A most intriguing question came onto my desk recently. The question concerned God, the universe and the cosmos. It raised the question of whether an omnipotent God would restrict Himself to only carrying out a great work of salvation upon this earth, rather than upon many planets.
There are probably millions of planets out there, while planet earth may be unique within our own galaxy, there are quite possibly millions of other planets in many other galaxies where human life might be possible. Why should we restrict an all-powerful, all-knowing Eternal God to just working out His plan of redemption on our single planet? I must admit that this question will get one's philosophical and theological 'juices' flowing!
Here is the question just as it came in to me:
"I have sometimes thought: We have a wonderful Creator and Saviour and it could be that the universe which He created goes on forever, that is, there is no end to it and no limit to the stars and planets. Perhaps every galaxy (like the 'Milky Way'). has just one planet which is ideal for life, or maybe it is fewer than that, nevertheless, would an omnipotent, omniscient God just create men and women in His image on just this one planet within a universe of a size beyond measuring? Wouldn't it be a very small-minded view of God to believe such a thing?
I have sometimes put this question to Christian pastors but they throw their hands up in horror, but having read your things extensively I can see that the positing of such philosophical questions has a place in your writings. How about this?"
When a child of perhaps eight to ten, back in the early 1950s, the thought of future 'space travel' was all the rage in the imaginings of people, perhaps best typified in the 'Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future' series in my favourite 'Eagle' comic (see the inset article lower on this page). One Christmas I was given a 'ray gun' for a present, it was a futuristic sort of toy which the future 'space traveller' could use to 'zap' people! That sums up the popular conception of that time that "space travel" was just around the corner. One particular night I can recall spending some time looking up at the sky and considering the abundance of the stars and planets. For a while, I came to believe that just as men and women have spread out upon this earth, colonizing more and more areas, they would probably do the same thing in outer space and that this was probably God's destiny for us. I no longer think of it in quite that way, of course. I now believe that - as physical flesh and blood creatures - we are very limited and that that is not going to happen for mankind, yet Christians are promised that they will eventually inherit "all things." Certainly this wider consideration of the cosmos and the universe, redemption, and our omnipotent (all-powerful) God, will occasionally raise questions for the true believer who occasionally meditates on God's greatness.
It cannot be any coincidence that, within our own galaxy, it is our earth which is most suitable for life, but can we restrict God to only having an interest in our own planet?
The Bible tells us about God's work of salvation among men and women upon this earth and only ever addresses itself to this planet and to this Creation; therefore, for some, it is almost heresy to speculate beyond that. I personally think there is nothing wrong with theological speculation as long as one makes it very clear that one is venturing into that area.
I must admit that I myself have also occasionally wondered about the questioner's very same point. We know that the Bible tells us everything which men and women upon planet earth need to know at the present time regarding Divine Creation, the Fall, and Redemption in Christ. All the essentials are there for any who would earnestly seek to acquire such knowledge, although there is no doubt that the activity of the Holy Spirit would need to facilitate deeper spiritual knowledge concerning God and Christ. However, the divine revelation which has been delivered to you and to me never really goes beyond those points which it is essential for those called of God to understand at the present time.
Regarding Creation, we know that the earth, moon, sun and stars within our own corner of this universe were largely created for our own purposes. Even the stars (at least the closer ones), appear to be positioned in order that we may look up and wonder at the greatness of our truly awesome Creator God (Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 40:26; 41:20; 42:5). However, we know - and science confirms - that there are many other galaxies out there. Does the universe actually go on forever? Is there no end to it? I don't know the answer to that question and neither does any astronomer. It is strange indeed that any astronomer who might be an atheist is confronted with this puzzle and conundrum every single day yet somehow is not able to understand that the limitless size of the universe itself speaks of an omnipotent God who must also be without limit! But the big philosophical question which is raised here is: Surely such a God as we serve, who is plainly beyond any human scale of measuring, would not limit Himself to just putting human beings - made in His very image - upon this one tiny planet? Could there be - as the question implies - at least one such planet within every galaxy (and even those galaxies are possibly without measure), where God has placed men and women made in His image? Could there even be other Christs? If God has indeed worked in that way, there would not need to be other Christs; our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, would be eminently sufficient for such a task. Regarding Christ, the Scripture states,
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:18).
So Scripture seems to represent Christ as the truly cosmic Saviour. He came into this world but He was with God from the very beginning. See John 1:1-3. His possibility of separateness from the world and His 'beyondness' is well-noted in verse 10:
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10).
A 1951 edition of the 'Eagle.'
The 1950s British 'Eagle' comic paper (mentioned in the accompanying article) became famous because of its high-quality glossy presentation and unusually high standard of writing for a children's comic magazine. There were other comics around at the time but they were printed on poor quality paper and just could not match the overall quality of the Eagle. Its 'lead' science fiction series 'Dan Dare,' introduced thousands of British children to science fiction. Christian Apologetics writer Robin Brace willingly admits to having been a huge 'eagle' fan back in the early 1950s!
The Eagle was the creation of the Reverend Marcus Morris, a Church of England vicar from Southport, Lancashire. It was intended to be something of a Christian answer to what he saw as the bad influence of American comics during the post-war period with their huge concentration on crime, and on the lives of criminals. Morris strove to produce a high quality, inspirational boy's magazine unlike anything in existence at the time, involving the work of teams of graphic artists such as Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy. The team even created detailed mockups of spaceships to be used as reference for Dan Dare. The Eagle and its original sister paper 'Girl,' were designed by renowned typographer Ruari McLean, and were read by millions of British children throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Although the paper continued - in some form or other - until as late as 1994, there is widespread agreement that it was the early 1950s-early 1960s magazines which were by far the best.
Our picture is believed to be of the cover of one of the 1951 comics.
So the Son is obviously well capable of purposeful existence without being wholly tied in to events upon this earth. He is indeed a truly cosmic Christ! Obviously such a Scripture cannot exclude the possibility that other worlds beyond our own have also been made through Christ. This whole area, then, is one of philosophical speculation. As long as one understands it as such there is no problem. This goes beyond the biblical revelation, yet it takes into account many points within that revelation, such as the clearly revealed omnipotence of our God. My personal opinion is that, no, we cannot limit God to just performing His miracle of human redemption upon this earth, and that it is entirely possible that He is currently, or has done, or will do (although any concept of past, present and future might be pretty meaningless in this context), other works of salvation elsewhere. Perhaps one Scripture, at least, hints at this:
14. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -
15. just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:14-16).
Traditionally this reference to other true believers from beyond the 'sheep pen' has been seen as a reference to Gentile Christians. That may still be so, but the comment is undoubtedly somewhat enigmatic and intriguing. After all, by this time Jesus had already addressed the Gentile woman at Samaria (John 4) and even denied that unbelieving Jews were truly Abraham's children (John 8: 39-41), therefore it could not have come as an entire shock to the disciples to learn that God intended saving men and women from beyond the somewhat closed society of the Jewish world. So why - it might be asked - use such an enigmatic comment here?
There is also the matter of Paul's comments about insisting that all of creation was waiting to be liberated from decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. That point, of course, could be applied to this earth alone, yet Paul seems to insist that his point has efficacy and meaning for the entirety of creation. Let us look at that:
19. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21. that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22, NIV throughout).
This undoubtedly enigmatic comment by Paul, in which he insists that the results of the Fall extend to "the whole creation," would certainly suggest that if God is setting His hand to save on other planets beyond this earth alone, things are running according to the same basic time structure and salvific plan and that the Second Coming of our Lord will be the same momentous event throughout the entire universe.
So, okay, we have engaged in theological speculation in this article. The Bible never discusses the possibility, and certainly not the reality, that God is working with other individuals made in His image on other planets besides planet earth. To teach such a thing would be entirely unbiblical, however, as reasoning, thinking human beings to whom the Eternal God has granted mental powers and intellect, we are bound to occasionally wonder about such matters. That is perfectly fine as long as we understand this to be a speculative area which goes beyond the Scripture. It is not, and must not be, any part of any proclamation of the Gospel since that message is definable, rather, this is perhaps an area for the well-seasoned Bible student who would handle it with supreme care being careful not to cause confusion, nor to lead others astray.
All of the above being so, I personally believe that we cannot limit the activity of the omnipotent God to just our tiny planet. For sure, one day we will know and understand these things much more clearly than we do now since - for the present time - we only 'see through a glass darkly.' For the present, the Christian has a job to do upon this planet earth and we must be content to presently leave those things which God holds in His knowledge until He Himself is ready to open that greater door of spiritual knowledge to His children (Deuteronomy 29:29).
9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10. but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).
Robin A. Brace. January 28th 2010.