By and large, Biblical creationists are anti-alien and they think the Bible forbids the existence of extraterrestrials. I blame Gary Bates.
Gary Bates is the CEO of Creation Ministries International and, more importantly, the author of the best-selling book, Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection. While there were anti-alien articles around before his book was first published in 2005, Alien Intrusion made popular the theory that alien abductions and UFO sightings are a Satanic deception. While I agree with his basic assessment of the idea that little grey men have been visiting this planet with impunity, it is an unfortunate fact that his book contains a much-parroted non sequitur: namely, that the Bible pretty much forbids the existence of extraterrestrial life, even such alien life that has nothing to do with UFOs or alien abduction anecdotes.
According to Gary Bates, many Christians think that extraterrestrial life must exist because they suppose, “God must have created life elsewhere, otherwise this enormous universe would be an awful waste of space.” Those of us who are creative types don’t really think of it as a waste of space. After all, the background and the focal point of the a painting are two different things. On the other hand, we recognize that the Bible doesn’t mention absolutely everything that exists; for example, God made asteroids but they’re not mentioned even once during any passages dealing with creation.
Of course, Gary Bates believes that that “sentient, intelligent, moral-decision-capable beings” is a “salvation issue” that would “undermine the authority of Scripture.” That’s a pretty big claim, so let’s see how he supports this premise.
He gives us four points, the first of which is:
“The Bible indicates that the whole creation groans and travails under the weight of sin (Romans 8:18–22). The effect of the Curse following Adam’s Fall was universal.2 Otherwise what would be the point of God destroying this whole creation to make way for a new heavens and Earth—2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1 ff? Therefore, any ETs living elsewhere would have been (unjustly) affected by the Adamic Curse through no fault of their own—they would not have inherited Adam’s sin nature.”
This is an appeal to equality and, since his fourth point is that “[t]he Bible makes no provision for God to redeem any other species, any more than to redeem fallen angels (Hebrews 2:16),” he should be very well aware that it’s irrelevant to the point. All of creation has been affected by the Adamic Curse through no fault of their own, because when a king falls, his kingdom suffers. The trouble is, from Gary Bates’ point of view, is that it “seems bizarre to assign no moral responsibility for the actions of highly intelligent beings.” This argument from personal incredulity is why people need to let sci-fi authors do their sci-fi thinking. While Gary Bates lacks the imagination necessary to conceive of highly intelligent beings with no moral responsibility, I certainly can; they’d be analogous to robots, having intelligence but being amoral in that they simply do what their nature dictates.
If ETs do not inherit Adam’s sin nature, Gary’s next point is completely irrelevant as well:
“When Christ (God) appeared in the flesh, He came to Earth not only to redeem mankind but eventually the whole creation back to Himself (Romans 8:21, Colossians 1:20). However, Christ’s atoning death at Calvary cannot save these hypothetical ETs, because one needs to be a physical descendant of Adam for Christ to be our ‘kinsman-redeemer’ (Isaiah 59:20). Jesus was called ‘the last Adam’ because there was a real first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22,45)—not a first Vulcan, Klingon etc. This is so a sinless human Substitute takes on the punishment all humans deserve for sin (Isaiah 53:6,10; Matthew 20:28; 1 John 2:2, 4:10), with no need to atone for any (non-existent) sin of his own (Hebrews 7:27).”
Creationists often [and correctly] rebuke evolutionists for conflating what they mean by the word evolution. Gary Bates is doing something very similar here. Christ indeed came to earth to redeem both mankind and the whole creation BUT the rest of creation does not require salvation. For those of Adam’s bloodline, redemption includes salvation, but for the rest of creation redemption simply means that they are freed from death and corruption. Therefore we might make a distinction between the universal effects and the sanguine [bloodline] effects of the Fall. If aliens were imputed with the First Adam’s sin nature [and Gary Bates claims that he does NOT believe this is so in his first point], they could also logically be imputed with the Last Adam’s righteousness by grace through faith. If the sanguine effects of the Fall apply to humanity alone, ET does not need to be saved unless he is fallen on His own – and that is between him and his Creator. In other words, since Gary Bates’ third point hinges upon aliens needing to be saved and even he admits they would not inherit Adam’s sin nature, it is equally irrelevant to the point:
“Since this would mean that any ETs would be lost for eternity when this present creation is destroyed in a fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10, 12), some have wondered whether Christ’s sacrifice might be repeated elsewhere for other beings. However, Christ died once for all (Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18) on the earth. He is not going to be crucified and resurrected again on other planets (Hebrews 9:26). This is confirmed by the fact that the redeemed (earthly) church is known as Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 19:7–9) in a marriage that will last for eternity.3 Christ is not going to be a polygamist with many other brides from other planets.”
I’m just going to say this for the sake of argument; if the sanguine effects of the Fall were imputed to ETs and they were offered salvation through Christ, this would not make Christ a polygamist. This is just really, really bad logic. Everyone who is saved is a member of the Bride, even hypothetical aliens. Bates’ claim that the Bride of Christ is equivalent to the “redeemed (earthly) church” would not hold water if the Last Adam’s righteousness were imputed to aliens who were imputed with the First Adam’s sin nature. Again, neither Gary Bates nor I suppose that ETs have been imputed with the sanguine effects of the Fall, so this point is merely a mental exercise to point out a really, really bad anti-alien argument.
And then his fourth point:
“The Bible makes no provision for God to redeem any other species, any more than to redeem fallen angels (Hebrews 2:16).”
If we’re going to be accurate, we would say that the Bible is silent on whether God has made provision to redeem any other species. We don’t know whether any other fallen species exists for that matter. The reason God doesn’t mention extraterrestrials may be that it simply doesn’t concern us [cp. Jesus response to Peter in John 21:22].
Gary Bates the makes an additional argument that only man was made in God’s image. Of course, he has no way of knowing that man is the only image-bearer God created. He simply assumes this based on the anthropocentric focus of the Bible. Like many others, he further presumes that having a mind and a spiritual aspect is what is meant by being made in God’s image. As a result, he worries that any intelligent aliens who cross the stars to reach us would be vastly more intelligent and would therefore “make them even more in God’s likeness sin that sense than we are”; however, if we’re fair about it, the angels also meet these qualifications and would also qualify as being made in God’s image if this were true. Unless being God’s image-bearer means something else entirely, known only to God Himself.
He also worries that any aliens capable of reaching us would exert their dominion over us, violating the dominion mandate. Ironically, he quotes Psalm 19:1 in this section, which notes that man was made a little lower than the angels, yet God crowned him with glory and honor. Angels are vastly more powerful than we are, but God gave us the dominion mandate, not because we are capable to subdue the earth on our own but so that we might fulfill that mandate through His strength. If aliens came knocking and attempted to rule us, you can be sure that God would find a way to put us on top of the situation. Eventually. I think we tend to forget that God doesn’t promise us a primrose path.
He ends his article with a false dilemma:
“[The heavens] help us understand who God is and how powerful He is. It reminds us that the more we discover about this incredible universe, the more we should be in awe of the One who made it all. In short rather than looking up and wondering ‘I wonder what else is out there?’ and imaginary aliens we’ve never seen. We should instead be considering the very One that made it all.”
The choice between wondering what else is out there and standing in awe of God’s handiwork is unnecessary. We can do both. Gary Bates just doesn’t think we should because he thinks it’s a lost cause.
I strongly believe that a knee-jerk rejection of the idea of alien life somewhere in the universe based on fear-mongering will only serve to increase the effectiveness of the Satanic deception surrounding belief in ETs. Especially if influential creationists organizations continue to insist on creating a false dichotomy between Biblical Christianity and the possibility of alien life. 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.
This article originally appeared on DefGen.org on October 27, 2015 before being migrated to this site.