Fellow Christian author E. Stephen Burnet has written a thought provoking post over at SpeculativeFaith.com, entitled Will Christians Colonize the Cosmos?
He correctly notes that Christian objections to the idea that we will colonize space center on our eschatology. Basically, our End Times theology has resulted in a geocentric futurology: we don’t think we’ll get far beyond the bright blue home God made for us because future prophesied events center on our planet.
As an example, Burnet cites Revelation 1:7:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
As he points out, the Left Behind series solved this problem by giving folks on the other side of Israel a vision of the Lord’s Second Coming. I find this unnecessary in a age of satellites and the Internet. I used to wonder how everyone could see Jesus at the same time (I had much the same puzzle over the two slain witnesses of Revelation 11), but I think modern technology has that one pretty well wrapped up. I mean, I’m looking at a tiny screen on my phone as I type this…
That settles things for “all the kindreds of Earth,” but it’s fair to ask as Burnett did, “What about the tribes not of this Earth?”
I asked a similar question in Strangers and Aliens. Pondering the Rapture, I asked whether astronauts and space colonists would be left behind. As it turns out, the probable answer to that question is found in the passage Revelation 1:7 is quoting. Jesus spoke these words to His disciples:
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:30–31)
If heaven includes space, it looks like everyone makes the trip, which makes sense when you think about it. Do you really think the Good Shepherd would abandon some poor lost sheep out in space? To be fair, some folks think that this passage only applies to the Second Coming and not the Rapture, but the principle is sound. After all, will not the Lord do justly by His children?
This brings us back round to the other question of what seeing the Second Coming means for the tribes not of Earth. If it means something like, if your tribe originated on Earth, you will see the Second Coming, perhaps technology is still the answer. If this is the case, unless we invent an ansible (instantaneous subspace communications), it looks like space colonization might be limited to this galaxy. On the other hand, if that passage means something like, if you’re on the Earth, you will see the Second Coming, whether the tribes not on this Earth see it or not becomes a moot point. Basically, they would be irrelevant to the prophecy.
In my Otherworld series, the moon and Mars have been colonized. In fact, Mars Colony has fought for and won its independence. Geocentric prophecies do not exclude the possibility of events on the moon or other planets in the Sol system. Nothing in Scripture prevents us from colonizing the moon or terraforming Mars if the Lord tarries another millenia or more.
The question of colonizing an exoplanet is a different matter. In my Otherworld series, I employed a fictional faster-than-light method involving warped space. Getting to a distant star system in reality is a bit trickier. Faster than light travel involves improbable things we haven’t invented yet and may not ever be able to invent. The most feasible slower than light method is a generation shop that requires a commitment from not only the original passengers but their descendants, many of whom will never set foot on a planet’s surface. And that doesn’t even factor in the technological problems.
Still, the Creator’s image bearers are nothing if not inventive. My grandfather was fond of noting that one of the most striking fulfillments of Bible Prophecy to occur in his lifetime (other than the rebirth of the nation of Israel) was the realization of Daniel 12:4:
“…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
We certainly get around and knowledge has increased at an exponential rate. It’s strange to think that the device I’m typing this blog post on contains pretty much everything Radio Shack had to offer in the Eighties. In fact, it holds more!
If we discover a means, is there anything in Scripture that prevents us from colonizing another galaxy? Does the Dominion mandate extend beyond the cradle of humanity?
In my Otherworld series, it’s a moot point. We did it, therefore God clearly allowed it. I still think that the promise of Matthew 24 applies to exoplanets, so I don’t think any Christians should arbitrarily stay on Earth to avoid the possibility of an omnipresent, omniscient God somehow missing them, or missing them on purpose because they were out of His will; however, I do anticipate an Earther sect within Christianity, a geocentric parallel to the anachronistic Mennonite philosophy, will likely arise to tell us that colonization is disobedience to God’s will in accordance with the Bible’s geocentric focus. And I’m sure like today’s anti-alienists, they will cite Psalm 115:16 in support of their Earthbound religious perspective. Nevermind that this verse hasn’t prevented astronauts, many of them good Christians, from setting foot on the moon, whose only stated Biblical purposes, by the way, are to give light, mark the seasons and declare God’s glory. Apparently, it has unstated purposes as well and substance beyond being a pretty light source.
My fear is that despite the example of godly astronauts, Christians will abandon space the way we’ve neglected scifi, making the ether a godless expanse by default. After all, some are already saying there’s nothing to see, because it’s all about the Earth, leaving us to wonder what the point of space exploration really is.
If you ask me, and this is just my take on things, the reason God commanded mankind to go forth, be fruitful and multiply, and all that was because there was so much of this world we hadn’t yet seen. Since we’re dealing with the God who created microscopic organisms well before we developed the tools to view them and appreciate their significance, perhaps the Creator didn’t just make outer space as a grand background set in a theist version of Simulation Hypothesis. Is it possible that the stellar discoveries we’re making are Jesus Christ the Creator’s next invitation to “Come and see”?
Maybe there’s more out there than we at first supposed.
Let’s find out.