[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.
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’?.