Now things are getting wilder.
We started out with a discussion of the Kardashev Scale—a seven-phase scale gauging a civilization’s advancement based on how much energy it can harness—and how it relates to Christianity. We dove into a gospel-based approach to Type I civilization, which is one that can control all the energy of its home planet. And last time we talked Christianly about a Type II civilization, which can steward all the energy of its home star.
Going outside of our solar system, we really are stepping more completely into the realms of science fiction.
Only one man-made object has ever left out solar system. Voyager 1, launched by NASA in 1977, traveled billions of miles from the sun, exited our star system, and since 2012 has been in truly interstellar space.
On Kardashev’s Scale, a Type III civilization not only dominates its own star system, but also has dominion over its entire galaxy. (For reference, astronomers aren’t even sure how many stars there are in our own galaxy, but there could be between 100 billion and 700 billion.)
This was as far as Kardashev took his scale. What was the point of thinking beyond our own galaxy, when we can scarcely leave our own atmosphere?
But other physicists and engineers have expanded the scale. A human Type IV civilization is one that goes beyond even the Milky Way and, seemingly impossibly, comes to gain mastery over the entire universe. This kind of thing is beyond Star Wars and Star Trek. It is, for all intents and purposes, a pure fantasy. It is a species turned godlike, but well beyond Predator status.
Taking Type III and Type IV civilizations together, as unimaginable as it seems, what might the gospel of Jesus Christ tell us about such phases of our imago Dei species?
Here are a few lessons we might glean:
- The Cosmos Are God’s
- Even in God-Likeness, We Are Not Gods
- Our Nature Defines Our Relationship to Our Surroundings
The Cosmos Are God’s
We have expressed this idea for both Type I and Type II civilizations as well. But it bears repeating. In the same way that the Earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1), and so do the sun and moon (Genesis 1:14–16; Jeremiah 31:35; Psalm 104:19), it should go without saying that the whole galaxy and universe are God’s property and handiwork.
He made all heavenly objects (Genesis 1:16; Psalm 8:3). He “seals up the stars” (Job 9:7) and makes them sing for joy (Job 38:7). He reconciles the cosmos to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).
He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, who also darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is His name. (Amos 5:8)
Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. (Job 9:9)
So even in the event that mankind were to somehow catch up to the expansion of the universe and harness every star and black hole and bit of dark matter in the cosmos, God would still be sovereign.
That lesson would be important to remember. For it’s easy to imagine that in coming to harness all the power in the known universe, one might begin to think one had first rights, rulership, even lordship over it. But the Christian must know, no matter how much cosmic real estate humans come to “own,” it is all God’s. We are only ever stewards of creation, not owners.
Even in God-Likeness, We Are Not Gods
At the point where humanity becomes a Type III and then, impossibly, a Type IV civilization, we will be, by our own logic, gods. But this only goes to show how small our idea of godhood is.
For even to control the galaxy and then the universe is not godhood. Even evolving to an entity that seems of different composition than homo Sapiens, no quanta of energy or being of material or artificial intelligence can become a god on par with the God of Christianity. For God is the creator and sustainer of these things, the moral authority and Truth-giver, the omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent one. Even a Type IV civilization cannot claim such attributes.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens… When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them. (Psalm 8:1, 3-4)
If humanity ever came to manage all the energy in the universe, we would still be God’s creation, made from dust, destined to die, and in need of Jesus. It would still be miraculous that God would be mindful of us—for what is a steward of the universe to the one who is so far above the universe?
God alone makes the grass grow. In the same way, God alone can fuel or halt light from the stars, can make them “fall from heaven,” can shake the heavens (Matthew 24:29; Isaiah 13:10). And supposing a Type III or IV civilization could halt starlight or fuel universal travel and construction, it would still not be equivalent to God. Because God is more than power—and, anyway, his power is more than “universal” power.
A Type IV humanity must never become so self-reliant and prideful as to forget the first truth: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
No matter how like our mythical, mortal vision of gods we become—and Type III and IV status would certainly energize the ego—we can never confuse ourselves with God.
Our Nature Defines Our Relationship to Our Surroundings
As we discussed last time regarding spreading Eden and taking our gift of reconciliation not only to the ends of the Earth or our solar system, but also to the limits of the universe, we cannot outrun our nature.
In one of the last interviews C.S. Lewis ever gave, speaking with Sherwood Eliot Wirt, a companion of Billy Graham, Wirt asked Lewis, the author of the famous “Space Trilogy,” if he thought there would be substantial travel in space. After all, Lewis’ wholly Christian fantasy is one of interplanetary travel. Why not take the world-maker another step farther?
I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.
Leaving Lewis’ concerns about extraterrestrials aside, his larger point is an important one. Whatever our spiritual condition is—whatever our nature, sinful or redeemed—is what we will export to the cosmos.
If we colonize the far reaches of the universe as greedy, violent, anti-creation, imperialistic conquistadors, surely that is what the universe will come to resemble. If, on the other hand, we are not crusaders but rather humble missionaries to the stars, “we can go to outer space and take the good things with us.”
We will never be utterly escaped from our sinful nature until the Second Coming, but a cosmonaut civilization can traverse galaxies the same way as a man can traverse his city—either as a servant of God or a servant of himself.
The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19–21)
Ultimately, of course, only a returning Jesus can set free the creation in its fullest sense. Only then will the kingdom of heaven not only be inaugurated in the universe, but also utterly complete.
And yet, as ambassadors of that kingdom in the here and now, flawed as we are, the children of God can reveal themselves to the creation, from here to Sirius and beyond. When civilization marches ever starward, as Type III and IV civilizations would to the nth degree, the goal and the mission and make-up of our march must be what Lewis calls “spiritual awakening” of and in and for the everlasting glory of God.