An article by Santhosh Matthew over at the Guardian caught my eye today. It was titled “The discovery of alien life may be close. How will religion survive it?”
“Contact with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe will present theological and philosophical conundrums that many religions will find deeply challenging. This is especially true for Christianity, which primarily focuses on humankind – and teaches us that God created man in his own image, and all other animals and plants were created for mankind…
The core question would be, does God’s creation extend beyond a single planet? If so, would the inhabitants of those planets believe in the same gods as humans do? How could the creator of the universe deny the inhabitants of those worlds a chance to redeem their sins? Does that mean that God incarnated as Jesus in those worlds contrary to Bible teachings that say that the redemption in Christ was a unique event meant for humans on Earth?”
In a refreshing twist, for those familiar with the usual bent of such articles, Matthew doesn’t decree a death knell for religon. He correctly notes that Christianity survived both the Copernican Revolution and the advent of Darwinism; however, his opinion on why the Christianity survived those scientific challenges misses the point.
“These institutions have always shown an amazing ability to remain relevant. Whenever they encounter a new paradigm shift, they come up with interpretations from scriptures that justify their own existence. There is also, quite simply, something special about religion that resonates with humans on a fundamental level.
For traditional religions and religious institutions, the desire to expand their material wealth and power has often take precedence over the spreading of theological doctrines. This has often led to a culture of exploitation, of both people and the planet. This perhaps explain why the Copernican revolution or Darwinism didn’t displace the religious order in a significant way in the past.”
It seems not to have occurred to the author that the reason Christianity was not falsified by either true science (heliocentrism) or science falsely so called (microbes-to-man evolution) is not because its theologians are clever, because people are religious by nature or because of some mercenary Marxist views of organized religion, but rather because Christianity is true.
Truth cannot be falsified by either facts or lies paraded in the name of science. Only things that are false can be falsified. Christianity can face any new discovery with confidence because we stand on the solid rock of truth. In fact, the Bible calls the Church the pillar and ground of the truth [1 Timothy 3:15]. It was established by One who self-identified as Truth itself [John 14:6]. Moreover the Bible is the only authority that can claim to be supernaturally authenticated by fulfilled prophecy and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Microbes-to-man evolution could only be true if pure naturalism were true and the Bible false… and those points about fulfilled prophecy and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ fatally undermine the idea of pure naturalism.
Heliocentrism was never a threat to Christianity but well-meaning theologians made it appear to be. At first they said that geocentrism wasn’t inconsistent with the Bible and meshed well with its anthropocentric focus. Then they found verses in the Bible that could be interpreted to suggest support for geocentrism. As they grew more confident, they began saying that the Bible taught geocentrism as dogma. And then Copernicus and Galileo came along with heliocentrism and the Church found itself fighting against truth because it had progressively made the Bible say things it never intended to say! The Galileo affair and the Church versus science conflict it suggested remains a stumbling block to the faith even to this day.
Despite the lessons of the Galileo affair, there are Christians today who dogmatically teach that there are no extraterrestrials because of the Bible, even though the Bible is actually silent on the subject. The “Biblical principles” they use to prop up this belief are founded on logical fallacies, as I demonstrated in my book, Strangers and Aliens. Truth cannot be founded on logical fallacies. Those who promote anti-alien dogma are laying down potential stumbling blocks to the faith.
As I’ve said before, it is unwise to be dogmatic about things that the Bible is silent on; however, even if alien life is discovered we can be confident that the truth of God’s Word will stand sure.