Humans have long searched the heavens for signs of other life. Is there life out there? Is there a way to know for sure?
Most of the world is markedly ignorant of the extraterrestrial life to which the pages of the Bible so abundantly testify.
Humanity is fascinated with the concept of extraterrestrial life. Many wonder if intelligent life residing somewhere else in the universe is busy watching us develop. We want to know who we are and if there is anything (or anyone) else out there that resembles us.
Interest in contact with aliens is not just the grist of science fiction but a real-life passion for many devoted to the search for other life forms. When a job transfer put me near Roswell, New Mexico, I soon learned of July 4, 1947, the date of an alleged crash landing of an alien ship a few miles northwest of the city. The next day's newspaper reported that the commander of the nearby U.S. Army base confirmed that a "flying saucer" had indeed crashed into the desert the previous evening.
Rumors circulated that on board the craft had been aliens who had died in the crash. On the second day, however, the commander said the crash was simply a downed weather balloon.
Another report, released in June 1997, just days before the 50th-anniversary extravaganza staged by local residents, said that what some thought had been dead aliens were only test dummies.
The search for life
Of course, man's curiosity has not been limited to stories about flying saucers. Reporting on a radio-telescope project, an article in U.S. News & World Report said recently: "In 1960, Project Ozma in West Virginia began its quest to detect alien radio signals. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration committed $100 million to a formal mission-the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence-but so far, no word has come from out there" (Victoria Pope, "Is There Life on Other Planets?," August 25, 1997).
The article also stated: "Space exploration hasn't turned up life, either. When NASA's Viking landers examined Mars two decades ago, they found a dry, sterile environment. Venus was a blazing inferno. It was only the images from the Galileo spacecraft that raised a slight hope of finding suitable conditions for life elsewhere in our solar system: Jupiter's moon Europa appeared to have an ocean of liquid water covered with pack ice."
More recently NASA's Pathfinder has sent back pictures of Mars that show a rocky desert terrain devoid of any surface vegetation or other signs of life. Now attention is turning to what might be below the surface of the red planet. Scientists wonder whether they should be looking for types of microbes similar to ones on earth that can live in extreme conditions such as searing heat, salt and high pressure.
An alleged martian meteorite recovered in Antarctica containing microscopic wormlike structures generates more questions. Are these structures fossils of earthlike bacteria? Are they just the result of mineral or geologic processes that didn't involve life-forms? Is it possible that life like ours once began on Mars, only to die out later?
Although new possibilities and questions continue to arise as quickly as old ones are rejected, one simple fact remains: We have no scientific evidence of intelligent life beyond this planet.
Comparing science and the Bible
Missing in this discussion is information that has been disallowed by the scientific method, which discards any information that cannot be verified or disproved by observation or experimentation.
That missing information is found in the Bible. The scientific approach generally leads to rejection of biblical facts and statements about other intelligent life, because science cannot prove those statements. This isn't necessarily the fault of science; it simply is the way the scientific discipline was established and functions. Of course, we can rely on something science has proven. But, like most things, even science has its limitations.
When the Bible reveals something of a spiritual nature, such information is often beyond the level of science. Science is often incapable of proving or disproving what is stated. The Bible describes this kind of information as revealed knowledge, or knowledge we cannot discover through human effort alone.
An interesting example of this is found in Matthew 16. Here, Jesus asked His disciples what people were saying about Him. The answers varied. Then He asked: "'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'" (Matthew 16:15-17).
Understanding Jesus Christ's identity as the Son of God is not scientific; it is not in the flesh-and-blood realm, proven through a microscope or telescope. This kind of knowledge is beyond science. In His conversation with Peter, Jesus affirmed that only God reveals this kind of knowledge. This revealed knowledge is the missing component in man's desire to understand his place in the universe. Without it, man will forever be left with a string of unanswered questions and endless possibilities.
Of course, not all who claim revealed knowledge actually have it. Occasionally we learn of cultlike small groups that claim to have secret knowledge of the unknown. When tragedy results, like the recent mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate group near San Diego, many are inclined to dismiss all revealed knowledge.
The difference between these groups and the Bible is the source of their information. Even large, long-established religious assemblies have shown their inadequacies in interpreting and explaining the Bible and attempting to represent God's revealed will. All groups have fallible human leaders, while the Bible contains the very words of God Himself. As 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God." Its authority is unassailable, whereas speculation of individuals remains just that-speculation.
The Bible has answers
So what can we learn from Scripture about extraterrestrial life and man's place in the universe? The Bible reveals that there is extraterrestrial intelligent life, but not as many suppose. The Bible does not speak of aliens who live on other planets, but it does speak of a Spirit Being who "inhabits eternity" (Isaiah 57:15).
The Bible is silent about extraterrestrial life-forms as popularized in science fiction and the entertainment media, yet it is by no means silent about real extraterrestrial life in all its great abundance. The beings spoken of in the Bible are real. They have appeared and spoken directly to humans (Genesis 3:9-10; 4:9; 16:9). The Bible records the existence of many millions of angelic beings (Revelation 5:11) who are "ministering spirits" to mankind in fulfillment of God's purpose (Hebrews 1:13-14).
The first verse of the Bible introduces us to the ultimate Spirit Being: God. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). It presents two pieces of revealed knowledge beyond the realm of science. The first is the existence of God. The second is found in the word created, a translation of the Hebrew word bara.
"This verb is of profound theological significance, since it has only God as its subject. Only God can 'create' in the sense implied by bara. The verb expresses creation out of nothing, an idea seen clearly in passages having to do with creation on a cosmic scale..." ( Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, "Create").
The concept of bringing the universe into existence from nothing is completely outside the parameters of scientific observation and experimentation. Science tells us a great deal about matter that already exists. It tells us that matter can change shapes and form. But science cannot account for the appearance of something that previously did not exist. It can only theorize about possible explanations for how everything we see around us came to exist from nothing.
We see this even in the various theories for the evolution of life into the myriad forms we see today-all start by assuming that matter already existed.
The Bible vs. evolution
In the face of this fundamental deficiency, some have tried to blend revealed knowledge with scientific theory in what is known as theistic evolution, or a belief that God made matter and then allowed evolution to shape life. In a monumental announcement the Roman Catholic Church recently agreed that life as we know it may have come about in this way.
Theistic evolution, however, is not the simple bridge between the spiritual and the physical worlds many would like. There are simply too many conflicts. The Bible, for example, reveals that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), not by evolutionary happenstance.
Scientific limitations aside, the apostle Paul said, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20, New International Version).
Science acknowledges that we live on planet Earth, but in rejecting revealed knowledge it can provide no absolutes about how our world came to be. In contrast, Paul said this beautiful planet, with its many sophisticated, interwoven relationships among its intricate array of life-forms, is testimony to God's existence.
The Bible further says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). Why would anyone reject revealed knowledge simply because it did not meet humanly imposed limitations? Paul, speaking of man's moral decline, explains: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22, NIV).
Mankind desperately needs the revealed knowledge that only the Bible can provide. Through the pages of this divinely inspired book, we learn not only about extraterrestrial intelligent life (God and the angelic realm), but how this planet and we humans came to be-and what God has in store as our ultimate destiny.
A scientist's last words
The late Carl Sagan was respected worldwide as one of this century's greatest scientists. His many credentials included his tenure as the David Duncan professor of astronomy and space sciences and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He also wrote 30 books and served as an adviser to NASA on the Mariner , Voyager and Viking unmanned space missions.
Before dying from a rare disease in December 1996, he penned these words: "Six times now have I looked Death in the face. And six times Death has averted his gaze and let me pass. Eventually, of course, Death will claim me-as he does each of us. It's only a question of when. And how.
"I've learned much from our confrontations-especially about the beauty and sweet poignancy of life, about the preciousness of friends and family, and about the transforming power of love...
"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking" ( Billions & Billions, Random House, New York, 1997, p. 214).
Although he excelled in scientific endeavors as few others have ever done, Sagan's otherwise expansive outlook was in many ways shackled by the scientific method to which he had devoted his life. This remarkable man had not come to trust in the revealed knowledge of the Bible-promises that human beings can eventually "be like" their Creator (1 John 3:1-2) and take on His "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:2-4).
From the outset the Bible describes man as created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27). The profound ramifications of this concept are discussed and described throughout the rest of the Bible.
Whether human beings understand these things or not, the Bible promises that "the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 40:5, NIV). In due time this will come to pass. The Good News is dedicated to sharing this revealed knowledge found within the Bible.
The Bible is silent about extraterrestrial life, as it is popularly conceived, in other parts of the universe. At the same time, most of the world is markedly ignorant of the extraterrestrial life to which the pages of the Bible so abundantly testify. Mankind is also largely ignorant of the incredible future potential God has in store for human beings "out there."
There is indeed life out there-and your destiny is to become part of it if you so choose! GN