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Friday, May 14, 2010

Why I Believe In Life On Other Planets

Well, to begin, I'll just ask the question: "Why not believe in life on other planets?"

From Christians, the most common answer you'll get is that the Bible doesn't tell us about the existence of aliens, therefore, there are no aliens.

True, the Bible doesn't explicitly tell us that there is life on other planets. But my rebuttal to this argument would begin by stating the obvious fact that the Bible doesn't explicitly tell us that there is not life on other planets, either. The argument that "The Bible doesn't say it, therefore it isn't true" is like making the argument that "Since the Bible doesn't give us detailed instructions on how to boil pasta in water on a gas stove, it simply cannot be done." Or, "Because the Bible didn't tell us about DNA, it does not exist."

The Bible, as I have learned in church, can give us certain knowledge of God; that is, it can reveal to us many, many truths about God and His will for us and our world that we can be certain of, BUT it does not give us exhaustive knowledge of God; that is to say, it doesn't tell us every single tidbit of knowledge about God. Since God is infinite and omnipresent, if we were to know each and every detail about God, we too, would need to be omnipotent, and the Bible itself would need to be infinitely long.

I would also like to point out that this line of thinking is what led the Catholic church to execute the great astronomer Galileo for insisting that the earth went around the sun, and not the other way around. Church leaders at the time were so convinced that the earth was the center of all creation, that they accused anyone who disagreed with them of heresy. They used the Bible as their grounds for this belief, although the Bible certainly does not make any claim that the earth is the center of the solar system. We now know that the Earth is not the center of the solar system, it is not the center of our galaxy, and it is not the center of the universe. I believe God might be trying to reiterate the fact that "It's NOT about US!" Yes, God loved us so much that He became human and died for us, but it's still not about us. God would get along fine without any of us.

The next major argument against life on other planets that I've heard from fellow Christians is that "Jesus died for our sins on our planet, so how do these extraterrestrials get saved?" My simple answer to this is "I don't know." And then I would add: "But if there is life on other planets, God does know." In other words, if another race of beings needed to be saved from their own sins, God would find a way to do it. Since God is infinitely more creative than I am, I'm sure He has come up with something far more glorious than I could even imagine, but just for fun, here are some of my own hypotheses: 1. Human-being Jesus travels to the aliens' planet and He dies for them there. 2. Human-being Jesus travels to the aliens' planet and tells them that He died for everyone's sins on Earth. 3. God is born as an alien, grows up on their planet, and dies for their sins there. 4. At some point in the future, human beings travel to distant planets as intergalactic missionaries and tell them about Jesus.

I think, however, it is quite likely that many of God's creations might have never chosen to sin in the first place. Imagine that: God creates a planet with sentient beings, and they actually choose to obey Him. The great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis was able to imagine life on other planets, and he wrote a trilogy of space-based adventures describing how extraterrestrials might exist in a Christian universe. In Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis chronicles an adventure to a planet full of innocent creatures; creatures that never fell under the curse of sin. The story makes the point that, even though mankind chose to sin and rebel against God, that God was glorified even more greatly on Earth, since God was afforded the chance to become one of us and to heroically save us from ourselves. His purposes for other races on other planets might be very different from His purpose for us.

The second book in the trilogy, Perelandra, takes place on a world with only two indigenous sentient beings, a male and a female. Satan manages to show up to tempt the female character into disobeying God, but God sends a human to tell her about what happened on Earth, and to encourage her to obey God's commands. Hear that? A space-missionary, yo...and you thought I was a heretic for suggesting such a thing. Is C.S. Lewis a heretic, too? And, Joss Whedon...well, I'm pretty sure he's not even a Christian...but he did the whole intergalactic-missionary thing, as well, in Firefly and Serenity.

Furthermore, the very magnitude of the universe suggests that something else is going on somewhere out there. I mean, yes, if it pleased God to create such a ridiculously gigantic-beyond-all-comprehension, immensely, stupifyingly, stupendously, humongously enormous space just to make us humans gasp at how amazing creation is, then yes, He absolutely succeeded at that, and that would be just fine. But, if He chose to create a multitude of worlds and planets and societies just as great or greater than ours, wouldn't that be just as amazing, and perhaps, even more so?

Of course, I'm not saying you have to believe in life on other planets, I'm just making the point that it's not that ridiculous if you do. I personally doubt that any extraterrestrials have ever visited this planet yet. I think we are being isolated in the universe for a specific time for a specific purpose. But of course, this is all conjecture, and I just encourage you all to keep an open mind. But one thing is for certain: Jesus Christ is alive, and He is my Lord and Savior.


  1. Good points, Nate. I agree with what you wrote - although I would add one more hypothesis. There are alien beings/lifeforms/even civilizations in the universe, but they do not have souls, therefore they do not need salvation. They simply exist.
    Similar to say, monkeys or dolphins - pretty much accepted as the two most intelligent creatures on Earth next to humans. Monkeys have many features and characteristics that remind us of humans, but we believe they are just animals and do not have souls - they do not struggle with nor have the choice of sin.
    The movie Avatar made me consider this. Looking at it from a Christian perspective, understanding Cameron's worldviews and putting them aside, could there be a civilization of aliens like the Na'vi? Can that answer be found in Scripture or more importantly would that answer discredit Scripture in any way? No it can't be found in the Bible, and no it would have no impact on the Bible or Christianity as a whole if proven true. Like you said, the Bible is God's Word given to the human race on planet Earth.

  2. Hi Nate - great blog. I understand what you're saying and agree that we can't know everything - and yes, that the universe is huge. I also would follow up by saying, although it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the Truth of the Bible, scientifically, there are very, very few planets - if any others at all that could support life - within the realm of space we are currently able to explore. This would support your idea that we are being isolated if, in fact, there are other beings out there.

    Pete - I just question - and always question - where in the Bible it tells you or me that animals are soul-less. In fact, I believe Ecclesiastes 3:21 begs that very question. Who knows for sure that the spirit of a man rises and the spirit of an animal goes into the earth? The fact of the matter is, we don't. So, this is another point on which it is important to keep an open mind.

    Great blog, Nathan - love it! :)

  3. One more thought, though slightly less provocative than Ecclesiastes: The great commission commands us to do what, exactly?
    Mark 16:15 & Colossians 1:23 both speak of preaching the gospel to every creature - - and to every creature under heaven. Interesting that we're not called to preach the gospel to all mankind or to every man and woman.

    Just food for thought...

  4. Actually, over 200 extrasolar planets have been discovered in the past 15 years. And considering that we've only checked an infinitesimally small corner of our own galaxy, I'd say the odds that potentially inhabitable planets are out there somewhere are pretty good...

  5. As for the point about animals, to me the question isn't whether or not they have souls. I think we can all agree that an animal has never consciously sinned, and therefore is not in need of salvation, like Pete suggested. The question is whether or not there will be animals in heaven, and, as Ecclesiastes points out, we simply don't know. My guess is that there will be animals in heaven since there were animals in the Garden of Eden. But will my childhood pet, Apricot, be there like I knew her? I certainly hope so, but I suppose I won't care so much, what with being in the presence of God's glory and all...

  6. Ecclesiastes is not saying we don't know whether there will be animals in heaven. The author is saying in a poetic way, like the rest of the book, everything under the sun is meaningless and dies away when viewed in the absence of God. If God was not who He is, then yes, man is no better than the animal, destined to die off and disintegrate.
    The Bible clearly states in other passages that man is superior to the animal and we are commanded to be good stewards of the earth. The Great Commission commands us to witness to all nations of the earth. So what would it be that makes humanity superior to animals? Created to glorify God? no - animals glorify God far better than man does. In fact, they perfectly obey their creator and do exactly what they were created for. Every chirp of a bird glorifies God and acknowledges Him as LORD.

    The Bible always states that man was made a little lower than the angels. So in terms of superiority it seems the hierarchy of creation is 1. Angels, 2. Humans, 3. Plants and animals. Why are angels superior to humans? They also glorify God far better than mankind can on Earth. My understanding of all this is it all comes from levels of mortality. All 3 creatures have a beginning - God created them all. We don't know when He created angels, but only God is eternal with no beginning or end. There is really no mention of angels dying (except for the ultimate outcome of the fallen angels - but are they going to die, or spend eternity in Hell with the damned?) Death does not seem to be an issue with angels - they were created, but they seem to be immortal. Man is of course mortal, in his present state. But the Bible mentions an afterlife, heaven and hell, so man is also immortal, or at least what we call the soul is immortal. The bodies we know presently will cease and we are promised new, perfect bodies. One day Pete2.0 and Nate2.0 will be able to glorify God together for all eternity.

    So all this leads me to conclude that what makes animals lower than humans is the fact that they, like plants and microorganisms have no soul - that is, have no afterlife. This in no way means there won't be animals in heaven - they just won't be our animals that we knew on earth. In fact there could be a whole new set of creatures in heaven that we can't even imagine.

    I realize I could be wrong, and the Bible is not clear or doesn't take the time to include info on everything. One thing is clear - the Gospel message is for humanity - beings that sin and are deserving of eternal damnation. God executed a perfect plan to save those humans who would believe in Jesus as Christ.

    I think our emotional attachment to pets makes it hard to accept that all dogs do not go to heaven. Technically a person could be attached to her plants as much as another person is to his pet, and come to the conclusion that all her plants will be in heaven too.