During the March 21, 2022 episode of Answers News, Answers in Genesis’ Patricia Engler, Tim Chaffey, and Robb Webb made a few comments regarding Avi Loeb’s speculation on human-alien communication in Colleen Walsh’s article, “How to talk to extraterrestrials.”
They didn’t take it seriously, of course. Nor did they answer the question of how humanity (much less Christians) might communicate with extraterrestrials, if they turned out to exist, because the official position of Ken Ham is that aliens can’t exist “because of the meaning of the Gospel.” And realistically we will probably have to wait until God calls Mr. Ham home before we see a paradigm shift on this subject in the house that Ham built.
In this case, Chaffey stressed that the Earth-centric focus of the Bible implies there are no aliens. (Yes, of course, I’m aware that the proper term here is geocentric. I’m using the term they used.)
They’re overstating their case. I’ll explain why shortly.
I respect Mr. Chaffey. I’ve very much enjoyed his insights and apologetics over the years. I don’t respect Mr. Webb as much. Someone needs to tell him to keep his entitled hands and pen out of Engler’s face and that no one wants to hear him constantly interrupt his co-hosts.
Sweeping aside the fact that this episode echoed the broad (and decidedly false) assumption that a belief in the possibility of extraterrestrial life is a position one only comes to from an evolutionary perspective (that’s not even a little bit true), let’s look at this variation on the argument from silence (because that’s what it is).
And let me address it by noting the very fact that Ken Ham claims that Australia and kangaroos exist, even though they’re not mentioned in the Bible at all. In this, he would note that kangaroos and Australia do exist, and that the implications of the Bible’s history (specifically the tale of Noah) are that kangaroos even existed in the Middle East immediately post-Flood before eventually migrating to Australia, even if there’s no specific mention of either of them in Scripture and very little evidence otherwise that this inferred migration in fact occurred. (I say this, even though I agree with him on this subject.)
Now we can independently verify that kangaroos exist apart from the revelation of Scripture.
And it shouldn’t be surprising that the Bible doesn’t mention everything that ever existed because not only does it not claim to be an Encyclopedia Galactica, it is obvious from even a cursory read that most of the Bible focuses on the countries around the Meditteranean, and primarily the area in and around Israel at that. Yet its narrow focus doesn’t preclude a universal message. The Gospel is universal. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has a message for folks well outside of the church at Ephesus in the 1st Century. Nor does the Bible’s specific geographical focus prevent the existence of anything outside that area of focus.
Why the Focus of the Bible Doesn’t Mean ET Doesn’t Exist
My point is that if the Bible’s focus is Earth-centric, centered on this Earth, and largely focused on a specific section of Earth at that, its specific geospatial and astronomical focus doesn’t preclude the existence of other Earths and extraterrestrial life, any more than its omission of nebulae and other planets as such means they can’t exist.
Neither kangaroos nor aliens nor microbes are ever mentioned in the Bible. Kangaroos and microbes were discovered a long time after the Scriptures were inspired and recognized in Canon. Extraterrestrial life may yet be discovered and nothing about the Bible’s focus will affect that. Aliens may be fallen or unfallen. They may have been offered a means of salvation or not. But the Creator who made nebulae and microbes long before we developed the technology to see and appreciate them did not see fit to mention them in His Word, because they aren’t the focus of His message and plan.
This isn’t all that unusual. Any communicator worth their salt focuses their message or story on their specific audience and tries to meet them where they are at. They avoid off-topic material or material that would be out-of-place for that setting unless it is important to the tale they’re telling.
You don’t really mention wallabies in a story set in West Virginia (unless your message is about the fact that it is legal to keep keep wallabies and other exotic pets in my home state or that one of these rare beasts escaped recently and was seen hopping around the local neighborhood), but obviously the omission doesn’t preclude the possibility they might exist nonetheless.
And given that our Creator appears to enjoy packing away little surprises for us in His creation, it may be that extraterrestrial life exists waiting to be discovered one day.
Why Argue About This?
Now why do I refute these arguments? Is it because I believe aliens exist? Maybe they do. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t. I don’t know that either. And neither does Ken Ham.
What I do know is that the so-called Theological Problems that ostensibly arose with the idea of extraterrestrial life were answered by theologians even way back in the Middle Ages, so anyone (including Ken Ham or anyone else at Answers in Genesis) who tries to tell you there are insurmountable Theological Problems with the possibility of aliens is just selling you a bill of goods. Personally, I think someone should counsel Mr. Ham about his myopic approach to the subject; not everything is all evolution versus creation. That’s a fallacy called bifurcation.
Point in fact, creationists believed in the possibility of extraterrestrial life before evolutionary theory was popularized, and 2/3rds of creationists continue to believe that extraterrestrial life is possible.
What I also know is that teaching that there are Theological Problems with Extraterrestrial Life (when there are not) potentially puts the Church in the same unenviable position we were in during the Galileo gaffe. To wit, based on the Earth-centric focus of the Bible, we inferred that the Earth was the center of the universe and then we became so confident on that inference that we turned it into a dogma. And when science refuted this unnecessary dogma, some of us dug in our heels and fought back. Others lost faith, supposing that the Bible did in fact teach geocentrism, even though it never explicitly said so. The geocentric error so undermined Christianity’s authority and veracity that even now we prefer not to invoke the term, even when we’re not referring to that specific theory.
Which brings me to the danger in dogmatically preaching this other geocentric inference. If aliens exist and we’ve unnecessarily told the world that the Bible teaches us otherwise, we will be guilty of giving people another reason to reject the Bible’s truth. By saying “Thus saith the Lord” where God has revealed nothing, we undermine our authority. And most importantly that places a potential stumbling block to the Gospel in the path of those we’re called to reach.
All because we dogmatically said, “Thus saith the Lord!” on a subject the Bible is silent on. All because we ignored the wisdom of many Christian counselors on the subject since the Middle Ages in favor of those who formed their opinions without their perspective.
In other words, respectfully Mr. Ham, we shouldn’t be dogmatic about the existence or non-existence of alien life because of the Gospel.