I’m neither a trained theologian nor an astronomer, but I have to say that I was a bit taken aback by the intellectual and spiritual presumptuousness expressed by one astronomer/theologian: Earth is the only planet on which the incarnation occurred?
The recent discovery of Kepler 452B, the most earthlike exoplanet discovered so far, increases the likelihood of intelligent life somewhere in the cosmos. But Jose Funes, a Jesuit and director of the Vatican Observatory at the University of Arizona, contends that the ultimate discovery of one or more intelligent civilizations will not reveal a second Jesus — a Jesus 2.0, as the article observes, drawing from 21st century digital terminology.
Funes, who holds a doctorate in astronomy as well as degrees in philosophy and sacred theology, argues that the incarnation of God in Christ was a unique event in humanity — and in the universe.
Personally, I think this sort of thinking underscores why the discovery of intelligent life on other planets could spark the greatest spiritual awakening in human history or the greatest spiritual crisis. What we ultimately may discover as we venture into space and interact with other civilizations is that our incarnation really amounts to a kind of archetype – an expression of a recurrent struggle for transcendence that is shared by other intelligence species throughout the cosmos and that is resolved by the advent of a singular individual (in our case, Christ) who serves as the bridge between mundane existence and what is perceived as timeless and ineffable – transcendence or, if you will, God.
But then, what if we don’t? What if we discover that ET’s quest for transcendence unfolded in an entirely different way? What if we discover that their way resulted in a far better world? Would this discovery engender a spiritual crisis on earth? Or would it engender spiritual arrogance on our part by underscoring among some people that earth was the only planet on which God chose to send “His only begotten Son”?