Aliens Among Us? - Part 4
Many claims are being made by UFO believers about the contents of the Bible. As mentioned earlier, these often involve a superficial reading of a number of texts. Usually this amounts to making the Bible conform to the beliefs of the reader. Not only is this improper, it's also dangerous.
Of course it is surely right to go to the Scriptures, seeking the wisdom which God has committed to these inspired writings. Thus it is good and proper to investigate UFOs from a biblical perspective. But does the Bible speak to this phenomenon?
First of all, it is improbable that UFOs, in the modern sense, are to be found throughout the biblical record. It may be that some biblical events parallel the modern phenomenon. Perhaps, God even uses UFOs as a mechanism of some sort to carry out His various dealings. Still, Scripture is not a guide to aerial activity and the like.
Having said this, the Bible's applications to these mysterious happenings shouldn't be minimized. While an analysis of alien space craft is not to be found, certain aspects of the phenomenon are answerable via divine revelation. In the broadest sense, then, the ideas commonly associated with UFOs can be analyzed from the vantage point of Scripture.
The intent of this section is to briefly highlight a number of passages that have application (at least potentially) to some portions of the UFO movement. While in no way condemning the honest, scientific labors of many ufologists, there is a side to this phenomenon which simply must be addressed by the Christian community. To that end, what follows are some basic biblical criteria for interpreting and responding to segments of the UFO craze.
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
As John concludes his Gospel, he writes concerning the purpose of his writing. His goal is to show forth the identity of Jesus, and so lead people to embrace Him (v. 30). This He accomplishes by recording for us "signs" which Jesus performed.
A sign (Gr. semeion) is a token or indicator of something. For John, the "signs" he has in mind are the miracles which Jesus performed throughout His ministry. We know Jesus is who He claimed to be because, among other things, He performed supernatural wonders or signs. Jesus thus signaled by His amazing deeds that He truly is God's Messiah and unique Son, and thus worthy of all honor and trust.
This concept is important for our discussion of UFOs, for some have claimed that Jesus' miracles were merely technological and not supernatural. But this is contrary to the biblical record and the claims of Jesus. There is no indication that Jesus' miracles are intended merely to impress. The purpose of these marvelous deeds is to lead the reader to acknowledge the uniqueness of His person and role. In other words, Jesus doesn't imply some vague sort of superiority. He claims, rather, to be the divine Messiah. This, once again, leaves us in a dilemma of sorts. Since Jesus is neither a misguided individual, nor a deceiver, we can't properly see Him as a kindly space-creature or some such thing. That was never His intention (see Chapter 7). His signs must be accepted along with all that He spoke and did. Much more than technological marvels, Jesus' miracles demonstrate the truthfulness of His claims to messiahship and deity.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2
1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Here we learn there are priorities to Christian life and ministry. And at the heart of what believers must maintain is "Christ crucified." The apostle says, in fact, that he desires to know nothing else! He doesn't mean, of course, that no other subject is worth considering. What does matter, though, is that Christ is the goal and centerpiece of Christianity. All truth is either a pointer to Christ, or a means of highlighting His many virtues.
When it comes to apologetics, therefore, we must strive to have a Christocentric, gospel-oriented focus. Christ is Lord. The Son is our hope. Jesus is the only worthy object of worship. As we explore the meaning of UFOs and aliens, let us not stray from the One who is the motive and goal of all truly Christian pursuits, the Lord Jesus Himself.
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? . . . 11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul was an apostle, having been directly commissioned by the risen Jesus. Yet even he had to acknowledge the higher priority and authority of the divinely authorized message. In fact the exclusivity of the gospel demanded that all competing ideas be rejected. So it is here. Christian truth must be upheld at all costs; half-true pretenders must be discarded.
The instruction Paul gives may seem somewhat harsh to modern ears. To curse someone, after all, sounds a bit harsh. Yet the ramifications of the Christian gospel must not be ignored. If Christ really is God's Son and if He alone can supply redemption for fallen men, then all spurious gospels must be viewed as harmful. "If, then, anyone proclaims something different, he comes under the judicial wrath of God!" As Paul says, "let him be accursed."
All of this is very pertinent to the discussion of UFO claims. If the UFO occupants (or believers in them) promote that which contradicts God's Word, they must be dealt with sternly. However we explain the phenomenon, at least one thing is clear: Unbiblical messages mustn't go unchallenged (Jude 3-4).
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy come first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. . . . 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
In context, Paul is dealing with events that are precursors to "the Day of the Lord." That "day," Paul writes, cannot arrive until a number of historical incidents take place. Among these are an end time apostasy and the revealing of the man of lawlessness. While neither has occurred yet, "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (v. 7); that is, a Satanic scheme is already in place. At the same time, Paul surely wants his readers to be aware of these eschatological realities. After all, the world—even now under the sway of dark forces—will one day experience the full unleashing of Antichrist's power.
Concerning the subject of UFOs, it is surely helpful to consider these strange happenings in light of this description of the man of lawlessness. Notice his amazing deceptiveness. He is able to cause people to believe a lie, leading them to ultimate judgment. And he can perform, by the hand of Satan himself, powerful signs and false wonders. Of course, no one can be sure what these wonders entail. Neither are we in a position where we can place all UFOs with certainty in the category of Antichrist. What can be said, though, is that certain incredible miracles will occur at the end of the age. These will be so alluring that many will be misled.
Much of what surrounds the UFO phenomenon is condemned by Scripture. Furthermore, some of the events connected to these unbiblical segments of ufology are at least amazing, if not miraculous. While proving nothing outright, these parallels serve to warn believers that they should approach this phenomenon with discernment. Thankfully, the wisdom required is amply supplied in the apostolic traditions, in which Christ's followers are exhorted to "stand firm" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
1 John 4:1-4
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
John tells us to "test the spirits" (v. 1). This implies at least the following: (1) False ideas permeate this world, (2) Personal spirit beings are responsible for doctrine. (3) These "spirits" are to be tested, (4) Some criteria exists by which we can perform such testing, (5) Christians are responsible and equipped for identifying and opposing false ideas and embracing good ones.
In context John identifies and contrasts two opposing "spirits"—one of error, the other of truth (v. 6). The determining factor as to which category a given teaching belongs is this: How do these spirits, as they promulgate their doctrine, relate to Jesus Christ? The apostolic position is that Jesus came in the flesh. That is, the Son of God actually became a man for man. He was "revealed in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16). Anyone, John says, who doesn't confess this Jesus "is not from God" (v. 3). "Since it is the great work of the Holy Spirit to testify about Christ and exalt Him (John 16:13-14), the person of the Lord Jesus becomes the touchstone of truth or error." Those who deny the incarnational realities surrounding Jesus align themselves with the spirit of Antichrist. Still, false prophets cannot ultimately destroy God's "overcoming" children, for "greater is He who is in [them] than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Though the spirit of Antichrist is already in the world (v. 3), one day it will manifest itself in fuller ways. Thus Christians must examine the ideas and teachings they encounter. Regarding the subject of UFOs, it is certainly right to make reasonable judgments (John 7:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). No conscientious Christian should undervalue this responsibility. Indeed, no ufologist should fear the results of such testing. According to John, the discerning individual is one who "test[s] the spirits to see whether they are from God."
These are but a sampling of the many passages applicable to a study of the UFO phenomenon. A serious look at these and related texts will help undergird believers with the biblical foundation for confronting the "aliens" among us.
There is no reason for panic or unreasonable responses to UFOs. The need, instead, is for level-headedness, honesty, and a serious commitment to what God has spoken in Scripture. Conscientious believers inspect all of life through the lens of God's perfect Word.
A right minded approach to UFOs involves the recognition and implementation of biblical parameters or principles. It's not, of course, that the Scriptures contain an exhaustive catalogue of every subject. Rather, the Bible provides a basic framework for interpreting life. To that end, here are some of the more helpful pieces of theological truth.
God is a talking God. He communicates with His creatures. This He has done in various ways, with the pinnacle of divine revelation coming in His Son. (Hebrews 1:2). The ramifications of such a truth are, of course, staggering. There is purpose to our existence, for God can be known through Jesus Christ. And there is direction to life, as well, since we possess—through Christ's appointed emissaries—the objective criteria of God's written Word.
What this means for our UFO studies is that we possess an interpretive grid—a means of determining reality, a standard of righteousness. While this doesn't clear up the UFO dilemma, it does provide us with some of the stability, wisdom, and direction we all desperately need. Sadly, not all Christians immerse themselves in biblical truth. But those who prayerfully make a commitment to knowing the mind of God in Scripture, operate at a distinct advantage in studying the UFO phenomenon. In the midst of much uncertainty, we possess the theological anchor of God's Word (Psalm 119:96; Mark 13:31).
Many of the messages which supposedly originate from outer space assume the validity of macro-evolution. In fact, it is reported that some of the "aliens" say their mission is to help us evolve to the next level.
All of this is a clear contradiction of the Bible's claim that God is Creator (Genesis 1:1). He is the One who spoke the universe into existence (Psalm 8:3; 89:11). All by Himself, He fashioned the heavens and the earth.
This means that whatever UFOs are, they are the product of God's creative hand. Are they angels (fallen or unfallen)? Then God formed them. Are they visitors from a different world or another dimension? If so, the Lord is responsible for their existence.
The Bible is replete with statements of God's sovereignty. He is King, with no competitors (Isaiah 46:9-10). Thus all life, both good and evil, must be seen as an unfolding of His eternal plan. To put it another way, nothing happens by chance. Our reigning Lord is the ultimate controller of all that happens in this world; and all other worlds are under His care as well (Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1:16).
Let's say, then, that UFOs are extraterrestrial or perhaps angelic or some other explanation. Whatever the case, their influence or appearance is no surprise to God. It's all part of His sovereign decree. If UFOs land on the White House lawn, the only proper conclusion will be that God planned it that way. Since He is sovereign, we needn't fret at any prospect. Almighty God reigns, and nothing escapes His grasp.
The writers of Scripture tell us that God is an awesome, transcendent Being. Never is He presented as a partially powerful deity. On the contrary, all power is at His disposal. Indeed, He is able to rule the universe because His strength knows no bounds.
Thus the idea that God is some ancient astronaut not only contradicts various passages of the Bible, but is also contrary to the God therein presented. Isaiah asks, "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?" (40:18). Clearly, the Lord has no peer. "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases" (Psalm 115:3). Or as the angel Gabriel stated to Mary, "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).
As mentioned previously, this means that no extraterrestrial or angel is a fit replacement for the mighty Yahweh. Neither is any created being a match for His incomprehensible power.
It is one thing to create, speak, and rule. It's quite another to love and care. This is especially true when the objects of that love are rebels who deserve nothing good (Romans 5:6-8). But this is the portrait of God we find in the Bible. The Lord is merciful and compassionate. In a word, He is a God of grace (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10).
But how does this affect the study of UFOs? Well, it helps in at least a couple of ways. For one, it is imperative to see the Savior as the centerpiece of biblical interpretation. Our primary search isn't for UFOs in the Bible, but for an increased knowledge of and appreciation for the Son of God. This, in turn, should be reflected in our lives. However much effort we expend in studying these strange ideas, we mustn't allow our priorities to get out of kilter. Only with Jesus Christ at the center of our lives are we able to face any reality, even that presented by UFOs.
Not only is it true that God has rescued us—from sin, hell, and futility—by the cross of the Savior. He has also provided the strength, inward motivation, and divine counsel needed for successfully maneuvering our way through life. This is provided chiefly by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). The Spirit refreshes us and paves our way; He leads us into an apprehension of the Savior, and an understanding of truth.
Christian investigation, therefore, is not to be performed in a vacuum. Instead, we are to live in active dependence on the Spirit who instructs primarily through His Word (John 14:23-26; 16:13-15). Apologists must consciously ask for His leading as they seek biblically accurate and God-honoring answers to the mystery of UFOs.
Christianity is about God and His revelation to mankind. The Lord of the universe has communicated with His creatures, and this so they might know and serve Him. The Word of God (i.e., the Bible) speaks of God, and God speaks by means of His Word. For the believer this means that an acquaintance with Scripture leads to a knowledge of God. Likewise, dependence on God enables one to comprehend and inculcate the inscripturated message. As Carl Henry has stated:
The ontological axiom of Christian theology is the existence of the God of the Bible, and the epistemological axiom is divine revelation. All the truths of revealed religion flow consistently from these first principles. Human reason is not the creative source of truth but is a divinely fashioned instrument for recognizing truth, nor is a demand for verification of theological claims inappropriate to Christian theology. The Christian verification principle is not inner faith or sense experience or moral effect or cultural consensus. It is revealed Scripture. The inspired Bible is the proximate and universally accessible statement of the cognitive content of divine revelation.
In other words, Christians are people with commitments, both to God and His Word. Likewise, they possess the framework necessary for evaluating the ideas which daily swirl around them. As prayerful believers saturate their minds with divine truth, they acquire a measure of the wisdom needed to be spokesmen for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This wisdom serves as a spiritual/moral compass, properly directing them through this sometimes baffling world.
As Christian apologists it is our privilege to defend, explain, and clarify the truth in the context of contemporary culture. This includes grappling with puzzling subjects like UFOs. Of course, complete answers to the many questions spawned by this phenomenon are elusive. Still, the Christian does have a starting point. With God as King, His Word the rule, Jesus as Savior, and the Spirit the divine enabler, believers possess the stability and foundation necessary for comprehending and coping with reality. To that end, here are some concluding principles for constructing a UFO apologia.
1. The Bible is the only sure foundation for thought and life.
Scripture is the measuring stick of all truth claims. Whatever the precise identity of UFOs, they must be viewed and dealt with from a biblical stance. In order to be effective thinkers (Psalm 119:66, 98-100, 130) and apologists (Philippians 1:7, 16, 27; 1 Peter 3:15) Christians must prayerfully immerse their minds in biblical truth, and "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3). Blessings come to those who are "humble and contrite of spirit, and who tremble at [God's] word" (Isaiah 66:2).
2. Christ is the centerpiece of Christian apologetics.
Christians mustn't leave their first love (Revelation 2:1-7). It is imperative to see all apologetic endeavors as a means to a greater end, i.e., knowing and experiencing the Savior. Only when preoccupied with Him is there protection from error and wrong priorities. He must remain the joy and stabilizing influence of our lives. UFOs, as fascinating and relevant as they may be, are not intended to be an idol. Jesus alone is the object of worship and place of safety.
3. All believers should strive to be innovative spokesmen for the truth.
Too often believers are stagnant and ineffective when it comes to proclaiming the gospel. One reason is a lack of concern to communicate in fresh and challenging ways. Another is the inability to discern the issues which dominate the modern world. In order to be successful messengers of the good news, it is necessary to grapple with those themes which dominate contemporary society. Today this includes a right-minded appraisal of the UFO phenomenon. Such an endeavor must be approached prayerfully, biblically, and with open eyes. Let us, therefore, remain faithful to the task before us, undaunted by any alien agenda, and never wavering in our allegiance to Jesus the Lord. With Paul, may our mission be "the defense and confirmation of the gospel" (Philippians 1:7, 16, 27).
34. "To argue that God's heavenly messengers need UFOs to achieve His purposes is to limit God's powers, and His thoughts, to those of men. Much of the modern writing about UFOs and the Bible tends to think of God as little more than a glorified astronaut. The Bible shows Him as omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, and His heavenly servants are not limited by earth's laws of physics. The physical principles by which UFOs operate might well be utilized for the purposes of God, but the Bible certainly does not confine Almighty God to a heavenly ‘super-car.'" Clifford Wilson, The Alien Agenda (1974; New York: Penguin Books, 1988), pp. 208-209.
35. For more information concerning a biblical approach to UFOs, see Chapter 3, UFOs and the Place of Christian Apologetics.
36. Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians (WBC; Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990), p. 18.
37. The Day of the Lord includes both judgment and deliverance, wrath and joy. At that time God will be vindicated, Christ glorified, His enemies put down, and believers blessed. See Ernest Best, A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (1972; Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986), p. 206.
38. During His Olivet Discourse, Jesus speaks of the deception of the last days (Mark 13:21-23). He tells us, among other things, that the "signs and wonders" of false teachers are designed to lead people astray. In fact, false Christs intend to deceive, "if possible, the elect" (v. 22). Whatever else this involves, the impression given is of a deception so alluring that only the elective purpose of God can preserve His children. In light of the claims made by some within the UFO fold, Jesus' words are both frightening and comforting. The terror results from considering the amazing abilities of false prophets. Thankfully, the joy comes in knowing that God is far greater than His enemies, and He's on our side!
39. "All three of these words (i.e., power, signs, wonders) are used of the miracles of Christ. They are probably used for that reason. They help us to see the counterfeit nature of the Man of Lawlessness. The first term denotes the supernatural force which actuates the miracles. The second points to their character as directing attention to something beyond themselves. The third, ‘wonders,' reminds us that miracles are things which man cannot explain. He can only marvel at them." Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (1959; reprint, NICNT; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), p. 231.
40. David Jackman, The Message of John's Letters (BST; Downers Grove: IL, InterVarsity Press, 1988), p. 11.
41. "In an age when Matthew 7:1 (‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged') has replaced John 3:16 as the only verse in the Bible the man in the street is likely to know, it is perhaps worth adding that Matthew 7:1 forbids judgmentalism, not moral discernment. By contrast, John 7:24 demands moral and theological discernment in the context of obedient faith (7:17), while excoriating self-righteous legalism and offering no sanction for censorious heresy hunting." D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), p. 317.
42. For a sampling of literature which supports biblical creationism, see Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993); The Creation Hypothesis, ed. J.P. Moreland (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994); Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994).
43. Carl F.H. Henry, gods of this age or God of the ages? (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Press Publishers, 1994), p. 250.
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