So last time, we sat at the foot of the master, C. S. Lewis, and discussed the theological underpinnings of his Space Trilogy. For those of you just joining us now (or who don’t feel like going back and reading the article for yourself), Lewis basically operated under the assumption that each planet was “spiritually” independent of each other, meaning that each planet would have its own Edenic period of testing and, depending on how they dealt with temptation, their own salvation history as well, meaning that for every fallen race, there could potentially be their own incarnation and salvation.
Full disclosure time: I didn’t come up with that list of underpinnings on my own. Back in 1999, when I was attending seminary, I took an elective course called “The Gospel and C. S. Lewis.” I signed up for it on a lark. At that point, the only Lewis I had read was The Screwtape Letters (don’t hurt me!), and I liked it well enough. As part of the course, we read four of the Narnia books, two of the Space trilogy, and Til We Have Faces. During our discussion of the Space trilogy, the professor elucidated the points I shared in my last post. But as we had the discussion, my mind started wandering and I asked myself a fateful question:
What if Lewis got it backwards? What if all the sentient races fell with Adam and Eve at the same time?
I was stunned. Could that be the way it worked? Since the Bible doesn’t speak of aliens, we couldn’t say with any certainty, but one passage in particular seemed to point in that direction. I’m speaking of Romans 8:19-23, which states that all of creation fell with Adam and Eve and now waits for salvation to come to them. I wondered if maybe that would include sentient alien life as well.
That got me to thinking about electricity. I don’t know much about it, but I do remember this from my time in 4H that when you’re wiring up two light bulbs to the same power source, there are two ways to do it, either in a parallel or a series circuit. To wit:
The circuit on the left is a series circuit, the one on the right a parallel circuit. They behave differently. For example, in the parallel circuit, if one light bulb burns out, the other one will still remain lit because they have independent paths to the battery. But in the series circuit, if one bulb blows, they both go dark. Think Christmas tree lights.
So I got to wondering, if there are multiple “light bulbs” in the universe and since humanity has gone dark, what happened to the other races (assuming there are other races out there)? Did God create us all as a parallel circuit or a series circuit? In Lewis’s trilogy, he operated under the assumption that we would exist in parallel with each other. In my thought exercise, influenced by the Romans passage, I wondered if maybe it was the other way around. When one race fell, did we all fall?
If that’s the case, then the redemptive work of Christ is not just for human beings but happened to “replace our burnt out bulb,” so to speak, and allow the other races to find the one true Light as well. In the same way that Christ died for all sinful humanity (and not just the Jews and the Romans who were involved with His crucifixion), Christ died for all living and sentient races.
I further asked myself what would happen with those other races. One moment, they’re living in idyllic paradises specific to their races. The next, sin and death and darkness would break upon them, just as it did for humanity. What would they think? What would they do? What would they . . .
And suddenly, I had a book idea brewing. But that’s another story for another time. Maybe I’ll tell it when we’re done with this series.
Now I realize what some of you might be thinking. “How is that fair? The alien races didn’t sin! They didn’t do anything wrong! How could God let them fall?” But, if you think about it, a lot that we see about sinful humanity isn’t “fair” from our perspective. Think about it this way: is it fair that original sin afflicts all of us, so many millennia later, when we weren’t the ones in the Garden?
So is this the way it works? I have no idea. Maybe. Could be. The only way we’ll find out is if we ever do encounter alien life out there. But in the meantime, it’s good for us to remember that there are plenty of people in this world who Christ definitely died for, people who need to hear that message still to this day.
You know, maybe that’s the take-away for this series. It’s a lot of fun to dance on the end of tree branches, but what’s really important is how our theological rubber hits the road. Before we get too wrapped up in the hypotheticals, let’s keep in mind the actual people around us who are, at this time, aliens to God, lost and foreign. Let’s focus on bringing God’s grace to them.
Now that would be a great way to cap this series, right? That’s exactly why I’m not doing that yet. Instead, I want to spend at least one more week talking about a two book series that kind of/sort of tackles this very issue. So stay tuned, folks.