Christians shaped by experiences rather than the ‘Bible first’ approach
There is danger in accepting ‘the physical reality’ of UFOs
Published: 22 December 2007 (GMT+10)
Thanks so much for the creation journal Journal of Creation. It is an excellent publication and joy to read.
I have a question for Gary Bates. I read his book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection recently, and found it to be an excellent resource on the subject of UFO’s and alien abductions. Recently I came across a member at [a Christian online video site] that is promoting a website called [a Christian UFO-believing site].
The member has made comments like ‘our problem is we have demythologized many aspects of God’s Word and a correct understanding is going to be needed to keep us during the trying times that Satan is going to be allowed to perform in the days ahead when the restrainer is removed.
If it is appropriate and you could forward a request to Gary, I would like his opinion on this site and how best to respond to this member. Thanks for your consideration and keep up the good work.
Thank you for your email.
This website [name withheld per our feedback rules] looks to be a fairly new one. I hadn’t come across it before. The other sites and names it also promotes are familiar to me though, and some of them I have been in contact with. This is not to say that I agree with everything endorsed on there—far from it. The errant views of Christians about UFOs is especially worrying to me as I feel that even Christians can be prone to deception from sightings or from placing too much store on what they think are real physical manifestations of flying craft.
Firstly, let me say that this site appears to be run by Christians and their motives may well be to glorify Christ, but I feel that it is beset with the same faulty thinking and problems that many other Christian UFO-believers suffer from.
From a brief look it seems to allow for the idea that UFOs (as in unidentified flying objects) in ancient history may have indeed been real flying machines, rather than spiritual manifestations and illusions by deceiving angels, or hoaxes or natural phenomena. It may surprise some to know that this is actually a very popular idea among many Christians. The site alludes to some of the events of the Exodus to claim that UFO type craft were leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. This plays into the hands of the non-Christian, UFO-or real ET-believing community who presuppose that these allegedly real machines are piloted by aliens from another world. So, in essence, the Christians are agreeing with a group of people who either completely reject the divine inspiration of Scripture to start with, or only regard the Bible as a corrupted history book that actually records the visitation of aliens in various vehicles. If they can get Christians to agree that some of these ancient stories are indeed ‘evidence’ of real flying craft, then it is my view that the Christian is on the slippery slope. They will be ridiculed for not ‘accepting the truth’ and just putting a Christian spin or religious twist on the ‘evidence’.
For example, it is often claimed that UFOs parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16–40), or that Moses was spoken to out of the burning bush via a radio transmission beamed down from the mother ship (Exodus 3:2–6), or that Elijah was raptured onto an awaiting spacecraft (2 Kings 2:11–12). The unfortunate fruit of reinterpreting the Old Testament will be the effect it has on understanding the New Testament. For example, I’ve been similarly challenged at speaking events by UFO-believers who claim that Jesus was just an advanced extraterrestrial, and the reason He could walk on water, raise the dead and perform other miracles was because of super advanced technology that was indistinguishable from the supernatural to the ‘primitive humans’ of the day. Similar views are held by the famous Erich Von Däniken (author of Chariots of the Gods) and Zechariah Sitchin and his ancient astronaut theories based upon his reckless interpretations of Sumerian clay tablets.
I have also received numerous letters from Christians challenging me as to my views that there is no other intelligent life in the universe (see Did God create life on other planets?).This view that we are alone in the universe (except for angels) is derived by starting with Scripture and based upon our understanding of it as the final authority in all things. In most cases, the challengers had derived their views that there could be extraterrestrial life because they had seen ‘something’ they could not explain, that is, a UFO. The reality is that a UFO is what it means—an unidentified flying object, and 90–95% can always be explained as either natural (a planet or a star—even ball lightning on occasions) or man-made phenomena (satellites etc.). The few that defy naturalistic interpretation usually display supernatural characteristics not in keeping with physical craft.
However, the major issue here is the Christian using or relying upon their experiences over God’s Word. In other words, their experience is used to explain the Bible, when it should always be the other way around. Regardless of what the experience is, this is dangerous ground to tread because it automatically leaves oneself vulnerable to deception, no matter how seemingly virtuous or even godly it can appear on occasions. Believe me when I say that you would not believe the stories I’ve heard based on people’s experiences. For example, supposedly ‘good angels’ visiting folk to tell them that the aliens are real and that God is using them to effect his purposes on Earth. There is no doubting that experiences can be real and extremely powerful but the only way to discern them is through the filter of Scripture. The very instant it is not in accord with God’s Word, like the example I just mentioned, then you can be sure it did not come from God. (See Aliens, evolution and the occult for more on this). This is why for non-Christians, such supernatural feats are not understood by them as such, so they believe they have been really visited by aliens.
However, I don’t understand the rhetoric that claims people are somehow demythologizing God’s Word though. What does this mean? The comment fails on its own logic because believing that UFOs are piloted by angels doing God’s bidding etc. is actually imposing or forcing something upon the text that is not there. In other words they presuppose that these ‘ancient UFOs’ are real physical craft and therefore they have to be squeezed into the Bible somewhere. If God’s Word says pillars of fire and a cloud went before the Hebrew nation, then it was a pillar of cloud and the fire is not the exhaust of a jet engine.
These faulty views of real craft piloted by angels is one that being promoted by the Rev. Dr Barry Downing in his book, The Bible and Flying Saucers. Frankly, I regard Downing as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and feel that his views do great harm to the authority of God’s Word. I have mentioned his views in my own book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection. Downing was, and might still be, the chaplain of the world’s largest UFO group, MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) in the United States. This shows the high regard in which he is held, particularly from a group that promotes the idea that extraterrestrials are visiting the earth. Such groups love nothing more than to hear Christians themselves reinterpret Scripture to allow for a UFO or two because they feel that yet another powerful historical document supports their own views. This is the danger of accepting UFOs in the Bible.
Powerful angels may indeed have the ability to construct material things or even flying machines, but I don’t recall any occurrence in Scripture where this is recorded. In addition, there are, on average, about 150 UFOs sightings every day, yet, no two UFOs have ever appeared exactly alike. If fallen angels (or even good ones, as many of these Christians believe) are zipping around in flying saucers, then they would have to be constructing thousands of craft each year, which is clearly nonsense.
One of the most popular reinterpretations is an account known as ‘Ezekiel’s Wheel’ (Ezekiel 1:1–28). I am constantly challenged on this one when out speaking so I have reproduced the explanation from my book (below).
Adding man made ideas is really no different, in reality, to adding evolution to the Bible. It creates doubt in the veracity of God’s Word, and if the Scriptures don’t mean what they say in one area, then how can one be sure where the truth begins? If it is truth, then we can be confident in what we believe. When challenged about unseen evidence that might falsify the Scriptures, like the appearance of genuine alien craft or real ETs, we should have the confidence, backed up with enough knowledge of God’s Word, to make a stand (see Is the Bible falsifiable? And would a real live ET do it?)
I hope this helps.
Extract from Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection
One of the most infamous claims about UFOs appearing in the Bible is the ‘sighting’ by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:1–28. Erich von Däniken is just one of many leading writers who claim that the prophet Ezekiel saw a spaceship.
In the case of the mighty prophet Ezekiel, he was given an amazing experience, and a picture of something that no other person had seen. The text clearly describes the events that took place, and Ezekiel says his vision was imparted to him by God (1:1, 3).
A prophet is a specially chosen person. He is a spokesman for God, and God communicates with his chosen person in such a style that the prophet knows for sure he is hearing only from God. ‘Knowing the voice of God’ is one of the reasons that the biblical prophets were always 100% accurate, unlike modern ‘prophets,’ whether in the Christian church or outside of it. Ezekiel had a similar problem with a proliferation of false prophets in his day. Chapter 13 records that he was told to prophesy against the false prophets of his day. People did not always like God’s true prophets because they often spoke directly and personally about people’s lives, particularly in the area of revealing and condemning their sin. Often the hearers would reject God’s warnings via his prophet because they wanted to continue in their own way.
In Ezekiel’s case, God used dramatic imagery to get his message across. For example, in chapter 37, Ezekiel was given a vision of a valley of dry bones. Step by step, sinew and flesh attached to these bones until they came to life as a vast army. Was it meant to be taken literally? Not in this case, because God told Ezekiel that the story was ‘symbolic’ of Israel’s restoration to their homeland (they were in exile at the time).
The so-called UFO that Ezekiel saw was no different. No one saw it except Ezekiel. He describes wheels, wings, and living creatures that looked like burning coals and moved like flashes of lightning. Above this strange contraption were a throne and a figure that looked like a man with a brilliant light surrounding him. But right at the very beginning of the passage (vs. 1) and at the end (vs. 28), Ezekiel unmistakably pronounces that it is a vision of God. In verse 17, the ‘vehicle’ is described as going in all directions at the same time, which a real vehicle cannot do. This description is a reference to the fact that God is everywhere at the same time (omnipresent) and that he is not constrained to our understanding. The vision of a man was probably that of the preincarnate Christ.
Many UFO believers claim they place great store in the biblical texts but only when it suits their purposes to do so. It is incredible how often people take a passage of Scripture completely out of context to prove a pet theory. Masquerading angels have also falsely concocted a pseudo-philosophy to closely parallel the texts for their own evil aims. The Bible has become ‘fair game’ for those with their own agenda. I recall an investigator at a UFO meeting glowingly using the passage in Ezekiel to say that ‘even the Bible mentions UFOs.’ When I challenged his comment, pointing out that nowhere does Ezekiel use the term ‘ship’, ‘craft’ or any other word to describe a vehicle of any sort, and when I made the more important point that the text clearly describes the thing as a vision from God, he replied, ‘Yeah, but it’s still a UFO.’
I didn’t say what he wanted to hear. He had already made his mind up and brought his outside ideas to the Bible. He wanted to believe that it is a UFO, despite the intent of the author and the actual words written. This misreading of the Bible is sadly common in UFOlogy.