Does God want humans to go to Mars?
Serious question… sort of. But it’s possibly going to make my atheist readers’ heads spin off, because these are actual discussions Christians sometimes have.
I read a news story recently about some of the folks volunteering for the Mars mission. One is an Army 1st Lieutenant, and–being in the military–this caught my attention. Another is this fantastic article about the man behind SpaceX, Elon Musk and his vision for the future of space exploration. (Warning to my more sensitive readers: there’s strong language right off the bat.)
I mentioned the Army lieutenant and the Mars mission to a Christian friend, and was surprised by their off-the-cuff response.
“I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think we’re supposed to do that.”
I was shocked. I saw no issues with it. I was excited that it’s even a possibility. That humanity could take the first steps to go beyond this little ball of rock spinning around in the vast dark, and propel itself across the expanse to land on another spinning ball of rock in order to start the process of some day establishing human colonies on other planets, and to think I might see that happen in my lifetime? Amazing!
“Why not?” I asked.
“Jesus isn’t coming back to Mars. He’s coming back to Earth to reign for a thousand years.”
My evangelical Christian upbringing wanted to agree. <em>That’s true, that’s in Revelation. What do you think about that? Why</em> didn’t <em>you think about that?</em>
But of course I couldn’t let myself be wrong in any way.
“Is it really wrong to go to Mars? Is that even a topic the Bible attempts to address? No.”
I already knew the answer to my argument. There are a great many topics the Bible doesn’t specifically mention, yet we Christians take various principles and statements contained within, and figure out ways they might apply to those cases. Take the Christian concept of the Trinity: nowhere is that word found in Scripture, yet it’s a central tenet of the faith.
We went back and forth a bit. My friend thought 1) this was reaching beyond the scope of authority humanity has been given, 2) that the debate was fairly silly because there are resources and space aplenty as yet untapped on Earth, and 3) that the point is probably moot because it’s pretty clear from all the signs that the various prophecies of Scripture are coming true and the end is near.
I countered with some optimism both ‘rational’ and religious, like:
“think of what great technological advances the space program has brought about thus far,” and
“why did we explore Antarctica? God didn’t put people there either but we still went there to learn and discover more of the world around us,” and
“Imagine two astronauts on the surface of Mars, and one of them shares the Gospel with the other. Does it not have power to save because they’re not on Earth?”
But most of all, my defense comes down to one question, a question I realized I don’t think my friend is willing to consider.
“What if I’m wrong about this whole faith thing?”
We talked about the end times, but it struck me that Paul and others in Scripture wrote about the end times like they were already happening, like it would all be over in <em>their</em> lifetimes. I recall listening to Christians as I grew up, hearing their proclamations about the end, and thinking it would all be over before I became an adult.
(Ok, let’s be honest, I was afraid I’d never get married… because I was a teenage boy and I was afraid I’d never get to be with a girl. And while going to Heaven would have to be totally awesome, maybe God could hold off on the End of the World thing a little bit?)
Now, I think there are some interesting points about Scriptural prophecy. We’re living in the first time in human history where the Gospel could actually reach every people group on the Earth (Matthew 24 makes that out to be a requirement before the end comes). We’re living in the first time in human history when technology and economics make it feasible that some one-world government could mandate the use of a “mark” worldwide in order to have access to conduct business (Revelation 13 talks about the Mark of the Beast and what all that entails). We’re living in an age of “wars and rumors of wars” and natural disasters aplenty… and though it’s possible they seem to be increasing only because of worldwide 24-hour media coverage, it certainly feels like this world is going through the “birth pains” described by Christ in Matthew 24.
Yet here we still are. And it’s been 2000 years of Christians saying “the end is near.”
I’m not sure I can fault the skeptics for being a little skeptical.
Elon Musk makes the argument that for humanity to thrive, we can’t have all our eggs in one basket. He wants to make sure we get off this planet and start the process of reaching others. His view comes from reasoning about evolution and the risk of catastrophes on a planetary scale which could render this world devoid of life (or at least kill off the vast majority of living things and no doubt cripple or destroy civilization permanently).
While I have my faith, and I have personal experiences and I daresay <strong>reason</strong> backing my beliefs, I have to wonder.
Why wouldn’t humanity go to Mars? Why wouldn’t we reach for the stars? Why shouldn’t we work toward a better future for mankind in whatever time we have?
Because, well, what if I’m wrong?
Is that too serious a question to consider? Can that thought even occupy a corner of my faith-based brain without toppling the house of cards?