“You don’t have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, as NASA and others are doing, to try to meet a (non-existent) alien.” — Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis
Yes. The Wise One himself just saved NASA many millions of dollars looking for aliens. Yet I wonder if any of Ken Ham’s theologian friends will explain to him that his pronouncements are reminiscent of those of some Christians during the Middle Ages. You see, explorers were venturing further down the African coast, and even sailing closer and closer to the equator. And from ancient times, some philosophers had reasoned that no human could survive the equator. After all, the further south one goes, the more unbearable the heat—and the Egyptian Sahara was bad enough!
Why did ancient philosophers have so much influence? After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was as if an atom bomb had destroyed civilization itself, and lots of learning had gone with it. In fact, hardly anyone could even read except the clergy. The Roman aqueducts still stood, and Roman roads continued to hold up remarkably well while connecting major population centers—and yet the technology to build such things were considered to have died with them. So the Greek and Roman classics were valued almost as much as the Bible itself, and monks in monasteries made copies and preserved those precious written treasures of ancient knowledge.
Thus, some of the monks got to thinking: If the sailors are getting closer and closer to reaching the equator, perhaps life is possible there after all. Yet, they got to thinking about the Great Commission: Jesus had told his disciples to “go ye to all the earth” and make disciples of all nations. Yet, everybody knew—they assumed—that nobody had ever reported evangelism trips to the antipodes in the southern hemisphere. [An antipode was an idea which fascinated scholars in those days. An antipode is a place in the Southern Hemisphere which is directly opposite of some point in the Northern Hemisphere, just like you drove an enormous pole through the earth so that it came out the other side of the spheroidal planet. The most famous antipodes-pair, and just about the only antipodal pole we talk about today, is the North Pole/South Pole.]
So here is the implication: Jesus told his disciples (not just the original 12 but all who followed him at the the time of his ascension) to go to “all the earth” and evangelize the people in all nations. Therefore, to do that, they would have to actually reach all nations, including those in the Southern Hemisphere. Yet, even by the time of the Middle Ages, nobody had ever done that. Why? They figured that it was because there were no people living in the Southern Hemisphere! No people. No reason to go preach! Therefore, problem solved!
Not necessarily. Reports from sailors finally confirmed another important milestone in exploration. Men in ships had reached the equator! So apparently, travel to the Southern Hemisphere and the antipodes was indeed possible after all. In fact, those European sailors were, therefore, apparently, the first humans to reach the part of Africa south of the equator.
But, oh no! The next thing ya know, they get reports that European sailors have explored the African coast south of the equator and they report the unthinkable: There are native peoples living there! Yes, people live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Yet, now they had a new quandary. Is the Bible in conflict with “science”? After all, if the Bible says that Jesus’ disciples were supposed to take the Gospel to all of the nations of the earth, they must have failed. The explorers didn’t find any Christians in southern Africa, so Jesus’ disciples must not have reached them. How disappointing! (And their esteem for Jesus’ disciples dropped a few notches.)
But wait! Another “hypothesis” was posed by some theologians, a way to preserve the “honor” (i.e., the obedience and devotion) of the disciples of Jesus and yet explain the findings of people in sub-equatorial Africa. Those theologians decided that the black-skinned people who lived south of the equator weren’t people at all! Sure, they seemed to look like people—except for noticeable differences like skin-color, hair texture, and some types of facial features. Therefore, some theologians decided:
“Those black-skinned ones are not actual people! They are simply other kinds of creatures. And like all other animals, they have no souls. And if they have no souls, it’s because they aren’t human, and, therefore, they don’t need to be evangelized. And that would explain why the disciples didn’t go teach them the Gospel and make disciples of them, because they weren’t nations at all. Just herds.”
Now, if the Africans are not humans with souls, they aren’t eligible for heaven, and so they don’t need evangelized. Yet they do qualify as very handy beasts of burden. So why not purchase herds of them from African traders and war lords, and sell them as slaves? Yes, what a convenient idea!
Thankfully, the majority of theologians disliked such an interpretation of the Bible and absolutely deplored the idea of making them slaves in any case. They realized that Jesus’ declaring the Great Commission to his disciples did not necessarily mean that that challenge was fulfilled quickly in the lifetimes of the disciples. And many of those same theologians helped organize missionaries to take the Gospel to the Africans. But slave ships went ahead anyway with their profitable voyages and eventually established “the Golden Triangle”, an enterprise of three profitable trade routes and types of commerce between Europe, Africa, and the New World.
Thus, when I read where Ken Ham had pontificated on who is and isn’t of the Adamic lineage, and thereby is or isn’t in need of the Gospel—and thereby determining if aliens exist at all—I couldn’t help but think of the interesting parallels in Christian history. Frankly, Christian theologians don’t always have a great track record when it comes to theologians telling scientists what is and isn’t valid. So, I wonder if someone will tell Ken Ham what I’ve just told you.
Yet, somehow, I kinda’ doubt that the historical insights will come from anybody on Ham’s payroll. After all, when it comes to not knowing things, gambling on Answers in Genesis staff is close to a sure thing.
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