50 years ago this week, man walked on the moon. Countless television and news reports have been observing and celebrating that hot Florida day on July 16, 1969 (definitely a day like today), when astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins flew into space on the most famous exploration mission in history, Apollo 11.
After touchdown on that July 20th, Armstrong would spend just slightly more than two and a half hours walking around on the Moon’s surface, “going where no man had gone before.” They picked up rocks and items of study but life on the moon was never expected nor discovered.
Such a mission has not deterred but encouraged millions of Americans to dream about a time where extra-terrestrial life will be found on other planets and UFO sightings may be confirmed as more than silly hoaxes and conspiracies for those that love all things sci-fi.
I have enjoyed more than a few Sci-Fi movies or TV programs in my lifetime- including E.T. as a youngster, but none was more interesting to me than director Steven Spielberg’s lesser known classic film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. What did I find so fascinating about that story? Perhaps it was the wonder, the transcendence of inter-galactic relationships forming, the thrill of the “coming home” aspect of the earthlings being returned to this home-planet in scenes which stirred my heart in a “frequency deeper than mere entertainment,” as a writer put it.
Such fantasies bolstered by the enormity of the heavens and universe also stir up our imaginations because as human, image-bearers of God we tend to feel we are not alone.
In fact, a lot of astronomers are fascinated and perplexed, as to why the universe is so big. The Hubble Telescope for instance, seems to tell us that there may be at a minimum, as many as ten thousand galaxies other than our own, which make up just a small portion of the universe, which is so big that we’re considering the expenditure of bigger bucks looking for other life forms in the universe.
50 years post Apollo 11, President Trump is talking about rejuvenating NASA and the space program, as America prepares to return to the Moon by 2024, and eventually, to Mars.
The prevailing wisdom among some scientists is that we have to assume there must be some other life forms in our massive universe. More habitable planets have to exist in such vast reaches of space they say. It’s just way too big, if it’s just a place for you and me right?
Isn’t that why UFO’s exist? What about Area 51? Isn’t that more than just a military base in Nevada, but rather a staging and research center for the study of UFO’s and ET’s? Conspiracy theorists think so.
Only recently the acronym “UFO” (Unidentified Flying Object) is now being referred to as ‘unexplained aerial phenomenon,’ or “UAP.” That is the term used by the scientific and evidence-based wing of the UFO research community, in an attempt to disassociate from the mockery that accompanies the lunatic type fringe of the “UFO” movement.
The Bible and Aliens
Getting to the heart of the issue, other than false interpretations of Ezekiel’s prophetic visions, God’s word makes no mention of “aliens” other than human beings who immigrate from one nation to another or enter a country as refugees, which is a whole other controversy.
Now, could God have created other life-forms; plants, animals or conscious, sentient image-bearers on other planets? I would suppose so. God being the sovereign, all-powerful and all-present creator and sustainer of all life in the universe can do as he wishes. We could not rule out such a possibility in good conscience, but we should know that scripture tells us in the book of Genesis that God began the creation of the universe itself with planet earth and its created beings.
God spoke and the universe came into being (Psalm 33:6,9). However, speculation remains due to the observation that if the universe was created simply to house humanity, it sure seems a bit oversized.
Why then is the universe so large and teeming with galaxies of stars and planets yet apparently devoid of other life-forms? If only perplexed astronomers, atheists and agnostics knew why God does anything, they might find an answer for the existence of the universe, as Christians have from the Bible (Acts 17:24-27). If they only knew that the universe’s primary function is not to house life-forms like humanity, but to glorify or magnify its Creator. In that sense the cosmos are not as big as they thought:
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away (Psalm 148:1-6, ESV).
Our best explanation for the existence of the unchartered universe (“undiscovered country”) may be more for mankind’s amazement and wonder – reflected in praise and worship of God for his mind-boggling creation in the heavenlies, which speak of his creative power and glory (Psalm 19:1-3) than anything else.
Indeed, it seems that the heavenlies themselves and the created beings within them make up one grand, universal choir of voices of praise and worship.
Perhaps one day, the voice of God will ring out to us as it did for the prophet Isaiah during Israel’s troubled time, when he said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a). Who would ever have expected that such a powerful and majestic God would ask such a question of one man for one nation? Maybe the Great Commission will expand to other worlds and not be limited to “nations.” Maybe- maybe not.
Quite honestly, I don’t spend too much time thinking about aliens, UFO’s or UAP’s. We have more than enough work to do when it comes to faithfully proclaiming the gospel here on planet earth – don’t we?