Strange and Difficult Theological Questions

Posted on July 26, 2008. Filed under: Theological Issues |

Saturday, July 26, 2008–This will certainly be one of the strangest posts in my blog ever! But questions come to me from time to time that are a little bit more difficult and even bizarre, but deserve some attention. Some of these I have already brought up elsewhere in this blog but I just wanted to list some of these and bring them up for discussion.

1) Do Animals Go To Heaven When They Die?

A few years ago an acquaintance of mine at work had a beloved cat get very ill and ultimately die, despite heroic measures by the family and the veterinarian. Upon the death of the pet cat I was asked to do a pet funeral. While I declined to do a full funeral I did write a prayer and eulogy for the cat and the owner. The lady was very appreciative and it helped her through the grieving process. I do not know if I saved a copy of the prayer. The woman did ask about pets going to heaven when they die. My answer was that there is no indication in Scripture of animals having eternal souls and since only humans are defined in Genesis 1-2 as being created in the image of God, I think we can only say that humans go to heaven.

However, I did point her to Isaiah 11

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

This passage, though highly figurative, may very well indicate that when Christ comes back to establish his Kingdom on the earth, there will be a return to Eden; the animals’ natures will be changed so that there is no danger or death from the animals. So while there might not be any animals in heaven, on the re-created earth there will probably be animals with new natures. CS Lewis’ writings in The Chronicles of Narnia point in this direction.

2) What if Evolution Is True?

While I do not see the scientific evidence for evolution as being very strong at all, and the sudden appearances of life forms all over earth at various ages seems to indicate to me sudden but spaced out creation by a Creator, I recognize that many devout, Bible believing Christians believe in theisitc evolution. But should I say that evolution is impossible? Can I absolutely rule it out? I really tend toward ruling evolution out, but I must acknowledge that God is so big and mysterious he may have included limited evolution to some degree as part of his plan to a minor extent. I do not think the Scriptures could possibly allow for man, that is, homo sapiens sapiens, to have evolved. God directly created man. I do not think you could have totally naturalistic evolution; it would have to have a lot of direct interference by God, especially when it comes to man being created in the image of God.

Though many scientists and not-so-scientists today assume that evolution is fact, it is in truth but a hypothesis which remains unproved. It is more of philosophical claim than anything; a worldview. But suppose science comes up with some sturdy proof for evolution (though I cannot see how that could happen). Would that “proof” of evolution wreck my faith? No, I do not think so. Life is still so complex and beautiful that I believe even if evolution could be proven to be true there would still be plenty of room for God’s intervention and starting it all. My faith would remain.

Look at my Sunday School Lessons from Genesis for some more of my thoughts on this subject. I remain convinced that evolution is huey and that God directly created all life.

3) Are There Other Intelligent Life Forms in the Universe Like Space Aliens with Flying Saucers?

To the best of my knowledge there is nothing in the Bible that mentions that possibility, but neither do I find anything that rules it out. It simply is not addressed by Scripture. I do not think I have ever heard or read any theologian or preacher address this issue.

There have obviously been many thousands of UFO sightings reported in the past 50-60 years all over the world. As a science fiction fan myself I am intrigued by these sightings and by the possibilities they pose. I tend to think that a lot of the sightings are explained by weather balloons, flares, meteors, etc., but there are some sightings that are noteworthy. My personal position is that I see no reason why God could not have created other races of beings out there; it is His universe and it seems quite large to only have one planet of people worshipping Him.

If we ever were to make official “Contact” that would not harm my faith in the least. I rather think it may be a good missionary opportunity and perhaps an apologetics bonanza.

Here are a few articles on the subject that, in the past year, have made me ponder this bizarre question more:

clipmarks.com/clipmark/9E706A99-A5E8-4D2E-9027-C930A076C820/

www.liveleak.com/view?i=1fd_1216911065&p=1

http://www.nbc5i.com/news/15049952/detail.html

If anyone out there knows of a serious, reputable theologian who has written on this subject, let me know. I am absolutely convinced that the Church ought to be proactive in thinking about future possibilities on this subject.

UPDATE: 06-22-2009 I have found a blog by a minister who addresses the issue intelligently:

www.christianpost.com/blogs/books/2009/06/and-if-theres-life-on-other-planets-reflections-on-god-and-e-t-16/index.html

www.christianpost.com/blogs/books/2009/06/and-if-theres-life-on-other-planets-reflections-on-god-and-e-t-part-2-21/index.html

blogs.the-american-interest.com/berger/2011/01/26/do-extraterrestrial-aliens-have-original-sin/

4) Artificial Intelligence, Will Computers and Robots Ever Be Fully Human? Can Humans “Create” Life?

This question is more urgent than you might think because with the animal rights movement already conferring civil rights on some animals, there will come a day when people call for “rights” for AI. Already some are raising this question:

http://www.engadget.com/2006/12/20/uk-report-predicts-rights-for-robots-your-aibo-wants-a-tax-brea/

http://www.theinquirer.net/en/inquirer/news/2006/12/21/uk-ponders-civil-rights-for-robots

http://www.cc.gatech.edu/news/robots-given-same-rights-as-humans-by-2056

I grew up reading Isaac Asimov and the “I, Robot” stories. I loved Will Smith’s movie as well. But it is actually Arthur C. Clark’s story “The Bi-Centennial Man” and the Robin Williams movie of the same name, that gets more to the point. Hundreds of years ago man began adding machines to his body with wooden legs, teeth and eye glasses and we will eventually reach a point of bio-engineering and micro machine technology where the human and the machine become one. Where do you draw the line? When does a maching become human and a human with augmentations become a machine? With gene therapy, the potential of cloning, and everything from sex change operations to artificial eyes, ears and voice boxes, have we already crossed a line?

If science does in fact discover a “God gene” as some are already claiming

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101041025-725072,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_gene

then what will that do to our faith, especially the idea of free will vs. sovereign election?

Well, these are just a sampling of the strange questions that I think we ought to discuss and prepare for. Obviously they are not burning priorities, but it seems to me that the Church usually gets caught flat footed by paradigm shifts and new inventions or theories by science. This list of questions is probably enough to get me in a lot of trouble! But hey, if the Pope had pondered the question of the possibility of there being 3 unknown continents between Europe and the orient with lots of people with eternal souls then maybe the settlement of the Americas and Australia would have been a smoother more humane process.

Maybe I need to add a column somewhere in this blog about my favorite Sci-Fi books and movies?

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    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!

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