Aliens in Hell
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ET_1600369cAs a writer of science fiction, I found creationist Ken Ham’s commentary on alien life and the space program absurd and thought provoking.

For those of you who missed it, in response to NASA’s expectation of finding alien life in the not too distant future, he wrote on his Sunday blog: “You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.”

Ham’s logic is flawed even within his own cosmology. If Adam’s sin here on earth damned all sentient life in the universe (which, by extension must also be created in God’s image, spiritually) then by virtue of the nature of God as revealed by Christ, they must also be eligible for salvation.

How so? Jesus very clearly teaches (in what we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount) that God is not only a just parent, but a merciful and loving one. I paraphrase, but in Matthew Chapter 7 Christ asks His audience, “If your child asks you for bread, would you give him a stone? If he asks you for fish would you give him a snake? If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so does your Father in heaven know how to give good gifts to those who ask Him?” Christ also famously said, “If you really knew Me, you would know My Father, as well.”

Point taken.

Shaman, by Maya Kaathryn BohnhoffAs a science fiction writer and a person of faith (who cheerfully explores new worlds in galaxies far, far away at every available opportunity), I take exception to Ken Ham’s contentions. They are not supported by the Bible or any other scripture I’ve studied. While I feel sincere compassion for Mr. Ham, I suppose I must be pleased that he holds these views, because it supplies me with ideas for stories as well as occasion to study both scripture and scientific literature more thoroughly for my own edification.

In a passage written in the 1860s, the scriptures of my own faith say this:

The learned men, that have fixed at several thousand years the life of this earth, have failed, throughout the long period of their observation, to consider either the number or the age of the other planets. Consider, moreover, the manifold divergencies that have resulted from the theories propounded by these men. Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute. —Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings LXXXII

What puzzles me most is why Mr. Ham didn’t turn his logic the other way, expanding Christ’s mission and efficacy rather than limiting it: If Adam’s sin created the need for all creation (including alien life) to be saved, then—voila!—Christ’s sacrifice saved, not only the people of Earth, but people everywhere in the Universe. Ergo, Christ gets more credit, not less.

This seems a missed opportunity. I’d encourage Mr. Ham to rethink his theology. In the meantime, I feel a first contact story coming on…

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Aliens in Hell — 10 Comments

  1. My (uneducated) guess is that in Ken Ham’s mind, expanding Jesus’s credit is less important than underlying the Specialness of Earth-born humanity. Where (it seems to me) Jesus was all about inclusion and love, a certain brand of faith seems to be all about setting up an Us vs. Them paradigm where Us gets the good things because we’re Us, and Them doesn’t get the Good things because they’re not Us.

    Sigh.

    • And because Them aren’t Us – or, more accurately, because Them are Less-Than-Us – that gives Us the justification to invade Them and subjugate Them and confiscate all their stuff.

      • Which is, rather emphatically, completely in opposition to the teachings of Christ … and every other Prophet/Avatar/Buddha.

        They try to teach us how to give away our stuff to other people, and we somehow invert the process.

  2. And C.S. Lewis discussed this, in his space trilogy. If Christ’s sacrifice is good for the whole universe, BUT those poor benighted aliens do not know about Him, then clearly we gotta get out there. The fields are white for harvest. Missionaries to Mars, stat! And of course it so does not work out…

    • Brenda’s on to something here. I suspect in Mr. Ham’s befuddled brain, any other sentient life is damned because Earth Christians haven’t appeared to teach them about Jesus.

      But maybe Jesus appeared on their planets too, and different stories emerged. Brenda, there’s a plot twist for those missionaries: Dueling Jesus stories!

      • This makes me think of James Blish’s A Case of Conscience, in which a Jesuit deals with a Manichaean universe.

        I have always wondered if Creationists are just afraid of the scope of the universe, and narrow it down in an effort to make it less scary. If it’s only a few thousand years old, and their planet is the only one or the only special one, that’s much more reassuring, and less intimidating, than the universe science reveals to us.

        I’ve been told by someone who grew up inside one of the sects that the elite are well aware of scientific truth and teach it to their heirs. It’s the foot soldiers of the Dominion who are taught the narrow view, to keep them isolated from mainstream thought (and its tendency to ask questions) and make them more biddable.

        Which is fodder for even more herds of stories.

      • Lewis covered that too. There’s an essay of his, somewhere, on this subject. The key theological issue, assuming that there is sentient life on other planets, is: are they fallen? If not then you get the scenario in the Space Trilogy, where only Earth is lost and everyone else in the universe is happily unfallen and sin-free. PERELANDRA is a great book that delves into this.
        If they are fallen, then Lewis points out that there are two solutions. One is that there are other, appropriate incarnations for each alien species. Christ is incarnate as a man for humans, as a crab for crabs, as a Venusian for the residents of Venus, and so on. Only if this is not so would it be okay for humans to blast off, Bibles in hand, to convert the heathen Martian or whatever.

      • That’s actually a tenet of the Bahá’í Faith—that when a Prophet of God appears, He appears in all the worlds of God, not just one. I use the term “he” loosely, because it’s not being suggested that the same physical person appears, but that some manifestation of the Spirit and Intelligence that we call God appears in accordance with the capacities and needs of the creatures He’s sent to teach.

        A friend of mine—a Bahá’í journalist—shared an experience she had while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the life of Shoghi Effendi, the great-grandson of the Founder, Bahá’u’lláh. She thought I’d appreciate it because of my chosen career as a science fiction writer. Shoghi Effendi had been given the title “Guardian of the Faith” by his grandfather and was the “leader” of the Faith at this time — the early 50’s (“Leader” has a somewhat different meaning to Bahá’ís than in general society, as is evidenced by the fact that the Guardian insisted on everyone calling him by his first name: Shoghi).

        At any rate, Sally was sitting at dinner with Shoghi Effendi and a group of pilgrims from the West and they began discussing Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching that “every fixed star hath its planets and every planet hath its creatures”. One of the other pilgrims commented that it seemed after we’d achieved global unity, the only further unity would be with people from other worlds. He asked the Guardian if he thought we might someday go to other worlds and teach the people there the Faith. Shoghi Effendi smiled and said, “Perhaps they shall teach us.”

        Sally was right: I love that idea. It seems to me that a natural progression would include the idea that future Prophets would come from other worlds.

        My mom had a favorite book that I think was penned by Norman Vincent Peale entitled “Your God is Too Small”. I have no memory of what was in the book, but Mr. Ham frequently reminds me of the title.

  3. he’s just being silly:

    “For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

    The aliens would, of course, be part of creation.