Did Jesus die for aliens, too?

  • Question 191, from Ben

    I’ve read a report that some scientists say there might have been life on Mars around 4 billion years ago. I’m curious as to how learning of life on other planets would link with Christian theology; for instance, did Jesus die for creatures on other planets?

    The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has yet to turn up any proof of alien intelligence, and even if it did, the vast distances between stars mean it unlikely there will ever be meaningful contact with creatures from other planets.

    Theoretically the existence of life elsewhere in the universe is compatible with Christian theology. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI’s official astronomer, Father Jose Funes discussed the possibility of life being created by God on other planets and that such life would be covered by the death of Christ.

    The ‘life’ on Mars would most likely be remains of very simple single-celled creatures, not the ruins of an extra-terrestrial civilisation. While this would be troublesome for some Christians who oppose evolutionary theory, for many Christians it would be less problematic.

    Whether Jesus died for aliens is another matter. In one sense, he would have, because Christian theology generally holds that through Jesus’ death and resurrection the whole of creation has been redeemed. In another sense, it depends on whether aliens have sinned. In his books ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ and ‘Voyage to Venus’ (also known as ‘Perelandra’), C.S. Lewis explored what it would mean to encounter extra-terrestrials who had not sinned. Would they need ‘saving’ in the same way as humans?

    There is also the possibility that each culture has its own saviour. It would be odd for an alien race to have to make contact with Earth to find redemption. That situation would result in some interesting theological discussions, but they could be resolved, in much the same way as inter-faith dialogue currently seeks the common ground in all human religions.

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