Does denying the existence of alien life ‘limit God’?
Published: 12 April 2011 (GMT+10)
The article Did God create life on other planets? has generated more feedback than possibly any other article on our website. Mark W. wrote in, agreeing that the article made sense from a biblical perspective, but disagreeing that the Bible disallows intelligent sentient alien life. His message is printed, with a response from CMI-Australia’s managing director, Carl Wieland, interspersed.
Gary’s article is very well thought out, and seems to make sense from a biblical perspective.
However, I still believe the Supremacy of Christ entails myriad life forms in multiple dimensions. It’s arrogant to limit God’s ability and or intention to just us!
It would be arrogant, certainly, if the intention were to limit God’s ability or intention (especially if such limiting were in ways that the Scripture does not); I think though that the intent was to transmit what was deducible from what God has revealed to us. As such, it was not an argument from silence (i.e. it was not saying ‘because the Bible doesn’t tell us such and such therefore it is not possible’).
As Christ stated, All things are possible with God!
I’m sure you would agree that this statement has distinct applicability for the believer, but it does not negate, nor would any reasonable person think it does negate, the biblical statement ‘God is not a man that He should lie’. I.e. it is clear that there are some things God cannot do; one is to lie, since that would contradict His nature. So if someone were trying to show that God were a liar, then using the above Bible passage would be an example of a misapplication, I’m sure you would agree.
We humans cannot begin to fathom the mind of God, and the rich, mystical depth to His creation.
I would resonate with this.
How arrogant we are to think we are the only ones…
I’m not sure that this follows, with respect. If God had stated it in so many words, would that then be arrogant to claim this? I think not. All that Gary is claiming is that it is deducible from Scripture. Now you may disagree with that, but then that means engaging with the biblical argument—rather than claiming ‘arrogance’ as the motive. I’m sure you do not mean it this way, but can you see how it comes across as playing the man and not the ball?
How can anyone prove this is the only universe God was talking about?
I suppose it depends what you mean by ‘universe’. The normal definition of the universe is ‘all the matter/energy that exists, observed or not’. That’s why in many languages, such as German, for instance (my mother tongue) it is called ‘the all’ (G. das All or das Weltall = world-all). In that sense, there can only be one universe, by definition, no matter how many subsets there might be, or in whatever shape or form. I gather you mean are there other populated worlds, that sort of thing. Again, it is not a matter of what God might have done without telling us, but rather a focusing on what He said He has done. The idea of intelligent ETs is most certainly not just absent, but conspicuously absent in His Word. Plus, as the article to which you have responded pointed out, it contradicts some very reasonable deductions from that Word. Also, please see Gary’s other articles on multiple dimensions or multiverses , such as Multiverse theory—unknown science or illogical raison d’être?, Is ‘string’ the next big thing? and String theory ‘philosophy’ challenged.
He may have hundreds, thousands, or infinite number of universes that are perfectly woven in His purpose which includes Christ at every level!
See earlier re the meaning of ‘universes’. Note too that if there were an infinite number of anything—e.g. atoms—then matter would be infinite. And there are cogent philosophical reasons for claiming that only God can be infinite—only the Creator, not the created thing, can be infinite in any attribute, including its extent. In Hebrew, the universe (as in ‘all there is’, see earlier) is labelled via the merism ‘heaven and earth’. God could hardly have been clearer that he is in Genesis 1 clearly describing the beginning of the universe, and since we know nowadays how space/matter/time depend on each other for existence, ultimately the beginning of time itself.
God cannot be limited by what is in the bible, especially man’s imperfect interpretation thereof.
But without the Bible how would you know anything at all about God? We can speculate limitlessly about what He may have done in addition, but that speculation needs to be constrained wherever it conflicts with any of the Bible’s ‘big picture’. The total sum of our knowledge about God, the Christian faith and our need for salvation comes from the Bible. It is therefore important to base all of our thinking on same. The article clearly pointed from this same Bible that its big picture of salvation would be falsified by ETs. To go further: I agree that our interpretation can be imperfect, but if the Bible seems to rule something out, then surely one should have a biblical reason for wanting to rule it in, or for showing where the interpretation is flawed, rather than using imperfect interpretation as a ‘fallback’ statement that again fails to engage with any biblical reasoning. For example, what if someone were to say, ‘You can’t say that evolution is anti-biblical, after all, our human interpretation of the Bible is flawed’? I’m sure you would see this as a ‘copout’. This comment of yours here may not quite be in that category, but it is heading in that direction, I think.
I believe we will all (and Gary) be shown wondrous mysteries beyond our comprehension when we leave these mortal bodies.
One can say ‘amen’ to that sentence, without it following that the Bible is misleading when it indicates that Christ will not be a bigamist through all eternity, for instance. And this is what the notion of other redeemed races, for instance, would imply.
I don’t feel threatened by the possibility, and probability that God has myriad life forms spread all throughout His mighty creation, which, is within Him!
I don’t feel threatened by it either. And I am sure, neither does Gary. Here, too, I think you probably don’t mean it this way, but can you see how this sentence again implies a motive to Gary’s article, rather than engaging with the biblical arguments? I.e. it implies that being ‘threatened’ is the real motive for the deduction. You may wish to read Is the Bible falsifiable, and Is the Bible falsifiable? And would a real live ET do it? (round 2).
However, I admit that I can no more prove my belief than can Gary; sure, we can each manipulate Scripture to fit our own beliefs, but that doesn’t prove anything.
First, I will overlook the phrase ‘manipulate Scripture’, because I’m sure you were not meaning to use a phrase like this in the way it could be taken. But second, I think it is not applicable here, because you admit that you would be starting with a belief, and considering Scripture secondarily. The suggestion that most would glean from your comments would be that Gary likewise commenced with a preferred belief. However, that is not the case. I know for a fact that his passion in this is to properly exegete what the Bible actually says, and as such, he sat down and logically came to an end result from what the Scriptures say and imply. Also, in his capacity as a leading Christian researcher into the UFO phenomenon, he has used the same approach in determining the true nature of such phenomena with great success. Whereas others have been tempted to see UFOs as real extraterrestrials, for example, his ‘Bible-first’ approach has been validated in practice by numerous people whose experiences have stopped once they understood the true nature of the experiences.
In the process, he has found that it helps people to focus on what God has told us, rather than be distracted by speculation about what God might have done that He has not revealed. In the process also, he has seen that to try to squeeze extraterrestrial intelligences into Scripture is not only forced and unnatural, there are matters in the Bible by which one should be able to legitimately deduce that it cannot be the case. If it is His revelation which appears to say that A is not the case, but rather B, then it is not ‘trying to limit God’ to point this out. It is rather seeking to honor the thrust of His revelation, the written Word. Are these salvation issues? The idea of ‘other worlds’ may not be, but I am not the only one who thinks that the existence of intelligent ETs would in effect falsify that biblical ‘big picture’. So it does impinge upon the authority of the Bible, while not as sharply or overtly, perhaps, as does theistic evolution. Nevertheless, seeking to ‘rightly divide the Word of truth’ is important, and so it should not surprise us to realize that this ‘allowing God to create extraterrestrials’, even if a harmless daydream for some mature Christians, allows a chink that has led many astray. It means that the spiritual deceptions associated with UFO phenomena are more readily interpreted as something emanating from God. To fully appreciate this, I recommend Gary’s book Alien Intrusion. Whether or not you end up changing your view on the ‘other worlds’ matter, you will find it gives powerful food for thought and is an incredibly interesting read in the bargain. I will put an excerpt from the book beneath my signature in closing.
Kind regards, and thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
Sincerely in Christ,
EXCERPT FROM ALIEN INTRUSION
In man’s naturalistic thinking, the bigger the universe seems to be, the less likely it is that God may have created it. However, what is the “right size” in man’s thinking, particularly when we haven’t even traveled outside of our own solar system? How would we know? If we are honest, we know very little about the universe at all. In fact, the more we seem to discover, the stranger it appears to be. If the universe was a much smaller size—something that man could comprehend— then, conversely, man would likely say, “God’s not that great, is he?”
Many people question why the universe is so big. Why are there so many billions of galaxies, containing countless stars, and most of them we cannot even see? But shouldn’t that serve to increase our awe and wonder at God’s creative power, the more we discover? And although the universe is incomprehensibly and impressively large, nothing is big to him. In fact, stars are rather simple structures—they have been described as glowing balls of gas. In a thousand galaxies, each containing thousands of stars, there is less structural complexity than in the DNA of a simple organism. For example, it would require more creative input to create the organic structure of even a dead fish than it would to create countless quasars. This is exactly what Jesus did when he miraculously fed five thousand people with a few loaves and fishes, thus demonstrating his creative power. This was miraculous in Jesus’ day, but it seems even more incredible today due to our modern discoveries and understanding of DNA.
Christian theologian John Whitcomb wrote:
“It must be recognized that … it required no more exertion of energy for God to create a trillion galaxies than to create one planet.”
Isaiah 40:28 says:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
In short, we can see that the universe is the result of incredible design. If God is the designer then the universe he created displays his attributes. His omnipotence and his omniscience are visible (the heavens do indeed declare the glory of God, as the Psalmist remind us), and when we look at it we are reminded of him (and not led to speculate on what else could be “out there”). God tells us over and over in the Bible that he created an enormous universe through analogous expressions like the ones he made to Abraham earlier about stars.
As human beings we often try to judge the size and the reasons behind the universe with our own limited understanding. However, we are inhibited by our understanding of the time and space in which we exist—that is, the universe which God actually created. This is our only frame of reference. For example, how big is God? Before the universe was created there was no physical realm; no matter (atoms) or space to measure anything by. God was, and is, outside of this realm but he has created it.
Logically, the universe is not big to God. After all he’s the one who made it. Size is only relative to us as inhabitants of this universe. And size and time are related somewhat. Because the universe is big to us we consider how long it would take us to travel across it, for example. But God is “outside” of the dimensions that he created (the universe), thus he is not bound by it.
So size is not an issue for God. He exists in eternity where there is no time and space, yet at the same time, is present everywhere within it. The universe is not big for God, or compared to God—it is, in fact, futile to try to compare the two, as they are incomparable.
Many sympathetic to the notion of extraterrestrials widely inhabiting the universe often criticize Christians, believing them to be arrogant for presuming that we might be the only inhabitants of this vast universe. But this is actually a form of presumptive arrogance on the part of the accuser, thinking that if we humans had made the universe we would have filled it with other life forms. It assumes that God would do things our way. He doesn’t, and he states this in Isaiah 55:9:
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Perhaps his interest in and love for us are made all the more profound by our tinyness and uniqueness in an immense though otherwise uninhabited universe. Perhaps he’s showing us that size and distance and space and matter, regardless of their vastness, are insignificant compared to the worth of a human soul. God put stars in the heavens, not only for his glory, but, incredibly, for mankind whom he loves. Genesis 1:14 states:
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”
Mark W. wrote back:
Dear Dr. Wieland, Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to comments on Gary Bates’s article, I am humbled by your generosity and knowledge! I apologize for being accusatorial in my wording, indeed I was the one who came across arrogantly. I noticed this only after I sent the email; typically I like to let things sit and rewrite if it’s a thoughtful topic. I do appreciate your patience with me, your response made me realize how careless I’ve been with scripture, and how easily I fall for trendy suppositions. As a child, I could not help but wonder if there was more life out there, and I always thought there had to be; however, as an adult I know that kind of thinking contradicts Proverbs 3:5, since I am leaning on my own understanding. You wrote: The idea of intelligent ETs is most certainly not just absent, but conspicuously absent in His Word. This one sentence turned the light on inside, dare I say, the holy Spirit convicted me! Wow, am I ever thankful for your response, and, the opportunity to pay closer attention to God’s word. I will read further from your website and the articles you mentioned. May God bless you and your loved ones! In Christ, Mark W.