was to affirm God’s omnipotence and not the existence of multiple worlds, thisstatement had the effect of opening the Christian community to conjecture on thepossibility of a plurality of life-bearing worlds.The 14
century Franciscan friar and philosopher William of Ockham declaredthat God could certainly make an infinite number of worlds like ours, and could possiblycreate a world that was better than ours. The 15
century cardinal Nicholas of Cusaargued that “life, as it exists here on earth in the form of men, animals and plants, is tobe found, let us suppose, in a higher form in the solar and stellar region.”
Nicholasspeculated on the existence of solar beings who were more spiritual than the materialcreatures on earth, and also beings who inhabited the moon, whom he called—punpossibly not intended—“lunatics.” However, soon after this time the ProtestantReformation, with its emphasis on the authority of Scripture, caused a swing againstbelief in the plurality of worlds. Lambertus Danaeus argued that life on other planetsshould not be accepted because it was not taught in Scripture; however, since other planets themselves are not mentioned in Scripture this argument did not hold up well.Lutheran theologian Philip Melanchthon noted that Genesis described God resting onthe seventh day after creating the world, and argued that this meant that He did notcreate any other worlds. Reformation theologians also pointed out that a plurality of worlds might have dire consequences for the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ andthe efficacy of Jesus’ death and resurrection.But then the Scientific Revolution brought back more speculation about other worlds, at the expense of a decreasing emphasis on the doctrine of the Incarnation andredemption. In the 16
century, the acceptance of Copernicus’ heliocentric model of thesolar system displaced the Earth from its central position within the universe andcaused people to consider that there were possibly many other stars like our sun in theuniverse. When Johannes Kepler observed the four moons orbiting Jupiter, heconcluded that there must be life on Jupiter. He reasoned that as God had made theMoon for our benefit here on Earth, therefore the moons of Jupiter were made for thebenefit of the inhabitants of Jupiter. Other Christian astronomers such as RichardBentley of England and Christian Huygens of Holland believed that since there weremany stars that could not be observed from Earth, they must have been created for theinhabitants of other solar systems to see. These early Christian scientists believed inGod’s ability to create life anywhere He pleased, and that the universe did not exist for the sole benefit of humans but for God to reveal His glory. Later astronomers almostunanimously held to a belief in life on other planets, including Sir William Herschel,discoverer of Uranus, who claimed to have seen near-certain evidence of lunarians, andJohann Bode, who reasoned, “The most wise author of the world assigns an insectlodging on a grain of sand and will certainly not permit… the great ball of the sun to beempty of creatures and still less of rational inhabitants who are ready gratefully to praisethe author of life.”
At the same time, theologians could be seen trying to reconcile Christiandoctrines with the speculative visions of the astronomers of the day. In the face of suchbelief in solarians, lunarians, martians, Venusians, mercurians, and jupiterians, whatwas a Christian thinker to do? For the most part, theologians accepted the pluralism of the astronomers. The Anglican theologian John Wilkins argued in his book
Discovery of a World in the Moone
that the existence of life on other worlds did not clash withChristianity, but rather was an expression of God’s creative power, which had been up
Quoted in Benjamin D. Wiker, “Alien Ideas: Christianity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life,”
(November 2002); available fromhttp://www.crisismagazine.com/november2002/feature7.htm.
Quoted in Wiker.