By: Jim Virkler
The question of whether humanity shares characteristics of life with other human or human-like creatures in our enormous universe has long piqued interest from coffee-table conversationalists to professional astro-biologists. The question fascinates some young people whose extrospective abilities are stimulated when they first study the subject of astronomy.
Scripture does not address this topic. As a young person I recall my father quoting John 10:16 (KJV): Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold…” Many diverse interpretations relevant to this passage exist, but when I first heard it I thought it may have referred to life on other planets. Writing on the Concordia Seminary website, professor of theology Dr. Charles Arand states, “First, if life exists elsewhere it means that God created it. What is non-negotiable for the Christian faith, and indeed the cornerstone for it, is that God created everything that exists out of nothing.”
Dr. Arand continues, “One thing that we do know about God’s work here on Earth is that God loves life! Lots of life. And lots of different kinds of life. We see this already in Genesis 1 where the movement of creation is toward the filling of all the spaces on Earth (air, water, land) with teeming life.”
Astro-biologists have proposed that finding simple life on another planet such as Mars during our space probes would indicate the past natural transport of earth materials to a nearby planet owing to debris blasted into space by a past meteorite or asteroid strike—a distinct possibility. Such a discovery would not necessarily indicate that life forms were originally created on other planets.
Many parameters related to existence of life elsewhere in our vast cosmos come to mind. If diversity of life is found to exist throughout the cosmos on some of the billions of planets circling billions of other stars, the question may occur among naturalistic scientists whether the paradigm of origin and development of life by evolutionary processes applies not only to Planet Earth but also is a common feature of physical systems throughout the cosmos. If scientists believe this to be true, their belief that life on Planet Earth is the product of a natural evolutionary process may be reinforced.
On the other hand, if Earth life appears to be a one-time cosmic occurrence, humans could more easily credit its distinctiveness to a supernatural Cause—God, the Creator of all things. At this point we must search for reasons to believe in a supernatural Creator as cosmic Author of a unique planet with unique humanity created in God’s own image.
Dr. Arand further writes, “What does this mean for possible life elsewhere? I don’t know. God has not revealed that to us.” We side with Dr. Arand—we don’t know, but we are impacted by recent research which tilts us toward belief that we are really alone in the Milky Way and in the cosmos. The reality of this belief has powerful theological implications.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.