Yet another classic 2009 CP blog post (please note: “classic” simply means “at least two years old”).
So on with the question at hand. If aliens landed on the White House lawn tomorrow, what would be the first questions we would be thinking? Here’s one: “Got sin?” That is, is it possible that there could be unfallen aliens? Creatures which are intelligent like human beings, but which do not sin?
It would seem that it is possible since angels are spirit beings which are unfallen and do not sin. (In fact, had we but world enough and time, we could consider the many speculations that UFOs and alleged alien abductions could be angelic and/or demonic visitations.) So if these aliens were to make the claim that they knew not sin, we probably couldn’t dismiss the claim out of hand. Instead, we might have to wait and see, judging them by their fruits as it were.
But let’s assume that our aliens are fallen. What is the next question to ask? Let’s consider the one countenanced in that Larry Norman lyric cited in the earlier post: “And if there’s life on other planets, them I’m sure that he must know. And he’s been there once already, and has died to save their souls.”
Larry’s lyric raises two important questions. First, is it possible that God the Son could be incarnate elsewhere than as Jesus? And second, would such an incarnation be necessary to save the aliens? Or, conversely, would the incarnation and death of Jesus be sufficient to cover fallen aliens as well as fallen humans?
Let’s begin with the possibility of multiple incarnations. First let’s make clear what we mean by this. We don’t mean that God the Son first could have incarnated as Jesus and then left his humanity behind to incarnate as, oh let’s say “Zorg” on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. The problem is that Christians believe the “Jesus incarnation” was once for all. Even now we have one man as mediator to God, and his name is Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). God the Son did not leave his humanity as Jesus behind at the ascension so that he could incarnate in other forms on other distant worlds. Christians believe that when God the Son became the historical personage Jesus, this was an identity that he took on forever.
And so, if there are multiple incarnations then they will not be one after the other but rather simultaneous (!). Thus, the idea is not that God the Son might have left his human identity behind so that he could become Zorg or some other alien being. Rather, it is the idea that even as he remained Jesus, he could simultaneously become Zorg.
Now that really is a wild idea. But even so, the notion of multiple incarnations has been countenanced by a number of theologians including such heavyweights as Thomas Aquinas. So maybe it is not as flaky as it might seem at first blush.
It is also not quite as abstract and irrelevant as it might first seem. You see, if God the Son could simultaneously be both Jesus and Zorg, then could he also simultaneously be another human being?
This idea has been suggested by the Christian pluralist John Hick. Although once an evangelical, Hick now believes that all religions are “true”, at least insofar as they make their adherents better people. And in his desire to give all religions equal standing, Hick has suggested that if God the Son could be Jesus and Zorg, then maybe God the Son could also be Buddha, Zoroaster, Joseph Smith … you get the idea: Pluralism deluxe!
It is interesting how such seemingly abstract questions can have far-reaching practical consequences! Clearly this will require more thought…