Starting to Think Theologically about Extra-terrestrial Life

June 29, 2021

In my previous post I reflected on the possibility that our home galaxy may be inhabited by observers like us, who may be looking at planet Earth, who can measure its size, its mass, and even detect the composition of its atmosphere from the light spectrum the latter transmits.

In this post, I am less concerned with the physical reality of exoplanets but with the task of thinking theologically about its implications, especially where there is potential for extra-terrestrial life. After all, a brief search period has discovered more than one hundred and fifty terrestrial planets. What’s more, who is to say that among the billions of star systems in our galaxy, life-bearing exoplanets don’t exist? The same may be assumed for the hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the universe. On purely statistical counts alone, the possibility of sentient life cannot be ruled out a priory (although we may never know for sure).

Since theologians are likely to be called upon before long to relate Christian gospel claims to this new context, I am offering four theological planks that can serve in guiding such attempts:

1. Affirming the doctrine of God’s omnipresence, these “other worlds” are—

like ours—the object of their Creator’s self-giving love and attention.

2. Affirming that eternal trinitarian love is the well-spring of all creation, it follows that we have to do with an ordered cosmos of diversity in which all things from quarks to quasars are precious.

3. Uncontainable by a finite creation, eternal love’s overwhelming excess serves to draw the whole creation, including exoplanets and extra-terrestrial life ever onward toward greater depth, relationship, union, life, and becoming.

4. Affirming trinitarian love as the matrix of creation, this love, in the movements of inner-trinitarian freedom, enables the evolutionary creativity of creation, neither overpowering nor coercing.


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