“How can we exclude that life has developed elsewhere?” asked Vatican astronomer Father Jose Gabriel Funes. Interviewed in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, he expressed the view that there could be alien intelligences elsewhere in space. “This is not in contrast with our faith,” he stated, “because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.”
Indeed, we cannot put any limits on God—but we at AiG do put limits on ourselves. We should limit ourselves to believing what God actually said He’d done, rather than choosing to tell God what He really meant to say.
Funes’s musings had a clear theological flavour. “Some aliens could even be free from original sin,” he opined.
Such opinions fly in the face of Scripture. Isaiah 45, which refers to God’s creation of the heavens and the earth, makes it clear that it was the earth that was formed to be inhabited. No other heavenly body is referred to in such a way. But if there were alien intelligences, they could not be free from original sin. Romans 8:22 reminds us that “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” It would seem odd for these poor alien intelligences to be affected by the sin of another intelligent being on one obscure planet somewhere else in the universe. Although my faith would not be shaken if I encountered an alien, these passages lend support to the idea that humans are the only intelligences in the universe, and Earth is the only place where God has created life.
Interviewed on BBC Radio, Funes was, sadly, not above twisting Scripture. “Jesus said ‘The truth shall set you free,’” he quoted (John 8:32b), stating that we don’t know all the truth about the universe yet, so we can’t be fully free. Yet just prior to this, Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth . . .” (John 8:31–32a) and in John 14:6, Jesus says that He is the Truth.
Interviewed on the same program, I pointed out that the truth to which Jesus was referring was the message of the gospel, not an idle speculation about the universe. It is the truth that sinners must repent and put their trust in the Saviour.
Funes’s predecessor as Vatican astronomer, Father George Coyne, was removed from his position by Pope Benedict XVI because of his belief in chance processes undermining the omniscience of God.
If we truly accept the scientific view that, in addition to necessary processes and the immense opportunities offered by the universe, there are also chance processes, then it would appear that not even God could know the outcome with certainty. God cannot know what is not knowable.
Funes’s views are little different, repeating one of the most common old bromides used by anti-creationists, “The Bible is not a scientific textbook.” (This is a good thing, since science textbooks change every year. And if God created everything, then He created the Laws on which we base science, and, being all-knowing, His Word would be accurate on every subject it touches, including science). The Vatican astronomer’s comments about the possible existence of extraterrestrial life are the inevitable outcomes of allowing man’s word preeminence over God’s Word, instead of using the Bible as our starting point with which to interpret the universe.
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