No doubt many of you read recently that the Vatican was going to explore the possibility that there may be intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos.
This, of course, is quite a different approach than the Vatican took hundreds of years ago when it and much of the world insisted that the Earth was the center of the universe.
But this openly explorative approach also raises questions -- and a Jewish friend of mine asked some of those questions the other day:
|So if aliens really exist, do they need Jesus for salvation? And would that be the same Jesus or an alien version?|
I gave him what I thought might be one possible Catholic answer, then I gave him a possible Tammeus answer. Here they are:
First, a guess at a Catholic answer: There is no reason to limit God's plan of salvation to Earth. God, being a God of love, also would provide a means of salvation for all thinking living creatures everywhere. At one point in the New Testament Jesus says he has sheep in other flocks about whom we know nothing. Could that mean aliens on Tralfamador? Maybe. But whatever the means by which people may be in eternal relationship with God, God will provide it -- and remember that Christ is one of the three persons of the Godhead. That may (I'm really speculating here without having throught it through thoroughly) mean an incarnation of Christ into an alien life form parallel to Christ's incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth.
Next my own stab at an answer that I think is rooted in my Reformed Tradition of Christianity: God is sovereign. God is gloriously free. If there are thinking living creatures elsewhere in the universe, they would and will and do live within the boundaries of God's saving love. Does that mean they need Jesus for salvation? I am comfortable leaving that question to God.
In some ways, this whole matter raises the question of universalism, the question of whether all people will be saved no matter what.
A recent Christian response to that question is contained in a new book I've written about here recently, Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral, by Thomas G. Long.
He writes this: "The question is an important and vexing one, and it tends to divide the house. While the biblical evidence is mixed, the overall thrust of the biblical witness seems to encourage a hope for the redemption of all humanity. . .On the other hand, a sweet and easy universalism itself infringes on the freedom of God. . .The bad news is that everybody. . .is guilty; the good news is that the judge of the 'quick and the dead' is Jesus Christ."
Long also quotes Jurgen Moltmann, one of the most widely read theologians of our era. Moltmann has written:
"Can some people damn themselves, and others redeem themselves by accepting Christ? If this were so, God's decisions would be dependent upon the will of human beings. God would become the auxiliary who executes the wishes of people who decide their fate for themselves. If I can damn myself, I am my own God and judge. Taken to a logical conclusion, this is atheistic."
There. That should settle all of this. Right?
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LET'S TRY ON THIS SUIT NOW
Another church-state lawsuit has been filed in Tennessee, this time over a public school that some people charge has been promoting Christianity. The rules about all of this may not be indisputably clear in all cases, but most of these suits could be avoided if everyone would follow the constitutional limits affirmed by case law. It's not that tough, folks.