Re: Fragility and tendentiousness

From: Steve Petermann (
Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 17:43:40 EDT

  • Next message: "Re: formation & incarnation"

    > I think the simple answer is that you cannot look at
    > salvation as a mechanistic sort of thing that you can
    > describe like physics.

    This I agree with. However, I'm not sure the bulk of Christendom would agree
    with you. Mechanisms are all about constraints. Obviously statements like
    "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me"
    seem pretty mechanistic. Even your "second person of the trinity" sounds
    pretty science like(the second law of thermodynamics). Then, of course,
    there are all the different salvation "formulas" the get bandied around. And
    what about the creeds?

    I know, I know it is possible to contest all my objects with some
    theological nuance. The bottom line in the point I was trying to make is
    that Christianity is becoming less and less compelling for a many people.
    Why is that? Although I'm not member, I see a virtual revolving door of the
    newly disillusioned going through the local Unitarian Universalist church.
    My questions may sound like scholasticism but that's because the premises
    lead to a plethora of follow up questions. And they are, by the way, not
    irrelevant to the thinking persons I know. The scholastics may have been
    able to "reason" through each question but in the final analysis was
    anything compelling about their system? Did they convince by their
    gymnastics of logic? Christianity may not be that fragile as a whole now,
    but what about 100, 500 years from now. The populace is becoming more and
    more educated and critically thinking. The scientific worldview is sweeping
    the globe. All it will take is something new to come along that speaks to
    their needs but is less intellectually objectionable and there may be a mass

    Steve Petermann

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Dr. Blake Nelson" <>
    To: "Steve Petermann" <>; "ASA" <>
    Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2003 4:14 PM
    Subject: Re: Fragility and tendentiousness

    > --- Steve Petermann <> wrote:
    > > Blake,
    > >
    > > Thanks for the exposition. I guess I *am* ignorant
    > > of some of this
    > > theology.
    > >
    > >
    > > >So, ETs provide a writ large
    > > > question of what about other religions, etc.
    > > Missions
    > > > to the stars seem of little difference to me than
    > > > missionary work here on earth. So how is your
    > > problem
    > > > any different than missionary work and other
    > > religions
    > > > on earth?
    > >
    > >
    > > This particular option, "once for all", is what I
    > > assumed was the party
    > > line. If that is the case it seems problematic
    > > because it presupposes some
    > > sort of preferential status to earth bound homo
    > > sapiens overagainst the ET's
    > > of the universe.
    > Well, only if 1) the aliens have sinned and are in
    > need of redemption, and 2) news of the redemptive act
    > of Jesus is the only way that redemption can be
    > communicated.
    > As was noted I think by D.F. Siemens in his post, it
    > is possible that there may be a totally different
    > approach to salvation that may be used there,
    > preserving the once and for all aspect of Jesus.
    > >
    > > > The other relationship to Gods on other worlds
    > > view is
    > > > one that has been suggested by theologians like
    > > E.L.
    > > > Mascall in his 1956 Bampton Lectures. He believed
    > > > that if there were other parts of the universe
    > > where
    > > > rational beings have sinned and are in need of
    > > > redemption (something that your fragility seems to
    > > > assume) that the second person of the Trinity
    > > either
    > > > has or will some day unite his divine Person to
    > > their
    > > > nature as occured in Jesus of Nazareth.
    > >
    > >
    > > This seems more reasonable. I do wonder how
    > > compelling this would be to
    > > critical thinking individuals. For instance, is it
    > > essential that there is
    > > only "one" Christ per planet or can there be more
    > > that one? What about
    > > solar systems, do they need one "Christ" per planet
    > > or is one per solar
    > > system enough? Also is the salvation attained by
    > > the death of a specific
    > > Christ localize to that planet or is it more global?
    > These discussions seem akin to the scholastic debates
    > on a similar issue -- you can play the same game with
    > Jesus. Could the Incarnation taken the form of a
    > cucumber, etc. Such questioning in trying to
    > understand the incarnation did take place in
    > scholasticism. Somehow, we don't much care about
    > those debates in theology any more.
    > I think the simple answer is that you cannot look at
    > salvation as a mechanistic sort of thing that you can
    > describe like physics. I can hypothesize any number
    > of answers to these questions, but would have to say
    > that I obviously don't know. These questions shift
    > the ground.... usually the ground under which the
    > first question arises -- what about ETs are they saved
    > by Jesus? Is a way of being tendentious that shows
    > ignorance of christian theology. The first answer is
    > that the revelation we have of God is for mankind and
    > it may be fruitfully shared with any other sentient
    > life we might meet who may or may not be need in
    > salvation. The second answer I think is that the
    > question often confuses Jesus as the historical person
    > we know as the eternal Word of God, the Son, the
    > Second Person of the Trinity. The two are one in
    > Jesus of Nazareth, but when you think of the cosmic
    > action of Jesus, one is really also thinking about the
    > cosmic action of the Word of God, and that it is the
    > Second Person of the Trinity through which *all*
    > creation relates to God. So, we have a category error
    > of sorts -- if we focuse too much on Jesus of
    > Nazareth, the Christ as the historical person -- which
    > He is -- and forget the Word of God -- which He also
    > is, we become confused. When you think of the
    > salvific action of the Second Person of the Trinity it
    > opens up the possibilities more clearly and also
    > avoids the rather tendentious arguments made by
    > atheists along these lines of Jesus hopping all over
    > the universe. In one sense it is true, but not in the
    > trivial and ignorant sense in which the comment is
    > often made.
    > Third, the salvific actions one might expect as a
    > result, even if in multiple incarnations, will vary
    > according to the nature of the ETs and what their
    > relationship to God and to one another should be. One
    > would hypothesize that whatever salvific action occurs
    > will be effective in the way it is intended. I
    > suppose we could hypothesize all sorts of different
    > scenarios and speculate -- but since there is only
    > one incarnation for human beings, one would expect
    > should an incarnation be necessary for some other
    > species that one would be effective as well for them.
    > Perhaps in some areas where more than one sentient
    > species exists, one evangelizes to another, who knows?
    > But, this takes the question the further step from
    > its intended effect, which is "well, wouldn't ETs
    > throw a spanner into the works of christianity?" The
    > answer is "no" and here's a bunch of reasons why.
    > To come back and demand an explication of how
    > salvation occurs for species we dont know about is
    > like asking why Genesis doesn't spell out the human
    > genome -- it is a Carl Sagan-esque expectation for a
    > "valid" religion -- i.e., one that tells us hidden
    > facts about the most important thing to Carl Sagan,
    > science. Even if there are multiple incarnations or
    > multiple salvific acts, the one that is important for
    > us -- until we meet some other species that has
    > something to tell us about God -- is Jesus of
    > Nazareth. We have to profess humble, but
    > understandable ignorance on what for salvific action
    > by the Second Person of the Trinity may take in other
    > galaxies. But the basic answer is that ETs and their
    > religion poses no real concern for the rationality of
    > christianity.
    > > I promise I'm not
    > > trying to be obnoxious about this. It just seems to
    > > me that the cascading
    > > of questions like this borders on the ridiculous.
    > >
    > > I guess the critical question in all this is this
    > > notion that a *particular*
    > > unique life is essential for salvation. When that
    > > is posited, and ET is out
    > > there, the strange extrapolations mount.
    > Yes, I think when one sees Jesus of Nazareth just as
    > an historical person, without also seeing Him as the
    > Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the
    > confusion mounts.
    > > Personally I have no problem associating the life of
    > > Jesus as an important
    > > revelation of God or the Word. I just don't think
    > > that a life like that is
    > > unique even to this planet. Most assuredly the ET's
    > > out there have a sense
    > > of God as well. And I would suggest they also have
    > > exemplars of a communion
    > > with the sacred. If Christianity can embraces that
    > > view of Jesus I think it
    > > has a much better chance of being compelling in the
    > > coming centuries.
    > I see no reason why it can't understand that other
    > sentient races would presumably have experiences of
    > God and that those experiences of God are by virtue,
    > in Christian understanding, of the Second Person of
    > the Trinity. And it is through the Second Person that
    > salvation and redempetion occurs -- of all creation
    > and that it is possible that it may be or have been
    > necessary for the Second Person of the Trinity to
    > unite His divine person with the nature of other
    > rational beings.
    > > God be with you and yours in the hurricane,
    > > Steve Petermann
    > >
    > Thanks.
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