“So what?” a practical-minded Christian might say about the series of What Aliens Teach Us About God. “Talking about how aliens are like God and at the same time a substitute for God, what good is that information? What can I do with it?”
Nerds like me and presumably other readers of Speculative Faith love knowledge for its own sake, so we might find the “so what?” question upsetting. “Because knowing is cool. And fun. And awesome!” we might instinctively reply.
But the practical-minded person isn’t entirely wrong. Knowledge should not be limited to “awesome.” It should also be useful.
So how do we use the information this series discussed?
Before we answer that question, let’s review a bit:
- Part 1 introduced the topic of this series and talked about fictional aliens who are essentially human beings in space (with relatively minor changes).
- Part 2 talked about the times science fiction manages to make aliens who are truly very different from humans, who at least a little bit mirror the transcendent nature of God.
- Part 3 was about being in the image of God–that it does not mean God is just like us. (The transcendent God mostly isn’t like us.)
- Part 4 looked at “ancient aliens” and found that such aliens were often seen as being “essentially humans beings in space” in the past, though at the same time have been offered as a means to explain events in humanity’s legends and origins.
- Part 5 looked at people abducted by UFOs and noticed how different these reports are from fictional aliens–such meetings are in fact more like hauntings and seem to be the work of dark spiritual powers, at least at times.
- Part 6 talked about how the search for intelligent life and the deep longing some people feel to meet aliens, coupled with their belief that meeting aliens would very much help the human race, is really a misapplied longing for the transcendence of God.
- Part 7 was on how people who long to meet aliens actual do hope to find something greater than “essentially human beings in space”–they long for transcendence–but reject the transcendence of God as too intrusive.
Can you see from the above summary that our culture is dropping aliens into the human natural desire for transcendence?
Some people feel that aliens are responsible for the awe-inspiring legends of our past. Some seek to meet aliens in the future as a means of transforming our race into a version of us they believe would be better. Some consider the idea of an “empty” universe, one without aliens, with horror–they deeply long to meet something “out there” (but the universe is not empty, since God permeates all space). Some say they are meeting these aliens now, but what they report are mostly horrific accounts that fall in line with being psychologically disturbed and/or under demonic oppression.
The practical-minded Christian perhaps might recoil in shock at this point. He or she might think that the entire topic of aliens ought to be avoided by Christians, because it’s evident that many concepts people have about aliens–and especially those who say they’re meeting aliens now–are falling for a ploy of our spiritual enemy (if you need me to spell out who that is, it’s S A T A N).
Well–such a thought isn’t entirely wrong. We can see that aliens can be a tool of our enemy, so we should be alert to that idea when we see aliens portrayed in films and other media. Being forewarned is a good thing–it helps us not to fall into foolish or ungodly thinking.
But this series isn’t just about providing a warning. Not even close.
I would say that the current obsession with aliens is an opportunity for Christians. A big opportunity.
It’s a chance to talk about our big, awesome, transcendent God. While some people may long for the “human touch” Jesus provided, others are showing through their interest in aliens that they are hungry for the transcendent God, the God different from us, the God we call call with total justification, the alien God (provided you understand what we mean by “alien”).
For those of us who are ambassadors for Christ, who should “be all things to all people” (I Cor. 9:22)–we ought to preach to those longing to hear more about Jesus what they long to hear–but those substituting aliens in the places that belong to God ought to be told that our God is not an old man sitting on a throne in the sky. He is beyond our understanding; his presence fills the universe; he is in everything, yet separate from all else other than himself; he is without the need of an origin and has no natural end. God is the master of time and space, the creator of quantum mechanics and all the other mind-boggling aspects of nature–he is the Transcendent One.
God is who you are longing for, oh star gazer looking into the depths of space with a sense of anguish at the thought we humans might be alone in this vast universe. We are not alone. God is both there and here.
While we humans in fact have applied our imaginations in trying to understand and even to portray God, God is not a product of our imaginations. Michelangelo used his imagination to portray God as an man in the heavens–in this he was wrong. Human physical form is not actually part of the nature of God.
But Michelangelo’s masterpiece got one thing exactly right: The hand reaching out from God to Adam. God does reach out to human beings as we are. We cannot help but misunderstand him to a degree, but he nonetheless cares for us–and further, oddly enough, he sends human beings as witnesses of who he is.
Yes, practical-minded Christian, be alert to dangers involved with false ideas about aliens. But also be aware of the opportunity. People long for that which is alien because they’re seeking a transcendence that can be found in our God, a being truly alien to us. Without attacking their interest in aliens, we need to let them know who is the alien they actually are looking for, the being who they are in fact ignorantly seeking.
We ambassadors for Christ need to tell this to the world that in a way they will hear and understand. That’s why we should care.
Readers of this series, please share any thoughts or questions you may have on this post and this entire series. Please comment especially if you feel this series could have added something else or should have perhaps taken a different approach at some point. I’m keenly interested in your thoughts on how to improve upon what I’ve said here (I believe I’ll write a book on this topic in the future, God willing).