I recently saw Independence Day: Resurgence. If you are a fan of the original movie, there are moments in the film you will love (really). The other two hours are absolute torture.
Now, this is not a movie review. I’m not going to talk about the really sub-par CGI and how this movie had all the flaws of the original (which were many) but none of the redeeming features that made us forgive the flaws and love the movie. I want to talk about the whole concept of alien invasion. Now, I do like alien invasion movies. They are the most implausible science fiction scenario, but they are also just plain good fun. But why are they implausible?
Well, think about it. If you are a member of an alien race that has mastered interstellar travel, then you are probably approaching class 1 civilization, and there is literally nothing that you would need that you would have to obtain by conquering another race. Not only could you literally produce it with little difficulty, but there are plenty of uninhabited exoplanets for the taking. No need at all to bother primitives such as ourselves.
But lets say there is a species out there that needs an inhabited planet. A literal military invasion is probably the stupidest thing you can do. Your species finds a nice planet named, say earth, and you want it. It looks good, all blue and green with nice fluffy clouds. The alien equivalent of bean-counters say “Nuts! An invasion costs money, and those indigenes are just advanced enough that one or two of us could actually lose our lives.”
So what’s an alien to do? Well, let’s say your species wants Lebensraum. Send some scouts ahead. Grab some natives, from the dominant species, and then maybe some of their allied species, like cows or dogs. Experiment on them. Collect DNA. Make crop circles. Then design a nice, unstoppable and fast acting retro-virus. Make sure the vector is simply air, and then seed the atmosphere with it. Wait a few years for the smell to wear off, and then move in with just a little clean up necessary. Any survivors will be a tiny amount and easily handled or ignored.
Instead of Lebensraum, let’s say we want minerals and heavy metals. Set up a mining operation and fight off the natives? Stupid. Instead, go grab an asteroid, a fairly good sized one. Accelerate it to, say 10 percent of light speed. Aim it at the planet. Boom! Instant asteroid field, no natives to fight, and much easier to mine.
Another absurd trope in these movies is that we humans, despite being centuries or millennia behind in comparison to galactic tech, always manage to figure out a way to defeat the aliens, some weakness or flaw that can be exploited. Really? H.G. Wells imagined that our little bacteria friends would do the job. A civilization able to cross interplanetary space and mount an invasion doesn’t figure alien microbes into the the situation. What, they missed microscopes and vaccines in their technological development? I don’t think so. Or in the original Independence Day, they take that idea but change it to a computer virus. So the aliens never had cyber warfare or the need to develop firewalls and antivirus? Sure.
Look, if they ever come like that, let’s hope we can negotiate. How advanced does their tech have to be to trash ours? How much more advanced were the conquistadors than the Aztecs? In the first gulf war, the Iraqis had 1960’s/70’s mostly Soviet era military technology. We had state of the art 80’s stuff. One decade difference, and they didn’t stand a chance, nor did they find some weird weakness to exploit which put an end to our victory and sent us packing (that took political actions). No, we’re doomed…
Of course, all this assumes that extra-solar intelligent biological entities or their equivalent exist. Fermi paradox, anyone? But if they do, they are probably about as interested in invading as you are in invading the ant nest in your back yard. Not only don’t ants have anything we need, but if they become a problem, we exterminate, we don’t invade.
And with all that, I still love a good alien invasion flick.
The Shema, so called because it is the first word in Hebrew and means Listen! Or Hear!, is the earliest biblical creed and one of the most famous for both Jews and Christians. Its very brevity belies its immense profundity:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד
Ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ· Κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν Κύριος εἷς ἐστιν.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
In the local context of Deut 6, it functions as the bedrock foundation for hearing, obeying and teaching the commandments and instructions of the Lord. It is not without its own interpretive questions, however, the most discussed being whether or not it means that Yahweh alone is God versus all the false gods of the ANE, or whether God is one in nature, undivided, again vs. the polytheism of the nations of the ANE. I believe that both are valid interpretations and applications of the text.
With this in mind, consider Paul’s use of the Shema in 1 Cor 8:4-6
Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς. 5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, 6 ἀλλʼ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς διʼ αὐτοῦ.
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Like practically all the good theology in the NT, 1 Cor 8:4-6 arises from a very practical ethical issue facing the church, whether or not it was proper to eat food that had been offered first to idols. That raises the question of the existence of the θεοί (gods) whom the idols are supposed to represent (the pagan belief was that the god really was present in the idol). Paul’s answer to that is to give an obvious paraphrase of the Shema, especially:
οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς, “there is no god except the One.”
Paul then goes on to expand on his statement, first making clear that while there may be many things that are called (λεγόμενοι) gods and lords in the minds of the various pagan cultures of ancient Rome, there is in fact, only one Lord – well, that’s what we would expect him to say if in fact he is contrasting the truth of the Shema with pagan understanding, but instead he claims that there is one God, and that is the Father, and with special emphasis on the Father as the source of all things (ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα, “from whom are all things”). But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς διʼ αὐτοῦ, “and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.”
One could preach multiple sermons on the truth of this passage or write a book length treatise, but here I just want to make a few simple observations. The connection with Deut 6:4 is here obvious, and the truth of one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ stands in contrast to the many gods and lords of paganism. What Paul does is take the Shema and split it into two parts, referring to the Father as one God and the Son as one Lord. Anyone familiar with the OT background here, and particular the LXX translation of the OT, would know that in the original context κύριος, Lord, translates Yahweh. We are getting some profound new revelation here, that the Father is God and that Jesus is Lord, Yahweh. The special title of the Father which designates his role in the Trinity is that of God, and the special title of Jesus is that of Lord. Notice also the prepositional phrases which indicate that the Father is the source of creation and that Jesus is the instrumental means of creation. In the OT it is simply Yahweh who is presented as the creator who brings all things into existence. In the NT it is both the Father and the Son, with differing roles in creation, but both treated as creator. It is language like this which informed the creed:
Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα
ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων·
καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν
τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν Μονογενῆ,
τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων,
Φῶς ἐκ Φωτός,
Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ,
γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα,
ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί,
δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο·
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one substance with the Father,
through Whom all things came into existence…
One more observation, and that is the description of the Father and the Son are in two rather nicely balanced clauses, identical word order emphasizing their “oneness” and the prepositional phrases perfectly aligning with one another. Beginning with ἀλλά in vs. 6, there are exactly 20 syllables in each clause. This rhetorical balance further highlights the equality between the Father and the Son.