Monday, March 31, 2014
Do Christians Believe in Extra-terrestrial life?
My article from this week's newspapers answers a question about Christians and extra-terrestrial life:
Q: Do Christians believe in aliens or that life exists on other planets? What evidence is there from the Bible for or against this idea?
While it would be convenient if the Bible contained information about every conceivable topic, the fact is that it only contains the information relevant to its purpose – to provide the history of God’s interaction with man and His ultimate revelation in the crucified and risen Christ. Even though the Bible never mentions aliens or other life forms, it does contain a number of concepts that would influence the way Christians respond the question of extra-terrestrial life.
From Genesis, the Bible portrays humanity as the pinnacle and crowning element of creation. In relation to all other life on earth, Adam and Eve are placed as the superior caretaker and described with qualities not attributed to other creatures. While God speaks other creatures into existence, He forms Adam from the dust and breathes life into him. He then gives Adam the task of naming the rest of creation, then creates Eve from Adam’s rib as a fitting complement to Him.
When the creation account describes the rest of the creation beyond the earth’s atmosphere, it describes everything in relation to earth. Sun and moon are created for the purpose of creating a fitting environment on earth. Stars and other planets are described as being tasked with marking time and seasons – both purposes that center on activities here on earth, and not out in space.
In any of the Bible’s descriptions of the origins of life, the whole story is centered on earth and only on earth. We are not given any positive indication that there are intelligent creatures elsewhere – or any form of life at all. We also are not given any absolute denials that God could have created life elsewhere beyond our planet. The question is simply not addressed.
While there have been attempts made by imaginative individuals to explain some of the unusual images of the book of Revelation, as well as other prophetic elements as descriptions of future alien encounters, these ideas are not well-supported by textual study or church history, and are more likely wishful thinking or exceeding the appropriate bounds of creativity in handling these portions of Scripture.
What we do know is that the Bible describes the creation of life here on earth. We do know that it describes the fall of that creation into sin at the hand of our first parents, and we do know that it describes the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as our substitute and points us there as the remedy for every spiritual ill, and directs us to the Resurrection of the Last Day as the end of all earthly suffering that is the consequence of sin.
While we cannot dogmatically say that there is no life beyond our own planet, we also have no confirmation that there is, nor do we have any instruction to seek it out. If God desired to form other creations in far-away solar systems, that look and operate differently than we do, it would certainly be within His ability and rights to do so. However, because we have found no credible evidence that this is true, nor has it been revealed to us in Scripture, there is no warrant for Christians to introduce such ideas into discussion of spiritual things, because even if they did exist, it would apparently be of no consequence to us or our salvation in Christ– which is the purpose and central theme of God’s revelation.