Re: Incarnation (fwd)

by way of (
Sun, 21 Apr 1996 23:13:15 -0400

Three comments about the intelligent life elsewhere
issue (no, four).

1. This is a very old issue, going back to antiquity. The
historical examples most relevant to the present discussion,
in my opinion, are those surrounding the reception of
Copernicanism in the 17th century and those surrounding
the Whewell-Brewster discussion in the early 19th century.
I won't dally on these, except to refer interested parties
to standard bibliographies in the history of science for
references. The most interesting relevant point, IMHO, is
that in the nineteenth century (when this issue was very widely
discussed) it was ALMOST the orthodox view to hold that God
did created other intelligent beings elsewhere, as an almost
necessary corollary of his omnipotence. Likewise it was
ALMOST the orthodox view that pre-Adamite humans had
existed. Don't have space to amplify either comment
properly here, unfortunately.

2. IMHO, there is nothing whatsoever in scripture that
addresses this issue either way. We might have biases and
preconceptions about the uniqueness of the incarnation,
but that is what they are. The Bible was written for
humans, not for other beings; whether God became one with
other kinds of life seems immaterial to the status of human
beings as made in God's image.

3. A brief word on Ted Peters, who wasn't known to the original
message's author. He's a really good Lutheran theologian at
the seminary in Berkeley. If you want to form an impression of
his work, read his article "On Creating the Cosmos," in PHYSICS,
PHILOSOPHY, AND THEOLOGY, ed. Robert J. Russell et al. It's a
lucid defense of creatio ex nihilo, though not one that ignores
higher criticism and the history of doctrine (which is partly
why I like it). The contrast with the stuff proposed by Sallie
McFague in the same volume is most instructive.

4. Probably because I live and breathe Boyle at the moment,
I am inclined personally to take a rather strongly voluntaristic
theological stance on issues like this one. Applying it here means,
I think, that we dare not restrict God to human categories of
understanding and to human prejudices. Hence, I dare say that we
are being too rationalistic IN OUR THEOLOGY (let alone our science)
if we say with any confidence that God didn't/couldn't/wouldn/t
have become incarnate anywhere else. IMHO, God was under no
necessity to create the best of all possible worlds; God is under
no necessity to save or damn any particular individual; and God
is under no necessity to incarnate Godself once and only once, though
I understand the Bible to teach that God did that just once on this
particular planet.


Ted Davis
Assoc Prof of Science and History
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840