The truth is out there, and we’re gonna try to find it together.
Whether it’s reports of strange lights in the sky, declassified government documents, or the new smash podcast High Strange, the little green guys from space (or gray, depending on who you ask) are gaining unprecedented ground in our collective consciousness.
To be short—nothing really. The Bible doesn’t specifically address the possibility of life outside our home planet. Yes, there are a few key passages that Ancient Aliens wants you to believe are referring to aliens in the Bible (like the inaugural vision of Ezekiel in chapter 1 or Jesus’ remarks about “sheep from another fold” in John 10:6), but those interpretations feel like major contortions at best.
At its core, the Bible is a book about God and his interactions with life on earth. While the story occasionally peaks its head above the surface of our pale blue dot to bask in God’s creative grandeur (like Psalm 8 or Psalm 19), its major focus drops the “extra” and tends to stay pretty terrestrial.
WE SHOULDN’T TAKE THE ABSENCE OF ALIENS IN THE BIBLE TO MEAN NONEXISTENCE.
Because, well, the Bible is absent about lots of things. There’s nothing in the Bible about the Internet, DNA, or the airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow… and yet we know and love all three of those things (that’s a Monty Python joke, Mom, just keep reading).
However, the Bible is perfectly clear that life beyond humanity does exist. There are living beings that occupy time and space with influence over our lives; they just don’t make it a point to visit Roswell regularly. The good ones, who serve God, we call angels; the not-so-good ones, we call demons. (And ‘no,’ I don’t think aliens are demons—or angels—in disguise.)
But even if the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about the possibility of UFOs or interplanetary visitors, scripture still speaks loud and clear on topics that could (and should) inform how we think about the intersection of aliens and faith. With all due respect to my favorite alien investigators, ‘the truth’ is not ‘out there’. It’s actually inside that old book.
Enough preamble; it’s time for probing…the Bible. Below are four scriptural truths to inform (and possibly challenge) your thinking on the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
4 SCRIPTURAL TRUTHS FOR NAVIGATING THE BIBLE AND ALIENS
#1: GOD IS CREATOR… SPACE IS BIG… WE ARE SMALL
The Bible is clear from the first two pages: God is the driving force behind everything we see (and even the things we don’t). The very first sentence in the Bible says:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
For the English majors out there, you’ll notice that heavens in that passage are plural, as is the original Hebrew word from which it was translated. We could make conjectures about why that is, but I tend to think it’s to signify the vast expanse of what God has made. Just as monarchs use plural pronouns to signal their power and prowess, the original word for everything above the earth is plural.
That’s just a fancy way of saying the obvious: space is huge… and mankind has only managed to explore an infinitesimally small amount of it. But what we have seen is striking. The thing is utterly beautiful. Seriously, go Google ‘James Webb Space Telescope’. It’s like God built us a home inside the Louvre and then put that inside the Grand Canyon. Everywhere we look, we’re surrounded by masterpieces—on the surface of the earth and well beyond it.
The Bible makes the case that creation, from cicadas to the cosmos, is meant to push our eyes beyond what we can see. Paul, an early leader in the church, explains that even though we can’t see God, creation speaks of Him. In Romans 1:20, he writes, “God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived…. in the things that have been made.” Hundreds of years earlier, King David was so enraptured by creation that he poetically gave it the ability to worship. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” he wrote in Psalm 19, “The sky proclaims the work of His hands.”
The immensity and beauty of creation, especially space, draw me to God in awe…and it reminds me how itty bitty we truly are. David expresses the same feeling in Psalm 8:3-4:
When I observe your heavens, The work of your fingers, The moon and the stars which you set in place, What is man that You remember him?
God knows no limits except the ones He chooses to observe. What the combined knowledge of history understands of science, physics, or quantum mechanics (or even theology for that matter) is only the smallest sliver of a much larger pie that only God can serve.
I’m not saying that God created intelligent life on other planets, just that that topic doesn’t have to fit into my little boxes of understanding to be true. But one thing I know I can nail down: if there is life on other planets, God is the author of it. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul makes that abundantly clear. Writing about Jesus, he says:
“He is the image of the invisible God… * *By Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, The visible and the invisible… All things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.”(Colossians 1:15-17)
In summation: God is the creator of all life on this planet, as well as any that potentially lies beyond it.
#2: YOU’RE KIND OF A BIG DEAL
There’s a good kind of humility that comes from considering the immensity of space, but it’s counterbalanced by another scriptural truth: you’re pretty dang important. No, there’s no Bible passage that specifically says, “Thou art a big deal,” but well before the world knew of Ron Burgundy, God proved it through his actions.
You were born on this incredible planet hurtling through space…and it just so happens to be the very place God chose to make Himself known, the place where heaven comes crashing into human existence. If there was ever an interdimensional portal, it was Earth.
It started with a garden (Genesis 1 & 2), where the Divine and the human lived alongside each other. When that went sideways, God adopted a childless, elderly couple and made them into a nation that would belong to Him (Genesis 12). He gave this nation plans for a tabernacle and then a temple, where His spirit would once more dwell among them (Exodus 40:34; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3). But God wasn’t content to stay behind four walls.
He came, in the form of man, to a little backwater town called Bethlehem (Merry Christmas). He lived among people—touched, healed, laughed, ate, cried, and worked with them. He died, came back to life, and imparted those people with power (Acts 1:8). And His plan is to come back again, making this planet (yes, this one… the one you live on) the seat of His eternal kingdom (Revelation 21-22).
How lucky are you that you’re an earthling? It boggles the mind.
But it also goes well beyond just the planet you inhabit—God has things to say about you. Yes, you, specifically. Like that you were created in His image, reflecting His divine nature (Genesis 1:27). That He knit you together, intricately weaving you into a work of art (Psalm 139:13-14). The prophet Zephaniah says God sings over you, and Isaiah says God calls you by name, claiming you as His own (Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 43:1-5).
The New Testament letters say you’re a masterpiece, allowed to approach God’s throne with confidence, the very place where the Divine is pleased to dwell (Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 3:12, Galatians 2:20). The God who created blackholes and the outer reaches of the universe calls you His child (1 John 3:1).
But of course, the true value of anything—you, your car, a limited edition comic book—comes from the price someone is willing to pay for it. Romans 5:8 takes that check to the bank, insisting that Christ willingly died for you while you were undeserving. How about one more time, for the people in the back? You were valuable enough for God’s son to die in order to rescue you. That’s value beyond anything else on this planet.
Wait, I thought this was about the Bible and aliens? Right.
One of the most frequent arguments against extraterrestrial life, at least from followers of Christ, is that life on other planets would lessen the importance of life on Earth. Which in my experience, doesn’t make too much sense, because I’m a parent of three kids. Did kid #2 lessen my love for kid #1? Of course not. If anything, it enhanced it because each of them reflects parts of my nature (and my wife’s) in different but beautifully complementary ways. Kid #3 did the same.
If God wanted to plant sentient life halfway around the corner from Alpha Centauri, that doesn’t make me less consequential. If anything, it makes me more so because now I’m forced to confront a question of staggering importance: how am I representing the God who made me?
#3 YOU HAD ONE JOB
My non-scientific survey of alien movies calculates that nearly 90% of them involve this plot: aliens show up, battles ensue; we eventually win, but a lovable side character gets sacrificed in the process.
Why do most of our cultural narratives about the possibility of extraterrestrial life jump right to cataclysmic battles and the Fresh Prince face-punching aliens? For followers of Christ, the Bible’s pretty clear about our role in regard to other life (human or alien): we represent Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul gives you a weighty and diplomatic title—ambassador. You’re an envoy of God’s love; a diplomat sent out to spread his grace; a representative of Christ Himself. What’s the King’s expectation of His ambassadors? Reconciliation.
God… through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… entrusting us with the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us… be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
I realize all this lives strictly in the hypothetical camp since we don’t even know if alien life exists. But for the sake of argument, it’s worth noting that every follower of Christ is considered His ambassador to the world around them. I’ll be the first to admit—sometimes I do a good job representing him, and other times, I do a really awful job.
But if E.T. did ever show up on planet Earth, I hope the people of God would be the first to recognize that our primary role is representing Christ well. We’d need to ask ourselves deeply important questions: does this non-human life know God? What do they know of Jesus? Did God do a redemptive work on their home planet, as He did through the sacrifice of Jesus on earth?
If not, then we have the most important information available to this species—reconciliation with God is possible.
To creation that is groaning under the weight of separation, we literally have one job: show (and tell) the love of God. That’s why we’re sent out as envoys in this world. Why we’re made representatives, why we’re named as ambassadors. That’s going to be rather hard to do if our first reaction to anything we don’t understand is “shoot it with a laser gun.”
In Romans 8, Paul paints our reconciliation work in a wide stroke. It’s worthwhile to consider what he means by “all” and the ramifications for you as an ambassador.
All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:19-20) (NLT)
#4: THEY WALK AMONG US… (KIND OF)
Considering the possibility and ramifications of extraterrestrial life can be a helpful thought exercise, but it won’t be more than that until it moves from your head into your hands. It’s the things you do, not the things you think, that give your life power.
Wait? How am I supposed to take action when we don’t even know if extraterrestrial life exists? Here’s the M. Night Shyamalan twist ending: they’re already here.
There are aliens all around you. They’re your neighbors; friends at work; the helpful cashier at the grocery store; the kids’ soccer coach; even your mother-in-law. There was a time you were an alien too—maybe you still are.
To followers of Christ, sometimes it’s easy to forget that fact. I’ll raise my hand and say I’m guilty. I tend to live my life caught up in my own story and plans, oblivious to the aliens around me. Paul, seeing this in a church he cared deeply about, writes to shake them (and me) from slumber:
“Remember that you were at a time separated from Christ, alienated… having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
While I scroll through the Pentagon’s UFO report, actual people I know and love remain alienated from their source of hope—cut off from God. I waste time considering theoreticals about little green men and miss the actuals living on all sides of me.
I believe what we’ve said about aliens is true of everyone you’ll cross paths with today. God created them—the friendly ones, the hostile ones, the pretty ones, the cranky ones. God loves them as much as He loves you in a way that elevates their importance without diminishing yours. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re an ambassador of reconciliation. It’s our one job to show that life with God is better than alienation…and that it’s available right now.
That’s true about the neighbor who always leaves their trash cans out two days longer than they should. It’s true about your cousin, who won’t stop posting embarrassing things on Facebook. It’s true of the Democrat and the Republican; the American and the Chinese national; the rich and the poor.
There is hope, and it’s our job to bring it to all the aliens out there.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace… [that He] might reconcile us both to God… So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:13-14,16,19)
I write this to remind myself because I’m prone to miss the forest for the trees. I’d rather rewatch The X-Files and have stimulating conversations about the intersection of theology and extraterrestrials than actually incarnate the hope of a reconciled life to the people around me. But I have one job… and I actually believe God intends for me to do it.
The “aliens” are already here, but so is the truth that a life reconciled to our shared Creator is possible. The question is: can we stop shooting at them long enough to actually show it?
LAND THE STARSHIP
To quote the late, great, Bowie, could there really be a “starman, waiting in the sky?” Honestly, I have no idea. But yes, or no, my faith wouldn’t take a hit. Little green men or not, I would still believe a God of love created the universe, and is working (even using us) to reconcile all of creation back to Him.
If a UFO lands in my backyard tonight, I want to think I’d greet the inhabitants the same way I’d greet my neighbors Dave, or Bill, or Robyn. But in the meantime, I should be more concerned with how I’m showing love to the people who live around me, before I worry about visitors from outer space.
For followers of Christ, the biggest question isn’t what’s out there, but what’s inside of us, coming out everyday through our choices, words, and actions?
Space is dark, and Jesus was clear about what we are supposed to be.
You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14, 16) (NLT)
The aliens are everywhere. So “shine among them, like stars in the sky” (Philppians 4:15).
Turns out, the starman is actually you.