And the Word became Martian...

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News of more Earth-like planets--rocky and small--always get me thinking about other possible sentient and spiritual beings "out there" like us. If one is theologically inclined, one also wonders how they experienced the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas--if incarnation is indeed the goal and purpose of the universe, which is the view of many of the ancient fathers of the church, the Franciscan tradition exemplified by Bonaventure and Duns Scotus, and the Orthodox tradition in general.

It doesn't seem to me that an alien culture would need to be "evangelized" to accept Jesus; it seems more likely to me that God would have offered that same grace in some way appropriate to that species and civilization.

Jesuit George Coyne, an astronomer and former director of the Vatican Observatory, has some thoughts about the topic in an interview that will appear in the February issue of U.S. Catholic:

Is there anything special about us in this enormous universe?

We are very special to God, and there’s no doubt about it. I mean, God sent his only Son to us. Being special as a piece of material in the universe is one thing; being special in knowing religious history and living a faith-filled life is another. But it’s still a challenge.

As material objects in the universe, it would be difficult for me as a scientist to defend that we’re special. Our history as human civilization certainly makes us special. But what if there is another civilization out there that is intelligent and spiritual, that has a special relationship to God? What would that do to us?

I’m going to leave that to theologians. But could God send his only-begotten Son, true God and true man, to become true God and true Martian, or whatever it is? Well, I find that very difficult to accept. But I can’t exclude it. I don’t know enough to exclude it, and I can’t limit God.

This is getting into science fiction, but in the end if God treated another spiritual civilization in a very special way, does that detract from his treating us in a very special way, however he dealt with them in the concrete?

I’m one of 10 kids. If my mother decided to buy me a new pair of pants, does that make my brother less special to my mother? I can’t imagine that discovering an intelligent, spiritual civilization that God loves in his own way would detract from God loving us.