The familiarity of the great texts of the New Testament can obscure the achievements of their writers. In its first three verses, the First Epistle of John joins "the eternal life that was with the Father" with the physical presence of Jesus, who has been seen with eyes and touched with hands.
Over ten years ago Andrew Walls, the renowned historian and mission theologian, with whom I was studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, mentioned that one of his students had begun researching African immigrant churches in New York City. The student, according to Walls, was literally walking block by block in the city looking for these churches, of which very little was known at the time.
José Gabriel Funes, who runs the Vatican’s astronomy program, is not bothered by the idea that there might be intelligent life on some other planet, such as on the recently discovered Kepler 452b which appears to be earthlike. “Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on Earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God,” Funes said. “This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.” He does not believe that the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life would mean there could be another Jesus. “The incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe,” he said. Pope Francis has already said the church should be open to baptizing extraterrestrials, should they ever be encountered (Washington Post, August 1).