These are the sorts of questions that some Christian speculative fiction authors and exotheologians have wrestled with for centuries. While the Bible makes the idea of extraterrestrial life high improbable, some Christian leaders are telling folks that Bible tells us that Scripture makes aliens impossible and that, in fact, a absence of life elsewhere in the universe is an actual prediction of the Biblical worldview. This is overstatement of the worst sort. By now, a lot of you have read my most recent post answering Dr. Danny Faulkner’s article, “Is Belief in Alien Life Harmless?” in the Oct/Dec 2015 issue of Answers magazine, wherein Dr. Faulkner gives us the most recent example of this logical leap from “high improbable” to “prediction of the Bible.” If you haven’t, I encourage you to read it HERE. Especially since Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum is now promoting this same over-reaching argument via a new planetarium presentation called Aliens: Fact or Fiction?
My post generated a lot of opposition and even a little ridicule. That didn’t surprise me. I fully expected there to be some outrage against the idea that the Bible was not necessarily antithetical to Christianity, but what I did not expect from my fellow conservative Creationists was a knee-jerk rejection of my argument BEFORE they even read it! These are folks who are allegedly defending the authority of the same Bible that says: “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” [Proverbs 18:13] and, similarly, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” [John 7:24]. Some of them admitted they hadn’t bothered to read it or had only skimmed it before they began tossing out objections I’d already addressed in my article. Others simply evidenced that they hadn’t read it by failing to take my responses into account.
Based on the title alone, I had Christians emailing me to ask me if I believed in aliens. I even had one ask me if I was still a Christian because, to him, the very idea of extraterrestrials was evidence of rank atheistic evolution-ism. Other threw out really, really bad arguments like “Eve was the mother of all living, so no aliens allowed because she lived on Earth.” [What?! Does no one teach people to take context into account any more.] I had Christians telling me that if I just read Gary Bates’ Alien Intrusion, I’d understand where I’d went wrong. Several opined that aliens and UFOs were demons or fallen angels, especially folks who’d read Bates’ book. For the record, I’ve read Alien Intrusion and the logical fallacies it contained compelled me to write Strangers and Aliens as a rebuttal.
But none of these guys evidenced that they’d read the article they so fervently objected to because they kept saying I was telling people that Christians ought to believe extraterrestrials exist. For the record, my point was that, while aliens are unlikely to exist, Christians should not be dogmatic about a subject the Scriptures are themselves silent on. Again, almost no one seemed to get my point because they were busy trying to tell me that the Bible says there’s no aliens.
Have we lost the ability to engage in meaningful discourse?
My fear is that we have abandoned critical thought for the comfort of authorities. While I vigorously disagree with his assessment of Creationism, I can’t help that Roger Ebert was right when he worried that:
“We may be leaving an age of irony and entering an age of credulity. In a time of shortened attention spans and instant gratification, trained by web surfing and movies with an average shot length of seconds, we absorb rather than contemplate. We want to gobble all the food on the plate, instead of considering each bite. We accept rather than select.”
In fact, the most common objections I received could be categorized thus:
Arguments from authority. “You just need to read Alien Intrusion.” This is pretty much the same tactic we condemn in evolutionists when they tell us that if we’d just read a science textbook we’d finally understand evolution. [We understand it just fine; our objections aren’t based on ignorance.]
Arguments of irrelevant conclusions. An irrelevant conclusion is a fallacy in which someone’s argument may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question. A prime example is the argument that the “aliens” of modern UFO sightings and alien abduction stories are likely fallen angels. This argument is in itself valid, but it doesn’t address the question of whether extraterrestrial life exists at all.
Guilt by association. Polarized opposition based on the idea that aliens are an evolutionary concept or an associating belief in extraterrestrials with the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon and/or fallen angels and Satanic deception. This is also known as poisoning the well. Again, evolutionists made hold these views but that doesn’t mean they are false. For example, evolutionists and creationists alike affirm adaptation, speciation, mutation and other observable biological changes. We would be fools to deny these things simply because evolutionists also affirm them. Likewise, the question of whetehr extraterrestrials exists is completely separate from the issue of whether aliens have visited this planet and who might be behind the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon if extraterrestrials are not involved. Saying that all aliens are fallen angels is an attempt at dismissing the big question of extraterrestrial life by giving it a negative association with the Satanic deception we suspect is involved in the idea that aliens have visited earth.
Arguments from silence. “The Bible doesn’t mention aliens, therefore aliens don’t exist.” These are typically reductionist arguments that the Bible’s geocentric focus excludes the possibility of extraterrestrial life. “God created the heavens and the earth for man’s benefit…” This is typically coupled with an argument from incredulity, as mentioned above. A variant of this argument is that Jesus is described as the Last Adam not the Last Vulcan. Another version is the oft-repeated comment that Jesus was incarnated as the God-man, not the God-Klingon or God-Vulcan. The doctrine that Jesus is the God-man is a necessary inference from Scripture. The fact that Scripture is silent about extraterrestrials doesn’t mean that He hasn’t incarnated on other worlds.
Arguments from ignorance presented as a false dilemma. “We’ve found no evidence for extraterrestrials, therefore they do not exist.” Remember that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We may yet find such evidence in the future.
Arguments from personal incredulity. “What possible purpose could God have for creating aliens on other worlds?” the existence of extraterrestrial life is not dependent upon whether or not you can figure out what God’s purpose might be for creating them. I will say this, if we discover extraterrestrial life, it has a purpose [Ecclesiastes 3:1].
Appeals to equality. An appeal to equality is a fallacy based an assumed premise of equality. “If fallen aliens existed, not being of Adam’s bloodline they wouldn’t be able to be saved by Christ’s sacrifice. Does that sound fair?” Unfortunately, the Bible answers this question in one of the most-ignored passages relevant to the terrestrial question, “What about those who’ve never heard of Jesus or the Gospel?” Romans 9:14-25 reminds us that God is sovereign, showing mercy on those He will and hardening the hearts of others. In this, He is not unrighteous, precisely because it is impossible to condemn the Designer for making you. God’s will is based on His omniscience, and only God is wise enough to know all of these reasons. If fallen alien life existed, it would not matter whether we thought it was fair. More importantly, our perception of unfairness in no way prevents the possibility of extraterrestrial life, fallen or otherwise.
Non sequitur. Some arguments are fallacies because their conclusions do not naturally follow from the premises of the argument. We typically see an argument against the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life based on the idea that the effects of Adam’s Fall extended to the entire universe via the Dominion Mandate. This is true enough. The trouble comes when they insist that the effects of the Fall necessarily implies that intelligent extraterrestrials with a spiritual aspect would be imputed with Adam’s sin nature along with the effects of the Fall which the rest of non-Adamic creation suffers under; this imputed sin nature then requires Jesus to be born and sacrificed on alien worlds for their salvation. Yet it does not follow that just because proposed intelligent aliens with a spiritual nature suffer the universal effects of the fall that they also suffer what are often termed the “spiritual effects” of the Fall [i.e, separation for God, depravity, etc.], which might be more accurately termed the “sanguine effects” of the Fall. Keep in mind that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood precisely because of the curse that was place upon Adam and his descendants. Christ was required to incarnate as a kinsman-redeemer to forgive the sins of Adam and cleanse his bloodline. Aliens being exempt from Adam’s bloodline would be exempt from the need for salvation as much as the opportunity of salvation.
Arguments from special pleading. “God made man in His image, not ET.” It is assumed that being made in God’s image in synonymous with having a mind and a spiritual nature; some use this definition of being made in God’s image to say that the Bible only records that God made man in His image, not ET [argument from silence], and that extraterrestrials with intelligence and a spiritual aspect would be impossible from a Biblical worldview. What makes this a case of special pleading is that angels are exempted from this definition. If intelligence and a spiritual nature are what is meant by being made in man’s image, then angels certainly qualify¹ as much as proposed extraterrestrials. This is significant because fallen angels do not seem to require or warrant salvation, nor suffer death. This implies that either being made in God’s image means something other than intelligence and a spiritual nature, or that the only image bearer requiring a blood sacrifice for their sins are those who inherited the sanguine effects of Adam’s Fall.
Quote-mining. This is a fallacy where someone quotes a passage and applies it in a manner that is out-of-context with its intended meaning. Context is important, especially when dealing with the Bible. For example, some Christians defend their anti-alien position by quoting Genesis 3:20: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” and then claiming that this invalidates the idea of alien life because she lived here on Earth. Biologically speaking, Eve was only the mother of all living humans; the passages certainly doesn’t imply she was the mother of all living creatures, like bees and beets and gazelles, right? So if meant literally, this verse is saying she is the mother of all living people; if meant figuratively, Eve was being called a mother of all in the sense that someone might say they are their pet’s mother or in the sense that we might call her the Queen of Creation and Adam the King of Creation. In a figurative sense, Eve would still be the mother of all living things, even extraterrestrial life forms.
I could go on. All of these logical fallacies are committed by folks who are trying to tell us that, while the Bible is silent on the matter of extraterrestrial life, we can definitely say it does not exist based on Biblical principles. While I find the notion of alien life, especially the intelligent sort, to be extremely improbable, I advise caution in making dogmatic statements where the Scripture is silent. There is a vast divide between the highly improbable and the certainly impossible, and in this case it would require an act of omniscience to know with certainty that aliens do not exist. Telling folks that the Bible says what it has almost nothing to say on at all places a potential stumbling block to the Gospel if the thing we deny turns out to be true after all.
One of the reasons that I assert that Christians ought to exercise strong caution when declaring whether aliens exist or not is because the Church is Biblically described as the pillar and ground of truth [1 Timothy 3:15]. We serve one Who is The Truth, the Way and the Life [John 14:6], by Whom came grace and truth John 1:17]. We know this. We are also oft-reminded that we are to speak the truth in love [Ephesians 4:15].
Yet some Christians are trying to support certain truth claims with bad logic, even though they tell us to watch out for such fallacies in the arguments of evolutionists². Truth is not built upon logical fallacies. We cannot be the ground and pillar of truth we’re supposed to be if we build our doctrines or proposed Biblical predictions on logical fallacies. It may be that extraterrestrials do not exist; we dare not support a dogmatic view that they do not on such fallacies.
In this day and age, we all seek the certainty of a pat answer. We all want something to hang our hats on. Maybe the truest reason the Bible is silent on the subject of aliens is not that they don’t exist but rather that they don’t concern us. Rather than making dogmatic statements about something the Bible doesn’t clearly address, perhaps these well-intentioned Christian leaders should leave the subject of aliens to science fiction authors like myself.
- Bodie Hodge has noted that we cannot say dogmatically that angels are not made in God’s image for the very reason I mentioned. See https://answersingenesis.org/angels-and-demons/were-angels-created-in-the-image-of-god/.
- Dr. Jason Lisle has written a book on logical fallacies to watch out for from evolutionists called Discerning Truth. Ironically, he commits some of these same fallacies when stating that intelligent extraterrestrial life cannot exist. For example, see his arguments in Chapter 18 [“Are ETs & UFOs Real?”] from the New Answers Book: https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/alien-life/are-ets-ufos-real/