By Nick Brzozowski
What world do we live in now? Have you heard that aliens have confirmed to be real!? Well…sort of…maybe.
At least, more and more evidence is coming to the light.
A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post that surveyed several different Christians reflecting on the question of aliens. Although you can find Christian thought-leaders on every side of this (convinced of, open to, and firmly against), there was one thing I noticed.
Some Christians are totally opposed to the idea of aliens — so much so, that they find any talk of their existence to be dangerous, “godless talk". Often, the basis for this thinking is built on a strong commitment to a young Earth, based almost entirely on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1.
There was something that bothered me about this thinking. It felt familiar, yet out of sync with my faith.
Growing up in the church, I held a certain understanding of the Bible and faith that I would now consider immature.
For instance, I believed…
Genesis 1 was written to describe the mechanics of how the material world came to be. Through further study of the Bible, I discovered the poetic design of the text, as well as the metaphysical (opposed to physical) questions it intends to answer.
All the Old Testament laws apply today, except for the ceremonial ones. However, I now see that interpretation as being pretty weak and unfounded by the rest of Scripture. For instance, we must read the slavery laws in a more nuanced way.
Being a Christian is all about getting to heaven when you die. Now, I see how limited that is. Jesus did not come and sacrifice himself so we can escape the world, but so that he can establish his Kingdom and recreate it!
In each case, my faith and understanding of God has grown because I was challenged to dig deeper and question assumptions.
What if the same issues and obstacles that keep us from growing our faith, in other areas, are keeping people from being open to the possibility of aliens?
What if your rejection of extra terrestrial life is a sign of weak faith, not mature faith?
There are three ingredients in a robust Christian faith that might lead to more openness to the existence of intelligent life on other planets.
1. The Christian Faith Compels Exploration.
The rivalry between faith and science is a relatively recent invention.
In his book, John Dickerson chronicles how it was faith that actually compelled people like Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal and dozens of others from the Scientific Revolution to make their discoveries.
They saw their scientific exploration as an extension of their faith because…
To know more about the creation will help us know more about our Creator, God.
Since humans are created in the image of God to rule the land, we have the responsibility to innovate.
As part of God’s in-breaking Kingdom, we can make advancements that will help humanity thrive.
If you faith rejects exploration of the unknown, maybe your faith needs a little more time in the gym.
2. Christian Faith Is Fueled By Imagination
Maybe you grew up in church hearing Bible stories in a more one-dimensional way. David fought Goliath, so you should have faith to fight your giants. Jonah ran from God and got swallowed by a fish, so you shouldn’t run from God.
Yes, there are moral lessons in all of the stories. But, the Bible is mostly narrative for more reasons than that. It is a rich, beautiful, challenging, disturbing literature. Repeated words and images and literary structures are intentionally designed for us to find more meaning in the text through our imagination. It is wisdom literature (2 Timothy 3:15) that requires reflection and meditation in order for us to grow.
Christian thinkers like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Alvin Plantinga help show us how to fuel our faith with imagination.
Lewis helps us wonder whether or not humans are one sheep out of 100 (99 being the aliens) that Jesus left his field to go search for.
Douglas Estes wonders how the existence of aliens could reveal the glory of God even more to us.
If aliens exist, praise God. That would give us a new set of categories for imagining God and his world.
3. Christian Faith Requires Adaptation
When we discovered the earth is not flat, we had to make some adjustments to our theology. In the 19th century, we had to adapt our interpretation of certain slave texts.
If we do in fact discover aliens, it will require another adaption.
For 500 years, since the Reformation, the church has had a motto: Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (The reformed church must always be reformed).
Following Jesus requires reformation and adaptation. He challenges us to change and confirm our lives to him.
Would the confirmation of aliens require us to adjust how we understand our faith in Christ? 100% without a doubt. But, following Jesus is all about change!
Now, with that said, there are beliefs that I am not willing to change. One foundation of Christian faith is that there is one ultimate, Creator God, Yahweh. So, the existence of aliens will not convince me of many gods. Also, Jesus became human. I don’t think the Christian faith leaves room for Jesus to take on the form of any other being. His incarnation is uniquely human.
So, keep exploring, keep imagining, and keep adapting.
And may your faith grow as you face the unknown.