The Siphonophore Gospel

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Sometimes I think that we have trouble truly understanding the gospel because we are too wrapped up in the whole story of the gospel. Don't get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for the fact that I am inextricably wrapped up in God's great story of redemption. Rather, my problem is that sometimes I'm so mixed up between the true gospel and things that I've just brought along with me as baggage from my tradition, the culture around me, or just my own messed up head, that I just can't see what the gospel is really like in all its glorious richness.

Which brings me to God's creation. Scientists estimate that there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 to the power of 24 stars in the universe. They also estimate that many more of those stars have planets than they thought even a few years ago. If God created other sentient beings on even one of those planets, what would they be like?

What would the gospel be for them? Would they have fallen to some temptation, like we did, through their own equivalent of Adam and Eve? What would have been their fierce temptation? Would it have been pride? Greed? Lust? What would those sins even look like for creatures almost wholly different from us?

And that brings me to a peculiar creature that's been dwelling in my mind for a while now (not literally, mind you). A sea creature called the siphonophore ... it's a kind of colonial sea creature (like coral, but also like jellyfish — google them!) where many independent "zooids" — like a whole collection of single-celled organisms work together for a common goal (survival).

Now I might be crazy here (be gentle if you think I am). But imagine that God creates creatures like this and gives them sentience ... makes them "in His image". What would their "original sin" be (if they had one)? What would the incarnation look like? Could there be one, cosmic, universal "time" when God, in Jesus Christ, died for all — I mean all the sentient beings in all worlds? Did God, in Jesus Christ, suffer and die on a cross here, and by some other means on some other planet?

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Just to add to this... in case you're tempted to think: What's the possible relevance of this!? Scientists have recently calculated that there may be about 8.8 BILLION stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone that have earth-sized (and possibly habitable) planets around them. Considering how many galaxys there are... well you do the math....

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Here's a link to the article about how many planets there may be out there: 8.8 billion habitable Earth-size planets

Until such a time as we meet another extra-terrestial being to ask them these kinds of questions, isn't this a lot like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

     luimes, it is a comman fallacy to view the angels on the head of a pin debate as useless, but you have to remember that during the first few centuries of the Church, they were still trying to figure out what we now take for granted. There was a HUGE debate over whether Jesus was the EXACT SAME substance as the Father or only SIMILAR substance. The debate over angels was in the same vein. Do they occupy space? If so, then how much? If not, then what are they? It was not a waste of time, it was vital, at the time, to understand that thought experiment.

Now, to the main question. I once read A Case of Conscience by James Blish, which dealt with this same issue from the perspective of a Jesuit Priest encountering a new alien race that seemingly exists without original sin. It provokes the same questions.

At the risk of sounding unthoughtful about the issue, I'll quote the Godfather of Christian Rock, Larry Norman's song, UFO:

and if there's life on other planets
then I'm sure that He must know
and He's been there once already
and has died to save their souls
 

That is, if they needed it in the first place. 2 Peter 3.9 characterizes God in this light, He is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."This is the starting point.

 

Wow, you guys have awakend me this morning. What if?  What if all those other planets in all those other galaxies (upon which we so far  have discovered almost nil) had at one time sentient creatures that had come under judgment and we are the last viable planet in the universe? And we are apparently losing ground every day.

     C.S. Lewis explofes  these topics in his (fictional) trilogy, OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, PERELANDRA, and THAT HIDEUS STRENGTH.  You might find a lot of provocative and stimulating stuff there.

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Thanks, for pointing out Lewis' "Space Trilogy". I've enjoyed the series quite a few times myself, and love the way Lewis explores these topics. Two things to note, though: in the one book "Out of the Silent Planet", Lewis explores a kind of precursor creation to our own, in which the characters of the planet Malachandra don't seem to be fully equipped to "choose" sin over obedience— I seems like an utterly foreign concept to them. In the second book "Perelandra" we discover a kind of "alternate history" version  of a race very similar to our own who face a "redemption" before they even fall.

I, however, am interested here in thinking about two things that are not really addressed in Lewis' books:

1. What might "redemption" look like for a race utterly foreign to us (ie, a colonial being), and how might Christ's "once-for-all" sacrifice for our redemption might be connected to other beings/races' redemption story?

2. What a reflection through completely "other"/alien lenses might say about our own understanding of the gospel.

Thanks again for your thoughts, everyone! I'd love to hear more from all of you.