Humanity in the Cosmos: Astrotheology and Christology

In the past decade, a number of theologians have been engaging with topics at the interface of Christian theology and the possible existence of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent Life (ETIL), termed “Astrotheology.” Until now, there has been very little engagement from the evangelical theological community. This paper will argue that the current literature in astrotheology lacks a robust biblical foundation, and that careful evangelical engagement is needed. This is especially true when these ideas are popularized and make their way into the pews.

The paper will begin with an overview of the field and the major thinkers (Ted Peters, Robert John Russell, Joshua Moritz, David Wilkinson, Alexei Nesteruk, Thomas O’Meara, and others) to situate this paper within the literature. After reviewing the main doctrinal areas in Astrotheology, I will narrow in on one of these topics: the incarnation and ETIL.

I will show that most of the academic discussion of the incarnation and ETIL lacks a biblical foundation, specifically regarding the headships of Adam and Christ, and the image of God in man. These concepts are crucial to understanding the biblical storyline of redemption (including the incarnation); removing these doctrinal themes from our theological reasoning about the incarnation (and Christ’s redemption) leads to unbiblical conclusions. Sin and redemption are tied to the headship of Adam and Christ. Therefore, the question of estrangement from God and the need of redemption is rooted in man’s bearing God’s image and therefore is tied to Christ’s work as the second Adam.

In the final section of the paper, I will propose two lines of thought as a contribution to an “Evangelical speculative theology” on this topic. The first line of thought has to do with the connection between the incarnation and terrestrial non-human (animal) life. I will speculate that the effects of human sin (as image bearers and vice-regents over creation) affects all creation, including non-human (terrestrial or extraterrestrial life), even though ETIL itself might not commit acts of sin (since they, like animals, are not in the image of God). The work of Christ in redemption restores all creation by defeating the curse of human sin.

The second line of thought will push back on the common assumption that all intelligent life is capable of sin and therefore in need of Christ’s redemption. My speculative move here is to compare ETIL to angelic beings, who are not in the image of God. In that light, I will then suggest that one of the following two things obtain: 1. ETIL does not sin; or 2. ETIL does sin and rebel against God—however, since they are not made in the divine image and are not under the headship of Adam, they are not part of Christ’s redemptive work.

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