Christians sci-fi authors have to ask ourselves a lot of strange questions. For example, when we ask “What If we discovered intelligent extraterrestrial life?” we almost certainly find ourselves asking another question: “Can aliens be saved?”
Believe it or not, there are apologetics sites that attempt to tackle this very issue. For the most part, they suffer from one fatal flaw: they make dogmatic statements about something the Scriptures are silent on. Namely, they dogmatically say that aliens cannot exist [except in “frivolous fiction¹“]. They tale something that is strongly suggested by Scripture and make a leap to present it as a certain prediction of the Biblical worldview. This is the worst sort of overstatement and if we do ever discover alien life, such hubris will create a stumbling block to the Gospel where none ever should have existed. In many cases, they are forced to prop up this overstatement on logical fallacies.
With that in mind, I want to examine the question of whether ETs can be saved in a logical, consistent manner from a Biblical perspective.
Does ET Need Saving?
Before we can ask ourselves whether ET can be saved, I think we need to ask whether he needs to be. The entire idea that aliens need to be saved is based on the idea that Adam’s sin affected the whole cosmos because he was given dominion over all creation. A king falls and his kingdom suffers. So far, so good. We immediately note a difference in the way animals and humans were affected by the Fall. The animals suffered what we might call the universal effects of the Fall [death, suffering, adaptations to the struggle for resources, etc.], but man also inherited a sin nature [what we call depravity]. Depravity is like a computer virus that comes with each replicated program. Everyone of Adam’s bloodline is affected by it. Christ was required to incarnate as a human in order to be man’s kinsman-redeemer, so that His death could free us from the curse of sin and death and His resurrection could give us the promise of eternal life. Again, so far, so good.
The trouble comes when we bring up the possibility of intelligent ETs with a spiritual aspect. It should be noted that we’re talking about intelligence at or above the human level here. Ape, insect or dolphin intelligence just don’t count.
Before we move on, I need to address one last thing. I once read a really bad argument that said that if aliens die, it means they are worthy of death. That begs the question of whether animals are worthy of death or if he was just utilizing a double standard to defend his anti-alien stance when he started speaking of intelligent beings affected by Man’s Fall. I think it’s the latter.
- If extraterrestrials aren’t intelligent, they’re animals. The Bible makes it clear that animals don’t need to be saved.
Does ET Have a Soul?
The Bible says that we are made in God’s image. A lot of folks think that having a mind and a spiritual aspect is what is meant by being made in God’s image; however, if we’re fair about it, the angels also meet these qualifications and would also qualify as being made in God’s image if this were true. Unless being God’s image-bearer means something else entirely, known only to God Himself.
If the extraterrestrial is intelligent but lacks a spiritual aspect… First of all, that would be a critter we’ve never seen. We may see it in the form of future artificial intelligence. I’ve often thought that Revelation 13:15 could turn out to be a prophetic reference to artificial intelligence. I dealt with artificial intelligence in a short story called “Bad Program.” I believe that the problem with artificial intelligence is that it will never be true intelligence, it will merely mimic intelligence. As such, if it begins mimicking the human concern for its robot soul, I think we will have done the poor thing a disservice for by what theory does a robot gain a soul through sufficient complexity of intelligence? If we say yes, we are saying that robots are now made in the image of God rather than in the image of man. If we say no, as we must given the absurdity of the conclusion of the affirmative, we are saying that intelligence alone is not enough to qualify one as being made in God’s image.
- In any case, if the extraterrestrial lacks a spiritual aspect, an eternal soul to save, then it does not need saving.
Are ETs Fallen?
Let’s say then that we discover a creature that is intelligent and has a spiritual aspect. Does it follow that these aliens need saving? Well, that depends upon whether it is fallen or not and how it fell.
We typically see an argument against the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life based on the idea that the effects of Adam’s Fall extended to the entire universe via the Dominion Mandate. This is true enough. The trouble comes when they insist that the effects of the Fall necessarily implies that intelligent extraterrestrials with a spiritual aspect would be imputed with Adam’s sin nature along with the effects of the Fall which the rest of non-Adamic creation suffers under; this imputed sin nature then requires Jesus to be born and sacrificed on alien worlds for their salvation. Yet it does not follow that just because proposed intelligent aliens with a spiritual nature suffer the universal effects of the fall that they also suffer what are often termed the “spiritual effects” of the Fall [i.e, separation for God, depravity, etc.], which might be more accurately termed the “sanguine effects” of the Fall. Keep in mind that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood precisely because of the curse that was place upon Adam and his descendants. Christ was required to incarnate as a kinsman-redeemer to forgive the sins of Adam and cleanse his bloodline. Aliens being exempt from Adam’s bloodline would be exempt from the need for salvation as much as the opportunity of salvation.
- If they are unfallen, they don’t need to be saved.
Of course, even if they did not fall in Adam, but fell on their own, they might need saved, but they’re not really germane to the subject. 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.
- If they are fallen apart from Adam’s sin, God is not required to save them.
Of course, we have to at long last consider the possibility that we discover intelligent aliens with a spiritual aspect who fell through Adam’s sin. If this were the case, we must point out there isn’t a single shred of Scriptural evidence that anyone outside of Adam’s bloodline was imputed with the sanguine effects of the Fall. So yeah, that would be a big surprise for everyone. If it were true, much of what we said in the preceding sections holds true, except that God would certainly have to offer them the means of salvation. If Adam’s sin were imputed to them, Christ’s righteousness could be imputed to them as well, so it would not be necessary for Christ to incarnate on other worlds. As God did here on Earth, He could give them revelation, prophecies, and a school teacher in the form of the Law to prepare them for the Gospel. Presupposing that we encounter said extraterrestrial life, God could then either send us as missionaries with the Gospel. If we only find evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial civilization without encountering it, we could speculate that God delivered the Gospel of Christ’s sacrifice for the cosmos through revelation validated by fulfilled prophecy. Incarnating on another world would be possible, possibly about as confusing for the natives as the Trinity and the idea of a God-man is to us, but feasible considering that it would still be Christ incarnate. Th
The only hinge is that the Bible says that Christ was sacrificed once for all. Anti-alienists tend to translate this verse as meaning “once for all men.” If that’s the case, then the idea of Christ incarnating on another world is really no problem. If the verse has a broader application that Christ died for all who need to be saved,” then a separate incarnation of Christ on an alien world would not be necessary.
- If aliens were fallen through Adam’s sin and Christ died once for all who need to be saved, Christ’s righteousness could be imputed to them as much as Adam’s depravity was;
- If aliens were fallen through Adam’s sin and Christ died once for all men only, Christ could incarnate on another world and be their substitutionary atonement for the imputed [rather than sanguine] sin of Adam.