Life, as we understand it in mortality, is apparently impossible on any of these nearby planets except for a slim chance of very simple organisms on Mars.
Mars does have an atmosphere, but it is one hundred times thinner than that of the earth, and it contains little water vapor or oxygen. Temperatures on its equator vary from a maximum of 80 degrees in daytime to a frigid degrees below zero at night. On Venus and Mercury, temperature and atmospheric conditions are too extreme for any organisms whatever; Venus sits under a dense and suffocating atmosphere at a temperature degrees hotter than melted lead, while Mercury, with no atmosphere to speak of, alternately brakes and freezes between temperatures as hot as those of Venus and as cold as degrees below zero.
The outer planets of our system are so far away from the sun that at 25, mph it would take us two and a half years to reach the closest one, massive Jupiter, and twenty years to reach outermost Pluto. It would be progressively colder on Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. So much for our own solar system. But what about other suns and other planets? On the vast scale of distances in space, even Pluto is practically on top of us. While it would take twenty years to reach Pluto, even at our speed of 25, mph it would take us , years to reach the nearest star outside of our solar system.
And there are one hundred billion such stars organized into the great system that we call our galaxy, all revolving around a common center like a giant pinwheel. Individual stars in the galaxy are so distant from each other that light itself takes several years to get from one star to the next. Light takes only eight minutes to get to us from our sun. To travel clear across the galaxy, light would require more than , years. Our own sun, with its attendant planets, is about halfway out from the galactic center, traveling around it in a great circle every million years.
To complete the trip even in that much time, it must travel at a speed between and miles per second about 25 times 25, mph. As vast as our own galaxy is, there are still billions of others! Galaxies continue endlessly into space as far as the largest telescopes can penetrate. People often ask about the possibility of space travel to other planets surrounding distant stars.
When we consider the staggering distances and the length of time it would take to reach even the closest star hundreds of thousands of years , it is rather apparent that our traveling there by spaceship is an impossibility.
CRITICAL, HISTORICAL, AND MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS.
To the very nearest stars, radio communication might be possible. However, even radio signals, traveling at the speed of light, would take several years to arrive there and several more years for an answer to come back, assuming there is someone there to send an answer! Is there?
Could there be? And as we think of all the galaxies, it is utterly unthinkable that among the uncountable billions upon billions of stars and galaxies throughout space, intelligent beings exist on only one world in this whole vast universe. If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would still leave over , such systems in our own galaxy alone! And galaxies like ours exist by the billions! But whether planets with conditions satisfactory for human life are a dime a dozen or extremely rare, science cannot tell us.
Other stars are too far away, and our means of learning about them too meager. The U. How, then, can we ever hope to know about people on other worlds? Considering the place and the conditions of the world upon which the Lord has placed us, and the limitations upon our scientific abilities, it seems that there is only one answer.
We have no other source of knowledge than that which the Lord himself feels it is important to give to us in our earthly condition. Walter Sullivan, science editor of the New York Times, wrote a prize-winning best seller about the possibility of contacting intelligent life on other worlds.
APPENDIX TO BOOK V.
In his book We Are Not Alone, he discusses what a tremendous impact such contact would have upon mankind should it occur, and he remarks that one group of people who would be at least partly prepared for such an event would be the Latter-day Saints. Of course, Mr. Sullivan is correct.
Not only do we know about the existence of people on other worlds; Latter-day Saints know also that people from other worlds visit the earth! Earth has been receiving visitors from outer space for years, and these visitors have been leaving highly intelligent messages for our benefit.
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- THE SIX VOLUMES.
When we put this all in perspective, it becomes very exciting: intelligent beings from a higher culture have visited earth frequently. In June the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation some of the earlier writings of Moses, the man who took Israel out of Egypt fifteen hundred years before Christ, thousands of years before even Jules Verne wrote stories about outer space.
Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them. On the contrary, Jesus affirmed the abiding justice message of the prophets by embodying the judgment and hope they proclaimed Jeremias , In Edward Schillebeeckx's words, he 'revived and repeated what had most powerfully impelled the great prophets' Schillebeeckx In other words, Jesus recapitulated their witness, but did so within a new framework beyond the tribal, giving it an even greater status and significance for the world as a whole.
And just as his fulfilment of the Law meant going beyond it, as in his comments on the Sabbath or when he declared 'but I say unto you', so his fulfilment of the prophets made their message perennial and global in scope. These, then, were the prophets and this was the prophetic tradition that was in mind when the South African Kairos Document was drafted in during the first state of emergency.
The kairos theologians were not proposing something new; they were discerning 'the signs of the times kairos ' and challenging the church to respond in obedience to the witness of the prophets and the testimony of Jesus. The Kairos, they declared, impelled them 'to return to the Bible and to search the Word of God for a message that is relevant to what we are experiencing in South Africa today' Kairos Document , and therefore compelled them 'to analyse more carefully the different theologies in our Churches and to speak out more clearly and boldly about the real significance of these theologies'.
In doing so, they rejected 'State Theology', which gave legitimacy to apartheid, and 'Church Theology', which promoted reconciliation without justice as its pre-requisite.
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For the kairos theologians, this theological struggle, reflected that in the Old Testament between the prophets, false prophets, kings and priests, was equally evident in the New Testament narrative, namely in Jesus' confrontation with the ruling and religious elites of his day, which led to his inevitable death like the prophets before him.
But this theological conflict did not end there; it continued through subsequent centuries within Christendom, as kings, priests and prophets locked horns on occasions too numerous to document here. And, to fast forward, the story of conflict between 'prophet, priest and king' continued in Southern Africa from the beginning of colonial history.
The controversies among colonial authorities, settler churches and a handful of missionaries who felt compelled to represent the interests of indigenous people is well known, as is the story of Ntsikana, the Xhosa prophet, P. Mzimba and others like them De Gruchy But theological conflict along these lines erupted most sharply during the church struggle against apartheid de Gruchy While this had more to do with politics and ethics than dogmatics, these can hardly be separated in doing theology in response to historical reality.
The theological struggle against apartheid was not about the two-natures of Christ, episcopacy or the eucharist, but racial ideology, political oppression and social justice. This was the framework within which Christology, ecclesiastical authority and the Lord's Supper had to be understood, contested, and in which heresy was defined. As prophets have always insisted, what is politically and morally wrong cannot be dogmatically right.
The prophetic tradition which culminates in the ministry and mission of Jesus provides the raw material for prophetic theology, just as prophetic theology in turn critically retrieves that tradition in order to enable prophetic witness in changing historical contexts. Its methodology is critical theological and biblical reflection informed by social analysis and ecclesial praxis, or 'seeing, judging, and acting' Kairos Document As such, prophetic theology does not emerge in the first instance from academic study, but from participation in the struggle for justice.
Prophetic theologians, to use Antonio Gramsci's term are 'organic intellectuals' Gramsci Their aim is not to provide a balanced, carefully constructed and appropriately nuanced theological system, which would quench the spirit of prophecy, but to enable prophetic witness to take place within the struggles that arise in kairos moments.
The Kingdom of God
While some prophetic theology may find expression in academic treatises, it is mostly expressed in what Karl Barth referred to as 'irregular dogmatics' Barth - workshop papers, letters to the press and government, conference resolutions, tracts, pamphlets and sermons. The Kairos Document, although, drafted by trained theologians, was a 'prophetic tract' rather than a 'systematic treatise', produced in conversation with activists in the townships.
In that sense, it was, as some kairos theologians insisted, also a 'peoples' theology' Nolan This raises an important question and takes our discussion a step further, for who is 'the people' to whom the prophets and prophetic theologians listen? The message of the Hebrew prophets was not arrived at through a democratic process, but neither did the Word of the Lord drop out of the sky.
The prophets were nurtured in a tradition that stretched back at least to Moses and Elijah. Yet it was only as they listened to the cries of the widows and orphans, the aliens and poor that they 'heard the Word of the Lord' speak directly to the situation that confronted both them and Israel. The prophets, in other words, 'saw things from below', to use Dietrich Bonhoeffer's phrase Bonhoeffer , or they 'took a preferential option for the poor' to use that of the liberation theologians.
In doing so, they discerned the kairos moment that demanded a prophetic response. The term kairos was first used in modern theology by Paul Tillich to describe the situation facing Germany after the First World War Tillich He spoke further about this consciousness as 'being inwardly grasped by the fate and destiny of the time' found in the 'passionate longing of the masses'. This is then clarified and takes 'form in small circles of conscious intellectual and spiritual concern' and finally gains 'power in the prophetic word' Tillich In other words, while 'the people' who were suffering may be conscious of a moment in history that had to be grasped, it was the 'organic intellectuals' or 'organic theologians' who gave expression to their longing.
Tillich distinguished between the unique kairos of the coming of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, and the kairoi which occur throughout history at particular moments and are discerned as such by prophets who 'read the signs of the times' and make the connection between them and God's Kairos.
But he did not, as Walter Horton later wrote, 'suspend the Christian duty of prophetic criticism against the 'demonic elements' in socialism' Horton On the contrary, his usage was in continuity with the way in which kairos is understood in the New Testament:.
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The New Testament doctrine of kairos, to which the religious socialists gave a new application, is thoroughly prophetic and eschatological. It sees the 'fullness of time' kairos in Christ as a time of fulfillment, a time of judgment, and a time of promise yet to be fulfilled. Horton A decade later, one of Tillich's close colleagues, Emmanuel Hirsch, arguably the most brilliant German theologian of the time Barth , used kairos to positively describe Hitler's rise to power Hirsch For Hirsch, as for Paul Althaus, another leading Lutheran theologian, was a kairos moment, initiated by God for saving the German Volk from the humiliation of Versailles, the failures of Weimar, and the poverty of the Great Depression Ericksen Hitler was the new Luther ordained by God to rescue the Volk, and therefore his rise to power demanded a positive Christian response of wholehearted obedience in order that the church could serve the 'the German People', be renewed, stand united and prevail against secularism and communism Scholder In this way, Hirsch gave intellectual leadership to the consciousness of 'the people' and provided the theological platform for die deutsche Christen movement which sought to control the Evangelical Church in support of Hitler.
In reaction, Tillich abruptly ended their friendship and accused Hirsch's of abusing the term kairos to describe 'an idolatrous nationalism and racialism'. Hirsch, he declared, 'was a false prophet' Tillich Already in he had declared that 'Jesus is the movement for social justice, and the movement for social justice is Jesus in the present' Barth For him, the church had to take the side of the working class in their struggle against capitalist overlords. This was 'the people' to whom the prophet of the Lord should listen. But like Tillich, Barth insisted that the social democratic movement was not beyond criticism, qualifying his equation of the movement with God's purposes in history by saying it was so only 'in the present' and not in any absolute sense.
However, by the time Barth drafted the Barmen Declaration , he had categorically rejected the identification of any movement, whether nationalism or socialism, with the will of God.