The cosmos is huge and divine Revelation tells us what we need to know for salvation. The rest is left for us to go, boldly go, where no Christian has gone before . . . Whenever I say this, I am rooting for aliens, somebody sends me questions and Adeimantus* has sent a doozy:
During my time at Biola, I recall raising a concern that aliens making contact with humans is an event of such magnitude, that I would find it very strange if such an event were not prophesied in Scripture somewhere. A well known defender of the minimal facts Paris** disagreed, but suggested Ezekiel’s wheel might fit the bill if I really needed one.
Doesn’t it depend on what the aliens say? What if they are Orthodox monastics who have followed Earth history from afar and act as the incarnation of the Two Witnesses of the Book of Revelation? Of course, they would also be an excellent way for the Spirit of Anti-Christ to appear . . . coming in a gilded saucer . . . to announce that Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar were right all along. The “end” is sure, Jesus is coming to reign, but the images of Scripture are designed for us to be able to say “this is that spoken of” as it happens, not to know beforehand. Such knowledge is necessary then and too wonderful for us now.
Perhaps the most foolish presupposition of our age is that if aliens exist, they would be atheists. Atheists have not managed to run a country without genocidal folly, let alone a federation of planets. Hedonists spend all their time on amusements that make getting to the 7-11 hard, let alone Mars.
I think you took the right approach in suggesting that Cooper’s evidence doesn’t mean we ought to doubt the Resurrection, so much as we ought to consider being open to expanding our worldview to include the possibility of contact with intelligent alien life.
Personally, I’m cagey about doing so. I’m not enough of a Bible expert to say whether or not the Bible definitively teaches that we’re the only creatures made in God’s Image in the created universe. But we still have options: we do know from Scripture that the supernatural exists and so even if our worldview rules out the possibility of alien contact, we still have the option of explaining Cooper’s testimony as being something on the level of the demonic. On the other hand, are we setting ourselves up for a fall by admitting we have a ‘dogma’ against aliens existing. We may find ourselves with egg on our faces if ET ever does make his presence known to the general public.
Since aliens with great intelligence likely will be theists, they have intelligence and the moral fortitude to get here, we would be embarrassed to have dogmatized about their non-existence! I see no reason from Scripture to have any dogmatic view at all. CS Lewis populated his Universe with all sorts of beings. Does ET visit us? I think the evidence says: “Probably not.” Could ET exist? Possibly, but probably not. The cosmos is vast, but the areas congenial to life are not so great. We see no signals of intelligence, though we looked hard. At the moment, I view ghosts as more probable in terms of existence than ET, though that is not saying much.
I hope I am wrong! Of course, aliens may come and be atheists. That would not prove theism wrong, just give us new debating partners. Here is Adeimantus:
Why would they be fallen? So far they have been wise enough to avoid us. I think we could meet (at least) three basic types of aliens:
It may be the case, however, that our worldview IS big enough to incorporate aliens with superior technology. It may, stress ‘may’ be the case that we would have to revisit parts of our theology, perhaps even some really really important, settled formulations common to all recognizably Christian denominations. What, for instance, does it mean for man to be created in God’s Image if we find something that is vastly beyond us? Would such creatures be fallen themselves? Would they have need of the Gospel? The difference in intelligence and technology would raise issues of why God would endow a lesser species (man) with some sort of privileged status while not making contact with a more intelligent species.
- Beings in no need of salvation, because they never fell. We know angels (at least) fit this category. We need only include incarnate beings.
- Beings in no need of salvation, because they are not able to receive it. We know demons (at least) fit this category. We need only include incarnate beings.
- Beings in need of salvation who are directed by the stars to Bethlehem. They come to worship and receive the Gospel. That will be a downer for Patheos nonreligious types.
Of course, there are other possibilities, we will see if ET gets here. If ET is an atheist, my guess is he would cuff the Patheos group of nonreligious for lowbrow hatefulness with no positive content!
Also, what if they’re not more intelligent but had merely been around longer and not experienced the extinction events that the earth supposedly has – namely, that they’d evolved earlier in the life of the universe and hence why they were more advanced. That would play havoc with the theology of those who believe the Bible teaches the universe is young.
Maybe. Such beings might also know the science that shows how parts of the cosmos run “at different speeds” now or at that time past differently at the edge of the Big Bang than at our own location. Who knows? If ET appears, we can ask. I have no problem with some of my theology being made improbable by ET, however, I would also not fall down and worship a being from another star. Whatever their power and knowledge, they would not be God!
Kirk was right (Star Trek V): God does not need a star ship and as we demonstrate daily, scientific knowledge does not equal wisdom. Aliens might have great knowledge without wisdom. Who knows?
What I’m moving toward is the provisional opinion that while I am always open to finding a way to Narnia through my wardrobe, the challenges raised to our understanding of who Jesus was, why he came and even the Trinity itself, would be sorely tested if extraterrestrial life were to ever make contact…mind you, rumor has it that the Vatican is already aware and has made contact with ET – make of THAT what you will!
I’m not necessarily afraid of that challenge because I am a presuppositionalist so I take as a given that any challenge posed by aliens would be a challenge only to theology and not to Scripture. But, for the sake of ‘convenience’, I suppose, I do lean toward the demonic as a rebuttal presumption in explanation of the few truly credible cases of supposed ‘contact’.
Darn the Pope if he is hiding ET knowledge! Almost I would follow Jack Chick if that were true. Almost. Yes. We would not simply accept the word of any alien. We would begin Socratic discourse and that includes aliens who seem to agree with us. They might be most dangerous, Orthodox aliens with some small twist. They might cause great harm!
In conclusion Adeimantus says:
One reason for this is that the story of alien contact has become an alternative religion-with stories of aliens being our redeemers and saviors from global warming. In some narratives they want to bring us to a higher level of consciousness (Gnostic teachers), in others they are hostile imperialists who want to enslave us (Cultural Marxism) – in other words, the narratives that have emerged out of the UFO phenomena goes far beyond strange lights in the sky and into the realm of familiar counter-Christian religious narratives. Which is not to say that they are false, necessarily, but to say that so much of the evidence for ET is embedded into these narrative at the level of folklore, rather than credible narratives based on empirical evidence.
My debating partner Michael Shermer is right about one thing: people use ET as a substitute for God. Sadly, there is less evidence for ET than for God. The ontological argument by itself is something theism has that ET speculations lack. If we deny the rational, the Divine Logic (Logos), God, then we begin to go mad or become angry.
Lord have mercy on our little blue planet, the only one of which we are aware, where meat-intelligence exists!
*Adeimantus is a former student, brilliant man, and friend in speculation. He is not, however, Glaucon’s brother. Adeimantus is a pseudonym.
**Paris is also a pseudonym.