Two weeks ago, I stirred up a little bit of debate by asking all of you, our humble readers, what you thought about aliens. Is it possible that God has created life on some alien world? Possibly even sentient alien life? You guys impressed me, putting together some very cogent arguments, some of which I agreed with, some which I didn’t. But one of the commenters named Andy summed up the dilemma like this:
If they do exist, will they have souls and be capable of sin?
If so, does Jesus’ death and resurrection cover them?
Or, do they need Jesus to come for them as well?
The other comments covered the subject pretty thoroughly, so much so that I hesitate to post my thoughts, partially because some of you said it better than I could, and also because I’m scared of getting trounced. But then, I’ve never been one to back down from a bad idea. Just ask my wife.
That being said, before we can tackle Andy’s excellent questions, I think we have to answer a bigger one: does the Bible allow for the existence of alien life, sentient or non-? As many of your rightly pointed out, the Bible is silent on this subject. There is no mention of aliens within the Bible (unless you take a very liberal and loose view of the events of Ezekiel 1, which I don’t). In some ways, we may be tempted to modify the old Sunday School song a little:
There’s no aliens, this I know,
‘Cuz the Bible doesn’t say so.
But here’s the thing: I don’t think that’s a valid argument. Yes, there is no mention of aliens in any of the creation accounts, but that doesn’t mean that God couldn’t have made them.
Let me show you what I mean. Grab your Bible and turn to Genesis 1. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now, answer me these two questions:
1) On what day did God create microscopic lifeforms?
2) On what day did God create the angels?
Two weeks ago, some of you brought up the question of angels and I thank you for it. We know that angelic beings exist, and yet nowhere in the Bible do we get a clear reference to when or how these beings were created. I’m not so sure I buy the whole “spirits of alien beings” that someone suggested, but for all I know, that could be it. It seems from later passages (Job 38:7) that the angels were present during the creative process, but other than that, the Bible is largely silent about their genesis. But angelology is not my forte and is beyond the scope of this series, so we’ll set that aside for now.
But what about those germs and viruses and everything else that you need a microscope to see. When did God create them? The Bible is silent on that subject. As a matter of fact, they’re never brought up at all. And yet we know that they exist. We know that God must have created them, since God created everything, even if they’re not mentioned in the Bible. I think a similar case can be made for the possibility of alien life. Just because the Bible doesn’t say anything about them doesn’t mean that God couldn’t have created them. The silence of Scripture just tells us that God didn’t feel it necessary to share that information with the ancient Israelites, the original readers of Genesis.
Now one might be tempted to argue that the existence of alien life is more theologically important than the existence of microscopic organisms. As Andy pointed out, if we do encounter intelligent alien life, we’ll be faced with the question of their souls and their status before God. It would have been nice if God had given us some guidance on that subject. But let’s face it, this isn’t the only time that we’ve been left with no direct guidance on a sticky theological problem.
Take cloning, for example. Are clones people? Do they have souls? The Bible doesn’t say one word about cloning, and yet, as science marches toward a future where the cloning of humans could become commonplace, those are questions we’ll need to answer. We’ll have to consult the whole of Scripture to try to discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect. I would suggest we’re facing a similar dilemma when it comes to aliens.
Now, as some of you have pointed out, the universe could be devoid of sentient, intelligent life (except for us, naturally, although there are days when I wonder if the exclusion is warranted). It could very well be that God needed a lot of space to get things “just right” for Earth and her inhabitants. If that’s the case, I won’t lose any sleep over it. But isn’t it a lot more fun to wonder and wander and speculate?
Next time, we’ll talk about that pesky question of if aliens would have souls. Until then, let me have it. I’ll break out my asbestos undies.