If it’s our soul’s rational nature which determines whether it is created in the image and likeness of God, since angels are also spiritual creatures with an intellect and a will, and thus rational, are they also created in the image and likeness of God? I know Sacred Scripture doesn’t explicitly say it is the case for angels, only for human beings.
Here’s the thing though. If it’s a soul’s rational nature which determines whether it is created in the image of God, would potential intelligent extraterrestrial life also be created in this image? Would their soul also survive natural death?
Angels are rational intelligent spirits, but they have various different qualities from us. I’m not up enough on angelology to say how God created them… but I seem to recall someone saying that angels were created “in the likeness of God” but not in the image of God, that Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God, but that after the Fall we kept the image but lost the likeness of God, until Jesus came to redeem us.
I don’t remember where I read this, though, and I might have it the wrong way around.
In any event, medieval theologians held that an intelligent rational being with a soul and a body made of matter was a human (homo), even if he didn’t look human at all. There were various arguments as to whether there could be humans who weren’t descended from Adam and Eve and didn’t possess any bodily kinship to us, and as to whether other humans would necessarily be fallen or not. C.S. Lewis gets into this in his science fiction novels Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. Michael Flynn also deals with this in his medieval science fiction novel, Eifelheim.
My take on this, for what it’s worth, is that other sentient beings may have intelligence and physical being, but that alone doesn’t mean they were created “in the image and likeness of God.” I’m working on a story right now that uses that idea to show that in creating human beings God created those whom he desired to fellowship with on a more intimate basis than any other sentient life.
If a being has been created without certain charisms/abilities, etc. would he miss having them? Does a fish envy the frog who can leave the water but he can’t? Do the angels wish they had physical bodies and were redeemed as we were through the Incarnation of the Son of God? Scripture tells us they wonder at it, but they don’t seem to want to be in our position.
I think it’s best that we leave it up to God what relationships he has with his creation. I can see how intelligent beings whose lives do not culminate in eternal life could still be quite content being who and what they are. I think those who do not have an immortal soul wouldn’t miss it since it would be foreign to their nature.
That is a very interesting take on it. So basically, if a very intelligent space alien exists somewhere, perhaps they suffer less? Perhaps their sense of justice isn’t as strong or attuned as ours? In other words, things that we consider sanctifying wouldn’t be as present in their species as ours, because these things in effect prepare us for eternal life, something which they will not have?
Yes, that sums it up well. I believe we are meant to be mentors and stewards of all God’s creation, not just that of Earth. But we’ll see if my idea pans out when God creates a new heaven and an new Earth.
I think angels can be considered to be created in the image and likeness of God since our soul is like to God because it is a spirit that will never die, has understanding, and free will. Angels also are spirits that will never die, have understanding, and have free will, so they can also be said to be made in the image and likeness of God. If aliens also had these qualities, they could be said to be made in the image and likeness of God as well.
He answers the question first by quoting Pope St. Gregory the Great: “The angel is called a ‘seal of resemblance’ [in Ezekiel 28:12] because in him the resemblance of the Divine image is wrought with greater expression.” (Homilies on the Gospels #34)
Then St. Thomas continues: “[The thing] in which the image [of God] chiefly consists…[is] the intellectual nature. Thus the image of God is more perfect in the angels than in man, because their intellectual nature is more perfect.”
But: “the image of God in man [also] regards its accidental qualities…[for example,] the fact that man proceeds from man, as God from God…[or] the fact that the whole human soul is in the whole body, and again, in every part, as God is in regard to the whole world. In these and the like things the image of God is more perfect in man than it is in the angels. … [Therefore] we must grant that, absolutely speaking, the angels are more to the image of God than man is, but that in some respects man is more like to God.” source
In the hierarchy of creatures created by God, the angelic nature occupies the highest place. By nature, they are created more to the image and likeness of God than human beings. The divine image in human beings is found principally in their immortal and spiritual soul which possesses the spiritual powers of intellect and will. The angels also have intelligence and will but in a more perfect manner than it is in human beings. The angels are also pure spirits which is more like to God who is a pure spirit than with human beings who are composed of spirit and body [matter]. The supernatural gift of divine grace can raise a human being above the angels, however, as in the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the queen of angels. For divine grace is a supernatural participation in the divine nature and this grace is needed for both angels and humans for the supernatural participation in God’s own life and beatitude. Mary possesses a far higher degree of sanctifying grace than any pure creature, both angelic or human. Of course, the sacred humanity of Christ is raised above all created things due to its union with the eternal Son of God. Though the human nature of Christ is something created by God, Jesus is not a pure creature, for the humanity of Christ is assumed by the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. The person in Christ’s human nature is none other than the uncreated, eternal, and only begotten Son of the Father. For Jesus is one person, that is, the eternal Son of God, in two natures, divine and human.
In the end, we have no idea what any intelligent civilizations out there believe in or their relationship with the one true God, Im sure since God created them, he has some kind of relationship with them, or desires it, just like he does with us.
However their physical appearance would really depend on the world they live in, most aliens are described as small humanoid, frail looking, large heads, large eyes, so they are ‘humanoid’, in that they have arms, legs, heads, etc, but maybe the place they live has less gravity, darker, etc, so they will look different than we do, to survive on their world, or maybe some were just created millions of years before us and their appearance has changed due to natural evolution?
But given the size of the universe, Im sure there are also non-humanoid aliens as well, they may have bodies that we would not even refer to as ‘bodies’, it really depends on their world.
Just like demons like to fool people with ‘ghosts’ though, masquerading as ‘aliens’ from a distant planet, would be right up their alley, especially given this topics popularity right now, it COULD be used as a way to draw more people away from God.
If they have reason, then they have spirits which would be on the same level as we are even if their bodies look weird. They would just need to be baptized. Personally, I don’t believe there are intelligent aliens.
So, if intelligent life with free will also exists, it’s made in the image and likeness of God as well. So, would they in any shape or form have a revelation? Would they also have some sort of afterlife?
Interesting. It’s amazing how the accidental, bodily forms of man also reflect the image and likeness of God.
So, having intellect and will is a spiritual power? So, if there’s any intelligent life out there with free will, that aspect of their existence must come from God? Hm.
Well, from the responses seen on this thread, it seems intelligence/understanding/ability to reason, and free will are the two hallmarks for this image/likeness.
Ah yes, the physical appearance – however, as dmar198 said before, it is also human beings’ accidental features which also reflect God in some manner, so if these specific accidental features aren’t in intelligent extraterrestrial life, perhaps they’re ‘less’ of an image/likeness of God than we are?
I would think that God would not leave aliens ignorant of the truth, so He probably would have taught them in some way about Himself and His Church. Yes, if they have spirits then they would be able to sin and will go to Heaven or Hell, the same places we will go to.
If they have sinned, then they would need to be baptized for sure. If God has gifted them with sanctifying grace, and they have not lost this by sin, then I suppose they won’t need Baptism. I don’t think that they could have the original sin of Adam since we inherit original sin from our fathers, and if they were not born of a descendant of Adam then they wouldn’t inherit original sin. This is a lot of speculation, so I am not completely sure about the spiritual state of aliens.