Dr. Danny Faulkner’s (Answers in Genesis) article “Is Belief in Alien Life Harmless?” made rounds again recently. I’ve already answered Dr. Faulkner’s article, detailing the logical and Scriptural errors it contains; however I wanted to comment on a peculiar misrepresentation of the views of former US President John Adams.
I could note of course that it is passing strange that a Biblical creationist astronomer would appeal to former President John Adams regarding the matter of exotheology. The whole thing is simply a faulty appeal to an authority in an unrelated field.
In the article, Dr. Faulkner states:
“John Adams observed in his diary on April 24, 1756, that if many other worlds were inhabited as people then thought, then Jesus would have to die on each of those worlds.”
John Adams’ April 24, 1756 diary entry actually says the following:
“Astronomers tell us, with good Reason, that not only all the Planets and Satellites in our Solar System, but all the unnumbered Worlds that revolve round the fixt Starrs are inhabited, as well as this Globe of Earth. If this is the Case all Mankind are no more in comparison of the whole rational Creation of God, than a point to the Orbit of Saturn. Perhaps all these different Ranks of Rational Beings have in a greater or less Degree, committed moral Wickedness. If so, I ask a Calvinist, whether he will subscribe to this Alternitive, “either God almighty must assume the respective shapes of all these different Species, and suffer the Penalties of their Crimes, in their Stead, or else all these Being[s]must be consigned to everlasting Perdition?””
It should be mentioned that John Adams was just twenty years old at this point, was from a Puritan heritage and had not yet slipped into Unitarianism. Adams’ thoughts on extraterrestrials are neafly identical to Thomas Paine’s slightly later remarks upon the subject.
It seems to have been a trending idea.
What Dr. Faulkner fails to mention that in the following entry (April 25, 1756), John Adams comments further upon the subject:
“The Reflection that I penned Yesterday, appears upon the review to be weak enough. For 1st. we know not that the Inhabitants of other Globes have sinned. Nothing can be argued in this manner, till it is proved at least probable that all those Species of rational Beings have revolted from their rightful Sovereign.—When I examine the little Prospect that lies before me, and find an infinite variety of Bodies in one Horizon of perhaps two miles diameter, how many Millions of such Prospects there are upon the Surface of this Earth, how many millions of Globes there are within our View, each of which has as many of these prospects upon its own surface as our Planet—great! and marvellous are thy works!”
In case you missed it, John Adams called the argument Dr. Faulkner cited “weak enough.” Then he pointed out that we don’t even know if aliens even need to be saved in the first place, then affirmed the opinion that, given the variety of life o Earth, alien life could well be abundant, and THEN gave God glory for it!
In other words, Dr. Faulkner quote mined John Adams. Quote mining, or quoting out-of-context, is a logical fallacy in which a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning. In this case, Dr. Faulkner cites a diary entry as if it were John Adams’ opinion when in fact he changed his mind the very next day!
In any case, a sapient unfallen alien race that is subject to the fallen universe is not really a problem for Christina theology… because they don’t need saved. And thus far we must admit that astrotheology has the same basic dilemma that astrobiology has: a lack of subjects.
Nevertheless, the sci-fi author in me asks the dread What If? What If we found sapient aliens who were fallen? Would they require God to come to send His Son to sacrifice themselves for their sin? Well, no.
There is a definite difference between the universal effects of the Fall (death, decay, suffering, etc) which all creatures incurred and the spiritual effects of the Fall. After all, neither animals nor aliens (who were falken or remained holy apart from Adam’s sin) incurred the spiritual effects of the Fall. So the question becomes: Would sapient aliens require salvation or would they merely require redemption from physical death and the other effects of the curse?
If they fell in their own right and not because of Adam’s sin, that is between them and their Creator; not Adam and their Creator. The angelic beings who fell have not, to our knowledge, been offered a hint of salvation and no one cries foul over that! Why is not God unjust to offer them grace…?
The preacher in me smiles. Oh, wait. It is grace that we preach, isn’t it? Doesn’t the notion of grace come with the unspoken acknowledgement that God is not impugned if He does not provide a remedy for our sin; that He didn’t have to do anything; that He did so out of love and mercy and for the sake of His own good Name? We do not impugn God for condemning fallen angels to hell without a mention of redemption because we know that we’ve no right to impugn God’s justice over the matter when it is a matter of grace and grace alone that it is offered to mankind at all. It is NOT a matter of God’s justice, for if we all got what we deserved, if we all got justice instead of grace, we’d be in hell tonight!
If they are fallen apart from Adam then like fallen angels, the matter of their redemption or whether spiritual redemption is even offered is between them and their Creator.
Satan rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven with a third of the heavenly hosts who followed him BEFORE the Fall. The punishment God has meted out for them and the timetable He has decreed for this future judgement are completely independent matters from Adam’s Fall and mankind’s subsequent judgment. They knew rebellion and war before we knew sin and murder! Our punishments were not identical. Angels do not die. There is no indication that they suffer from any of the corollary effects of the Fall. They have not been given, to our knowledge, any Gospel such as mankind has been given by God’s grace. It would seem then that the God who is revealed in Scripture would deal with sapient non-human races according to their own merits and situations. If angels are our example [and not some exception to a rule we’re as yet ignorant of], this strongly implies that sapient races may be exempt from the corollary effects of the Fall, though they live in a universe very much cursed by the Fall of Adam.
But What IF? What If all sapient aliens were fallen along with Adam in exactly the same way mankind is? The root cause of their sin would be an imputed [as opposed to inherited] sin nature. They would sin, as all human do, because they are sinners. You see, sin is something of a spiritual computer virus. It corrupts the program and corrupts the code of everything that program produces. By analogy, we require a completely new operating system to rid ourselves of the virus, but we are completely helpless to affect that sort of change; we require the Programmer to remedy the situation. If sapient aliens were imputed the same spiritual virus we humans have, they would still be guilty of sin because they would sin according to their nature. Would they then require salvation? Yup. Would God’s justice be impugned if He didn’t offer it to them when they didn’t commit the original sin that gave them this imputed nature? Yes and no. Scripture makes it clear that we have all sinned in Adam, yet we are also personally accountable for the sins we commit. I can’t imagine aliens getting a pass on the second count. Still, God being God, we have to suppose He would give them the Gospel on account of that borrowed sin nature alone. So as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive, right [1 Cor 15:22]? We need Christ to come die on an alien world, right? That’s what John Adams thought. That’s what Dr. Faulkner thinks:
“In order to secure their salvation, Jesus would have to be born, live, die, and rise again on countless planets. Even skeptics have noted that this is the logical consequence of believing in human-like beings on other worlds.”
Is it true? Well, not necessarily. In fact, that seems a bit wasteful. And it may even be Scripturally prohibitive if the several passages that state that Christ died once for all includes aliens as well. Fortunately, this argument was answered in the Middle Ages by William Vorilong.
Basically, there’s no need for Christ to die on other worlds. Being apart from Adam’s bloodline, they would not have incurred the spiritual effects of the Fall, so they would not have a sin-debt in need of redemption by Christ’s sacrifice.
On the other hand, if the spiritual effects of the Fall were imputed to aliens, then salvation by grace through faith in the Christ’s sacrifice here on Earth could likewise be imputed. All that would be required is special revelation, which God is quite capable of.
Trivializing the Gospel?
Dr. Faulkner objects that “A gospel message that begins, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” trivializes the gospel.
To which I respond, in Appalachian, “Bullroar!” What is the difference between giving folks the Gospel today and saying, “A long, long time ago, Christ was born in a country far, far away, lived a sinless life, and died a cruel death to redeem mankind from the sin of a man who lived an even longer time ago?” What special pleading is this?
Some of you have heard the tale of New Tribes Mission’s efforts to reach the Mouk Tribe of Papau, New Guinea. These missionaries tried traditional evangelism methods with almost no success. In order to reach a people with absolutely no Bible knowledge, they began with two months of Old Testament Bible stories. Only after this foundation was laid did they begin teaching about Christ. After teaching them about God and the Bible, NTM missionaries taught them about “Creation, and Adam and Eve, and man’s choice to sin. We explained how God promised a Savior would someday come to deliver us from sin.” How is this situation substantially different than delivering the Gospel to ETs? And as I ask this, keep in mind that God may’ve given them revelation and perhaps even a Law to act as a schoolmaster in preparation for said Gospel [Galations 3:24].
Skeptics may suppose that the logical consequences of sapient alien life that Jesus would have to incarnate upon and sacrifice Himself for each and every one, but this Santa Claus view of the Gospel is the product of a superficial consideration of the subject. This is true of skeptics. This is true of creationists who associate the ET question with an evolutionary worldview.
Dr. Faulkner asks that we accept the false dichotomy that “If the God of the Bible and the gospel are real, then ETs are not.” This is completely unnecessary. God and the Bible are real regardless of whether ETs exist or not, and they certainly don’t require Jesus to repeat His sacrifice on multiple worlds.