Two Christian theologians discuss, given God’s plan of salvation from the Christian tradition, whether aliens on another planet will need their own separate savior or whether Christ will be the savior for the whole universe. One theologian argues that aliens would need a savior of their own. The other says that Christ died once for all and “all” would include aliens.
Two Moslem imams discuss, given God’s plan of salvation from the Islamic tradition, whether aliens on another planet will need they own separate Prophet or whether Mohamed will be the prophet for the whole universe. One argues that aliens would need a prophet of their own. The other says that Mohamed is the Prophet for all and “all” would include aliens.
Two Jewish rabbis discuss, given God’s plan of salvation from the Jewish tradition, whether aliens on another planet will need they own separate future Messiah or whether the future Messiah will be the Messiah for the whole universe. One argues that aliens would need a Messiah of their own. The other says that the future Messiah will be for all and “all” would include aliens.
The problem is the same for each religious tradition. The conversations are separate. The reality of the question comes closer by the year as the global space programs reach farther and human detection tools become more accurate. The day will come in human time when these theoretical discussions will become immediate pastoral issues for millions and matters of urgent public policy about how to address the new reality of life elsewhere.
The problem for our religious traditions is similar to the 19th century arguments in the Christian tradition about race and salvation, from which we humans can take a lesson looking toward our future discernment. These earlier arguments were focused on the question of whether more than one Adam was needs to account for the varieties of people on the earth, which were becoming so apparent and present to those in the discussion.
Following the then current cultural understanding of race, some argued that Adam was the ancestor of the white race alone and there should be other Adams for other races. This question disturbed standard Pauline theology about the relation of Adam and Christ.
The implied question was whether Christian salvation did or did not extend to all the peoples of the earth and whether the other peoples of the earth were actually people for purposes of Christian salvation.
The real issue, below the surface, was race and how western empires should treat those under their control and those who opposed the empires.
The result of these discussions was a combination of agreement to the expansion of the scope of salvation to include other peoples and discrete withdrawal from the discussion. The former is a matter of faith regarding the scope of care. The latter is a matter of practice.
- What can we learn? What is the answer to the theologians’ discussions of the scope of salvation?
- Does salvation extend to aliens?
- For that matter, does salvation extend to animals, plants, and objects in this world?
- Are these theologians misunderstanding the nature and scope of salvation?