Every now and then, the question pops up: “How would proof of extra-terrestrial life affect our Christian faith?”
Other related questions that arise concern the reliability of the bible, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation.
Well, let me start by stating boldly that I believe in the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Furthermore, I am as sure as I can be that ET’s have been appearing on earth and interacting with the human race for thousands of years.
Now before you think that I have become an acolyte of David Icke or that I am suffering from senile dementia, let me state further that I think that all bible-believing Christians should believe in extra-terrestrial life!
The other day, I listened to an interview with Professor Avi Loeb, an Israeli-American theoretical physicist who works on astrophysics and cosmology as the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. In October 2017, astronomers in Hawaii identified the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, which they named ‘Oumuamua’. This object was unlike any other observed so far and exhibited some strange characteristics. In late 2018 Dr Loeb co-authored a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters arguing that Oumuamua had been nothing less than humanity’s first contact with an artefact of extra-terrestrial intelligence. (If you are interested, you can read about this interesting man and his ideas HERE).
What Would a Conversation with ET Prove About the Authenticity of the Gospel?
I am not sure that such a conversation would prove anything, as, for one thing, there are just too many implied assumptions. Did the inhabitants of Planet Y need a saviour or were they sinless? Why would we assume that an extra-terrestrial visitor would come from a physical planet anyway? Why not another dimension altogether? And so on. What his remark triggered in me was a confirmation of beliefs I have held for decades. Firstly, that God provided us with the bible so that we as human beings could find our way back to him in this life on this planet, live a godly life, and have hope for a life beyond (see 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and John 20:30-31).
Within this context, the bible’s purpose is to reveal the nature and character of the Triune God in and through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, that scripture from Genesis to Revelation contains many accounts of extra-terrestrials.
What are angels if not extra-terrestrials? They are spiritual beings (Hebrews 1:14), able to materialise (Hebrews 13:2), who dwell, not on earth, but in another dimension… and the bible references them hundreds of times. Of course, if you do not believe that the bible is a reliable record of what is true then you probably will not believe in angels either. Actually, even many non-Christians believe in angels and claim to interact with them.
The scriptural revelation of angels is that most of them are sinless and in no need of salvation as we understand it (1 Timothy 5:21). There are also evil angels, but even they acknowledge that Jesus is God the Son and that they, like the elect angels, are subject to his divine authority (Mark 3:11).
If a fallen angel appeared to me and told me that the bible was nonsense and that Jesus was not the saviour of mankind, I would not believe him. However, I would not necessarily think that he did not exist and that I was talking to my neurosis. Similarly, if I met another form of extra-terrestrial I would respond the same way. In neither instance would my faith in Jesus and my assessment of the bible change.
Billy Graham and C.S.Lewis
In general, evangelicals have a human-centric view of the universe seeing humanity as the epitome of God’s creation and unique among all other created beings. Some quote Psalm 8:3-8 to support this view, but a more careful reading suggests humility and recognition of human smallness in the cosmos. We don’t need to deny the possibility of sentient alien life to embrace our significance as a species.
My fellow evangelicals might be interested to know that Ted Peters quoted Billy Graham as saying: “I firmly believe there are intelligent beings like us far away in space who worship God. But we have nothing to fear from these people. Like us, they are God’s creation”.
The equally famous C. S. Lewis wrote a science fiction trilogy and in the book ‘Perelandra’ he portrayed Jesus as an eternally present reality known to the aliens. Although ‘sinless’ these beings are helped by this knowledge to resist temptations. He also directly addressed the possibility of alien life and a Christian response to it in his essay ‘Religion and Rocketry’ published in 1958.
A Final Word
My conclusion to ‘alien life and the Christian’ type questions is that it is highly probable that beings other than Angels do exist in galaxies or dimensions ‘far, far away’.
Some may be potential enemies and others could be benefactors; either way, if they were able to find us then they would be light-years ahead in intellectual development. There is nothing new to this idea because angelic beings too are either benign or malign and certainly more intelligent than we are. Whether we encounter extra-terrestrials or not, my belief in Jesus, the way of salvation, the trustworthiness of the bible, and the significance of humanity remains firm.