1/11/2007

It's Life, Jim...

"Greetings, Earthling! How would you like to play 'Probe the human' on my saucer?"

"You can't fool me. There are no aliens. You're probably just a demon or something."

"I've been called worse, Earthling. Why do you say there aren't any aliens?"

"Because in his new book, No, There Aren't Any Aliens, Idiot, Rev. Whimsy proves there aren't. See, I've got the 'For Dummies' edition and everything."

"I believe the reverend is singing a different tune these days."

"Yeah? Why?"

"Because I let my apprentice do the probing. The reverend swears like a sailor when you get the probe crosswise..."


Can we write about ETs from a biblical standpoint? First, a couple pages to check:

"Alien Ideas"
Summary: Historically, it's generally been the atheists who have pushed for aliens as "proof" of a random, God-free universe, though some Christians have argued that God could have created other planets and peoples.

Intelligent Life in Outer Space
Summary: ETs are unbiblical. Period.

I'm going to respond to the assertions in the second source, though the first one is deeper and more thoughtful. The main points are

1. The angels, man, and animals are the only intelligent creations of God.

This is simply asserted, never proved. 'Nuff said.

2. The Earth, Man's home, is the center of Creation.
a. It was created before the stars.

Not necessarily true. Look carefully at the latter passage: it does not say, "Then he made the stars"; it says, "He also made the stars." But when? Right at that moment? Or untold ages before? Job 38: 6-7 may be taken to mean that the stars were already there. This isn't necessarily true, but it is possible, and the argument assumes no other possibility. The position is therefore weakened. (Not disproved, of course--but weakened I think beyond reasonable dogmatism.)

Yet even if the stars weren't created until Day Four, this means nothing: neither was our star (the Sun). Why couldn't God have simply thrown a master switch somewhere, so that our Day Four and the Tregellians' Day Four coincided? (You know the Tregellians--the little green guys with the pink tufts on their gorks.)

b. The stars' fate is linked to Earth's (2 Peter 3: 7-10, Revelation 21:1), so Earth is central.

Isn't this like arguing that God isn't competent, so he can't keep more than one ball in the air at once? Remember what I suggested earlier about God turning on all the stars simultaneously? Well, could not he who knows the end from the beginning and who knows our days before even one has occurred, set things up so that all the lights go out at the same time? No human could do that, but this is God, and I dislike any argument that assumes he isn't competent enough to do X.

As to the proper frame of reference, one of God's basic characteristics is that he doesn't tell us what we don't need to know. If there is another earth out there, why should he bother to tell us? And since the Bible relates his dealings with us, why should it mention any other beings at all--if they exist? This boils down to an argument from silence. By a similar approach, we could perhaps argue that the Bible is specifically for the Old World--not for the Americas, Australia, etc., which are not mentioned at any point.

3. It "clearly seems" the the destruction of other worlds is based on his plan for Earth-dwellers, which would be unfair to inhabitants of those other worlds.

"Clearly seems" is like a definite maybe: they're dressing up a possibility as a virtual certainty, and the pants don't fit. Again, could not God arrange cosmic co-occurrences as he does earthly ones? Remember, nothing surprises God. He can plan for coincidences millions or billions of years in advance, if he wishes.

When Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-22 that all "creation was subjected to futility," "creation" probably has to do with the earth proper. After all, when God wanted to give the place a good cleaning, he used a flood that destroyed the earth but probably had no effect on the solar system, much less the rest of the universe. (For that matter, if ALL creation was subjected to futility, that means that Heaven was so affected--for it too was created.)

4. We have been given dominion over the stars (Psalm 8, Deuteronomy 4:19).

Psalm 8 doesn't prove we have dominion over the heavens: Verses three and six are from very different parts of the psalm. The idea of vv 3-5 is, "Wow! This place is so huge, I'm amazed you can even see us!" Verse six logically (and I believe even grammatically) groups with seven and eight. The punctuation in the NIV is correct here:

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: [Note the colon: verse seven and eight function as extended appositives for the general terms "works" and "everything" in verse six.]
7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swims the paths of the seas.

In other words, what has been put in our power is the animal world. (Of course, in the NT this is expanded to include the cosmos as a whole, but there the ruler of verse six is Jesus, who, as God Incarnate, definitely has powers beyond this earth.)

Likewise, Deuteronomy 4:19 doesn't give us a deed to the stars. The thought here is simply that the sun, moon, and stars are there for anyone to use (in figuring time: Gen. 1:14). (This does not contradict the earlier possibility about the stars perhaps predating the earth: they don't provide much light in themselves, and without the sun and moon they are pretty much useless for figuring time.) He is saying, "Watch out! Those things aren't gods, they're just a big clock in the sky that anyone can check as needed." I admit I'm a bit puzzled by the KJV use of "give...as a heritage"; the Hebrew (which could be transliterated as "chalaq," though I despise using "ch" for the letter "cheth") in this context implies distributing something for common use, i.e., making the heavenly bodies available to all celestial clock-watchers.

Does any of this prove that aliens exist? No. For what it's worth, I suspect that we are alone in this universe. But that's a speculation, just like contact with aliens. So the option remains available. But if we do have aliens in our fiction, what does that mean biblically? Tune in next time for "...But Not as We Know It":

"Wow! I can't believe it! I've finally been abducted! Hey, you aren't going to probe me or anything, are you?"

"No, human. We have come hundreds of lightyears to share the secrets of universal peace with you."

"Hey, cosmic! What are they?"

"Have you ever heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?"

"Okay, you can just beam me down again."

8 comments:

Coach Culbertson said...

So I was in church last night, and we were singing that "You are the Famous One" song. There's a line in the song- "Great is Your fame
beyond the earth." Hmmm. Does Chris Tomlin know something we don't? Because really, what's beyond the earth? If someone or something is famous, doesn't that imply that there's something or someone out there to know about this One? Is there a hidden agenda in the song, brought about by a conspiracy in the church to slowly leak information about the presence of God-loving evangelical extraterrestrials out there?

Not saying that Chris Tomlin is scripture or anything, but sure does make one think about what one might be singing in church :)

Andrea Graham said...

LOL. Loved your close. Reminded me of Adam's "Average Ordinary Alien."

Daniel I Weaver said...

As always, Steve #1, a great piece here. You ground everything in scripture and make strong, valid arguements. There is indeed no guarantee that life exists or does not exist beyond our earth, and I can't think of any reason why we shouldn't be free to speculate. After all, when I think about aliens, my thoughts turn to the simple questions like, are they like us, what do they look like, how has God communicated with them, etc. Finding life outside our earth certainly wouldn't disprove God for me.

Looking forward to your next installment,

God Bless,
Daniel I Weaver
www.danieliweaver.com
www.myspace.com/danieliweaver

Anonymous said...

Great topic. On a loosely related tangent, I've heared some people weigh in on the cosmological evolution/creation debate and say that God did create the entire universe in 4004 BC and everything in set up to look like it's very old. In my opinion, that makes God a liar. If we can see hundreds of thousands of light years away then that light was created, according to God's laws of the universe, hundreds of thousands of years ago. If we say that He just set it all up to look that way, what's to say that He didn't just create the Universe ten minutes ago? I say give God the big bang and all the permutations of His physical universe that fall into place after that.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you hit them all, Steve.

It's interesting and fun to think aliens exist--but I hate to think how many people will blame abduction by UFOs when the rapture happens.

Donna

Andrea Graham said...

Technically, he created the earth (at least in the form we're familiar with today) about six thousand years ago, beyond that is speculation. I suppose the universe could be the answer to what he'd been doing for the past eons. I'm sure science has (or will come up with eventually) a clarification on what "Formless" meant, though if my memory serves, the scriptures say the whole planet was submerged under water.

Regardless, the theory he did everything at once, while extra biblical, wouldn't make God a liar, because we have such and such evidence that says... it means we're misreading the evidence.

But you can still have god working on the universe for eons and saving the best (life) for last.

Because otherwise, you're declaring, God and the bible a liar. Evolution and God are contrary to each other and incompatible. Either the bible is true, or evolution is. Pick one.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Rice--nice job. Are you ever going to do a post on Bombadil?

Ooops, wrong genre for this post.

Steve Rice said...

I tend toward what is sometimes called "Mature Creationism," no just because it avoids the foodfights and wedgies of the immature crowd, but because it emphasizes some worthwhile facts.

In other words, I think that if the earth needed to be billions of years old to support human life, God created it billions of years old. Think about it: how old did Adam look when he drew his first breath? Was he an adult? A teen? A child? No matter how old he looked, there would have been the appearance of prior existence: we assume an adult was once a child.

Is this deceptive? No more than any miracle. Some people didn't believe the man born blind was the sightless beggar they knew--not because God lied to them, but because their preconceptions deceived them. So if God wanted light from several lightyears' distance to appear immediately in the sky, that was his privilege.

The date of Creation is a similar matter: can we derive valid chronologies from genealogies, or were they (as typical in Semitic culture) crafted for purposes we no longer understand, with gaps in them?

Compare Matthew's genealogy with Luke's, or for that matter with the Kings List in 1 Chron 3. The generation count Matthew gives is inaccurate in one sense, but it doesn't undermine my faith in biblical inerrancy because I believe that Matthew had another purpose in mind than genealogy proper. What he truly claimed was true; what he seemed to claim was not.

Steve