I’m a sucker for extraterrestrials. I loved reading conspiracy theory books about Area 51 and Project Blue Book when I was younger. I even faked a very convincing UFO photograph utilizing a discarded hubcap I found in a field. And of course, the movies.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind was on Turner Classic Movies the other night (people give me strange looks when I sculpt my mashed potatoes at dinner). I prefer the more aggressive alien movies like Independence Day and the TV show Falling Skies, but it’s nice to have a balance. Heck, I even watch the comedy romp Paul when it comes on.
There was one scene in Paul that never sat right with me. Kristen Wiig plays a jittery Christian who is only a few inches away from brainwashed-cult-fanatic. She spouts some very Bible Belt-inspired phrases in dealing with the intrusion of three aliens into her narrow worldview, although only one of the aliens is actually from outer space. See, the others are two nerds from England, and they’re technically aliens since they’re not from the USA, so it’s like a play on words…never mind…
Anyway, the scene in question involves the alien named Paul placing his hand on Kristen Wiig’s forehead and transferring all of his spacey knowledge into her brain. It’s quite a shock to her system and instantaneously convinces her that her Christian beliefs are a total sham. This in turn prompts her to start groping people and use foul language, but that’s neither here nor there.
Every time I watch that scene, I wonder: why does the existence of Paul negate a belief in God? Would proof of intelligent alien life end the world’s religions? If Klaatu landed in Central Park, what exactly would that mean for us as Christians?
This debate is nothing new, and so far, its only fuel is speculation. Skeptics and supporters point to Bible verses that could either be talking about invading hordes from other planets or demonic forces running wild across the Earth (Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 13:5, Revelation 9:7-11, etc.). The Bible does not explicitly refer to life on other planets, or even implicitly for that matter. From a strictly Scriptural perspective, it appears that this planet is the only world in God’s universe with intelligent life, and all other entities live in the supernatural dimension (angels, demons, those who have died). Does this mean there are no aliens? Logically it does not, just as the Bible does not mention black holes or string theory but that is not an argument against these concepts.
Secular scientists take the existence of alien life as a given. I mean, I would too if I started from an atheistic viewpoint. Have you seen that photo making the rounds on the internet recently, the one being labeled as “the largest photo ever taken”? It’s a close-up of a chunk of the night sky and it is staggering. Thousands of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, all contained within a tiny fragment of the sky. Statistically speaking, if life could develop by chance here on Earth, it’s preposterous to think that the same thing wouldn’t happen on at least one of the innumerable worlds out there. Of course, the crux of this argument is exactly how life came to exist on this world, but that’s another discussion.
One thing is clear from the Scriptures – that God is Lord of all creation. If aliens did exist, they would be created by God. Their existence would surely be a head-scratcher but that wouldn’t be enough to make me forsake my faith. But would they be cursed by man’s sin, since “all of creation groans” (Romans 8:22)? If they had the ability to traverse the galaxy, they would have to be highly intelligent and likely made in the image of God as we are. Would it be fair for them to be cursed by our transgressions? Would they be fallen of their own accord? Would they even be fallen at all?
These questions are entirely unanswerable in our present reality, and it’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole in this debate. The discovery of intelligent alien life, or any life at all, would certainly send the world into a tizzy, but it’s not an automatic stake in the heart of a theistic belief system, though many people certainly hope it would be. Right now, there are hundreds of brilliant people anxiously searching the stars and scanning the radio waves, desperately yearning for contact like a lovesick damsel in a fairy tale looking out her window for the handsome prince to come and make her dreams come true. They’re all looking for the answer to one simple question: are we alone in the universe?
The answer is just as simple: no, we’re not. And we don’t need a telescope to find out.