Incarnation can also take place on other planets in the universe
It is highly probable that there are planets elsewhere in our galaxy, or even in other galaxies, habitable planets that have produced intelligent life. What about those creatures? God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ is of no use to them. Will God reveal himself to them as well? And will they experience some form of incarnation?
Yes, although we have so far not had any direct evidence of intelligent life on extra terrestrial planets, its existence is extremely likely. All our recent cosmic observations show that the same laws of nature that obtain here, apply throughout the universe. If life could evolve here, it can evolve elsewhere. It is calculated that our galaxy alone has 200,000 million stars. If they have an average of 5 planets each – a low estimate, and if one in a hundred million planets enjoys conditions favourable to evolution of life, our galaxy houses 10,000 planets like the earth, with life and, presumably, in time intelligent life. And that is only our galaxy!
See: I.S.SHKLOVSKII and C.SAGAN, Intelligent Life in the Universe, San Francisco 1966.
However, if we may legitimately extend our own experience of evolution to such other planets, we may equally extend our religious experience to them. We may presume that, as intelligent life evolves anywhere in the universe, an awareness of Ultimate Reality will also emerge. As on earth, this will lead to ever clearer self-manifestations of the divine, culminating no doubt in appropriate incarnations according to the understanding and the culture of the civilisation concerned.
If we are to learn from the history of religion in our own part of the universe, we can be sure that Ultimate Reality, which breaks through into intelligent consciousness from the beyond within, will everywhere respond closely to the specific characteristics of each particular group of intelligent beings.
It follows from this that the incarnation that took place in Jesus Christ is limited to humanity on our planet. It is the way Ultimate Reality communicated to us, human beings. Scripture calls Christ, `the firstborn of all creation’. It gives him a cosmic role in the sense in which the universe was known at the time (see: Colossians 1,15-20. It does not say anything about extra-terrestrial life.
Incarnation is unique for the special group in which it happens, but it is not unique in the sense that other singular incarnations for other unique worlds are excluded. Humankind cannot claim to occupy the only possible place for Incarnation (see: P.TILLICH, Systematic Theology, vol.2, Chicago 1957, pp.95-96). Remember: we are talking about incarnation from within.
The text in this chapter is from How to Make Sense of God by John Wijngaards, Sheed & Ward, Kansas City 1995. Tom Adcock designed the cartoons. The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada awarded the book a prize on 25 May 1996.
View the following film on the meaning of incarnation