The von Daniken School of Biblical Interpretation

Today’s religion and sci-fi class focused on the writings of Erich von Daniken, the movie Knowing and other interpretations of ancient depictions of encounters with the divine in terms of extraterrestrials, of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Two students have already posted over on the course blog about the subject, one asking whether ancient prophets would be judged mentally ill if they lived today, the other focusing on this topic in the wider context of how we deal with the incomprehensible.

I can readily imagine ancient Greek polytheists being delighted if the Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” actually happened. One possible response, after all, would be to rejoice and say “See, science has finally proven that the Greek myths really happened!” But I suspect that most Christians view von Daniken’s suggestion that Ezekiel 1, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and other stories are “scientifically plausible” and involved aliens as detracting from rather than supporting their faith. It is interesting to reflect on why this might be so - especially when the attempt to read modern science into Genesis 1 rather than Ezekiel 1 is embraced far more readily.
So let me ask readers of this blog a question an atheist once asked me: If it turned out that “everything in the Bible happened as it says it did,” the only difference being that the being who reveals himself and accomplishes these things is a highly evolved intelligence that arose through natural processes over the course of many universes, how if at all would that affect your faith? Would you worship such a being? Why or why not? Would you consider this to scientifically prove the Bible true, or to undermine it, and once again why?

  • John Hobbins

    I worship my Mom. She is, I believe, a highly evolved intelligence that arose through natural processes over the course of many universes. So I don't see a problem here.More seriously, I love the climactic sense of Spielberg's epic because Christian worship at its best, with the organ fully resonating, and/or a simple flute solo is simply us trying to communicate with a Being beyond ourselves through music.

  • Robert Cornwall

    I remember, way back in the 70s, the Van Daniken books and tv shows — before TLC, Discovery, History Channel, et al were there to broadcast theories such as his. It's an intriguing idea — Stargate SG1 and movie, surely picks up on this possibility.You know, I don't have an answer to the question. It's possible, but its hypothetical. The Stargate thesis is that we're masters of our own destiny. If I follow Col. O'Neil, then I guess if such an eventuality turned up, maybe I'd not worship. But, then again . . .

  • Keika

    If this Intelligent Being 'proved' that 'He was the Father of my fathers' then I would worship him as my Father in Heaven. If am I not the seed of this entity, then I won't bow down before it.

  • John W. Morehead

    Now this is an interesting topic. Aliens and lost civilizations as biblical hermeneutic, and the original Star Trek for faith assessment. I love it.

  • Country Parson

    It's what I call a cute question capable of engaging one's imagination for a time. If such a creature(s) was behind it all, I would want to interrogate him/her/it to discover from whence it came and the source of its knowledge and wisdom. Oh wait, that's part of yet another B movie plot.CP

  • Anonymous

    I'm assuming your atheist friend considers natural processes to be mindless (in other words, he or she is not some sort of panpsychist.)I would worship whatever is 1) of ultimate value and 2) ultimate causation. If the biblical God turned out to be a highly evolved intelligence which evolved from natural processes, I would say that wasn't God.I would worship whatever brought that evolved being into being, and I would presume there was some sort of being or state of ultimate value and ultimate causation/responsibility behind nature, and anything nature evolves.Even beings smarter than me . . .

  • Scott F

    My birth seems to have been lacking in the compulsion to worship whatever it was that created me. I don't understand what it is that makes it necessary to worship a creator-god. Such a being should be judged according to it's merits and actions. My own father was a bit of a psych job and frequently absent. My attitude toward him is largely one of indifference. Worship/Love is earned. Any alien being who demonstrated herself as the ultimate cause would have some questions to answer followed by a possibly frosty relationship.

  • James Pate

    I'd rather worship the source of all things than a SPACE ALIEN!!! :D

  • mikew1584

    I used to be a fan of these ancient astronaut theories. i got out of ti because I realized that all the things that Ezekiel was describing could be found in the representations of angels and gods in his culture, and a mystic need not have a real object before them to make them believe that they've sen something. There is of course no more evidence for aliens performing the miracles of the Bible than an intelligence that controls reality, and why would aliens be so concerned about Israel? Do the Bibles teachings sound like some thing an alien would teach? And why is it so different than what they taught everyone else they built pyramids and monoliths for?To the questions, is some super advanced alien came into contact with us, while we could learn a lot from it, I wouldn't think it was God. God is the originator of the laws of nature and anything no matter how powerful or advanced that arouse from them couldn't really be called God. If such a being were truly wise it would realize to that it isn't God since it is at the mercy of the laws of nature. If it turned out that an alien did perform the miracles of the Bible it would reaffirm or challenge my faith. No being is God to me, it is the principles that define goodness and reality that are God. If a being actually came down from the sky and gave Moses the ten commandments, it would still be held accountable to the principles we define as good and just. No being, no matter how powerful, can define these terms.

  • Cameron

    This question is skirted around in the Stargate mythos. There you have a race of technologically advanced creatures (the Goa'uld) who use their technology to fool humans into thinking they are gods. The Stargate team spend a lot of their time convincing the galaxy that they aren't gods, just very naughty boys.Things get more complicated when they come across a group of highly evolved 'ascended beings' that appear to be immortal and have an incredible amount of power that is most certainly god-like. Some of these beings recognise that this power could be abused and thus refuse to have anything to do with humans. The rest, however, come to rely on human worship to increase their power further. It takes two seasons to kill these nasty beings off and convince the denizens of two (count 'em, two!) galaxies that they are only creatures.There is very little discussion about whether or not these ascended beings can be considered 'gods.' There are veiled references to the (Christian?) God at times, but there is no discussion about his place or power. He seems quite orthogonal to the proceedings in our galaxy. I'm assuming this is a pragmatic thing—they do just enough to make sure that there is room for Yahweh, and that he is bigger than anything in the created order.

  • Daniel O

    That's a really interesting question.. it took me about two seconds to answer though…. and that is I would not consider them gods as they are creatures like me…. I would still think there is room for a life giver though.Which brought me to think, don't know if you guys are aware but here in the UK aliens have been on the news as part of the Royal Society's meetings on Extraterretial Inteligence. One of the speakers (can't remember the name) said that aliens would most probably be similar to us in societal and emotional making. Which made me wonder, if we made contact with an advanced alien intellgence(from another planet, galaxy, dimension)and turns out they hold religous believes similar to ours, would you (Christians) consider this to be a reaffirmation and why/why not? and would you (atheists) consider this to be a challenge to your beliefs and why/why not?