Since the early 20th century, the idea of alien life has captured our imagination. Since HG Wells first stoked our fascination with extraterrestrials with The War of the Worlds, people have continued to create stories about all manner of aliens. Some are grotesque, others appear human. Some are hostile, while others are endearing.
But to many, the idea of alien life is more than just a story. A 2021 Pew Research poll found that almost two-thirds of American adults believe that intelligent life exists on other planets. But what do Christians believe? Does the Bible have anything to say about aliens?
Christians are less likely than non-Christians to believe in intelligent alien life. Though the Bible does not address aliens, their existence is precluded by the truths of scripture.
A Serious Question
Aliens aren’t just for comic book and movie fans. Serious inquiry into the existence of extraterrestrial life abounds.
In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager spacecraft containing two Golden Records. These objects contain recordings of various languages, sounds, and images of Earth, and were sent into space with the hope and expectation that they would eventually be received by intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe.
And since 1984, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute has grown to a team of 100 scientists, plus support and administrative staff, who have taken on a mission of finding intelligent life beyond Earth.
Clearly, the scientists, benefactors, and scholars behind these projects believe in aliens. They would not invest millions of dollars and entire careers in their search if their belief were not sincere.
Why Believe in Aliens?
Popular belief in aliens emerged with the belief in evolution and the Big Bang theory. Adherents to these theories predict that if evolutionary processes arise by chance, then it is mathematically reasonable to predict that similar processes could happen elsewhere among the billions of worlds scattered throughout the universe.
However, when we view Creation through a Biblical lens as a purposeful and specific act of God, we find that believing in aliens not only becomes difficult, but impossible. (Before we go proceed, let us clarify that for purposes of this article we are evaluating the possible existence of intelligent, sentient aliens, equal or superior in capacity to humans).
The Uniqueness of Man
If you have read my previous examinations of animal souls and evolution, then you are familiar with the importance of man’s creation in God’s image. God created us with an image that encompasses more than just our physical form. As God’s image-bearers, we are uniquely imparted with spirits, rationality, morality, and discernment.
A belief in intelligent extraterrestrial life challenges man’s uniqueness as God’s image-bearers. While it is certainly within God’s power to create multiple life-supporting worlds and impart His image on inhabitants of each one, a plain reading of scripture suggests that this is not what God has done.
Any image-bearing creature made by God would necessarily be similar enough to humans that such a creature must also be classified as human. This is because God is unchanging (Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 10:38).
So too, would God’s image remain unchanged, no matter how many times it is reproduced throughout the universe.
And as God’s image-bearers, humans are given the place of highest honor not only on earth but across all of God’s creation. Psalm 8:6 declares that God has made humanity “rulers over the works of [His] hands.”
And what are the works of God’s hands? According to the context of the preceding verses, the heavens, the moon, and the stars are all included (Psalm 8:3).
So any alien life would necessarily be a lesser form, devoid of the intellect and reason that make us unique since the existence of the intelligent aliens is not supported by the words of scripture. However, the existence of microbes or other simple life on worlds other than our own is not precluded by scripture. Such organisms already coexist with us on earth, and could reasonably coexist with us beyond earth.
The Universality of Adam’s Fall
Because of man’s unique status in the hierarchy of the natural created order, Adam’s fall brought the stain of sin specifically onto humanity’s soul (Romans 5:12), along with the curse of death (Genesis 2:17).
Furthermore, Adam’s sin impacted the rest of creation, prompting God to pronounce a curse on the animals and the earth itself (Genesis 3:14-19). And this curse extended beyond earth to all of creation (Romans 8:19-22). Any living thing residing beyond earth would necessarily experience the effect of Adam’s fall.
And if that living thing is also made in God’s image (as a sentient alien would necessarily be), then we encounter new obstacles when we consider the theology of salvation.
Adam, Jesus, Death, and Salvation
As Paul established in Romans 5, Adam brought death (the consequence of sin) into the world. In addition, all of Adam’s offspring (all of humankind), were subsequently born with a sin-nature, distorting the image of God within each of us. Jesus, who took on flesh but did not sin, erased the stain of sin by His perfect sacrifice and provided humans the means of attaining eternal (spiritual) life.
It is no small thing that Jesus took on flesh as a man in order to accomplish this. Since the penalty of man’s sin is man’s death, Jesus became a man in order to pay that penalty.
When we run into a problem when we consider man-equivalent aliens is that we must either accept a sentient race that didn’t fall to sin, a race that inherited Adam’s sin despite not being his offspring, or Jesus replicating his saving work on each world for each separate race of aliens. Each of these scenarios runs contrary to the words of the Bible.
As we have already established, Adam’s sin brought a consequence upon all of creation, so no creature anywhere in the cosmos could have avoided the effect of sin. So an unfallen race of aliens residing somewhere is not possible, according to the Bible.
And while all of creation is affected by Adam’s fall, his sin nature is passed to his biological offspring. Sentient aliens would not have inherited the sin nature, but would still be subject to death as animals are, but without the hope of salvation, having received only the consequence (but not the nature) of sin.
And finally, if an alien race requires its own salvation, through its own incarnation of Jesus providing a substitutionary atonement, such an act would contradict the words of Hebrews 10:10, which declares that “Christ died once for all.” A repeat of Jesus’ incarnation and death also erases the absolute victory and permanence of His resurrection. And without a resurrection, we are left without hope (1 Peter 1:3).
The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
but the earth he has given to mankind.
– Psalm 115:16
The cosmos are full of God’s creative handiwork, and there is much that we have never discovered. But the Bible teaches us that humanity and the earth occupy a special place and purpose in our Creator’s design. Man alone was made in God’s image, and earth alone is our dwelling place.
Most Americans believe in intelligent life beyond Earth. Posted on pewresearch.org, accessed February 14, 2022.