Indiana Jones, Star Wars, ET, and the Origin of Sin

If you’ve visitied this blog at any time over the past several months, you know I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan. When I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night, I was “as giddy as a school boy.” It suffices to say, I was extremely impressed with all aspects of the movie, from the technical art of movie-making to the intriguing storyline to unforgettable performances. This blog post won’t contain any major spoilers, but you can’t help but take note of the movie’s extra-terrestrial overtones, as it’s central in both the title of the movie as well as the official movie poster.

So what does the latest Indiana Jones flick have to do with the creation/evolution debate? Plenty.

As reported by Catholic News Agency last week, Fr. José Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican’s Observatory, told the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that Catholic doctrine allowed for the belief in the possible existence of extraterrestrial life. Fr. Funes, who tentatively believes in the Big Bang theory for lack of a “more complete and precise explanation of the origin of the universe,” posits that the hypothesis that extraterrestrial life exists should not and cannot be discounted, especially when one considers the size of our universe. I agree with Fr. Funes.

Even when I was a young-earth creationist, I never fell for the common YEC argument that extraterrestrial life didn’t exist soley because God’s redemptive focus was on our blue and green ball alone. (Be sure to read Answers in Genesis’ full response to the ET question, in which they claim that “the thrust of the biblical testimony [and] the purpose of creation is uniquely centred on this earth.”) Maybe it was because I had been immersed in science fiction (“Star Trek,” Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, “Battlestar Galactica,” etc.) from an early age that I could theorize beyond my YEC shackles. Regardless of the intellectual contradiction, the question always simmered on my mind’s backburner. After reading C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, I began to think more seriously about the possibilities, both scientific and theological. Fr. Funes certainly has:

“I think there isn’t [a contradiction]. Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there could be other beings, even intelligent [beings], created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God’s creative freedom. To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’, why could we not speak of a ‘brother alien’? He would also belong to the creation.”

What if? What if intelligent, self-aware beings existed on some distant star? Would God have made provisions for their salvation? Would the Logos have also humbled Himself by taking on alien flesh, ready to guide their civilization toward spiritual wholeness? Why not?

And what would alien scriptures look like? I’m sure they would read completely differently. God would have accomodated Himself to their history, their myths, their traditions, and demonstrate His love for them in a way that may be completely lost on us. This, of course, begs a completely different but intimately related question: Was there a Fall of Spock? Is an alien “fall” inevitable?

And this is where I disagree with Fr. Funes’ assertion that “[the alien race] could have remained in full friendship with the Creator.” Granted, we don’t know how long it took for mankind to go from an guiltless covenantal state to one of estrangement from the Creator, but I’m not so sure that any finite being, however intelligent, could stay in God’s good graces long. Last September, I pondered the origin of sin while finishing up a 19-novel Star Wars series titled “The New Jedi Order,” which takes place 25-30 years after 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope. What is most unique about this series (and this novel in particular) is its emphasis on the nature of the Force, the philosophy of its use, and the origin of the dark side. The following extract from the hardcover version of Star Wars: The New Jedi Order—The Unifying Force (p. 268) features Jedi Master Luke Skywalker speaking with his nephew Jedi Knight Jacen Solo, son of Han Solo and Princess Leia:

“… the dark side is real, because evil actions are real. Sentience gave rise to the dark side. Does [the dark side] exist in nature? No. Left to itself, nature maintains the balance. But we’ve changed that. We [sentient beings] are a new order of consciousness that has an impact on all life. The Force now contains light and dark because of what thinking beings have brought to it. That’s why balance has become something that must be maintained—because our actions have the power to tip the scales.” [emphasis in original]

What do you think about the possibility of ETs, God’s provision for their salvation (assuming intelligent ETs exist), and the true origin of sin?

(I was hoping to save questions like these for a special series on the theological ramifications of evolutionary creationism, but the timing of Fr. Funes interview and the release of the latest Indiana Jones flick was too tempting. I apologize for jumping the gun!)

15 Comments

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15 Responses to Indiana Jones, Star Wars, ET, and the Origin of Sin

  1. Dan Werner

    Mike,

    I read that AiG article and it looks like it contains the vestiges of geocentrism where earth and human kind is considered the the focal point of creation. (Well of course it would be since the Israelites were not aware of the real universe that was out there. And why would God need to disclose aliens to that culture. God needed to deal with big sin problems.) I too at one point felt that aliens would create big theological problems. I guess just reading scriptures more contextually through such scholars as NT Wright gradually eroded such type of thinking from my head.

    So yes, I believe other sentient beings are possible, even those made in God’s image. Not sure they would need to be fallen however. Isn’t the core of being made in his image the genuine ability to relate lovingly to God? But since love cannot be forced image bearers may also spurn the offer.

    Dan

  2. Hi Mike,
    Now we are getting somewhere! Very interesting questions (I’m a big SF & fantasy fan as well). First, Larry Norman (the original Christian Rocker) had a song that said (I’m paraphrasing I think): “If there is life on other planets I’m sure Jesus went there to die for them too”. That more-or-less makes sense to me: God would find a way to bring these “people” into a relationship with him.
    Second, Ted Peters has a new survey up asking about the theological implications of life on other planets. Check it out here.

  3. What if we meet some E.T.s who aren’t perfect yet also don’t believe in “sin?”

    What if we visit a planet with some people who have their own creation account, and we’re not in it, because their account says the first night and day, and evening and morning, were created just for THEIR world? And we appear to them to be “sons of god” coming down from the heavens to mate with their women?

    And a favorite little thought piece of mine that I like to share with literal biblical creationists:

    ARE THERE CREATIONISTS ON OTHER PLANETS? Do they quote from a book somewhat like our earth-centered book of Genesis? And, supposing that the name of their planet is “Zontar,” does their book read something like this…

    In the beginning God created the heavens and ZONTAR, and the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters OF ZONTAR and God said let there be light, and there was the first evening and morning. And God separated the waters and caused dry land to appear ON ZONTAR, and there was a second evening and morning. And God made the land bring forth green plants and fruit trees ON ZONTAR, and there was a third evening and morning. And God made TWO GREAT LIGHTS, one to rule the day ON ZONTAR, and one to rule the night ON ZONTAR, and he made the stars also, and set them in the sky to light ZONTAR and for signs and seasons, and there was a fourth evening and morning. And God made animals ON ZONTAR, and there was a fifth evening and morning. And God made beings IN HIS OWN IMAGE, and he visited them in the garden where He and they left slimy trials as they moved and talked to each other via their antennae, and there was a sixth evening and morning. And on the seventh day God “rested” from creating the heavens and ZONTAR.

    Of course, we earthlings, being raised on the Bible, would know that God needed to “rest” after creating ZONTAR, so He could regain enough energy to trek to another part of the cosmos (near one of those stars he’d created “to light ZONTAR”) and create a place called “earth.” Once there, He had to “separate light and darkness again,” “separate the waters,” make dry land appear, create plants and fruit trees, make two more “great lights” to “rule the day and night” on that planet, create animals, and create beings in his own image, this time more ape-like than the intelligent snail-like beings of ZONTAR.

    Then, after creating the heavens and the EARTH, God “rested” a second time. (The first time God “rested” was after he’d created ZONTAR, remember?)

    Returning to the strictly Biblical picture, it says in Exodus 31:17, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” According to learned editors of a Bible published in 1774, the true meaning of the Hebrew is, “on the seventh day He rested, and fetched breath.”

  4. Anonymous

    Will we still be finite in heaven? If so, will we again fall out of God’s good graces?

  5. Just so you know, I can’t wait to read this post, but I’m a spoiler Nazi (not a communist) and can’t risk knowing something I wish I hadn’t when I see the movie. 😛

  6. Have you seen the movie yet, Steve? I’m dying to know what you think (of the movie and my post).

  7. Have you seen the movie yet, Steve? I’m dying to know what you think (of the movie and my post).

    Well, I’m dying to see it. But with three wee ones and all my furious studying for my exams, I haven’t yet. Hopefully by the end of next week 🙂

  8. Well, I’ve finally seen it and read your post 🙂

    This is stuff I’ve thought long and hard about, and the Space Trilogy has been the catalyst for my thinking as well. I hadn’t thought about it before reading your post, but, taking the organic view of the Fall that I do nowadays, I tend to agree with you and the Star Wars book that other sentient races would almost inevitably have the tendency or at least the possibility to “sin”.

    This is fascinating, because it jives with something I’ve been theorizing about the origin of evil for years. Evil is but a privation of good. In order for God to create a perfectly moral being aware of evil but incapable of or indisposed to doing evil, He would have to create another being like Himself, in essence another deity. Any other beings He made had to be either unaware of the moral law or incapable of choosing only good. So it was that when God decided to make our line of primates sentient and aware of moral law, those animals naturally were in the position of choosing evil (else they would be “like God”). I suppose all this would go for any beings universe-wide.

    I just had an amazing thought – tell me what you think: being “like God” is what the serpent tempted man with, and he defined it as “being able to discern good from evil”. The problem for humanity was not so much with knowing good from evil, but with being incapable of restraining themselves from occasionally choosing evil once they were aware of evil; although having eaten the forbidden fruit they were more like God, they were insufficiently like Him to act like Him. The fact that they could choose to disobey God with that first command shows that there was some free will given, such that the consequence was of the selfsame substance as the choice. In other words, as a result of the onset of sentience, awareness of moral law, and the revelation of God, humanity’s ability to displease God arose simultaneously with its desire to displease God, even though it appears (as it did to Adam) that the desire preceded the ability. This recapitulates with every human – or extraterrestrial – who learns with maturity the difference between good and evil, and thus the Fall happens over and over to all humanity, “…and so death passed unto all men, for all sin.”

    Or something like that.

  9. Steve,

    Believe it or not, I follow and (I think) am wholeheartedly on board with you on this. (And this is even after taking some major painkillers after my back surgery.)

    In essence, the story of Adam and Eve was inspired by God to show how mankind’s propensity to sin is inevitable given mankind’s (1) evolved sentience, (2) communion with the Creator, (3) covenant with the Creator, and (4) eventual (and inevitable) — for why plan for a Redeemer before the creation of the world? — fall from innocence.

    Now, to take some more narcocodene …

  10. Ed,

    I hope I’m taking your post in the way it was intended: humorously. =)

    Regardless, I highly recommend you check out Dr. John H. Walton’s books, if you’re not familiar with them already. Amazing stuff, especially the part about what it means for God to “rest” upon the completion of His creation.

  11. Anon,

    Will we still be finite in heaven? If so, will we again fall out of God’s good graces?

    I’m inclined to believe that our new bio-spiritual bodies will no longer be subject to corruption or decay, and that the eternal life promised to us is exactly that.

    But the question you pose about our ability to “fall out of God’s good graces” again is indeed an interesting one. Is our so-called “free will” suddenly negated upon our postmortem entrance into the presence of God? If so, how does that account for Satan’s fall from grace? Did he not also have access to the presence of God?

    Interesting questions to ponder, indeed …

  12. Steve,

    In order for God to create a perfectly moral being aware of evil but incapable of or indisposed to doing evil, He would have to create another being like Himself, in essence another deity.

    Exactly!

    … being “like God” is what the serpent tempted man with, and he defined it as “being able to discern good from evil”. The problem for humanity was not so much with knowing good from evil, but with being incapable of restraining themselves from occasionally choosing evil once they were aware of evil …

    So what you’re saying is essentially this: the introduction of the law (i.e., not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) made Adam’s fall inevitable. This seems to jibe extremely well with Paul’s theology.

    In other words, as a result of the onset of sentience, awareness of moral law, and the revelation of God, humanity’s ability to displease God arose simultaneously with its desire to displease God, even though it appears (as it did to Adam) that the desire preceded the ability.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I think we’re on to something here, Steve!

    This recapitulates with every human – or extraterrestrial – who learns with maturity the difference between good and evil, and thus the Fall happens over and over to all humanity, “…and so death passed unto all men, for all sin.”

    And with that, my friend, the tension underlying the doctrine of Original Sin resolves itself neatly. Every person’s entrance into a fallen state is recapitulated time and time again, for we are born in the image of Adam, i.e., sentient beings with the capacity of making a moral decision.

    Now comes the interesting discussion about how God goes about judging those human beings who lack the capacity to choose between good and evil …

  13. Anonymous

    Ah … the infamous New Jedi Order. The series had interesting alien antagonists, but ultimately it was the beginning of the Star Wars Expanded Universe's decline in quality IMHO.

  14. the infamous New Jedi Order. The series had interesting alien antagonists, but ultimately it was the beginning of the Star Wars Expanded Universe's decline

    Did you read beyond the NJO? Jacen Solo took a nasty turn to the dark side …

  15. Anonymous

    Did you read beyond the NJO? Jacen Solo took a nasty turn to the dark side …

    Read the first two books, then tried reading a third, but I just couldn't get into it; there's just too much rehashing of the prequels (which I loathe, so that may have something to do with my distaste for the storyline.) I liked the Dest Nest trilogy, though.

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