WILL THE GOSPEL BE PREACHED ON MARS?
156, 2014 May)
200,000 people have
applied to join Mars One, the private project that claims it will send
humans on a one-way trip to the Red Planet by 2023." (New Scientist 14
September, 2013, p. 7)
IS THE BIBLE WRONG?
One cold, clear night in October1957 I was the youngest of six primary
school students in Adelaide who took turns with binoculars to search
the sky for the Soviet Union's newly launched Sputnik satellite. Twelve
years later I worked in an office and joined the staff by a television
set to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon.
I knew of Christians at the time (i.e. 1969) who claimed humans would
not reach the Moon because the Moon is in the "heavens" and the Bible
says: "The heavens are the LORD's heavens, but the earth he has given
to human beings." (Psalms 115:16)
However, humans did reach the Moon in 1969 and several times
afterwards. Did Neil Armstrong by walking on the Moon prove the Bible
wrong? What about Mars?
Nigel Henbest (2013) reports that two companies are planning to send
people to Mars before any government does.
Mars One is headed by Bas Lansdorp. The other is Inspiration
Mars founded by multimillionaire Dennis Tito.
Inspiration Mars planned to send two astronauts in 2018 on a privately
funded 501-day spaceflight to Mars without landing and back to Earth.
The date, 2018, was chosen: "Because of the way the planets align,
there is a very good launch window in 2018, when the round trip will
take only 501 days, instead of two years or more."
The current record for living in Space is 438 days by Russian cosmonaut
Valeri Polyakov (b. 1942) in 1994-1995 on the now defunct Mir space
station. Polyakov suffered no permanent physical problems and at 72
remains active. The extra 63 days in Space for a Mars orbit therefore
seems compatible with health and safety. The expense, however, has
proved too great to cover philanthropically and help from NASA was
sought. (New Scientist, 30 November, 2013, p. 9)
The Mars One plan is for the astronauts to remain on Mars, commence
colonization, and live out their lives there. Robotic and supply
missions are planned to start in 2016 and the first four colonists to
leave Earth in 2024.
The Weekend Australian (2014) reported that
1058 candidates out of
200,000 had met the criteria to train for the Mars colonization project:
24 of them
will be sent over six launches starting in 2024, according to Mars One,
the Dutch-based non-profit group behind the endeavour.
The cost of
sending "self sufficient living modules" followed by the
colonists is estimated at $6000 million or $6 billion.
will be on one-way tickets to the Red Planet… Costs are too high to
contemplate a return trip.
Genuine colonization would eventually have to include pregnancies and
babies. Whether women can get pregnant in the lower gravity and whether
the fetus would develop normally is unknown. Tentative suggestions are
that the colonists will find this out around 2035.
"In the beginning God created the heavens [i.e. the sky] and the
earth." (Genesis 1:1)
The word "earth" here translates the Hebrew "ehretz". "Ehretz" occurs
about 2,500 times in the Old Testament and is mostly translated "earth"
or "land" and sometimes "country" or "ground".
"Ehretz" never means planet Earth. Translators show they recognize this
by using the lower case "e" for "earth" not upper case "E".
Whenever "ehretz" is mentioned in conjunction with the sea it is
distinguished from the sea, and we get the phrase "the earth and the
sea" or "the land and the sea". (Haggai 2:6)
Similar comment applies to the other Hebrew word translated "earth",
"land" or "ground" which is "adamah" which occurs about 250 times.
Today when we talk of planet Earth we include the seas because seas and
oceans are part of the planet. If however we talk about "land" we would
generally exclude from the meaning of "land" any oceans that lie around
the land and possibly seas located on the land. After the invention of
telescopes people began to realize that the surface of the Moon and
Mars consists of land or, using the Hebrew word, "ehretz"
The Australian reported that NASA's Kepler space telescope,
launched in 2009 to search for planets outside our Solar System, is
discovering thousands. The article says: "In January, astronomers using
the Kepler telescope said the Milky Way contained at least 17 billion
planets the size of Earth…" (November 1, 2013, p. 3)
With an estimated 17 billion in just one galaxy, we can conclude there
is land throughout the Universe — land included in the word "ehretz".
Genesis 1:28 says:
them, and God said, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth
[ehretz] and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and
over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon
the earth [ehretz]."
Much of the Bible
takes on greater meaning and significance as
scientific knowledge increases. Christians appreciated God's
"greatness" as creator in an enhanced way when science expanded our
horizons from seeing about 2000 stars, to one galaxy with billions of
stars, to billions of galaxies, and in future possibly a "Multiverse".
The command to "subdue the earth and have dominion" could similarly be
extended and expanded to land on other planets. Human "dominion" would
then include all the living things that humans might eventually
introduce on other planets.
In Genesis 11 humans wanted to reach the sky by building a huge tower
to which the Bible says God responded:
said, "Look they are one people, and they have all one language; and
this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they
propose to do will now be impossible for them." (11:6)
Today we have a
situation similar to the Tower of Babel in that almost
all humankind can communicate via one language or several languages.
Computerized translating is also available and getting better. And
"globalization" seems to be directing the whole world toward again
becoming "one people".
This suggests that, "nothing that humans propose to do will now be
impossible for them."
Even heading for the stars will be "only the beginning of what they
THOUGHOUT THE WORLD
Jesus said: "And this good news of the kingdom will
throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the
end will come."
The word "world" is from the Greek "oikoumenee" which refers to the
inhabited earth, i.e. the land inhabited by human societies.
Therefore, if humans colonize Mars prior to what Jesus called "the end"
then the "gospel of the kingdom" will be proclaimed on Mars.
Proclamation of the Gospel on Mars could initially be
transmissions from Earth.
Eventually a Church able to afford $hundreds-of-millions for a ticket,
space suits and accommodation could send a missionary to organize a
If colonization extends to the Moon and planets prior to "the end" it
may require a rethink of some biblical doctrines. The Moon and other
planets are, from our viewpoint on Earth, in what the Bible calls "the
heavens". But from the other planetary viewpoint it is Earth that is in
"the heavens". Theologians and sectarian debaters might have to
reconsider where Christ's second coming will take place; what is meant
when people pray "Our father who is in heaven…"; and the location of
the resurrection to eternal life, whether on earth or in heaven or both.
exoplanet gives hope for habitation, The Australian,
November 1, 2013, p. 3
Henbest, N. Life on Mars, New Scientist, 13 July, 2013, pp 43-45
NRSV Reference Bible 1988 Zondervan Publishing House
The Weekend Australian, January 4-5, 2014, p. 8
(Investigator 166, 2016
In #156 I discussed whether the Bible allows for people going to Mars
and whether the Gospel will be preached on Mars.
I think Buzz Aldrin the second man to walk on the Moon during the
Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 would agree with much of what I wrote.
The Weekend Australian (October 31-November 1,
2015, p. 22) reported:
“Aldrin does not believe we should return to the Moon. His sights are
set on a US-led permanent human presence on Mars by 2035... He set out
a detailed plan in his book, Mission
to Mars (2013).”
Aldrin is a Christian, and the news report quotes him: “I asked the
preacher in my church, the Presbyterian Church, for permission to serve
myself communion on the surface of the moon.
“I was cautioned not to say anything about that because it might
embarrass NASA. So it was not until many years later that it was made