[INTRODUCTION ADDED NOVEMBER 2009:
We have received numerous inquiries from around the world on the issue, with CMI-US CEO Gary Bates quoted on CNN television just days ago—see http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/tech/2009/11/13/am.vatican.aliens.cnn.html. In light of this recent story, we are republishing the following article by Gary (the author of the creationist classic Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection) which will be of great interest to you in understanding this growing phenomenon.]
Many people, Christian or otherwise, struggle with the notion that the earth is the only inhabited planet in this enormous universe. In short, is there life on other planets?
Those who believe life evolved on the earth usually see it as virtual ‘fact’ that life has evolved on countless other planets. Discovering life on other planets would in turn be seen as confirming their evolutionary belief.
But even many Christians think, ‘God must have created life elsewhere, otherwise this enormous universe would be an awful waste of space.’ In my experience, this seems to be the major underlying reason why people think that there must be other life 'out there'. However, our thinking should be based on what God said He did (the Bible), and not what we think He would, should or might have done.
Firstly, since God is the one who made the universe, it can scarcely be ‘big’ to Him. Humans struggle with its vastness because our comprehension is limited to the created time/space dimensions within which we exist, and it is mind-bending to try and comprehend anything beyond our dimensional existence. Size is only relative to us as inhabitants of this universe. And size and time are related somewhat. Because the universe is big to us we consider how long it would take us to travel across it, for example. But, time itself began with the creation of the physical universe, so how can we comprehend what eternity is, or might be? What was ‘before’ the universe? Similarly, how do we imagine how ‘big’ God is? We cannot use a tape measure that is made of the very atoms He made to measure Him. One example of this might be if you were asked to build a small house and you did. Now you are asked to build a large house. In our dimensions, for you to build the larger house it would require more effort and take more time. So, is it harder, or does it take longer for God to build a big universe compared to a smaller one (according to our perspective on what constitutes large or small of course)? Of course not, because He isn't bound by time and space (which He created). Isaiah 40:28 says; ‘… the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not grow weak nor weary …’.
We are impressed that God made billions of galaxies with billions of stars in them and suitably so, because that is one of the reasons for making them. But as mentioned, size is not an issue for God. Stars are relatively simple structures as they are just great big balls of gas. It would take more ‘creative input’, in that sense, for Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand than for the creation of countless quasars (there is immense genetic complexity in the structure of even a dead fish).
It is often asked, ‘Just because the Bible teaches about God creating intelligent life only on Earth, why couldn’t He have done so elsewhere?’ After all, Scripture does not discuss everything, e.g. motorcars. However, the biblical objection to ET is not merely an argument from silence. Motor cars, for example, are not a salvation issue, but we believe that sentient,intelligent, moral-decision-capable beings is, because it would undermine the authority of Scripture. In short, understanding the big picture of the Bible/gospel message allows us to conclude clearly that the reason the Bible doesn’t mention extraterrestrials (ETs) is that there aren’t any.1 Surely, if the earth were to be favoured with a visitation by real extraterrestrials from a galaxy far, far away, then one would reasonably expect that the Bible, and God in His sovereignty and foreknowledge, to mention such a momentous occasion, because it would clearly redefine man's place in the universe.
One attempt to fit ETs in the Bible is on the basis of a word in Hebrews 11:3: ‘Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.’
The word ‘worlds’ appears in the KJV translation and some others, and some claim that it refers to other inhabitable planets. However, the word is αἰῶν (aiōn), from which we derive the word ‘eons’. Thus modern translations render the word as ‘universe’ (entire space-time continuum) because it correctly describes ‘everything that exists in time and space, visible and invisible, present and eternal’. Even if it was referring to other planets, it is an unwarranted extrapolation to presume intelligent life on them.
It should also be remembered that expressions like “the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1:1) are a figure of speech known as a merism.This occurs when two opposites or extremes are combined to represent the whole or the sum of its parts. For example, if I said “I painted the whole building from top to bottom.” One would understand this to mean everything in the whole building. Similarly, biblical Hebrew had has no word for ‘the universe’ and can at best say ‘the all’, so instead it used the merism “the heavens and the earth”. It is clear that New Testament passages like the aforementioned Romans 8:18–22 and Hebrews 11:3 are pointing back to the Genesis (“heavens and earth”) creation, and thus, everything that God made and when time as we know it began. See this further explanation.
Another is the passage in John 10:16 in which Jesus says, ‘I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.’ However, even an ET-believing astronomer at the Vatican (thus a ‘hostile witness’ to the ‘no ETs cause’), a Jesuit priest by the name of Guy Consalmagno, concedes, ‘In context, these “other sheep” are presumably a reference to the Gentiles, not extraterrestrials.’4 Jesus’ teaching was causing division among the Jews (vs. 19), because they always believed that salvation from God was for them alone. Jesus was reaffirming that He would be the Saviour of all mankind.
A more recent idea to allow for ETs arose out of a perceived need to protect Christianity in the event of a real alien visitation to Earth. Michael S. Heiser is an influential Christian UFOlogist/speaker with a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages. He claims that the arguments put forward earlier might not apply to God-created aliens. Because they are not descendants of Adam they have not inherited his sin nature, and thus, are not morally guilty before God. Just like ‘bunny rabbits’ on the earth, they do not need salvation—even though they will die, they are going to neither heaven nor hell.
On the surface this seems a compelling argument; after all, fallen angels are intelligent but are beyond salvation (“For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants." Hebrews 2:16). Angels are immortal and not of our corporeal dimension. And Heiser’s ETs in spaceships require a level of intelligence not found in rabbits. This acutely highlights the injustice of their suffering the effects of the Curse, including death and ultimately extinction when the heavens are ‘rolled up like a scroll’ (Revelation 6:14). It also seems bizarre to assign no moral responsibility for the actions of highly intelligent beings.
Heiser also claims that vastly intelligent ETs would not displace mankind’s position as being made in the image of God because ‘image’ just means humans have been placed as God’s representatives on the earth.
However, the Bible says we are made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Man was immediately created a fully intelligent being about 6,000 years ago and was involved in craftsmanship shortly thereafter (Genesis 4:22). Since that time, even we have not been able to develop technologies advanced enough to travel to other star systems. If aliens were capable of developing incredible faster-than-light spaceships needed to get here, one would presume they must have been created with vastly superior intellect to ours—which would make them even more in God’s likeness in that sense than we are. Or, their creation is much older than the 6,000 years of the biblical six-day timeframe; the aliens were created before man and had sufficient time to develop their technologies. However, God created Earth on Day 1 and later the heavenly bodies on Day 4.
Although Heiser does not promote theistic evolution, he is sympathetic to a universe billions of years old, as proposed by the progressive creationist Dr Hugh Ross.5 In theory, this could allow the time necessary for any unseen ETs to develop the almost science-fiction-like technologies required to get here. But, this is circular reasoning.
There is a huge problem for the Gospel in these long ages. First, it’s important to understand that modern scientific idea of long ages (i.e. millions and billions of years) derived from the belief that sedimentary rock layers on Earth represent eons of time.6 This in turn derived from the dogmatic assumption that there were no special acts of creation or a global Flood, so that Earth’s features must be explained by processes seen to be happening now.7 This philosophy of uniformitarianism seems to amply fulfil the Apostle Peter’s prophecy recorded in 2 Peter 3:3–7.
The conflict with the Gospel is that these very same rock layers contain fossils—a record of dead things showing evidence of violence, disease and suffering. Thus, taking a millions-of-years view, even without evolution, places death and suffering long before the Fall of Adam. This undermines the Gospel and the very reasons that Christ came to the earth—such as reversing the effects of the Curse. Romans 5:12 clearly states that sin and death entered into the creation as a result of Adam's actions. There was no death before the Fall.
Psalm 8:5 says that man was made a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honour. Heiser has said that salvation is based upon ranking, not intelligence. If so, where in the Bible (which omits to mention them) would ET sit in this pecking order? Would they be higher than man, and lower than angels, for example? If these advanced ETs were capable of visiting the earth, mankind would now be subject to their dominion. (Even if the ETs were friendly, potentially they would be much more powerful due to their intelligence and technology.) This would be in direct contravention to God’s ordained authority structure when he ordered mankind to ‘subdue’ the earth—also known as the dominion mandate (Genesis 1:28).
Psalm 19:1 tells us a major reason that the universe is so vast: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.’ There are many similar passages in Scripture. They help us understand who God is and how powerful He is.
It reminds us that the more we discover about this incredible universe, the more we should be in awe of the One who made it all. In short rather than looking up and wondering &lsquoI wonder what else is out there?’ and imaginary aliens we’ve never seen. We should instead be considering the very One that made it all.
Could there be ‘simple life’ elsewhere in space?
Two identical Mars Rovers traverse the surface searching for evidence of water. Evolutionary researchers are eagerly looking for past or present signs of (even) microscopic life.
The Bible’s ‘big picture’ seems to preclude intelligent life elsewhere in God’s universe1 (see main text). But what about bacteria on other planets for example? It’s possible that God made these, but exceedingly unlikely.2 What would be their purpose? The entire focus of creation is mankind on this Earth; the living forms on Earth’s beautifully balanced biosphere are part of our created life support system.
If bacteria are found elsewhere in the solar system, it will be hailed as proof that life can ‘just evolve’.3 However, we have previously predicted in print that in such an unlikely event, the organisms will have earth-type DNA, etc., consistent with having originated from here as contaminants—either carried by recent man-made probes, or riding fragments of rock blasted from Earth by meteorite impacts.
Louis v R., South Africa, 17 November 2009
If life actually were discovered somewhere else in the universe, how would CMI or Gary adapt this article?
Gary Bates responds
Thanks for your email. However, a search of our website will reveal that we have already answered this question. Please see the following articles. Did God create life on other planets Is the Bible falsifiable? Is the Bible falsifiable and would a real ET do it (part 2) God and the extraterrestrials. Are we alone, or is there life elsewhere in the universe? Life from space? Unlikely … Let’s wait and see Also you can visit the Alien Life / UFO Questions and Answers section on our site for more related articles. I hope these help. Thanks
Kevin M., United States, 18 November 2009
People talk about aliens and say, "What a waste of space, if we’re the only ones here!" But if God had created the same-size universe without any other stars or planets, wouldn’t someone else say the same thing about ours being the only planet? And if He instead made a much SMALLER universe, still with no other stars or planets, wouldn’t it occur to others to question why God would create such a small universe? On the other hand, if we discovered–after hypothetically searching all the universe–only a few other forms of life, wouldn’t some ask why there weren’t more? And if every star in the universe had one or more planets around it, each with intelligent life, couldn’t one still ask, "Why didn’t an omnipotent God m! ake an even BIGGER universe?" Ultimately, any reality we discover to be true can be used to question the idea that God should have–or MUST have–made more and still more, perhaps an infinite amount of everything. But is God bound to do everything–or ANYTHING–to an infinite degree? Perhaps His interest in and love for us are made all the more profound by our tinyness and uniqueness in the presence of an immense though otherwise uninhabited universe. Perhaps He’s showing us that size and distance and space and matter–regardless of their vastness–are insignificant compared to the worth of a human soul. And perhaps, because of His emphasis on love to our neighbors, He’s put all of our "neighbors" on the same planet WE live on, where we can interact with them. There are, after all, near seven billion of us, and which of us has exhausted all the potential interactions or studied all the variety–not only of other people, but the myriad forms of OTHER life on the planet? Why do we co! nsider all seven billion of us “alone” when we haven’t even known the company of most others we DO know about, let alone hypothetical aliens that we don’t? Or would we still complain of isolation if the universe were filled with life, because there was only ONE universe and not MANY, as some people think? And if God DID create many other forms of intelligent life out there, how could that possibly comfort us if there’s no way of interacting with them or even being sure they exist? Of one thing most of us can be sure: If God DID create other forms of intelligent life out there, He obviously hasn’t wanted us to know about it–at least till now–so what does it matter? And if it doesn’t matter, at least for OUR purposes, then why assume they’re out there in the first place? And if they’re there only for GOD’S purposes, what can we possibly know of it unless He tells us?
Tristan V., Australia, 18 November 2009
Hello, I wanted to comment on this paragraph: Or, their creation is much older than the 6,000 years of the biblical six-day timeframe; the aliens were created before man and had sufficient time to develop their technologies. However, God created Earth on Day 1 and later the heavenly bodies on Day 4. If my understanding of Dr Russell Humphreys and Dr John Harnett’s models of how our cosmos might have come to be formed is correct, then it implies that other places may be much older than our earth currently is (by their time) even though they were created after earth was (our time). If this is correct, then the statement above doesn’t really form a solid argument as the current creationist understanding would allow such long times in distant places in the universe. Thats not to say ET evolved there though. Cheers, Tristan
Gary Bates responds
Hi Tristan, Thanks for your email. You make a good point. In Humphreys’ time dilation/distant starlight model, I suppose any “created” aliens say out near the event horizon of the universe could have millions of years of their time to develop their technologies. However, it is a bit of a moot point though. Firstly, for God to have created any intelligent sentient beings other than humans would violate the gospel—remembering that the whole purpose of creation was to bring forward a bride for Christ (not many brides). I pointed out the theological problems with that idea in the article. Secondly, even if they were millions of years advanced in their technologies (presuming that my theological interpretation of the gospel is wrong and God did create them), then regardless of how advanced they are they would really be unable to visit the earth. The trip would have to take billions of years because faster than light travel is an impossibility in our time/space universe. Many people think that because there is advancement in propulsion systems as our civilizations become more technologically advanced, that somehow we will be able to zip around at warp factor nine in our hyperdrive spaceships. This really is the stuff of science fiction. Regardless of how advanced a race’s technology is we will simply not be able to switch off the laws of physics. In addition, such trips, if they could be done, would require multiple generations of aliens piloting the spaceships to be able to get here due to the billions of years it would take. Lastly, even presupposing my first two points are wrong, any advanced aliens visiting the earth would break God’s dominion mandate (as described in the article). Also, in Russ Humphreys’ Evidence for a young world he shows that erosion has been happening too fast on Earth for the standard evolutionary cosmological dates of 4.5 billions years. In short, any ET worlds with biospsheres like the earth’s etc. would have eroded away billions of years ago. I suppose though, they could have left their worlds and inhabited others and just keep heading inwards where the world are younger. Oops, trouble is by the time they would reach them they would have eroded away too etc. Just some musings on the subject. Kind regards. Gary Bates
Peter W., United Kingdom, 1 December 2009
I have studied UFO phenomena on and off since I was a child. My father was a Professor of Systematic Theology at Northwestern. He too had an interest in UFOs. He lunched one day with the late Dr J Allen Hynek of Project Blue Book fame. When asked what Hynek thought these phenomena were, Hynek replied “I know they exist as I was chasing one last night with the Police in Rockford (Il), I do not know what they are but I THINK they are extra-dimensional.” Well he was right wasn’t he? The best web based article on UFOs from a Biblical perspective is to be found on the Blepo Factor website-here is the URL—[Ed.—weblink removed per our feedback rules] That should wake a few people up. [Ed.—weblink removed per our feedback rules] As for the vastness of the universe and the assumption that if man had made it man would have filled it with other life forms-first we have a presumptive arrogance that God would do things our way. He doesn’t and states this. Secondly as my Dad told me “God made it marvelous simply because He wanted to. Lastly the Bible tells us through the Psalmist-“The Hevaens declare the Glory of the Lord”. Amen.
Pat F., United Kingdom, 2 December 2009
Thank you so much for this well-argued article, with which I totally agree. And a thousand thanks for your ‘Creation’ magazine, which we have been getting for many years and which we believe to be the finest magazine ever published, bar none. It is a joy to receive-full of truth, reinforcing the faith that many of us hold by providing us with the hard facts. I hope that many more people will subscribe and furnish their minds with the truth about creation and evolution. Thank you again and may the Lord get your message to more people than ever in 2010. All best wishes, Pat F.
Dr David King, Australia, 2 December 2009
As an astronomer (previously appearing in Creation magazine [Ed.—see Exploring the heavens]) I wholeheartedly agree with Gary Bates. There is no evidence in science or the Bible that there is life elsewhere. We are His handiwork.
Steve M., New Zealand, 6 December 2009
Sirs, you have nicely summarized why I concluded some years ago that the idea of theological life on other planets was fraught with theological and logical difficulties, therefore was not likely. Let me add that I find the SETI quest to be religious in motivation. Having denied God they are groping in the dark for some substitute. As Christians we have no need for a God substitute; and there is no logical reason to assume any other life in the universe.
David K., Australia, 19 December 2010
To believe there is life on other planets apart from that which mankind has sent there is Biblically without justification so it must therefore be from the imagination of men - like superman, batman and the like. It amazes me that so many people are worried about imaginary beings when, for most if not all, will meet the Creator within the next few decades - not in millions of years. If we use the fictional evolutionary time frame as a measure that would put that encounter as being our next heart beat. Some will meet Him as a Friend and Saviour but for most as Judge. It is sad to see men risk their lives to save a whale or two or a tree or two (all of which will die at some time anyway) while at the same time their own eternal soul is going headlong into the eternal lake of fire. When men chose not to believe God’s Word (calling Him a deceiver and liar as if they know better) they become easy targets for the devil to take them down this ‘garden path’ of worrying about imaginary creatures on other planets. It is a distraction that will lead to destruction unless there is a change of heart and mind concerning God’s Word.
David P., New Zealand, 25 April 2011
If God created alien life then he would have to save them all since in the Bible it says ‘for all have fallen short of the glory of God’. But if there were aliens then this would not be fair on them because the Bible says ‘for by one man sin entered the world’. This would mean that aliens would be punished for someone else’s sins. God is a just god so he wouldn’t do that
Arvin C., Australia, 19 September 2011
Hi Gary, such a clearly well-written article. I also read the article about you published in Creation magazines no 3 2011, and I realised that the theological implications of extraterrestrial intelligence may undermine the Gospel. I don’t believe in aliens anymore. I used to when I was growing up as an avid sci-fi fan. I think I have an idea of why God created such an incredibly large cosmos filled with astronomical wonders. First, it is for us to enjoy the awesome might of His creative power. Who wouldn’t be humbled being put beneath the heavens and realise how small we are, yet in the same time beloved by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the Spirit’s transformative power we experience as we grown in faith! Second, perhaps the huge universe is for us to tend and roam freely through after Christ’s Second Coming. By that time, we would be habiting new bodies and our old sinful flesh have no hold on us anymore. Being immortal, we should never be bored exploring the space-time continuum beyond our Earth, there’s just so much to see!
Al C., United States, 22 March 2012
I wasn't quite certain how to form my comments so they wouldn't be taken as an indictment of the author's beliefs. [Gary Bates]
Thanks. It’s no problem if you disagree, as long as you take my retorts in the same manner.I, to, believe in Jesus as my Savior, Redeemer and Friend and, as most who know me will attest, manifest the fruit of the Spirit in my life. That said, I cannot accept the premise that God "did" limit Himself to populating the earth. The fact is, just like we can't clearly describe the triune God head; and it doesn't impact the salvation story one whit, we can't prove that life on other planets does not exist. [Gary Bates]
I presume that your knowledge about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, the Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration and the very need for your salvation comes from the Bible. So you accept that. As such, what we think of God outside of what the Scriptures say is somewhat irrelevant. I think there are numerous Scriptures that indicate the Trinity, but there are none that indicate life on other planets. The analogy is not apt, I must say and as such notions of ET life are absent from the Bible why can’t you accept that?Simply take your "whole creation groans" as an example. Do the angels groan? Do Cherubim groan? No, those who live and breath groan because we are decaying. [Gary Bates]
Respectfully, I don’t see what this has to do with the argument.Does that mean God's creation on other planets groans? Here's one for you...what if they didn't have an Adam? What if they never sinned? They wouldn't need a salvation, a redeemer or a Bible, (They'd understand their history because they never would die). [Gary Bates]
All of Creation does groan. Satan and the hordes of angels are part of God’s Creation and were made by Him and they were all good until sometime after day 6 of Creation (God pronounced it ‘very good’ on day 6. Some of the angels are going to be thrown into the lake of fire. Satan can read the Bible just as you and I can and he knows his fate. I think he’d be groaning a fair bit about making the wrong call to challenge God by now. Your whole premise rests on the idea there are some unfallen parts of Creation. This was clearly dealt with in the article so I am not sure why are raising it as an objection, You seem to have forgotten (or at least ignored/not dealt with this part in the article as follows: “The word ‘worlds’ appears in the KJV translation and some others, and some claim that it refers to other inhabitable planets. However, the word is αἰῶν (aiōn), from which we derive the word ‘eons’. Thus modern translations render the word as ‘universe’ (entire space-time continuum) because it correctly describes ‘everything that exists in time and space, visible and invisible, present and eternal’. Even if it was referring to other planets, it is an unwarranted extrapolation to presume intelligent life on them. It should also be remembered that expressions like “the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1:1) are a figure of speech known as a merism. This occurs when two opposites or extremes are combined to represent the whole or the sum of its parts. For example, if I said “I painted the whole building from top to bottom.” One would understand this to mean everything in the whole building. Similarly, biblical Hebrew had has no word for ‘the universe’ and can at best say ‘the all’, so instead it used the merism “the heavens and the earth”. It is clear that New Testament passages like the aforementioned Romans 8:18–22 and Hebrews 11:3 are pointing back to the Genesis (“heavens and earth”) creation, and thus, everything that God made and when time as we know it began.” The Bible is clear that everything God made is subject to the curse. Moreover, the article also made the point of what would happen if aliens were actually created by God. They’d be subject to the curse with no hope of salvation.Now, that's all far fetched but so was Jesus coming as the son of a handyman...which is why the brilliant Jewish theologians, (and I suspect they were brilliant), couldn't accept Him as the Messiah. I, personally, (to be clear I am not a Bible scholar and don't want to obfuscate), see that many feel threatened by the possibility of non-terrestrial life perhaps because it means we really AREN'T that special...and God's provision for our salvation really IS undeserved. [Gary Bates]
I’m not sure what the relevance is of the first sentence as it is not related to the argument. And actually, we do know we are special so much so that God took human form to die for us. Jesus had to become one of us to pay the price for our wrongdoing Jesus redeemed human beings as our ‘kinsman redeemer’ (also covered in the article. He did not return as a Klingon or a Cardassian. As for being underserved, I need to ask if you really understand the Gospel because our salvation is totally underserved. Read Ephesians 2:;8, for example. And as supporter Kevin M. wrote on this page: “Perhaps his interest in and love for us are made all the more profound by our tinyness and uniqueness in an immense though otherwise uninhabited universe. Perhaps he’s showing us that size and distance and space and matter, regardless of their vastness, are insignificant compared to the worth of a human soul.19 God put stars in the heavens, not only for his glory, but, incredibly, for mankind whom he loves.”However, that the Bible speaks out against that possibility seems to read into the Word something not there. Finally, I could easily understand why God wouldn't make other planetary life known to us; we tend to make idols out of everything. Since it's probably not intended for us ever to meet our fellow creations until, perhaps, we get to heaven why tell us something we don't need to know? Another mystery, but not anti-Christian. [Gary Bates]
Perhaps God made fairies that exist in another dimension too. I’m not trying to be facetious but using what you might regard as a bizarre analogy to make a point. Once again, it is not really relevant to argue for something that the Scriptures are silent about by saying God could do this or that. Why limit God in anything? Why couldn’t He have made fairies then? But God actually limits Himself by what He has laid down in His Word. Respectfully, if it destroys the very Gospel of Christ, as the article clearly showed it did, then it is an ‘antiChristian’ idea by definition. Your views are something that comes up constantly, and it is mainly derived from struggling with the size of the universe. I.e. “Why would God have made it so big if it was just for us?” This is an anthropomorphic idea, that is, extrapolating man made ideas onto God. Please reread that section in the article (there were a lot of comprehensive points made in the article, so respectfully if you disagree it is up to you so demonstrate theologically where we have gone wrong. I strongly recommend you read some more on this as it is important to limit our ideas to what God Does denying the existence of alien life ‘limit God’?.
N. H., United States, 14 April 2012
I appreciate this article because it helps me understand the creation and strengthens my faith. God bless this ministry and those who preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Amen.