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Could an Extraterrestrial be a Christian? Theology, Film, and the Evolution of Spiritual Consciousness

Peter M.J. Hess, Ph.D.
Peter M.J. Hess
July 20, 2012
American Scientific Affiliation Annual Meeting
Cunningham A
Point Loma Nazarene University
3900 Lomaland Drive
San Diego, California

This paper explores two theological dimensions of the ongoing conversation about extraterrestrial life. In the spirit of moving beyond books, it contrasts the theology of ET life with portrayals of the subject through the art form of late modernity: film.

Numerous questions are raised by the evolution of rational life on chemically suitable planets within the habitable zone of suitable stars. If a religious response to the universe arises with consciousness, is belief in God a product of evolution? Since God became incarnate as Jesus at particular time in terrestrial evolutionary history, could the “Christ principle” become incarnate elsewhere in the universe as well, perhaps multiple times? If “the Christ” became incarnate a million years ago on Planet X, would the members of an expedition from that planet recognize Jesus of Nazareth as God incarnate? Is God necessarily triune, or is that an artifact of our own religious experience in a mono-solar cosmology? How might God be conceived of in a binary star system?

Hollywood’s portrayal of extraterrestrial life is too often blunt and two-dimensional. Aliens are portrayed either as malign or monstrous (Alien, Independence Day, Galaxy Quest) or as benign or angelic (E.T., Starman, The Day the Earth Stood Still). It is more likely that extraterrestrial life that has evolved (like Homo sapiens) within an ecological web of predator-prey relationships will reflect an evolutionary morality, moral ambiguity within a widening circle of ethical inclusion. Theologically such a species would likely be like us − "simuliustus et peccator" − at the same time justified and sinners.

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