April 1, 2014 § 2 Comments
Does the Bible allow for the existence of extra-terrestrial life? Most of this post came from notes I took in 2003 after a friend’s and my caffiene-induced ponderings over the possibility of life on other planets.
The Bible says some very clear things about the origin of the universe, the fall of man, and the end times concerning His creation. First and foremost, God created the heavens and the Earth (Gen. 1:1). The Hebrew word for heavens translates as celestial bodies. On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1:14-19). Earth was before any of the other heavenly bodies. God made man, who was then given power over the Earth (Gen. 1:27-28). In fact, man was granted ruler of the universe, just below the angels (Ps. 8:3-6 and Deut. 4:19).
Adam’s sin affected all creation (Gen. 3:17-19, Rom. 8:19-22) Everything fell under a curse. Eve was then called “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). Eventually God will destroy the present universe and create everything new (2 Pet. 3:7,10 and Rev. 21:1). Lastly, men and God belong together, and they will live together in glory (Rev. 21:3).
The word of God seems to be very much focused on Earth and its inhabitants. The beginning of the Bible recounts the creation of the heavens without any mention of them being put to use for any other planet but Earth, and it speaks only of earthlings with respect to their creation, history and their eventual redemption. The end of the Bible portrays all of God’s creation, His angels and human beings covered by the blood of the Lamb singing praises to God and dwelling with Him forever. In all of this, E.T. is nowhere in the picture.
The idea of intelligent life on other worlds presents a big theological problem: their need for a Redeemer. They too would have fallen under the same curse as Adam’s race and his planet. “All creation groans” and is in need of universal redemption, according to Romans 8:19. Would it be fair for God to send a Redeemer to purchase our sins and not do the same for beings on other planets? Only God can forgive sins, so who does that leave to save the Planet of the Apes? It would mean that distant inhabited planets would either need their own Christ to die for them too, or the same God would somehow need to address their sin problem without mentioning it in His word. The possibility of another Savior (Acts 4:12) and other true Gospels (Gal. 1:6-9) are both refuted in Scripture.
The Bible does not easily allow for the existence of indiginous intelligent life forms anywhere in the universe besides Earth. I think it may allow for simple, non-sentient life to exist in the right environment. Some findings suggest of microbial life on Mars, by certain interpretations. But this would have to be non-sentient organisms, bacterial or plant life devoid of reason and conscience. Intergalactic germs—life without a soul—could feasably exist where there is no need for the redemption of a soul. With the exception of angels, the Bible shows that God focuses his love and attention on Earth. In a Biblical other-worldview, intelligent extra-terrestrial life does not seem possible. As much as the kid in me wants to call aliens possible, I would have to conclude we are the only intelligent, non-spiritual creation in the cosmos, based on the revealed truth of the Bible.
If Captain Kirk searches in vain, and outer space is physically devoid of any other interesting characters, one might wonder why God bothered to create the rest of the universe, other planets and stars? Two obvious reasons exist, the first being that the vastness, beauty and complexity of the universe glorifies its Creator (Psalm 8:1-9 and 19:1). Another reason is the utilitarian purpose served by light, heat and the heavens as a means of timekeeping and navigation provided by the sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1:14-15).
There are a few interpretations of scripture leading to belief in UFOs and aliens. Ezekiel’s description of a wheel within a wheel (1:16) is thought by some to describe flying saucers. Some commentators think this imagery relates to the completeness of God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Most scholars are not certain and offer various meanings unrelated to alien ships. John 10:16 speaks of sheep from another fold (“I have sheep that are not of this sheep pen” as the NIV reads) which some believe may refer to little green otherworlders. From its context, however, we can see this is a reference to the Gentiles. The “living creatures” in Revelation (5:14) are said by some to be aliens. Scholarly sources say these are more likely angels guarding the throne of God, and parallel the four gospels. The arguments for alien encounters fall apart when you pay attention to the context of these passages.
I would not say we are alone in this universe, as the Lord makes it clear that He is always with us (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 17:27). Yet our culture keeps looking looking for radio signals from distant galaxies or little green men in our cornfields. We are surrounded by 7 billion other humans here on earth, but why do we still feel alone? I think we are made to search for God, which explains why we are constantly wondering and hoping there is someone personal and transcendent out there somewhere, even while the God of the heavens has revealed Himself to His creation. There is plenty of fiction to satisfy our hunger for intergalactic sci-fi, but our hunger to be truly known and loved is satisfied by the One who made us, loved us, and invaded our world again to redeem us.
“God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27)