Christ’s Death and Resurrection Are For Mankind Alone
Last week we discussed some periphery issues surrounding the Bible and extra-terrestrials. I want to expand today a little on one of those as well as to speak concerning a particular argument some evangelical Christians make for the existence of intelligent life on other planets. While not every subject we judge during this series will receive two posts, I think it important as we start out to establish a pattern of how and why we should be taking up what may seem like a frivolity.
God in His graciousness has provided both a book of nature and a book of Scripture which each in their own way declare His glory. (Ps. 19:1,7). We cannot neglect either when considering this matter. Throughout as we begin to look at things like fairies, mermaids, and other human-like creatures there are going to be questions around the commonplace presence of them in cultures both far and wide. It is not unheard of to read defenses of the Flood that posit the same argument. In other words, if something has a habit of showing up in the tales of the Sioux and the people of the Indus Valley there has to be some kind of there, there. However, before we get too far down that road, which we will hop back on at a later date, let’s get back to a portion of the discussion concerning the nature of the image of God in man and how that one doctrine eliminates the possibility of little green men from Pluto.
Defining the image of God can be a little problematic because there is a lot of nuance around what we mean by that term. To begin with we need to understand that what separates man from beast is not the form of his physical presence. Humanity is more than his constituent parts, however, he is not less than that. R.L. Dabney writes in his Lectures in Theology, “The statement that [Adam’s] body was created out of pre-existent matter, and his soul communicated to that body by God, solves a thousand inquiries, which mythology and philosophy are alike incompetent to meet.” To be human is to be body and soul. The latter being the accidens, the thing which carries with it the kernel of our uniqueness in the eyes of God.
To further elaborate on this Dabney notes:
“The Reformed divines represent [the image] as grounded upon man’s rationality and immortality, which make him an humble representing of God’s spiritual essence; but as consisting especially in the righteousness and true holiness, in which Adam was created. The dominion bestowed upon man is the appropriate result of his moral likeness to his Maker.”
Moral likeness means moral accountability. We who bear the image are bound by our relation to the Triune Being to maintain that image in all perfection, or risk losing it, which of course Adam did in the breaking of the covenant of works. What this makes clear in regards to the question of foreign intelligent life is that unless they receive that image themselves then they will fail to be able to contain the requisite intellect in order to meet us and have conversation. The breathing of spiritual life in mankind, as opposed to physical life, which God also did for man, as He did for the other creatures, is the marker of our humanity both in the eyes of the animal kingdom, and God Himself. In other words to ask a seemingly innocuous query at this point, For whom did Christ die? The answer according to Dabney is grounded upon the disposition of our conception. While we agree that our Savior’s work will bring restitution to the lamb and lion as well as to you and me, there is a categorical difference between the one lying down with the other and our surrounding the throne of glory. Our interlocutor says it this way, “If there are men on earth not descended from Adam’s race, then their federal connection with him is broken . . . the unity of the race is implied in all [the Bible’s] system(Acts 17:26) . . . Unity of race is necessary to relation to the Redeemer.”
The very makeup of our kind makes it impossible for there to be alien species capable of inter-galactic, or even intra-solar travel, unless one wants to say that Jesus went around dying multiple times, assuming the image of Caamasi or Wookies each time He moved from planet-to-planet. I hope you understand that to be an absurd take without me needing to spend a lot of time refuting it, yet that is in fact what some have taught to defend the existence of extra-terrestrials. To be fair I am not talking about C.S. Lewis’s literary device in the Space Trilogy where the Martians have never experienced the Fall. What we are referring to here are serious takes from evangelical thinkers (here is an example) who make this case.
As you see in that article the general idea for this comes from a curious reading of John 10:14, which reads, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” The clause …not of this fold is doing all of the heavy lifting there. A similar case is made by another evangelical, a name which may shock you, none other than Billy Graham. In a Q/A found on the website dedicated to his memory you find this statement:
But if there is life on other planets, then God created that life, for God created everything. As the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (Genesis 1:1; 2:1). Furthermore, if there are beings on other planets that have souls and can know God, then God created them in His image, just as He did us. And you can be sure that He has somehow made it possible for them to know Him.
While this is a nice pious sentiment, I think we would all have to agree that this is not in keeping with what we have heard the good Dr. Dabney note above about the human race. It would be a fantastical impossibility for Christ to have laid down His life for sheep not of this sheepfold who either bear no covenantal relationship with Adam (and by virtue of that, to God), nor would be thereby responsible for sin requiring forgiveness to begin with. To posit redeemable life on other planets is to do damage to the very basic conceptions we have of humanity, the Bible’s authority, the hypostatic union of Christ, and the means and purposes of God’s making man out of nothing for His glory and our blessing. It just does too much damage to gospel faith.
Here’s a word to chew on:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church