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The Problem of Scale #390931 02/12/13 07:25 PM
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Logos - Alexis Offline OP
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Friends,

Lately I've been thinking about "the problem of scale": the issue that arises from the Incarnation and humanity's seemingly special place in God's plan given the immensity of the universe and the possibility of other sentient life elsewhere in the cosmos either now, or previously, or in the future.

Let's assume for just a minute that there is other sentient life out there, somewhere. Yes, let's just assume it. I think it's a safe assumption, and I'm also sure it's a safe assumption that some of you believe it's highly unlikely. But that's not the debate I'm looking for...

So - assuming there is, some questions immediately arise in relation to the Fall and the Incarnation. First, as many of you Easterners well know, the consequences of the Fall have been viewed by many in the Church for a very long time as having consequences for the rest of nature. That's why there's death, decay, infirmity, sickness, etc. Did the effects of our Fall end here on Earth, or were the consequences felt throughout the universe? Would other sentient life have been affected by our Fall?

Secondly, if we're not the only thinking, rational beings to have ever existed, did those other sentient beings experience a Fall from grace and into sin like our own? And what effect would their Fall have on us?

Much of the above is theoretical, but interesting to ponder nonetheless. However, real problems (to my mind) start to rear their head when one considers that our religion teaches unquestionably that God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, has immutably linked Himself to our species; he is both God and Man. Apparently, if there are any other sentient beings out there who had a Fall like our own, that event didn't necessitate a divine savior who took on their nature, which leaves one wondering, why?

It also presents the problem that, if others are out there, they would have to get used to a God who's intimately linked to Man; He in fact has human nature. From an alien's perspective, just think about that: assuming beings from other planets found us as freaky as we like to imagine extraterrestrials, that's asking quite a lot to take in. It would be rather like us having to adapt to a God who's incarnated Himself as a Klingon. Not exactly endearing, not exactly likely to provoke within our souls the affection and appreciation that one naturally feels for a God who became "like us" and to whom, in some small way, we can relate since he has raised and united our nature to Divinity in Himself.

If you find this all a little too "out there" for your tastes, are you then satisfied to say that to be a believing Christian and to believe in the possibility of sentient extraterrestrial life are mutually exclusive positions?

But one could simplify: let's assume there's rational beings elsewhere in the universe, Fall or no Fall. Assuming God would want to reveal Himself in some way to them (and to think otherwise would seem contrary to everything we believe about God and why He embarked on the exercise of creation - most obviously He desires and deserves the worship of His creatures whom He fashioned for this purpose). Depending on the degree He wishes to reveal Himself, He would possibly reveal that one Person of the Trinity is a God-Man.

Alexis

Last edited by Logos - Alexis; 02/12/13 07:36 PM.
Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #390932 02/12/13 08:16 PM
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The concept of alien sentient life is just another way the evil one has decided to attempt to influence and manipulate human beings. It is simply the “same old” demonic and occult experiences translated into the modern age, replete with science fiction and other “conditioning” that has made us prepared for it (e.g. evolution). Fallen man is looking to the sky or to a more highly-evolved being to swoop down from the heavens and solve all of our problems, just like the ancient pagans. This modern version has simply been updated and even supported (or promoted) by the anti-Christian world and society that longs for such encounters.

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #390943 02/12/13 10:15 PM
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Logos - Alexis Offline OP
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Slavipodvizhnik,

Sure, I don't disagree. I'm not sure how that's relevant to this discussion, however.

Alexis

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #390964 02/13/13 01:52 AM
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Alexis,
These thoughts have entered my mind, especially when I was younger and more influenced by science fiction.

I really think that our God is the God of ALL creation and that in His love, mercy and infinite wisdom will find a way to enable salvation to whoever he has created and given souls. And if other life with souls have not fallen, then there is no problem. Should humanity be so fortunate.

And I have been content and at peace with this conclusion.

Fr Deacon Paul

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391005 02/13/13 04:14 PM
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Logos - Alexis Offline OP
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Fr. Dcn.,

Thanks - I myself am not nor have ever been particularly interested in science fiction. Can't tell you the last time I read a science fiction novel or essay. My thoughts are a result not of an interest in science fiction, but of a consideration of the immensity of the universe.

Unfortunately I don't find the answer or non-answer you provide to be of very much consolation. The question still remains how other life with souls would have to comprehend and love a God who is, to put it crudely, "part Klingon," as it were. At least from their perspective.

And if there were no Fall, either in our history or that of any other sentient being, it brings the question which (surprisingly) I don't know if I've ever even considered: is life before the Fall, life without a Fall at all, the same as/as good as complete union with God in Heaven? How could it be?

Alexis

Last edited by Logos - Alexis; 02/13/13 04:15 PM.
Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391006 02/13/13 04:23 PM
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Logos - Alexis Offline OP
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Look, the fact of the matter is, given that Christian belief is hinged on the understanding that God is Divine, except the Second Person of the Trinity Who's both Divine and Human, one is left with the impression that for any other sentient life in the universe, either there was no Fall, or, if there was one, their subsequent salvation was not/is not/will not be accomplished by a divine incarnation. I say "left with the impression" rather than "forced into the conclusion" because, I suppose, it is possible that God the Son is, in addition to being fully divine and fully human, also fully [insert alien species here]. I don't think an ecumenical council has ever denied that possibility. But such an idea would be repulsive and offensive to many Christians, naturally. And, to get back to my point, I would imagine any other sentient life in the universe would find the idea of God being fully human as well as divine to be troubling. But these are the questions that must be considered, unless one is content to say that to be a believing Christian one has to dispense with the possibility that there is other intelligent life with souls out there - something I am not willing to do since I find it both unreasonable and indicative of a tendency to just dodge the question.

Alexis

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391024 02/13/13 07:21 PM
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The concept of a God who is Divine and human and...klingon...is, admittedly, beyond my capacity to puzzle over. The matter of "scale", however, that is to say of the enormity of God and the universe, does perpetually vex me, I have to confess.

When I ponder the vastness of this planet...and then of this galaxy...and then of this universe...and finally of a God who holds all of this infinity in the palm of his hand, so to speak, it leaves me overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. I consider my absolute nothingness, my meaninglessness, in relation to Him and to the universe and to all of humanity that exists alongside of me, that existed before me, and that will come after me, and I find myself unable to process it. For this reason I find contemplative prayer a no-go. I just can't seem to successfully process the concept of God.

I am furthermore unable to process the concept of becoming "like" this unfathomable God, as we are, in fact, commanded to become. I consistently feel as though I were an ant who is being told to jump a hurdle that is 100,000 miles high...and that if I can't manage it, I'm doomed.

The enormity of God and the expectations placed upon us mere mortals to be "perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" is daunting and, in my case, frequently (I should say 'consistently')deflating. "Do the impossible or else" is how it all seems to translate in my mixed up head.

But why should a God so enormous as infinity expect so much of a speck of dust like me? And why should the consequences of failure be so eternally terrible? I struggle with this to the point of...well, as I say, exhaustion.

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391044 02/13/13 10:49 PM
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Logos - Alexis Offline OP
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Roman Interloper,

I suppose we all have our vexations; the one you describe is not one of mine. We are supposed to strive to be perfect, but naturally will fall far short. Our Blessed Lady being a notable exception, and even still, remaining sinless is not the same thing as being God!

Alexis

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391051 02/14/13 12:50 AM
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If memory serves, in "City of God" Augustine discusses the possibility that there are other "races" on the far parts of the earth, as heard from travelers' tales - wolf-headed men, other mythical creatures, and of all things ... pygmies.

He concludes that all rational embodied beings on Earth, if they really exist, peculiar as they may look, are somehow sons of Adam - humans of the one blood of Adam. The mechanism of differentiation is unimportant.

Considering pygmies turned out to be real (if not wolf-men), I am willing to extend the possibility that there are sons of Adam on other planets. I wouldn't lay money on it, but then, the ancients weren't even sure the other side of the earth was inhabited. And without even exploring natural explanations, there is nothing stopping God from plucking a handful of folks up and placing them somewhere else.

That said, there is also the possibility that this age will last long enough that God made Space for our exploration. Or He could have made Space for an unfallen humanity, and it now sits squandered. Or a million other things folks smarter than lowly me could think of.

Fun to wonder about!

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Roman Interloper] #391052 02/14/13 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Roman Interloper
But why should a God so enormous as infinity expect so much of a speck of dust like me? And why should the consequences of failure be so eternally terrible? I struggle with this to the point of...well, as I say, exhaustion.


If He forgot about you for a single instant, you would cease to exist. So you must be important.

Also, did not someone say that it is better for the moon to fall from the sky than one small sin be committed? If so, then the Divine Lover holds your relationship with Him as something much more important than mere Jupiter.

Last edited by Booth; 02/14/13 12:55 AM.
Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391067 02/14/13 05:39 AM
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1. You would enjoy CS Lewis' Perelandra trilogy.

2. If we assume for a moment that the Earth is held in space by resting on an infinite stack of invisible turtles, assuming that, what does this tell us about God??

3. Humanity has a unique dignity in all creation, being made in His image. Remember this fact when contemplating other forms of life.

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391076 02/14/13 05:38 PM
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Thanks for the responses, all - I still hold out hope for a thorough engagement of my questions, though. wink

Alexis

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Booth] #391081 02/14/13 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Booth
If He forgot about you for a single instant, you would cease to exist. So you must be important.


That sounds nice, but there are bottle caps lodged under railroad tracks that He hasn't forgotten about, either.

Quote
Also, did not someone say that it is better for the moon to fall from the sky than one small sin be committed?


Well, that's not too much pressure.

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Roman Interloper] #391116 02/15/13 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Roman Interloper


I am furthermore unable to process the concept of becoming "like" this unfathomable God, as we are, in fact, commanded to become. I consistently feel as though I were an ant who is being told to jump a hurdle that is 100,000 miles high...and that if I can't manage it, I'm doomed.

The enormity of God and the expectations placed upon us mere mortals to be "perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" is daunting and, in my case, frequently (I should say 'consistently')deflating. "Do the impossible or else" is how it all seems to translate in my mixed up head.

But why should a God so enormous as infinity expect so much of a speck of dust like me? And why should the consequences of failure be so eternally terrible? I struggle with this to the point of...well, as I say, exhaustion.


I don't think He "expects" this of us like a task-master, but He deeply desires it for us because that's what He created us to be. It's His longing for us to claim our inheritance as His children, and the warnings against not doing so are because there is an enemy who longs to have us as well. It's the same way you might threaten your own small child if you saw him running toward a busy highway.
We can't do anything without grace, so it's just a matter of preparing the soul to receive the grace through the sacraments, prayer, fasting, asceticism, etc.

Re: The Problem of Scale [Re: Logos - Alexis] #391118 02/15/13 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Logos - Alexis
Look, the fact of the matter is, given that Christian belief is hinged on the understanding that God is Divine, except the Second Person of the Trinity Who's both Divine and Human, one is left with the impression that for any other sentient life in the universe, either there was no Fall, or, if there was one, their subsequent salvation was not/is not/will not be accomplished by a divine incarnation. I say "left with the impression" rather than "forced into the conclusion" because, I suppose, it is possible that God the Son is, in addition to being fully divine and fully human, also fully [insert alien species here]. I don't think an ecumenical council has ever denied that possibility. But such an idea would be repulsive and offensive to many Christians, naturally. And, to get back to my point, I would imagine any other sentient life in the universe would find the idea of God being fully human as well as divine to be troubling. But these are the questions that must be considered, unless one is content to say that to be a believing Christian one has to dispense with the possibility that there is other intelligent life with souls out there - something I am not willing to do since I find it both unreasonable and indicative of a tendency to just dodge the question.

Alexis


For some reason this is reminding me of a story from the Desert Fathers:

Quote
"Excuse me, charitable Father, for the Lord's sake. I am very troubled, because I have read a dogmatic book, and I see my heart in turmoil. I am afraid to admit this to you, yet I cannot keep silent because of my thoughts. Therefore, what you command I will do.

Reply:
Since the devil wishes to thrust you into useless reflections, say what is worrying you. And may God give him no entrance.

Tell me if the saints will rise in the body that we have now, with bones and nerves, or in a body that is ethereal and smooth?
...Now please sort this out for me, for the love of the Lord, to prevent the enemy from leading me astray, lest I fall through ignorance into his wicked traps. I am shaken on all sides because of my fooishness. I should have kept to your holy words and from the start I should have forbidden myself to seek into things which bring great peril to the soul. Pray for me, Father, that I may get hold of myself and labor in weeping for my sins.

Brother, I have already written to you that it is the devil who has sown in you this inappropriate intellectual preoccupation. It is now the season for you to weep and carry out penthos for your sins...
Now at last leave this nonsense, and do not follow the demons and their teachings. With one blow they raise you up, and with another they cast you down. Humble yourself therefore before God...
"
(Quoted from the book "Penthos", by Irenee Hausherr, SJ)

By posting that I didn't mean it as a criticism, but it just reminded me of this passage.

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