Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where No One Has Gone Before

One argument used against Christianity is the smallness of the earth with regard to the size of the universe. This is ironic because, in the Middle Ages, based on Ptolemy's Almagest, they knew that the earth resembled a mathematical point in comparison to the size of the fixed stars. Nor does the equation of size to importance seem to be obvious. Is a star, for all its size, more important then smaller creatures that are capable of independent thought and action? But I suspect the real issue is not so much size as centrality. Earth has gone from being the center of the universe to an obscure planet orbiting an obscure sun, and the question comes why God should care about us enough to become a human being to redeem us.

With some help from C. S. Lewis, I would like to look at this issue. Is there intelligent life anywhere else in the universe? If not, we would ask why God created this vast expanse to create intelligent life on only one planet. But there are many mysteries in the ways of God. If there is no other intelligent life, it is not surprising God would treat us in a special way. (Lewis speculates on whether we would be able to distinguish a genuinely spiritual being from a highly intelligent animal or recognize one if they had a low level of intelligence or manufacturing ability. I would not go as far as he does on this, but it is a question to consider.)

If intelligent life exists, we must ask if it has fallen into sin. The Bible says human beings were created upright and fell by disobeying God's command. If there are other races, it is possible they never rebelled against God and do not need to be redeemed. The distinction of the human race may consist in our being the ones that need redemption. Also, there are those in the spiritual realm who are so hardened in sin they are irredeemable. Could there be other races in the same state? Could we necessarily distinguish between races in various conditions? If there are races who can be and need redeeming, has God done so? This could be a problem for Christianity if He has not, but it is something we do not know. (I am reluctant to follow Lewis in suggesting the possibility of a different mode of redemption from the one we are familiar with or believing that our redemption could apply to another race. But I cannot claim to know all the answers on this.)

I agree with Lewis in suspecting the cosmic distances may be God's quarantine precautions to prevent us, as fallen beings, from doing to other races what we have done to less technologically equipped members of our own. But our questions about what God is doing in the rest of the universe must wait until we know more about what is really out there.

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