No Gospel for Aliens?’s Interpretive Overreach Reveals a Major Misunderstanding of the Fall

Image credit: Josh Cochran

Shaun Doyle recently fielded an alleged letter to Creation Ministries International which cautioned against interpretive overreach on the subject of extraterrestrial life, lest we repeat the historical embarrassment of hitching our star to geocentricism.

Doyle admits that the discovery of microbial, plant or animal life would in no way conflict with the Bible (meaning that they need to stop misquoting Isaiah 45:18 in their arguments, as it would actually constitute a blanket negation of the possibility of ALL extraterrestrial life, sentient or otherwise).

He also predictably invokes the improbability of interstellar space travel to dodge the matter of their interpretive overreach regarding sentient ETs. In other words, Doyle sees no reason not to be dogmatically anti-alien where it concerns extraterrestrial intelligence because God won’t allow them to visit us anyway. He ignores the fact that extraterrestrials might be so sufficiently advanced that they consider our present comprehension of physics as naive as we now think of geocentrism.

Supposing that the advancement of an alien civilization must mirror the Earth’s timeline of “biblical redemptive history,” he actually makes the claim that the novel Mosaic covenant was a deterrent to the development of science. I had to dedicate a separate post to that farce.

He also brings up a variant of the Kinsman-Redeemer Objection to Sentient Extraterrestrials. Invoking Hebrews 2:14-17, he notes how Christ took on human flesh and blood to help the children of Abraham (not angels) and so that He might be a faithful and merciful High Priest, having experienced our lives. Doyle notes that the “children of Abraham” can be extended to the Gentiles. Doyle admits that the Gentiles were “grafted in”; however, he denies that aliens could likewise be grafted in:

“Paul’s ‘olive tree’ analogy could be pressed into service against the possibility of alien salvation. For instance, while Gentiles are wild olives, they’re still olives. Aliens, though, would be figs or ferns in this analogy. If they could be grafted in (which itself is rather odd), the olive tree would no longer be a pure olive tree.”

It should be mentioned that Paul’s olive tree analogy (Romans 11:17) could only be pressed (nice pun) into service against the possibility of alien salvation by begging the question that only humans count as wild olives. If all sentient extraterrestrial biological entities (EBEs) are included as wild olives, the letter writer’s point stands. And point in fact, if sentient EBEs are ever discovered, we will most certainly interpret this passage and the other regarding other sheep (John 10:16) in this broader Gospel context. No dogmatic positions can be gleaned from the passages regarding the existence and salvation of sentient EBEs.

Unsatisfied with that dodge, the guy who wrote the letter replied again:

“While I actually concur with your argument, there is still one significant omission in it, on a question I asked before: how would we interpret scripture IF intelligent alien life WERE discovered? While I also interpret scripture based on scripture (as scripture interprets itself), since it doesn’t directly answer the question of alien life, shouldn’t we work out two different interpretations to allow for both possibilities? I would encourage you to avoid a ‘not worth considering’ attitude here.”

Doyle’s response is a curious non sequitur. He argues that:

“…because the Bible says that Jesus saves us because He is the last Adam, only Adamites can be saved. That rules out any supposed aliens, since they’re not Adamites. As such, I see no point in developing a theological ‘contingency plan’ for something I’m confident Scripture conflicts with.”

Um, nope. The Bible calls Jesus the Last Adam. It nowhere says that only Adamites can be saved. That argument does not follow from the text.

He goes on to restate this argument shortly thereafter:

“Geocentrism within the Bible was indeed an interpretive overreach, since the Scriptures underdetermine commitment to a geocentric cosmology. Many people think the conflict between Genesis and deep time is likewise merely apparent. We disagree. Why? Unlike the geocentrism issue, there is no other proper way to read the relevant biblical texts, and much of the Bible’s theology of redemption hangs on the historical chronology and event sequence of Genesis 1–11. We’re saying that the same applies to the existence of aliens. Indeed, many of the biblical theological themes that rule out pre-Adamic people (a major issue in the origins debate) also rule out the existence of sentient aliens for the same reasons. Salvation is in the last Adam, meaning that salvation only pertains to Adamites. That rules out both pre-Adamites and sentient aliens. Thus, it’s not that we regard aliens as “not worth considering”; it’s that we have considered them, and regard them as conflicting with Scripture.”

Again, he has not made his case.

Pre-Adamites did not exist because the Bible explicitly says that Adam and Eve were specially created on Day 6 of the Creation Week and a plain reading of Scripture with the strongest exegetical support makes it clear that these were ordinary days, leaving no historical time for pre-Adamites. The matter of whether pre-Adamites could be saved should never be used as an argument against their existence because that is an appeal to consequences (a logical fallacy).

Salvation is in the last Adam because the first Adam fell… and all creation with him. The first Adam was the source (the very fountainhead) of the problem; the Last Adam is the solution to that problem.

Here we must carefully note what we mean when we say all creation fell with Adam, lest we conflate terms. As I wrote elsewhere:

“Christ indeed came to earth to redeem both mankind and the whole creation BUT the rest of creation does not require salvation. For those of Adam’s bloodline, redemption includes salvation, but for the rest of creation redemption simply means that they are freed from death and corruption. Therefore we might make a distinction between the universal effects and the sanguine [bloodline] effects of the Fall. If aliens were imputed with the First Adam’s sin nature [and Gary Bates claims that he does NOT believe this is so in his first point], they could also logically be imputed with the Last Adam’s righteousness by grace through faith. If the sanguine effects of the Fall apply to humanity alone, ET does not need to be saved unless he is fallen on His own – and that is between him and his Creator.”

If Adam’s sin was imputed to aliens who exist apart from Adam’s bloodline then the Lord who judges rightly would likewise impute the righteousness of the Last Adam to them. To say that salvation only applies to Adamites is a question-begging epitaph. They are literally saying intelligent, moral aliens could not exist because of an appeal to consequences. And again, they are wrong.

In fact, this particular “theological dilemma ” was solved back in the Middle Ages! In his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, it was the contention of Medieval theologian William Vorilong (1392-1463) that aliens would be sinless or else Christ’s sacrifice on Earth would be sufficient for their imputed sin:

“Now doubt arrives. By what means are we able to have knowledge of [another world]. I answer by angelic revelation or by divine means. If it be inquired whether men exist on that world, and whether they have sinned as Adam sinned, I answer no, for they would not exist in sin and did not spring from Adam. But it is shown that they would exist from the virtue of God, transported into that world as Enoch and Elias in this earthly paradise. As to the question whether Christ by dying on this earth could redeem the inhabitants of another world, I answer that he is able to do this even if the worlds were infinite, but it would not be fitting for Him, to go into another world that he must die again.”

[Emphasis mine

The letter writer had also made the following argument regarding the potential use of special revelation in alien salvation:

“Your point about the alien need for a means of dealing with sin I agree with. That system may even be similar to the method we find in our Old Testament. But there is a question on this: where would aliens get such a system? You’ve alluded to it already: ‘a ritual purity system to relate to God’. Obviously, to have that system God would have revealed himself to those aliens. But since Christ died once for all, this seems to imply God would have revealed the future history of Christ to those aliens as well (as prophesy). That would mean aliens would have been introduced to the notion of alien life long ago, giving them ample reason to investigate nature and learn how to travel to a distant world to find the home of the Christ. If aliens showed up at earth, for me it would be both eerie and comforting to find them (once the language barrier is broken) preaching the gospel to us.”

Doyle, of course, could not allow this. His entire objection is that aliens would in this scenario get “the entirety of our history of redemption handed to them on a prophetic platter, but they also get a significant scientific thesis handed to them on that same platter! In other words, they receive more revelation from God than we do in our entire history of redemption… If God gave the prophetic equivalent of the whole Bible to aliens, I don’t see why He wouldn’t also have done it for humans who couldn’t otherwise hear about Jesus. Since He clearly didn’t, that seems to me to count as evidence against your prophecy idea.”

Sounds pretty cut and dry until you think about the one objection Doyle brings up himself and then just sort of sweeps aside:

“The only justification that comes to my mind is that they weren’t the ones to mess creation up; that was our fault. But in that scenario, why operate at the level of species? A 2nd century Amerindian had no more access to evangelists than aliens would’ve, and he was no more circumstantially responsible for Adam’s sin than aliens would’ve been.”

He seems to forget that the dearth of information provided to the 2nd century Amerindian was sharply contrasted by the abundance of theological information available to other parts of the world where Christianity thrived. God did not provide an equity of information to even mankind, so why would we appeal to equality for alien life? That door swings both ways. If God gave them nothing but a special revelation akin to the Mosaic Law and prophecy, or if He gave them knowledge that sin and suffering began on a distant planet that was also the intended stage of prophesied redemption, what is that to us? In claiming that it wouldn’t be fair to give aliens more special revelation than He gave 2nd century Amerindian men, Doyle forgets the lesson of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20). God is less interested in our standard of what we think is fair than He is in the opportunity for souls to he saved. Doyle should remember that God has chosen to give us grace rather than what we deserve.

And the fact remains that it is humanity who created this mess. 2nd century Amerindians are a part of Adam’s bloodline. If in fact God specially imputed the sin of Adam to aliens apart from his bloodline, it is not inconceivable that God would afford them special revelation adequate to the task of their redemption. Now, it is also possible that their prophecies only go so far and that they, like the Amerindians, await the knowledge of Christ from foreign missionaries from the stars.

Either way, Doyle has no grounds for ruling out special revelation to extraterrestrials with imputed Adamic sin, except for his fallacious argument from personal incredulity. Obviously, if they are unfallen or fell apart from Adam, that’s between them and God. The double-edged sword of grace is that God is not required to redeem anyone; He does so according to His own will and counsel.

Doyle’s next argument, under the heading, Aliens and Pentecost, is, well, just plain stupid.

“But prophecy isn’t all the aliens would need. They would also need access to the Holy Spirit along with this ‘Bible download’ prophecy. After all, one of the distinctions between the Mosaic and Messianic covenants is the promised Holy Spirit indwelling all God’s people, strengthening them for true obedience. But Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). For us, Jesus had to return to the Father before the Spirit would come, since Jesus would only send the Spirit once His ‘first coming’ work on Earth was complete. Not so with aliens, apparently. This doesn’t work; Jesus must be at the Father’s right hand as the God-man for the Spirit to come. Nor can this be avoided by any ‘they didn’t fall’ gambit, either: Jesus must come, go back, and then send the Spirit. If Jesus’ ‘first coming’ work wasn’t complete, sending the Spirit had no objective basis to it (Does God judge sinners?). So, if aliens got the Spirit before that fateful Pentecost in Acts 2, Jesus didn’t send Him.”

We’ve already established that God could give aliens an much or as little revelation as He pleases according to the law of grace. We noted that they may be still under an exo-Mosaic covenant, which would make his points moot. On the other hand, if aliens received special revelation of Christ’s redemption 2000 years ago Earth time, what prevents Jesus from sending the OMNIPRESENT Holy Spirit to them? Nothing. Nothing except Doyle’s insinuation that God is suddenly not only no longer omnipresent but also bound by time! Furthermore, even before the fullness of the Gospel dwelt in Christ, salvation has ever been by grace through faith. The efficacy of Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection are not bound by time any more than God is.

To attempt to drive his point home, Doyle invokes a version of the “Jesus is not the God-Klingon” argument. This gets old. We’ve answered this one a ridiculous number of times. Like evolutionists, anti-alien dogmatists never offer a counterargument and simply go on as if they have. Jesus incarnated as the God-man because He’s God (and can’t really stop being such) and because man was the source of the universe’s sin problem.

Doyle peevishly insists that “Nor can this be avoided by any ‘they didn’t fall’ gambit, either”; however, he never bothers to back this point. Because he can’t. He has no way of knowing whether the sin of Adam was imputed to aliens apart from Adam’s bloodline. As we noted earlier, in his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, it was the contention of Medieval theologian William Vorilong (1392-1463) that aliens would be sinless or else Christ’s sacrifice on Earth would be sufficient for their imputed sin. Either answer is rationally and Biblically permissible.

Yet Doyle, believing his own press rather uncritically, concludes that sentient aliens are ruled out by the redemptive history of the Bible. Yet he proved nothing which could not be answered with a counterargument.

In reply to a reader comment, Doyle asks:

“…why keep looking for loopholes? Why even worry about this?”

“…sentient aliens are impossible given Scripture as it stands.”

Now, I could point out that if it’s not even worth worrying about, Doyle shouldn’t have wrote about it. I sense a weakness in the argument when someone protests like this.

But I’ll tell you why, Doyle.

Men in my grandfather’s day swore we’d never put a man on the Moon because God stopped mankind from reaching the heavens at Babel, because the Moon was no more than a light to rule the night, and because God made the Earth to be inhabited, not space. Their theological overreach did not prevent us from landing on the Moon (and if you believe otherwise, I cheerfully offer to race you to the Edge of your ostensibly Flat Earth). Instead, it made us look foolish. It made us look ignorant and anti-science. And in many people’s minds, it undermined the veracity of the authority of God’s Word. To others, it proved that the Bible must be false.

Nowhere does the Bible mention or forbid the existence and salvation (if needed) of extraterrestrial life. Dogmatism either for or against the possibility of sapient EBEs is ill-advised and unnecessary theological overreach. Such dogmatism against the possibility presented as the “Biblical view” on the matter could blow up in our faces just as “Biblical” objections to the lunar landing did. We should have the humility to leave the question open.


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