The Bible And Extraterrestrial Life
Published in "Bible and Spade", Spring 1998
Does life exist beyond planet earth? Mankind has probably pondered this question throughout the ages. Perhaps we began to consider it more seriously after the advent of the telescope. We discovered that some of the bright points of light in the night sky are not luminous bodies but are apparently more similar to our own planet and therefore more likely to harbor living creatures. In the twentieth century we have read, heard, and seen innumerable books, stories, and films about imagined beings from outer space. H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Superman, Star Trek, E.T., Star Wars, and a host of other forms of entertainment have been tremendously successful and have demonstrated the powerful appeal this topic has to large numbers of a certain form of life inhabiting planet earth.
Not only is the general public interested in this topic but so are many serious scientists. According to Cyril Ponnamperuma, "The National Academy of Sciences of the United States has set down the search for extraterrestrial life as the prime goal of space biology." Dr. Ponnamperuma also tells us: "The scientific question at stake in exobiology is the most exciting, the most challenging, and the most profound issue not only of this century but of the entire naturalistic movement that has characterized the history of western thought for over three hundred years. If there is life on Mars and if we can demonstrate its independent origin then we shall have an enlightening answer to the question of the improbability and uniqueness in the origins of life. Arising twice in a single planetary system it must surely occur abundantly elsewhere in the staggering number of comparable planetary systems." Dr. Ponnamperuma further reveals his goal for finding extraterrestrial life is to "... retrace the path by which life appeared on this earth." Essentially, then, the search for extraterrestrial life from this perspective is a search for evidence for evolution.
Extraterrestrial life, from an atheistic, evolutionary perspective, may exist on one or more planets in the vast expanse of the universe. From this point of view, natural processes accomplished this feat on planet earth and perhaps a similar milieu could have produced life elsewhere. However, from a theistic perspective, extraterrestrial life also may exist in the universe. From this point of view God created life on earth and could therefore just as easily create life and the necessary conditions for the sustenance of that life in many locations throughout His creation. Indeed, a theist might ask, "Why would God create such an extensive universe and then only create life on one extremely minuscule planet?" This might seem as ludicrous as purchasing a thousand acres for a zoo and then placing no other life there than that inhabiting a drop of pond water. It would appear to be a colossal waste of space and creative energy. Also, many would consider it loathfully anthropocentric to entertain the notion that the earth and its living inhabitants, including man, is unique in all of creation. Nevertheless, what would be a biblical perspective on this issue? The Bible contains no direct statement affirming or denying the existence of extraterrestrial life ( for the purpose of this study "life" excludes spiritual beings, such as angels). However, we may still study the Scriptures in order to ascertain whether or not such a case would be consistent with unequivocal biblical doctrines.
In order to consider extraterrestrial life from a Scriptural perspective we may subdivide life into different categories and then examine each category in the light of God's Word. Every physical form of life is in only one of two major divisions: (1) life with the capacity to choose whether to obey or to disobey God, and (2) life without such a capacity.
On planet earth only humans possess the ability to obey or disobey God. According to the Bible, because of Adam's disobedience all people have inherited a nature that manifests itself in disobedience - a condition referred to as sin (Romans 3:23, 5:12; I John 1:10, etc.). If there is life outside this planet with the capacity to obey or disobey God, then obviously there are two possible subdivisions of this type of life - life which has chosen to obey and life which has chosen to disobey. We will analyze the ramifications of each of these two possibilities in order to determine whether or not they are consistent with God's Word.
Is it possible that God created beings on another planet with the ability to choose obedience or disobedience who chose obedience? Could there be a planet with beings living on it in a state comparable to that of Adam and Eve before the Fall? Such a scenario would be inconsistent with the nature of God since it would be unjust for Him to curse a planet whose inhabitants had never sinned. Yet God has cursed the entire universe according to Romans 8:22: "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." Since the entire universe is under a curse and since God would not curse the habitation of sinless beings, then there must be no sinless beings in the entire universe.
Is it possible that there are life forms on other planets who chose to disobey God? Since "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34), He would certainly seek to redeem such creatures as He has on planet earth. How might God seek to redeem such fallen beings? He might send His Son, Jesus Christ, as He did for us on earth. A second possibility is that He might send another Son. A third possibility is that He might send a Being who, though not His Son, would nevertheless bring them redemption. Such a Being might be a Daughter or something else. A fourth possibility is that God might send us to proclaim to these creatures that Jesus Christ's work of atonement on earth offers redemption for them also. We will consider each of these possibilities.
The difficulty with the idea of God sending Jesus Christ to one or more other planets is revealed by such scriptures as Hebrews 8:1 which tells us that Jesus "... is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the Heavens," (note also the use of the term "once" in Hebrews 9:12, 24-28; 10: 10-14). Jesus is not visiting other planets in order to redeem their inhabitants. He is seated "...on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12). Furthermore it is certain that Jesus Christ never visited and redeemed other beings before He came to earth since when He leaves Heaven in the future He will return to earth and reign for one thousand years after which the entire universe will be destroyed and replaced. It would be inappropriate for Christ to only reign on this planet before the universal destruction.
The second way God could conceivably redeem fallen extraterrestrial creatures would be to send other Sons besides Jesus - one to each inhabited planet. However, it is evident that this is an impossibility since Jesus Christ is God's " ...only begotten Son," (John 3:16).
Our third alternative involves God sending other Beings besides His Son to redeem fallen creatures on other planets. This option is not viable, however, since each Redeemer would be equally eminent with the Son of god, seeing each would have accomplished essentially the same task. However it is certain that Christ will never be equally ranked with other redeemers since "...God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," (Philippians 2:9-11). Therefore there are no other redeemers.
Since Christ will not redeem any fallen extraterrestrials and since there are no other redeemers, the only possible hope for any such disobedient creatures is for us to preach the gospel of Christ's redeeming work to them. However we encounter scriptural opposition to this idea as well. In Acts 1:8 Christ Jesus tells us that we are to be His witnesses in "... Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Christ also strongly confirms the earth as the sole location of our evangelistic activities when He states " ... this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14). In addition, it is difficult to reconcile God's impartiality with the notion of Christ only coming personally to the fallen creatures of Adam's posterity while all other fallen creatures have to hear the gospel second hand from us.
To summarize, God would not send His Son, another Son, nor any other Being to redeem extraterrestrial fallen creatures. Nor would He send us to evangelize such creatures. Since God has redeemed fallen men He would certainly redeem any other fallen creatures. But since there is no means, according to the Scriptures, whereby He might redeem such beings, the only conclusion must be that they, just as unfallen extraterrestrial beings, do not exist.
The second major division of life is life without the capacity to choose whether or not to obey God. On earth this includes all forms of life other than humans. Is there this type of life anywhere in the universe besides earth? The ramifications of such a possibility do not conflict as strongly with the Scriptures as do those of the previously discussed alternatives. Therefore perhaps there is more freedom permitted in choosing a position on this question while still staying within the bounds of being scripturally consistent. First of all it is certainly possible for God to have created such life elsewhere in the universe if He so chose. However the God of the Bible is not capricious. He does nothing without a purpose. Therefore we may humbly consider whether or not there would be a purpose for God to create such life. These considerations must be carried out in a spirit of humility since we have a limited understanding of His purposes. However, since it is clear from the Bible that man in the image of God was the climax of God's creative acts, then it seems reasonable that the purpose for His other creatures was for man's benefit. This benefit would include not only a suitable environment for living, but also the opportunity to acquire an understanding of who God is by studying what He has done. Since God foreknew that man's total history would be, practically speaking, limited to earth (after the gospel is preached throughout the earth Christ will return to rule the earth), then there would be no reason for Him to create life on other planets. Besides, if God would have created life on other planets for man's benefit, then we would certainly expect all of the other planets and even moons in this solar system to be teeming with life. However, all of our space explorations have failed to detect even one specimen of the simplest form of life anywhere beyond the earth. It therefore seems safe to conclude that the only nonspiritual life in all of this immense creation exists on planet earth.
One may ask, then, "Why did God create such a universe with so many billions of stars if He has only placed man and other forms of life on earth?" Romans 1:20 tells us that, "... the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead...." When we behold an immeasurably vast cosmos we understand that its Creator is immeasurably powerful.
Another problem for the belief that there is no extraterrestrial physical life is: how do we account for unidentified flying objects - U.F.O.'s? Some possible explanations for these occurrences are: (1) optical illusions, (2) hoaxes perpetrated upon the witnesses or even by the supposed witnesses, (3) secret human technology, and (4) ruses perpetrated by evil spirits. What purposes would evil spirits have for deceiving people into believing in extraterrestrial life? If people believed there were advanced forms of life elsewhere, then this would offer support to the notion that we could find solutions to all of mankind's problems from sources other than God. If there are advanced forms of life somewhere out in space then perhaps they could use their technology or superhuman powers to remedy all of mankind's problems. Even if they were not willing or able to help us then we could still derive hope from the prospect that we will ultimately develop our technology to the same degree as theirs or that we ourselves will eventually evolve superhuman powers such as theirs. Ultimately we would solve all of our problems without having to submit to God. If Satan can convince us the solution for mankind should be sought in the creation rather than in the Creator, he will have succeeded in his goal of keeping people separated from God, our only true hope.
Finally, does the impossibility of life with or without the capability of obeying God, in an innocent state or fallen, mean that we should cease all space exploration? When we consider how that the more we learn about creation, the more we see evidence for an all-wise, all-powerful Creator - those who believe in that Creator should enthusiastically support space exploration. The heavens, indeed, declare the glory of God! So let us continue our quest for understanding the creation - not in the vain hope of finding evidence for evolution or contacting extraterrestrial intelligence, but in the confident, joyful anticipation of perceiving more and more of the glory of God!
Cyril Ponnamperuma, "Life in the Universe," 37th Louis H. Bauer Lecture given at 62nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Aerospace Medical Association. Cincinnati, Ohio: Audio transcripts Ltd. 1991. Cassette.
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