” and gave theologians the space to challenge Platonic and Aristotelian ideas. In 1440, Fr. Nikolaus (who later became a cardinal) advocated many worlds and the existence of life on the Sun and Moon in Of Learned Ignorance. William Vorilong may have been the first to address the Christological implications. He wrote that aliens would not share Adam’s sin, would be without sin, but that Christ’s death on Earth would redeem those on an infinitude of worlds (it would be unfit for Him to go to another world and die again).


Copernicus (about 1500) did not write about many worlds, but his heliocentric theory allowed for a cosmology that supported many worlds. A Lutheran theologian (about 1550), Philip Melachthon defended an exclusive, anthropocentric, and earth-centric Christianity. Giordano Bruno is not the patron saint of ETI believers, but he did add plentitude and ETI to Copernicus’ theory. From there, the debate continued through the enlightenment, with the idea of populated worlds capturing the imaginations of theologians and scientists alike. Thomas Paine (1793) changed that when he posited the irreconcilability of Christianity and multiple ETI-inhabited worlds. Notable Americans who followed in his mockery were John Adams, Emerson, and Twain. Popular theologians countered this (e.g. Timothy Dwight, Thomas Chalmers, and Thomas Dick) by arguing (among other things) for the “Intelligent Design” of the universe and pointing out that only mankind and some angels rebelled/fell.


The prophets of three new religions also loved ETL’s: Swedenbourg, Joseph Smith, and Ellen White. While the debate has often been divisive, Crowe argues that we should follow the advice of John Wesley on this matter; “Be not so positive”. (160).


My favorite quote from Crowe’s work. He quotes Gottfried Leibniz (a great scholar, no matter what Voltaire wrote; he seems to have been Protestant, but was familiar with and respectful of Roman Catholicism):


  1. If someone…came from the moon… we would take him to be a lunarian; and yet we might grant him… the title man…; but if he asked to be baptized, and to be regarded as a convert to our faith, I believe that we would see great disputes arising among the theologians. And if relations were opened up between ourselves and these planetary men… the problem would warrant calling an Ecumenical Council to determine whether we should undertake the propagation of the faith in regions beyond our globe. No doubt some would maintain that rational animals from those lands, not being descended from Adam, do not partake of redemption by Jesus Christ… Perhaps there would be a majority decision in favour of the safest course, which would be to baptize these suspect humans conditionally… But I doubt they would ever be found acceptable as priests of the Roman Church, because until there was some revelation their consecrations would always be suspect… Fortunately we are spared these perplexities by the nature of things; but still these bizarre fictions have their uses in abstract studies as aids to a better grasp of the nature of our ideas. (p. 29, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900)




How do some contemporary theologians who take the possibility of ETI (and their Christian faith) seriously address the issue?


Michael Heiser, PhD; my notes from his talk “God, Man, and ET”

Can conservative Christianity handle intelligent ET’s?

Many conservative Christians are afraid they will have to give up serious treatment of Scripture or reality (that includes ETs).


This was not always the case (nor should it be now):

1277: Bishop of Paris, Stephen Tempier, condemns things that limit God; this includes His ability to create multiple worlds (Pope asked him to study this, ended up attacking the extreme Aristotalians who did not accept ET etc). These were serious, conservative, Christians.


Led to the Principle of Plentitude: God is omnipotent, so He automatically brings all things into being that reflect His glory (so MUST have many worlds). DeCartes (a loyal Catholic) supported this idea against a Lutheran reformer who was against it because of Christ’s specific relationship to humans (i.e. would he have to do it all again?). By the end of the 18thcentury, the modal view was that the universe teemed with life. This soon changed.


Thomas Paine attacked the specific doctrines of the Incarnation and Redemption in part because Christ was human and would have to repeat this action everywhere (Heiser says this is not a real theological problem). So rational people would either need to reject belief in ET or their faith (contemporary theologians like Timothy Dwight and Chalmers objected to his attack in print). Darwinism created an even more hostile attitude towards Christianity. All these got wrapped up so that Christians (wrongly) feared the discovery of ETI. Many (pre-liberal) Conservative theologians did not feel threatened by ET or Darwinism.


Two things drove the Church away from its comfort with ET’s:

1) The manufacture of pseudo-arguments against Christianity and ET (i.e. bad theology).

  1. 2)The logically unnecessary linkage of random evolution and ET (vs. Christianity).


Four (or Five) Imagined Fears of God and ET

1) The existence of ETs would undermine the inerrancy of the Bible (i.e. the Bible doesn’t talk about life on other planets, so it can’t be true). But this is silly. We have radios, microwaves, etc. Why does the Bible need to have everything?

2)The existence of ETs would prove theories of evolution and panspermia. But there are many Christians who accept evolution (of a kind); why not accept that evolution etc. can work elsewhere? But even if you don’t accept evolution, then you must accept that God created those life forms the same as He did here (this was the dominant view of conservative Christians before Darwin). The validity of evolution doesn’t explain anything about creation and origins – for us or aliens. Regarding panspermia: why does there need to be one original source of life? Why wouldn’t you expect lifeforms to be similar (whether evolved from one another or from same source). Even if they were very similar to us, that doesn’t mean they created us any more than we created the apes. And if they said so, they might be lying (they could have agendas, too).

3)ET’s would undermine doctrines of the Incarnation and Redemption. Would God love ETs? Would they be fallen? Would He offer them a means of atonement? How? CS Lewis: said if universe is teeming with life, we are told that this makes the claim of a human savior absurd. But the attack Lewis describes is based on flawed assumptions:

a.It is true that all humans are flawed and need Christ to be saved. But ET’s would need the guilt of intentional and blameworthy sin in order to fit into this category…. aliens may not need to be saved because they may not have fallen. Additionally, animals do not need to be saved. ET’s may be like animals in this regard.

b.Romans chapter 8 and Colossians chapter 1 answer this question (see below). ET’s are included in the plan of salvation because all creation is saved through Christ. It is not (necessarily) through individual atonement, but because every mote that is blameless before God will be redeemed. All things (which were created through Christ) are reconciled through Christ. Only beings that willfully maintain their guilt before God are not part of that recreation.

4)ET would undermine the special relationship humans are assumed to have with God. i.e. the Imago Dei. Michael rules out that this is a physical likeness (as St. John writes – God is spirit). What is this image? It is something that makes us different from all the other things created in Genesis; it must be present in men and women; it is born to us, not gained. This leaves a short list of things that does not include intelligence or communication. The word “In” has variations of meaning: in the sink, something broke in pieces, someone works in chemistry. In Hebrew, the “bet of predication” in Genesis is best translated as “God created humankind AS His image”. This means that every human is a representative of God and is to act as He would. So ET is NOT God’s representative on earth – we are. Can ET be God’s representative somewhere else? Plentitude says yes. We are placed on earth and are unique here [didn’t really go into what this meant for space exploration].

5)[Later, he talks about the tie between UFO’s, aliens, and the demonic/occult.] Many people who want to believe in ET’s have turned it into a religion. Later pointed out that much of it has become attached to the occult. Jacques Vallee (Close Encounters advisor). Solid researcher. Believes 90% of what UFO researchers see is either a mistake or demonic/occult. Same for John Keel (the Mothman guy). This leads Christians to associate the two. This was not how it used to be, and we cannot fall into that trap. [We’ll go over this in greater detail in a future show]



Ernan McMullin, “Life and Intelligence Far from Earth: Formulating Theological Issues” in Steven J. Dick (ed.) Many worlds: the new universe, extraterrestrial life, and the theological implications. 2000. Templeton Foundation Press.


Simple Extraterrestrial Life (ETL): The discovery of even simple ETL “should be of major significance to Christian theologians.” Gregory of Nyssa pointed out that the wording of Genesis suggested that “pre-existing materials played a crucial part in the coming to being of the first living beings.” (155) Augustine put it differently, positing that the universe was created with the potentiality of life from the beginning. Neither taught the literal reading of the creation story from Genesis that dominated in the West after that (largely through the influence of Aquinas). The discover of ETL would support the allegorical reading of the creation story and Augustinian (and Eastern) explanations. It also shows what a trap Creation Scientists are working themselves into.

Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI) and Particularity: The account of Salvation History described in the Scriptures is particular, but all religions are particular. Christianity spreads, despite Jesus being a man from a particular place, time, race, etc. Christians also managed to maintain their faith while living amongst people who have not been touched by the Gospel, “But the proven reality of ETI might even more effectively encourage a broadening among the theologians and religious believers generally of the realization that the Creator of a galactic universe may well choose to relate to creatures made in the Creator’s own image in ways and on grounds as diverse as those creatures themselves”. (162)


ETI and the Plurality of Worlds: Christians should not be surprised (and should even expect) ETL on a plurality of worlds, given the fertility of creation described in Genesis. “[A]s the dimensions of the Creation prove incomparably greater than those of the central Earth of early tradition, the bestowal of that image could hardly be restricted to that single locus”. (164) Still, he doubts that there will be all that many worlds w/ ETI. This helps to counter Paine et al’s “concern” about the Son of God incarnating in so many places and times. But even so, McMullin suggests that God’s personhood is not as easily defined/contained as detractors assume.


ETI and “Original” Sin: There are many understandings of Original sin that run between the heresies of Manichianism and Pelagianism. Augustine proposed that mankind’s predisposition to sin is transmitted through the genes. Lewis follows the implication of this in Perelandria with another “Eve” being tempted by another “serpent”, but [critics would argue that] this kind of literal reading (which is also that assumed by Paine et al) “obscures the larger and more significant meanings of the Genesis myth.” They would not even look for a similar analogous act by a single person, but would wonder whether “these distant agents have a divided nature like ours? What sort of balance did their evolutionary ancestry leave them between reason and passion? How far does their intelligence carry them in an understanding of the sources and sanctions of morality?” (168).


ETI and Soul and Body: In order to begin figuring out whether ETI’s have souls, we must figure out what the soul is. Again, Augustine is problematic. He (following Plato) would have us look for something that is distinct from the body. Aquinas is not as strong in his dualism, but still holds that the soul can exist apart from the body. In both the souls are spiritual, and thus immortal [me: this is fuzzy-headed thinking]; accordingly “intelligent beings, no matter where found in the universe, would be of their nature immortal, quite independent of any special relationship with God (although the view suggested by Aquinas would call out for completion… perhaps through an Incarnation). Another [more Orthodox, and, according to the McMullin, favored by philosophers and scientists] perspective, there is no such dualism; so the mind would not naturally survive the death of the body. Immortality would only be a consequence of Grace, which might or might or might not be granted to others, human or alien. If He did, it might be granted by way of Incarnation. [Orthodox believe that only God is, by nature, Eternal. We were meant to grow into that… so might unfallen ETI’s have done that, but without the “wages of sin… death!?”]


ETI and the Incarnation: The Greek-speaking theologians of the early Church “changed” Paul’s emphasis on Christ’s Passion and Death to a broader one that looks to the Incarnation as the source of human salvation. Anselm darkened this (Christ’s death as expiation for an angry god). The Reformers took it even further (depravity). Different understandings of the Incarnation etc. “have definite consequences for the ETL situation.” (172) For example, if there is no sin among ETI’s and the Incarnation was to save us from the sin, then they would not need an Incarnation. If not, then the effect of the Incarnation might be universal – if ETI’s even need saving. Alternatively (if they need saving), they might get another Incarnation.



George V. Coyne, S.J. “The Evolution of Intelligent Life on Earth and Possibly Elsewhere: Reflections from a Religious Tradition” Steven J. Dick (ed.) Many worlds: the new universe, extraterrestrial life, and the theological implications. 2000. Templeton Foundation Press.


Takes on the “detrimental effect” science has had on religion (that in turn infects scientific thinking): that God is Explanation, “needed to explain what we cannot otherwise explain”. (177) Regarding life, even having one planet with life is a “scientific marvel” and “awesome”. Additional examples don’t add to that marvel. He actually prefers the model [as described by Hawking] that generates everything endogenously because it is not “arbitrary”. (181) This is only a problem for believers and theologians if they think of God as “Explanation” rather than “Love”. (ibid) We didn’t always do this (e.g. the Psalms vis-à-vis Creation). God loves us “downward”; while we (being, along with creation, made “good”) love Him upward. St. John’s Gospel is a great expression of this. We can see the Logos made Incarnate as an enabler of our rational exploration/understanding. But to know God we must not simply study, we must Love.


As for science, theology,& ETI, Coyne’s question is whether we could have predicted the advent life if we knew all the constants and had a complete “unified theory”? His answer is that such a purely scientific theory will still lack intentionality [something critics of Hawking have pointed out]. Such a theory may give us the finite “Mind of God” that scientists look for (i.e. a Platonic sense of it), but God is teaching more to us than that through His creation: He is pointing us towards His love. If we had humility, the limitations of science would show that to us. (186)


Theology has limitations, too: it is anthropocentric. God’s revelation is to us – His infinitude must speak to us as we are (as humans in a certain time and place). While ETI’s strains these revelations, Christian theology is resilient. Its anthropocentric revelation does not necessarily require exclusivity. Coyne then goes through Lewis’ (unattributed) logical series of steps: did they fall? Did God redeem them? Did He use the Incarnation? Positive answers toward the last two questions are strongly suggested in theology (and especially Sts. Paul and John).


In the end, the revelation that we have is True, but it is contextual, given to us as human beings. As such, it is automatically anthropocentric and tells us precious little about ETI’s. However, the Nature He created is also a revelation; not just of laws, but of love. The implication is that this should reassure us.



C.S. Lewis “Religion and Rocketry” in The World’s Last Night. 1952.


The challenge of ETI’s to Christianity will become formidable “when, if ever, we know the answer to five other questions:”

1.Are there animals anywhere other than earth? We may never know this.

2.Is so, are these animals spiritual (i.e. do they appreciate the existence of “Good”)? This would be very difficult to tell (it’s hard enough among our own!).

3.If yes, are any of them fallen? God only needed to Incarnate with us because we are so pathetic. Notice how far we have moved from certainty!

4.If any of them have fallen, “have they been denied Redemption by the Incarnation and Passion of Christ” He may have incarnated elsewhere

5.Is some other mode of Redemption available to other races? We cannot know. Different diseases requite different cures, but “sin” may require the specific cure taken here. And the one offered here may well be universally potent (but this does not make us important, only pitiful).

“What I do know is that here and now, as our only possible practical preparation for such a meeting, you and I should resolve to stand firm against all exploitation and all theological imperialism. It will not be fun. We shall be called traitors to our own species. We shall be hated of almost all men; even of some religious men…. Those who are, or can become, His sons, are our real brothers even if they have shells or tusks. It is spiritual, not biological, kinship that counts.” (90-91)


Lewis does not think these questions will be answered in a way that undermines Christianity. “Christians and their opponents again and again expect that some new discovery will either turn matters of faith into matters of knowledge or else reduce them to patent absurdities. But this has never happened. What we believe always remains intellectually possible; it never becomes intellectually compulsive. I have an idea that when this ceases to be so, the world will be ending. We have been warned that all butconclusive evidence against Christianity, evidence that would deceive (if it were possible) the very elect, will appear with Anti-Christ. And after that there will be wholly conclusive evidence on the other side. But not, I fancy, till then on either side.” (92)


C.S. Lewis “The Seeing Eye” (aka “Onward Christian Spacemen”) inThe Seeing Eye and Other Selected Essays from Christian Reflections


While Lewis does deal a bit with ETL in this essay, the main purpose is to address the issue of why we cannot see God (not seeing Him in space is what prompted the question, but the question is more general).


He claims that his contemporary culture – quite unlike that found in previous times – made it very easy to avoid any encounter with God; “Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health, and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or snobby appeal.” How much more has our own culture helped us in this anti-quest!


As for finding God, his answer is that God is outside space and time (our “story”), so we should not expect to find Him in space and time any more than we should expect to find Shakespeare by living through (reading) his stories. That is, we find evidence of Him in creation, but not like we find one another on the street. God is beyond knowing. Christians know that this is not the full story: God entered into Creation as Jesus Christ. But even then, there seemed to be far more people who saw Him without knowing Him than that saw Him and knew Him as God. Scientific observation would have seen the man, but only wisdom would recognize Him as God. As such, Lewis is not surprised that the Soviets did not see God in the heavens – but suspects that the discerning man would have seen Him there as surely as He sees Him everywhere else.


As for space travel, he joins many others in hoping we never meet other races; assuming that we would inflict our own vices on them as we have others we have met along the way. Just as likely, other (more advanced) races would be the arm of God, affecting His justice against us. Regarding the theological challenge to Christian theology, he uses the same argument as in “Religion and Rocketry”; they may not be fallen, etc.


But his final point is one that all people who get wrapped around the axle on this and similar questions must take to heart: “But all this is in the realm of fantastic speculation. We are trying to cross a bridge, not only before we come to it, but even before we know there is a river that needs bridging.”



Marie I. George, “ET Meets Jesus Christ” in Logos. 10:2, Spring 2007 (also see her book Christianity and Extraterrestrials?: A Catholic Perspective, which is both more comprehensive and more doubtful that the issue will ever leave the realm of the theoretical).


The main thrust of George’s work is that Thomas Paine was mostly right (there is an incompatibility between Christian theology and ETI), but that other races – if they even exist (and they probably don’t) – may be unfallen.


She begins by presenting the “facile solutions to the compatibility problems”:

  1. Plentitude is not enough. God is big, but logic (and illogic) remains. The questions must be addressed on their merits.

  2. Scripture, not God, is anthropocentric. But Christian Scripture does touch on other intelligent races (angels and demons) and hint at the broader implications of the economy of salvation.


She then looks at various ways the compatibility problems might be addressed from within Christian experience as found in Scripture:

  1. Universality. It is true that Scripture supports a Earth/human-centric understanding of Christ, but some passages point to the universality of His Incarnation here. These include Ephesians 3: 19-12, Ephesians 4: 10; Ephesians 1: 8-10; all of which affirm the Church’s teaching that all creation is being renewed through Christ. Nor is this simply Christ the Logos; His humanity is part of this. E.g. Philippians 2: 6-11; Hebrews 2: 8-9; Ephesians 1: 22.

  2. Multiple Incarnations. She points out that there is already room for intelligent creatures in Christianity as it is already known: angels and demons [although I would argue that their participation in salvation history is not well established or validated]. And while, contra Paine, multiple incarnations are possible, there may be no need: “Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is infinite in its saving power, and thus could have made satisfaction for any number of fallen races.” This is evidenced by a very powerful bit of scripture: Colossians 1: 18-20: “As he is the Beginning, he was first to be born from the dead, so that he should be first in every way; because God wanted all perfection to dwell in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth when he made peace by his death [literally “blood”] on the cross.” (p. 74)

  3. Are Humans the Only Beings in Need of Salvation? Hebrews 2: 10-17seems to cast doubt on Christ’s sacrifice being useful to anything but humans – and, given the earlier cited view in Hebrews for universality – even the existence of other races. This is backed up [somewhat] by the parallel between Adam and Christ presented in Romans 5: 15-19. FWIW, Paine understood this and its implications.

  4. Scripture Seems to Indicate that We are Alone. “If it is the case that Christ is the savior of the fallen, and he came only to save humans, and if God would not leave fallen material rational species unredeemed, it follows that there are no other fallen material rational species in the universe.” (p. 77) As for calling ETI’s “human”, there is no biological link between humans and ETI’s [sans panspermia], so they would need their own biological God-alien. [seems to assume an Augustian – and incomplete – notion of “Original Sin”]. Nor would a God-man be able to teach people how to resist sin as a role model or be as lovable [but he was a Jew of 2000 years ago, not an Anglo-American living here today].

  5. In the end, we have to either admit (based on scripture) that there are no unfallen aliens or reinterpret verses like Hebrews 2:14 (which is possible, as her interpretation is not dogmatic).

  6. Unfallen Aliens. Probably aren’t any (even angels fell!), but can’t exclude that possibility (quotes Lewis here).

  7. Human Specialness. If aliens possess rationality, then they to can be considered to have been made “in the the image of God”. But humans remain special because when we participate in Christ, we are agents in the renewal of Creation towards its proper end. (p. 81) Aliens may be smarter, and they may say things like; “What good can come from Nazareth?” Also quotes Lewis about God dying for us to make us worth dying for.

  8. And there probably aren’t any aliens anyways. Fermi paradox, rare Earth, etc. Nor is there such a thing as “wasted space”: “One human being in the state of grace is of greater value than the entire material universe – and this is Christ’s work”. (p. 92).


She ends in this way; “I have argued on theological and philosophical grounds that he has [made only one planet around one sun harbor intelligent life] – which is not to deny, pace Paine, that Christians are free to adopt the opposite view without prejudice to their faith.”


Next Week: Orthodox Views on ET and Christianity


  1. A.Randall Olson and Vladimir V.M. Tobin “An Eastern Orthodox Perspective on Microbial Life on Mars” in Theology and Science, 6:4, 2008.


Vladimir Lossky The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.


Fr. Seraphim Rose Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. This means addressing the issue of ETI’s as demons, and this has a lot of momentum among Christians.