Was Jesus an alien?
Published: 10 February 2018 (GMT+10)
How can we show just how ludicrous the ‘alien Jesus’ conspiracy theory really is? Jian L. from Australia writes:
I’m not sure if this particular conspiracy is discussed here, but some people make the outrageous and ridiculous claim that Jesus was merely an alien and NOT the Son of God, pointing to his various miracles and resurrection as proof that he was an alien visitor. Apart from the impossibility of the existence of aliens and the infallibility, inerrancy and inspired nature proving that he is the Messiah, what would you say to these people?
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
There are several reasons beyond the ones you mention for why the ‘Jesus is an alien’ idea is a ludicrous conspiracy theory.
Aliens and the Gospels
The ‘alien Jesus’ idea has only one thing (supposedly) going for it that other failed naturalistic ideas don’t: it (seemingly) explains Jesus’ miracles. But there’s an absurdly large cost for affirming this. If this idea is right, the documents that reliably report Jesus’ ‘miracles’ (the Gospels) either tell us about Jesus’ teachings unreliably, or reliably tell us about Jesus’ unreliable teachings. It can’t be the latter, because the Gospels clearly honour Jesus. The Gospel writers didn’t think Jesus was a charlatan. On the other hand, if the Gospels report Jesus’ teachings unreliably, why believe their reports about the miracles? If the Gospels can’t be trusted to report reliably on mundane things (e.g. what Jesus taught and what 1st century Judaism was like), we can’t trust the miracle reports either. If the Gospels are that unreliable, it would make much more sense to say that we can’t learn much about the historical Jesus from them than to say that they are evidence that Jesus was an alien, and that’s why He did miracles. Indeed, this is what many of the most articulate skeptics of the Gospels say. (See Can we know anything about the past? A review of Jesus Before the Gospels by Bart Ehrman)
But the link between the reliability of Jesus’ teaching and the reliability of His miracles is even closer than that. The Gospels put on the lips of Jesus a close link between His teaching and His miracles. For Jesus, according to the Gospels, His miracles were sure evidence for His claims and His teaching (Luke 11:20, John 5:36). But He taught that the one true God of Israel was setting up His kingdom in and through Jesus, His beloved eternal Son. Based on these miracles, Jesus declared His authority to call Israel to repentance, and to reform God’s true people around Himself as their Lord. This sounds like something that at least could make sense in the context of 1st century Judaism. But aliens? How does that make sense of anything about Jesus’ teaching and context? (See Gospel Dates and Reliability, Can we believe the Gospels?, and Should we trust the Bible?)
The ‘alien Jesus’ proponent would likely retort: ‘Maybe they just weren’t ready for the truth!’ Well, if they weren’t ready for the truth, then what was the point of Jesus? Did the aliens misjudge when to send Him? Did the aliens send Jesus just for a laugh at our expense? And again: what evidence do we have for any of this? Just because the ‘alien Jesus’ proponent can dream up witty retorts that sound like they keep the theory afloat, that doesn’t mean they have any evidence for it. This is just a failed attempt to explain away the fact that all the evidence we have stands against the ‘alien Jesus’ idea.
What if aliens could’ve done Jesus’ miracles?
But what about the miracles? Couldn’t aliens have done the miracles? For argument’s sake, let’s first assume that they could have. First, any ‘miracles’ aliens can do, God can do. So, what supposedly makes aliens a better explanation of Jesus’ miracles than God? After all, aliens do not fit the context for Jesus’ miracles, but God does. The answer is typically that aliens would be physical beings that do things solely by physical means, and we know physics works. In other words, as ludicrous as aliens are as an explanation, they’re a naturalistic explanation, so we should always regard them as a more plausible explanation than God. Indeed, precisely because God is supernatural (i.e. transcends the laws of nature), they regard Him as a non-explanation. But this just assumes naturalism regardless of (and even in spite of) the evidence (see Defining arguments away—the distorted language of secularism and How do miracles happen?).
But, why assume naturalism? The ‘alien Jesus’ proponent admits Jesus’ miracles couldn’t have happened by spontaneous physical causes. They had to happen through intelligent agency (they would say, technology). To say that God is always the most implausible explanation in such a context, the ‘alien Jesus’ proponent needs good reason to think God doesn’t exist, or that God didn’t care about supporting Jesus. I don’t know how they could prove the latter, so it seems they need to show that God doesn’t exist. Even in their attempt to keep Jesus’ miracles within physics, they must go into metaphysics to show that we should explain Jesus’ miracles solely by (intelligent) physical (natural) causes. But, there are plenty of good reasons to think God exists (see Does God exist? and Philosophical arguments for God). Science itself is one of them (see Why does science work at all? and The biblical roots of modern science).
But it gets worse for the ‘alien Jesus’ proponent. We have no evidence for any extra-terrestrial (ET) life, let alone sentient ET life (and not for lack of looking: SETI—coming in from the cold of space). Indeed, the practical impossibility of chemical evolution makes even our very existence miraculous on a naturalistic view (see Five Atheist miracles). Or did aliens make us? Well, since they too are physical beings that would’ve had a beginning, who made them? (see Who created God?) If naturalism is true, chemical evolution must have happened at least once. But admitting that aliens designed us shows that chemical evolution is nothing short of a naturalistic fairy tale. And we can’t have an infinite regress of alien designers with beginnings. Thus, if aliens exist, God ultimately made them! (see Without Excuse) And, again, since God fits right into Jesus’ context, and aliens don’t, God is still the better explanation for the miracles.
Could aliens have done Jesus’ miracles?
The previous section presumed that aliens could’ve done Jesus’ miracles. But could they, given what we know about physics? No. Aliens wouldn’t even be able to survive the trip to Earth in the first place, according to physics (see Alien visitors to Earth? and More space travel problems: g-forces). If aliens couldn’t even get here, how could they perform Jesus’ miracles? No matter how good technology gets, it can’t allow us, or aliens, to switch physics off.
Nor can technology create new physics. That’s important, because the testimony about Jesus’ resurrection body is that it’s immune to death (Romans 6:9). Can our bodies be immune to death, given the physics we know? No. Jesus’ resurrection body behaves in ways that transcend the ‘bondage to decay’ behavioural constraints of this fallen physical cosmos (e.g. Romans 8:18–25, 1 Corinthians 15:35–49). That’s something only the Sustainer of the cosmos could pull off, i.e. God.
This ‘alien Jesus’ view is motivated by Arthur C. Clarke’s quip that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That’s simply not true. Physics limits technology. Only supernatural beings can transcend physics. And only God can change physics itself. If the ‘alien Jesus’ proponent wishes to say that physics can spontaneously change, then they’ve undercut their faith in science as the only reason for ruling out God as an explanation—science can’t work if physics can spontaneously change (Why does science work at all?).
Obviously, the ‘Jesus was an alien’ idea is ludicrous. Even atheists know this. The reasons are legion. It undermines the general reliability of the very documents that need to be reliable for the theory to work. Ruling out God in favour of the ‘alien Jesus’ is an even more blatant and baseless sop to naturalism than is typical of atheists. And even science itself stands against the theory. On top of that, we can include the reliability of Scripture and the impossibility of alien life.
The ‘Jesus was an alien’ idea is a conspiracy theory in the worst sense of the term; it denies the obvious to establish the ludicrous. But it’s important to note that it’s a naturalistic conspiracy theory. It’s an absurd last-ditch hope for the naturalist to deny God in the face of the reliability of the Bible. If someone really believes this, reading the Gospels would be the worst thing for their ‘faith’ in their ‘alien Jesus’. They already trust the hardest-to-believe aspects of the Gospels, and Gospels don’t allow for any other explanation for Jesus’ miracles other than that He truly is God’s unique Son.