The gap theory helped many Christians in the nineteenth century bridge the chasm between traditional interpretations of Genesis 1-2 and the emerging fossil record. Few people still read the Bible that way, but it was once championed by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), the Scottish churchman and eloquent gospel preacher. On the other side of the Atlantic, Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) drew his congregants into the beautiful power of orthodoxy. President of Yale College from 1795 until his death in 1817, and husband of one of Jonathan Edwards’ daughters, Dwight wooed his hearers with evangelical sermons against the Deists of his day.

Both preachers were icons of ardent, Bible-centered, evangelical piety, and both of them saw extraterrestrial life as one more proof of the glory of God. Filling the cosmos with all manner of alien life would be a small thing for an omnipotent God. As Chalmers put it in his Astronomical Discourses, God seeded the universe with planets, “mansions of life and of intelligence.”

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