A few weeks ago, NASA came forward and shared that they had made an astonishing discovery: 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby dwarf star.
The answers to ‘Are we alone in the universe?’ or ‘What if we need a new planet to inhabit?’ suddenly seem to be within grasp, even if the dwarf star, Trappist-1, is 39 light years away. The possibility that there may be life on a few of these planets, or a possibility that we may live there, has challenged and excited Christians and non-Christians since the announcement.
After some thought and consideration, I’ve come up with 4 thoughts considering this whole issue. Here we go.
1. If we do eventually live on those planets, God will be there…
Imagine we do spread out to the stars. Imagine we call our new sun Trappist-1, instead of the Sun. Does that limit God? Does His power and authority only stand on the planet Earth?
The Psalmist said,
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” – Psalm 139:7-8
Wherever we call home, whatever star gives us light, God will be there in our midst. He did make the heavens and the earth after all.
2. If we aren’t alone, nothing changes.
So, at some point in the future we land a spacecraft on one of the three planets orbiting Trappist-1. We decided that this one planet is the best to accommodate human life, and we discover aliens, other life forms. So what?
Like I’ve said before, the existence of aliens doesn’t change God. It doesn’t change Jesus or what He did through His death and resurrection. It doesn’t change statements made throughout scripture about how we are His image bearers.
If we aren’t alone…it isn’t the end of the world. Nothing about Christianity would change, except how far we would extend our love for our neighbours. Loving the ‘alien” could be interpreted literally.
3. How are we going to get there? Or, is this really my problem?
Not so much a theological question, but a science question. Can we actually get to Trappist-1? It is 39 light years away. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but keep in mind that when you do the conversion, Trappist-1 is 369 trillion km (229 trillion miles) away.
To travel the distance to Trappist-1, you would have to go to the Moon 959,937 times. And that is only the distance to Trappist-1. Double that if you want to come back.
Our technology is no where near advanced enough to travel that distance. Traveling at light speed or close to that is a scientific impossibility (as of right now). So why are so concerned with something that has no real bearing on us? What happens on Trappist-1 doesn’t change what is happening here on Earth. What is happening here doesn’t affect Trappist-1 or the 7 planets that orbit it. So why are we so concerned about something that we cannot investigate or something we cannot get to?
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6:25-27
If worrying or wondering doesn’t help us when we think about problems on Earth, worrying and wondering won’t get us very far when it concerns Trappist-1.
4. All Creatures Of Our God And King sing of How Great Thou Art
One of my favourite hymns is All Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi. The call to worship, all creatures, all creation, speaks to my heart every time. It pushes me to look at the world not as a broken and damaged rock, but as a beautiful and redeemable creation. This planet, with all the climate change and greenhouse gases, with all the war and chaos that we bring, is still a wonderful masterpiece that only God in his wisdom could have created.
But I have to say I also love How Great Thou Art by Carl Gustav Boberg. The powerful reminders seem to echo St. Francis, but they push me to look beyond the Earth in worship.
“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made”
Whatever future humankind and the planets orbiting Trappist-1 may have, the splendour of God’s handiwork always inspire worship. Whenever we get to set foot on any of those potential Earth, we will be overwhelmed by the extravagance and beauty that God lavishes on his creations. Whatever aliens or life forms that we find on the planets of Trappist-1 will join us as we worship our God and King, singing how great He truly is.