It’s one of the most cited verses amongst those touting anti-alien dogma. Just a couple days ago during an Answers News segment with Ken Ham, Bodie Hodge quoted it to claim that aliens were impossible.
So how does this verse allegedly make the possibility of extraterrestrial life impossible?
Isaiah 45:18 reads:
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
To explain why some people think this verse makes extraterrestrial life Biblically impossibly, let’s look at a quote from creation astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner, the fellow behind Answers in Genesis’ Aliens: Fact or Fiction? video. In the Oct/Dec 2015 issue of Answers magazine (Is Belief in Alien Life Harmless?”), Dr. Faulkner wrote:
“Isaiah 45:18 makes a distinction between God’s role for the earth and the heavens (the rest of the universe). It says that God did not create the earth in vain, but that He made it to be inhabited. While the Bible is not geocentric (placing the earth at the physical center of the universe), the earth is the center of God’s attention. Humans—and not ETs—are God’s primary concern in the universe.”
In a separate article regarding exoplanets, Dr. Faulkner again invokes Isaiah 45:18:
What do biblical creationists expect? In the creation account of Genesis 1, we see God taking great care to create a world for man’s habitation. This is explicitly restated in Isaiah 45:18. From this we conclude that the earth truly is unique and that there are no earth-like planets.
The problem is that this verse never says that God made the earth ALONE to be inhabited.
A lot of Christians posit a sort of theological geocentrism; that is, we think of the Earth as the center of the universe with all the rest of the universe as mere background. Christians believe that the Earth is special and that God is actively involved in the affairs of its inhabitants. It may be true that the Earth is the center of God’s attention. He did created mankind in His own image after all. I won’t argue with that.
I can and will argue with the idea that just because Scripture says that God did not create the Earth in vain (empty) that this is meant as an iron-clad contrast with the heavens. We have three statements: God created the heavens. God created the earth. God did not create it in vain but to be inhabited. This does not necessarily imply that He by contrast made the heavens in vain to be uninhabited. Yet we have creationist organizations making absurd statements like this one made by Dr. Jason Lisle in Chapter 18 of the New Answers Book:
“But where does the Bible discuss the creation of life on the “lights in the expanse of the heavens”? There is no such description because the lights in the expanse were not designed to accommodate life.”
That, my friends, is a bona fide argument from silence, the weakest and most inadvisable of all arguments. The Bible is equally silent about microbes and Black holes. We cannot say that the heavens were not designed for life simply because the Bible fails to mention this as being the case. It may simply be that the Bible’s revelation is, well, geocentric and does not concern itself with the affairs of God’s creations “in a galaxy far, far away.” It is certainly true that from an Earthbound perspective, the stars provide light and signs for season and a sense of awe at God’s creative power, but it may be that the Bible does not mention any other purpose for the heavens simply because it doesn’t concern us. The Bible’s silence regarding extraterrestrial lifeforms would not invalidate its inerrancy. We might simply note that extraterrestrial life was not really germane to the discussion as it were.
The context of Isaiah 45:18 is that God is assuring Israel that He is in control and that there is a purpose to everything He’s doing; there is a plan. God here is saying nothing more than He did just a few short verses before when He declared:
“I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”
In Isaiah 45:18, God is saying, “I created the heavens. I created the Earth. I created the Earth with every intention of creating man. I had a plan when I created the universe, just as I have a plan for Israel and I did not make my promises to Jacob in vain.” To say that Isaiah 45:18 precludes the possibility of alien life is simply overstatement, because in order to do so one has to force a contrast that doesn’t really exist in the text. The verse says that God created the earth to be inhabited; it does not say He created the heavens to be uninhabited.
We need to refrain from saying that Isaiah 45:18 in any way forbids the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Extraterrestrial life may or may not exist, but this will not be established by trying to force things into Scripture thar irrelevant does not say.