Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Steven Dick and Cosmo-theology

Milky Way, Black Rock Desert, Nevada USA
image wikimedia

Robert Lawrence Kuhn said in a PSB TV discussion 2010 the following
NASA chief historian Steven Dick questions the consistency of the Christian salvation plan if there are sentient beings on other planets. The salvation of humans on Earth depends, according to traditional doctrine, on Jesus’ death and resurrection, but what about those beings on other planets? Does his death on earth save them?

“If the answer is ‘No,’” says Dick, “then you have a scenario of a planet-hopping savior, which was not kindly looked upon by, say, theologians in the Middle Ages.”

Dick’s solution is a radical rethinking of what is meant by “theology.” He argues for what he calls a “cosmo-theology,” meaning “we need to take into account what we know about the universe, including whether or not there are extraterrestrials.” This includes the fact that “physically, the earth is not at the center of the universe” and the likely fact that, in Dick’s opinion, “biologically, human beings are not at the center of the universe either.” He suggests that there are other, far more advanced intelligent life forms. “We are most likely not at the top of the great chain of beings,” he says.

Dick’s cosmo-theology, which would be energized by extraterrestrial, or ET, intelligences, is hardly “theology” in any traditional sense. God is nowhere to be found. Nor are humans very much important. I’d be thrilled to know such “new truth,” though deeply disappointed, I’d admit, that God were no more.
Kuhn Closer to Truth

A catholic view
In a blog written July 24, 2014 Mark Strauss refers to these ideas and continues the discussion
How would the world's religions react to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence? There is, of course, no single answer. But for Christians who believe in the redemption of humanity through a singular event—the Incarnation of God through Christ—the question poses an especially complex dilemma.

To appreciate the conundrum, a good place to start is with the words of Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer and current director of the Vatican Observatory, who suggested in an interview that the possibility of "brother extraterrestrials" poses no problem for Catholic theology. "As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God," Funes told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. "This does not conflict with our faith because we cannot put limits on the creative freedom of God."

But, L'Osservatore Romano asked, what if these beings were sinners?

"Jesus became man once and for all," Funes responded. "The Incarnation is a single and unique event. So I am sure that also they, in some way, would have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with us human beings."
Strauss How Would Christianity Deal with Extraterrestrial life
Both articles give many additional links that are very much worth clicking.

Basic problem: ignoring the history of human learning
Steven Dick hits the nail head on by referring to the change in world view.  For there is a basic problem in many theological discussions, including the two articles referred above, in which the progress of humanity and our evolving knowledge about the space is not taken enough into consideration.

For the Bible is a truly old book. It was written in Ancient Near East and classical Roman imperium where it was taken by granted by all that Earth is the center of all existence. Sun and moon, the five visible planets and those little dots of light called stars move in mysterious ways in Heaven above Earth.

By rolling back to the geocentric world view that preceded the rather recent impact of the observations of Nicolaus Copernicus and his colleagues we can understand the following verses in the Book of Revelations
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
Rev. 6:12-13 KJV
Trying to force the prophecy into modern cosmology would twist both the genuine message of the Book of Revelations and the reality of God's creation.

The basic collection of holy books in the Judeo-Christian tradition represents an old worldview. Today, the geocentric as well as the heliocentric and Milky Way -centric worldviews have been smothered into pieces by the continuous flow of new information discovered about God's wonderful creation.

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