What Do Theistic Evolutionists Think About Extraterrestrial Life?

After reading the panspermia discussions, I’m curious to hear what theistic evolutionists here think concerning extraterrestrial life. Are you inclined or disinclined to believe in the existence of ET (introducing this abbreviation to the discussion for the sake of sanity) life? What about intelligent ET life? What would the implications of ET life be concerning your theology?

I look forward to reading your responses (and perhaps others of differing views would like to share their thoughts as well?).


Not impossible. My guess is, following Robin Collins, that God would incarnate himself in Klingon nature to save the Klingon race. Or somehow Christ would still save them. The tough part would be eschatology. Would Jesus and the klingon savior have to return at the same time? “He will come again to raise the living and the dead” is seen as a cosmic event. How wouls that work? I don’t know. Maybe both saviors set their watches to return at the same time.

Why would the Klingons need saving? Did they Fall? I see a theological problem. Did God make an Adam for every planet, and did that Adam succumb to temptation every time?


Actually, that brings up an interesting hypothetical. Suppose Adam & Eve didn’t Fall, but suppose, say, Seth did instead, somewhat later of course. Does that condemn all Seth’s descedents, which by the time of Christ would include everyone? Would humanity have been in danger of a Fall in every generation?

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I think this is one of the problems with the literal interpretation. I see the main point of the story being that human beings sin and sin can snowball from generation to generation. If Adam existed, he sinned because he was human, and any of us would have done the same.

If you can imagine an evolutionary scenario where our drive to love, be selfless, be monogamous would be stronger than the selfishness instilled into us by the evolutionary process, then maybe no one sinned! But scientifically, and theologically, I think there is no such world.

I’m Orthodox, we don’t believe in Augustinian original sin, and I am skeptical than an actual Adam existed.


Also, I agree with Simon Conway Morris that if aliens exist, they probably look and think an awful lot like us.

I wonder what Earth’s religions would do if an alien race showed up on our planet with their own “missionaries” here to force humans to adopt the alien’s religion? It would make for for some good “shoe’s on the other foot” Sci-Fi for sure.


Where does Collins discuss this?

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This podcast in like a brief sentence! Haha. I don’t know if he’s written about it, I think he said he has but I’m not sure where. I usually just read the stuff on his personal website.

He mentioned how Chalcedon insisted that Christ took on human nature, and that this is probably what would happen in an alien civilization. I like the idea. It’s very Orthodox.
My only qualm is that Maximus the Confessor invests Christ with absolute cosmic significance. Not sure how that theology, which I adore, would work if aliens existed. Then again, Simon Conway Morris, contra Denton, sees alien life as fairly unlikely.

CS Lewis’ essay on this is the right place to start…

But usually, when the popular hubbub has subsided and the novelty has been chewed over by real theologians, real scientists and real philosophers, both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before. So it was with Copernican astronomy, with Darwinism, with Biblical Criticism, with the new psychology. So, I cannot help expecting, it will be with the discovery of ‘life on other planets’ if that discovery is ever made.



I always find Lewis annoying, but here slightly less than usual. Of course he offers no answers, freely admitting that he has no data. Still, he considers a few of the possibilities.

I’m actually more interested in the speculation on other ways Eden might have gone. Any theological perspective on that one?

Yup. In theology there has been some helpful speculation on this. The question: if Adam had not sinned, would Jesus still have come? An important book suggests “Incarnation Anyways.”


Some of the theologically trained might have more to add. @jongarvey @Mlkluther, etc.

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"Since he who saves already existed, it was necessary that he who would be saved should come into existence, that the One who saves should not exist in vain.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.22.3)

This can get into weird territory regarding theodicy, but in one sense, I think it’s right.

“When Irenaeus reads Genesis 2, he sees first not Adam but the Nazarene, in whose image Adam was made. It’s as if time itself begins with the Crucified and flows and backwards and forwards from him. The eternal Father speaks the world into being from the cross.”

I wonder if Colossians 1:16 might add something to the consideration of this theological speculation — “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

With Christ at the centre of theology, it seems to me that Christ is central to God’s creating purposes, not just His redeeming purposes. The Creation exists for the sake of the Son. So, I think it’s fair to say the Incarnation was always in the eternal plan of God.

However, I retain the right to say I’m not really sure what that means, exactly. :smirk:


No, that wasn’t the question at all. The question is “If Adam had not sinned, would someone else have?”

Let me put another way. The question of the book I linked to was, “if Adam and no one else had sinned?” Read the reviews themselves and you will see how that is engaged.

I think Mark and mlkluther have touched the heart of the thing: the question of “what if” is not answerable from the Genesis 3 narrative alone, but only in the context of the broadening scope of Scriptural revelation (Genesis → Torah → Tanakh → whole Bible), and in particular christology.

All those not only show the role of Christ in both salvation and creation, but also, by the way the story has panned out, they illuminate what the purpose of the garden, and of Adam, was in the first place.

In Narnia C. S. Lewis always has Aslan say, “Nobody is told what would have happened,” and that, I think, is his nod to the deep providence of God - the Incarnation was always in the eternal plan of God, but it remained within his counsel alone until it actually happened. The game was real.

Still, for it to be real, “what if?” questions must be answerable in principle, if speculatively. It’s not a soccergame if there’s only a goal-mouth at one end because everybody knows Team B is too rubbish to score.

The temptation in the garden had the character of a crucial test of covenant faith and loyalty. It was not simply “a” man committing “a” sin. And in the light of Trinitarian theology, that faith and loyalty were to the Son, who is God as he relates to his creation. Adam and Eve walked with the one in whose image they were created.

Had Adam and Eve acted upon faith regarding that command, they would have learned wisdom, and grown in love and righteousness, from the source of wisdom, love and righteousness, and the “Eden economy” would have spread to fill all things with glory through humanity’s fullness, through God’s Spirit.

That is seen through the continuation of that “new creation project” firstly in the call of the Patriarchs leading to Israel (and their failure), and finally in Christ pulling the whole thing together in his Incarnation and Passion. The whole salvific aspect of Jesus’s ministry is therefore preparatory to getting the larger, original project - new creation through humanity - back on track.


I see that nobody is interested in responding to my question.

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See also: Scientology