The Nov. 19 edition of The Living Church is available online to registered subscribers.
In this edition, Lucas Mix and Andrew Davison write about the possible theological implications of life on other planets.
In the tenth chapter of John, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Life can mean so many different things. It covers bacterial metabolism, human experience, divine grace, and everything in between. In one way, they are the same life, for in God we live and move and have our being. The most basic life is God-breathed. In other ways, they are different. We can speak about lower life forms and higher life forms, or meager life and abundant life, or even physical life and spiritual life. We must ask, then, what kind of life does Jesus promise? And how does it relate to the concrete, visceral life we share with moss?
With St. Francis, I feel a kinship to creation that runs beyond my human neighbors to every living, breathing thing. That does not mean that all other life is equal in my regard to humans. I would not sacrifice a human for moss. And yet I think all living things have value in and of themselves — even the moss.
Both Arthur Peacocke and Brian Hebblethwaite thought that multiple Incarnations would be theologically problematic but also somehow theologically expected. From his more liberal perspective, Peacocke thought that called for a revision of Christian doctrine. Writing from a more conservative position, Hebblethwaithe hoped that there would be no other intelligent life: “an implication of the Christian incarnation,” he wrote, is “that there are no other intelligent, personal creatures in God’s creation than human beings on earth.” I disagree, which puts me among other Anglicans who had no problem with multiple Incarnations: the great Anglican Thomist Eric Mascall, for instance, and John Polkinghorne (with Peakcocke, a pioneer in the field of science and religion), who wrote that “if little green men on Mars need saving, then God will take little green flesh.”
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