Ever since the first scientists suggested that we might have crawled out of the primordial slime and wriggled our way into humanity, countless evolutionary theories have speculated that if this was true of life on earth, there is no reason to think that intelligent life cannot be replicated elsewhere in far away galaxies with life support systems that mirror our own. And if that were true, how do we reconcile our Christian faith with colonies of E.T. trampling through Elliot’s garden eating M&Ms?
Doesn’t our faith in Christ as sole mediator and savior of mankind exclude this possibility? Are we not the sole beneficiary of God’s saving love and fatherhood? Or do we have distant cousins and spiritual siblings we know nothing about?
The Magisterial Church has never made any pronouncements about this for good reason. First off, it’s just curious speculation no matter how many alien abductions, UFOs and unpleasant bodily probings some people claim to have encountered on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”.
Secondly, although it makes for interesting debate, it is not crucial to the life of Christians to wrangle about the souls of possible extra-terrestrials when we have far more urgent and practical commitments to our own proven salvation history. For all our faith in the supernatural life, Christians are practical and realists when it comes to living the truth.
Having said that, some theologians have suggested various ways of looking at this question if the basis of alien life was true. Perhaps like in a parallel universe, they would have their own “Jesus” and their own salvation history. Or perhaps like the history of the Jewish nation, salvation would first be offered to the human race and then extended to the “gentile” nations of the stars in time to come, spurred on by the evangelizing efforts of astronaut priests and missionaries. Others insist that the possibility of other intelligent life forms does not omit the need for a creator of the universe, nor in redeeming humanity did Christ not also redeem the entire order of creation as St. Paul says.
The truth is...I don’t know. But here’s what I think.
Love is a funny thing; you can’t scrutinize it under a microscope or swirl it in a test-tube, although some people seem to think otherwise when it comes to making babies. And it was supernatural love - personal, pure and eternal - that created and redeemed us.
God did not clinically make Adam and Eve out of a cold laboratory, he gave birth to us as it were from his own supernatural life; as a woman gives birth to her child through the life of her own human nature – begun and sustained with conjugal and maternal love. In saying this I do not mean that the theory of evolution is debunked, but rather that the natural process of creation does not rob God of his supernatural intent or motivation – which is to give himself to us as our fulfillment and joy. Through the redemption of Christ we are further born into a new life of supernatural grace, which bonds us even closer to God in the intimacy of father and child.
What does this mean?
There’s a phrase from St. Josemaria Escriva that I dearly love: divine filiation - the idea that we are not merely adopted, but that we are truly sons and daughters of God by dignity and redemption through the love and mercy of Christ. This truth above all other truths explains our reason for joy and hope in life. And as any of us know, a father’s love is deeply personal and intimate. It doesn’t matter how many other children are stumbling around in the playground, a father has a special, devoted and faithful love for his own child above all others; because “this” is flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.
To look into the face of your own child is to see your own.
And the relationship that God has with mankind, unraveled through the historic ages of this planet we live on is a personal relationship between father and child, bridegroom and bride.
Scripture tells us that all things in the cosmos were created for man, to help man realize the love of God for him, and for him to draw closer to the love of his creator.
It doesn’t matter how many planets or solar systems purport to support life, God is not obligated to populate the universe with similar beings just because he did so for one tiny blue planet. He made all things and as maker of all things, he is exempt from the limitations he imposes on all things. The natural laws of the universe cannot impose themselves upon the supernatural will of their creator, who sustains their very existence by his own love.
As such, there is no reason to believe that just because God chose to have this personal, intimate history with mankind, he must do so for every other planet that bears the same ideal conditions.
Love doesn’t work that way. In fact, real intimate love is always faithful and often exclusive in a special way.
Just because I fall in love with a certain kind of woman doesn’t mean I will fall in love with every other woman with the same character traits. I may feel similarly attracted to these features in another woman, but love demands more than just a set of chemical responses in the brain, it demands a personal choice and an conscious act of the will.
In other words, I may be naturally attracted to someone but I supernaturally choose to love someone; even though sometimes she may be less than attractive to me. There's a big difference between the two.
Does God himself act differently? Out of all the great nations of the world, he chose one tiny nation to make a covenant with, and he remained faithful to that covenant despite Israel’s countless adulteries with foreign Gods.
Out of all the pure, faithful and virtuous women in Israel at that time, he chose one young Nazarene virgin to be born of, and to be given the dignity of being his mother and the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Out of the countless myriads of people milling around the Judean countryside, he called 12 men to himself to be the cornerstone of his Church, and out of those 12, he chose a weak stumbling and impetuous fisherman to lead them. And in your own lifetime, he has chosen you through the waters of baptism to be a sign of his special love among others.
Is there a science to that? As far as I know, the science of divine love will never pass the scrutiny of atheistic scientists because it was tested, applied and proven on the folly of Calvary.
The basis of evolution, or indeed any scientific discipline is wrapped around very precise formulas and theoretical presumptions, and the end result often lies along a very narrow strip of speculation based on statistical data. Hence even though natural science is really a great adventure of discovery, it’s also a very controlled experience governed by the natural laws of the universe; at least those that we know of anyway.
But God is above those laws. How often for instance have we seen medical science flounder in defeat when trying to explain supernatural interventions and healings in the lives of patients who cannot medically survive? How often can we not explain why one woman is fruitful in her womb while another remains sterile when no medical anomalies exist between them etc?
Love is a very different kind of adventure; it’s unpredictable, passionate and constantly filled with sweet surprises that endure in fidelity. And ultimately God is love - the best kind, and I sincerely wish you that kind of adventure.
So in short, do I think E.T. exists with all the other green men of the universe? At this point, my personal entry in the Captain’s Log, stardate 2007 says “I very much doubt it”.
But that’s just my opinion as a man of faith, not as a man of science.