Apart from the idea of directed panspermia, another aspect of the alien debate that Christian theology would reject is that the beings commonly reported from abduction scenarios, as well as similar beings who have presented themselves to humanity in the past, are actually extraterrestrials. Most Christians would take the stance that these specific beings are demonic. Some might be able to articulate further, explaining that these beings are the evil and fallen sons of God from Genesis 6. This view is based on descriptions of alien behavior, messages, abduction violence, and even appearances overlapping with ancient textual depictions of the fallen sons of God. These details do not only appear in biblical texts, but in ancient religious texts across the world.
This all goes to show that the question of extraterrestrial life is far more complex than to merely say “it’s all demonic.” Certainly, some incidents occurring to people seem to have a demonic source. However, does this mean they are the only examples throughout the entire universe? Is it possible, apart from grays, reptilians, nordics, and the rest, that there are planets inhabited by actual extraterrestrial intelligences? If one of these extraterrestrial races were to contact humanity, would that attempt at communication have to shake our faith? The answer is no. An extraterrestrial reality would only shake our faith as Christians if we allowed it to. An extraterrestrial reality that is not demonic in nature does not conflict with biblical theology, though it may do so with certain interpretations of biblical passages. For example, as we saw earlier, an extraterrestrial reality could differ from with the interpretation of the image of God by stating that it is an attribute rather than a position or status. However, when we have the correct view of biblical theology, there is nothing to support or refute an extraterrestrial reality.
We see examples throughout history showing how dangerous wrong interpretations of theology can be. There are examples of other intelligent, sentient, conscious, living, breathing beings the rest of the world didn’t know existed, thus didn’t know what to do with in light of the biblical understanding at the time. This lack of biblical understanding not only led to strange and unusual interpretations of Scripture, but also to some of the worst atrocities committed by human beings against their own people.
What We Can Learn from Primitive Understandings of Other Human Races
It is almost a cliche to say it, though it is true: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We must understand that, as human beings, there is a lot we just don’t know. It is also extremely difficult, and most often illogical, to form strong opinions on matters lacking substantial information. We can speculate, of course, but the danger enters when people choose to act upon those speculations.
The period between the fifteenth and eighteenth/nineteenth centuries is known as the “Age of Discovery” or the “Age of Exploration” because much of the previously unknown world was being explored. Most famously, Christopher Columbus, as well as others, was discovering the New World. These people were finding a completely mysterious place, one where people of the time presumed that something must exist without any real idea as to what it could be.
There were many speculations as to what these early explorers might find on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Many of these theories revolved around ideas of strange, almost otherworldly, sort-of human, creatures. In fact, one of these speculations was the inspiration for the Monopods in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis. For those not familiar with that book, the travelers in the story reach an island inhabited by humanoid creatures called “Monopods.” They are called this because they only have one foot and travel by hopping. The idea of Monopods is not original to C. S. Lewis; the creatures are found in literature duringthe Age of Discovery, which drew on even earlier sources, such as from the Greco-Roman era when people speculated what might dwell beyond the known world.[i]
The Age of Discovery was also the era when ancient Near-Eastern texts were being discovered and translated. One of the most famous expeditions from this period was the Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Campaign in Ottoman Egypt and Ottoman Syria, which eventually led to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone on July 15, 1799, creating the field of Egyptology.[ii]
During this time, ancient nonbiblical and biblical texts were being discovered with competing human-origin accounts and timelines related to creation and the age of the Earth. All of a sudden, not only did the biblical accounts the Europeans were familiar with have some competition, but because of their proximity to the biblical world, there were also clear overlaps with the narratives of the Bible, such as in ancient Mesopotamian texts. Multiple garden paradise, flood, and tower of Babel stories were found that were very similar to those recounted within the books of the Bible. However, these other texts did not sound completely like the Bible; there were key differences. For example, king lists in ancient texts were found to line up, sometimes even by name, with the genealogy included in Genesis 5, but the chronology in the extrabiblical sources was a lot lengthier than what is described in Genesis.[iii]
During this time, Sanskrit, one of the literary languages of India that goes far back into ancient times, was also being deciphered. Again, Europeans were discovering competing human origin stories, this time outside the world of the Bible. Most surprising was the discovery that Sanskrit was not a Semitic language, such as Hebrew and Mesopotamian languages, but it actually belonged to the Indo-European family, where all the European languages such as Greek and Latin originate. The question inevitably came up: What was an Indo-European language doing all the way in India?
The discovery of the Americas also raised many questions. Explorers found people—not Monopods or any other strange creatures—in North and South America. The people groups they encountered had their own traditions and origin stories. Again, the question inevitably came up: How did they get there?
Europeans asked these questions because the Bible doesn’t directly answer or even address them. The Bible doesn’t mention North America, South America, Central America, Canada, or the people from these newly discovered lands. All of this, including the discoveries of ancient languages and texts, both from the biblical world and outside the biblical world, plus other factors such as scientific progress in the field of geology and dating the age of the Earth, were causing some Europeans to question the legitimacy of the Bible.
Later, even the inception of Darwinism contributed to all of this thought. Of course, to Darwinists, this was no problem. Other races were the product of evolution and mutations within the species. However, to Bible believers, it was a different story.
All of these discoveries and ideas converged within a relatively short period of time (three or four centuries). This was a significant challenge to Europeans who were raised with the Bible and continued to believe its accuracy. On top of all this, people who didn’t accept the Bible as true, even people who hated the Bible, used this time to their advantage. They were looking for a legitimate reason to reject the Bible as a whole, especially Christian origin stories, because in their minds it freed them from accountability to God. The mindset was something like this: If biblical creation isn’t true, the rest of the Bible isn’t true, God doesn’t exist, and we don’t have to do what He wants. It was their chance to escape accountability in their culture, it gave them seemingly valid excuses to give people who might otherwise hold them to a social standard based on biblical teaching, and it ultimately provided them with a reason to reject and ignore God and the Bible as a whole.
All of this fed into what would turn into anti-Semitism. To certain people, the Bible was beginning to be seen as merely Jewish fairy tales needing to be expelled from the culture and replaced with something more scientific. Of course, anti-Semitism wasn’t anything new, but it gained refreshed traction in light of all these discoveries and new ideas. While this was a great time for people wanting to reject God and the Bible, it was a time of crisis for Christians.
Christians felt as though they were presented with a choice: They either had to reject the Bible (which, to Christians, was not an option) or find a way to make it fit in with all of these new discoveries and ideas. They had to find a way to harmonize the Bible with the fact that there existed other people who were not white Europeans from previously unknown lands the Bible didn’t talk about. They figured if they could answer the question of where these people came from, they could also answer the question of why there were different races—all while tackling issues like Darwinism and geology.
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This quest to force the Bible to explain these things produced some of the strangest, most contrived, and inaccurate interpretations of the Bible imaginable. However, many of these ideas became accepted, popular, and even mainstream. Many of them would seem utterly ridiculous to most Christians today. But, for the day in which they were invented, they offered people what they were looking for to combat the onslaught of modern discoveries and scientific understanding.
Some of these interpretations were the beginning of unfavorable theories about race and diversity, such as whether the “other” races were in the line of Adam. They would wonder if these non-European races were truly human, as in having descended from Adam, or if they were from another source entirely. Believers typically fell into two categories: polygenists or monogenists.
Polygenism was the belief that there was more than one original pair of humans (Adam and Eve) in the beginning. In this thinking, human life originated from multiple sources. These sources were seen as multiple lines from different kinds of humans classified into different subspecies and races. Racial diversity was explained by saying that the idea that everyone came from only two people was wrong. They believed multiple races lived alongside Adam, Eve, and their children. Polygenists also typically believed other races existed before the creation of Adam and Eve. These ideas were used to answer questions such as how Cain found a wife, who populated the land of Nod, and for whom Cain built a city. The text in Genesis did not provide a solid answer to these questions, so speculations were formed in order to provide answers and deal with other questions regarding races.
Monogenism, on the other hand, was more appealing to Christians who wanted to hold on to the traditional understanding of the Genesis Creation account, especially when it came to Adam and Eve. However, from this came even more bizarre interpretations. This is when Christians began to think there was something more going on in the Garden of Eden than what was described. This was the origin of such interpretations as the “Serpent Seed Theory,” which states that Eve actually had sex with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, producing a new line of people. The serpent wasn’t considered a literal snake, of course, but was recognized as a sinister being—whether divine, human, or something in between. This union between Eve and the serpent was recognized as the origin of the line of Cain. Monogenists believed the line of Cain was the origin of black people and that the line of Seth, born of Adam and Eve, was the origin of the “special,” “elect,” white people.
On top of this, monogenists used passages like Genesis 6 to support this view, saying it described a clash between Seth’s godly line and the evil line of Cain. This interpretation, though unsubstantiated by the whole of Scripture, was gaining more popularity since its original and accurate supernatural understanding had long since been stripped out, creating what was, and still is, called the “Sethite” view of Genesis 6 (stating it was Adam’s line against Cain’s line, rather than the original context stating it was the rebellious fallen angels against all of humanity). This was when the invented problem of other races came about. To the monogenists at the time, it wasn’t Darwin who described the origin of races, it was actually Satan who caused it. In fact, this view is still taught in many seminaries today, though most of the racial bias has been removed.[iv]
These bizarre and unjustified interpretations led to beliefs supporting the racial superiority of Europeans and, later, to the practice of slavery in America. Bible-believing Europeans trying to harmonize the Bible with science, the discovery of new lands and races, and the deciphering of ancient languages and religious texts, viewed themselves as the direct inheritors of the Judeo-Christian tradition called Christianity since it was through Europe where Christianity really began to grow and spread throughout the rest of the world. Therefore, many saw Europeans as the line of Adam and white Europeans as the ones especially closest to God. To them, this meant the other lines, however they originated, were less like Adam and ultimately less like God. They were seen as inferior. To some Christian teachers and laypeople, this thinking raised the question of whether these other races were even truly human. They wondered if other races were redeemable by the blood of Christ, which was shed only for humanity. This affected missionary work, when some Christians believed the other races were not worth evangelizing because they weren’t human anyway. From that idea came the motivation to dominate the other races, which led to the rise of slavery in Europe and America. Later on, interpretations such as these even influenced the extreme racial ideas of the Nazis, leading to the malicious and horrifying deaths of millions. We can even still see the influences of this today in modern groups of white supremacists, KKK members, and neo-Nazis.[v]
The Fallacy of Hyperliteralism
Throughout human history, these contrived biblical interpretations led to some appalling and disturbing conclusions about our fellow human beings. How different would things have been if people of the time had realized that there are just some things the Bible doesn’t clearly explain? There are some origin stories we will just not know in full. And, most importantly, it’s okay that we don’t know everything. We shouldn’t expect the Bible to have the burden of explaining the meaning, origin, and existence of everything we currently experience and might discover in the future. Forcing the Bible to be something it’s not and was never intended to be (i.e., a catalog and scientific explanation for everything God created) has led to literal life-and-death situations with damaging consequences.
Instead, we need to view what the Bible actually is: a theological collection of books explaining who the real God is, how to know Him, and how be saved from the curse of death by accepting His gift of eternal life. That’s it. Anything else we get from the text is extra and interesting information. Even still, everything in the Bible needs to be studied in the context within which it was written. The culture, specific writer, and history need to be understood in order to develop an accurate interpretation. On top of that, the entire Bible needs to be taken in context with itself. A vast number of Scriptures passages deal with how to treat people lovingly, respectfully, and as equal image-bearers of God. Had the Europeans from centuries past understood this, perhaps human history could have avoided the atrocities that followed the compromised and all-around bad interpretations of biblical texts.
Much of this is born from a hyperliteral view of the Bible. This view, which is extremely popular in the Church even today, suggests there is no way to look at any text in Scripture other than its literal, word-for-word meaning. Of course, this view, when taken to the extreme, is easy to disprove. The Bible offers plenty of metaphoric and poetic descriptions that would be rendered completely ridiculous if taken literally. For example, Jesus said Christians are to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13). Obviously, He was not saying we need to transform ourselves into sodium chloride and photons. He was using everyday concepts such as salt and light as tools for teaching a broader message.
Most Christians do not take an ultimate-literal view of the Bible, but many do accept a hyperliteral view, meaning most things in the Bible are meant to be taken literally. Though in this lies the problem, who is to say what is literal and what is metaphor or poetry? Usually in hyperliteralist circles, these decisions are up to the individual reader. Also, it is almost seen as a sign of virtue or great strength of faith to take the text as literally as possible and not accept the “easy” answer of symbolism, metaphor, or poetry. Rather than attempting to see Scripture in context and understanding it from the viewpoint in which it was written, many instead rely on a scientific approach to interpreting the Bible. If the scientific view of the Bible clashes with the science of modern day, the hyperliteralist Christian tends to favor the scientific view. This is why we have groups in the Church today who accept geocentricism or believe the Earth is flat: Because, through a scientific interpretation, the Bible says so. In fact, this hyperliteral view is sometimes held so tightly that some question other Christians’ salvation, relationship with God, or belief in the Bible if they do not accept an overly literal view of Scripture, such as in the case of cosmology. Thus, the Church divides even farther.
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Allowing the Mistakes of the Past to Prevent Mistakes in the Future
As stated earlier this series, this author does not believe the commonly reported nonhuman beings from various abduction accounts are actual aliens from another planet. We believe those beings are likely of a demonic origin, largely due to the messaging from the beings themselves. This, as a quick side note, is also how we believe Christians should want to understand a genuine official disclosure event. If nonhuman entities land on the White House lawn, for example, how do we know if they are aliens or something demonic? We would listen to the messaging. What is their motivation? Why are they here? What are they saying, and what are they doing? Are they proclaiming anti-Christian messages? Are their communications to humanity anything like the fallen gods of old? This is how we believe a genuine alien contact scenario on a large scale should be handled by Christians. However, we should also realize that the larger question itself is much more complicated.
It is important for us to learn from history, lest we be doomed to repeat it. Of course, the question of extraterrestrial life does not have a direct, one-to-one relationship with the old ideas of races, but there is at least a connection. The main point to keep in mind is that we simply do not know everything. Of course, there is nothing to say that extraterrestrial life would be considered as the line of Adam, though to be fair, that is exactly what the monogenists and polygenists thought. The main question was, after the discovery of other people, how did they get there? What if, in the near or distant future, humanity discovers other intelligent beings on another planet? What will that do to our faith? Will we ask the same question of how did they get there? Will we assume it is impossible for them to be included in the line of Adam, therefore they are not human and do not need to be treated with any kind of dignity or respect? Will we assume, since the Bible doesn’t say anything about them, that we must force a biblical interpretation that could lead to unimaginable problems later?
Or will we instead learn from past mistakes, realize we do not know everything (and should not act as though we do), and recognize that the question of extraterrestrial life is a lot more complicated than even the question of other races was hundreds of year ago? Will we take a step back in all humility and allow God to guide us through the situation rather than charging into it blindly ourselves? Will we give sufficient time and thought to the issue before rushing into knee-jerk responses and attacking those who do not share the same view?
It is a good idea to begin thinking about these things now. We do not know when, if ever, an official disclosure event will happen. If it does happen, we do not know what form it will take. We don’t know if it will be an event as fantastic as a UFO landing on the White House lawn, or something more mundane such as leaked documents or the U.S. government finally admitting they know something. If anything, all of these questions and the realization of how much we truly don’t know should award us with a higher degree of humility than would hard-nosed opinions based solely on speculation. We should be able to have an open discussion about these matters without feeling like our faith is threatened or believing that if we entertain an alternate view we are somehow displeasing God or not defending Him properly. In regards to issues the Bible does not clearly lay out for us, this way of thinking never produces positive results. Ultimately, concerning vague topics not addressed directly in the Bible, we are all going to have different opinions and reasons for those beliefs. However, we should also have an awareness not all of our opinions are going to line up. This is why it is important to have open and honest dialogue while focusing on what we have in common rather than what we disagree on.
For Christians, whether we agree on the extraterrestrial question is not nearly as important as what we have in common. We all accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. We all have a promise of redemption. When this physical life is finished, we will all spend eternity together. At that time and on that side of eternity, I’m willing to bet that all of the issues we are so opinionated about and hold so dear now will seem utterly small, weak, and pathetic to the point that we will wonder what in the world we were thinking by allowing those matters to divide us. Let’s not wait until eternity to realize this. Let’s learn from humanity’s past mistakes. Let’s cultivate unity today.
UP NEXT: The Israel/UFO Connection
[i] Monopods in Ancient Greece and Rome, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopod_(creature)#In_Ancient_Greece_and_Rome.
[ii] Benjamin, Don C. (March 2009). Stones and stories: an introduction to archaeology and the Bible. Fortress Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8006-2357-9.
[iii] John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context, p. 127–131.
[iv] For more information on this, refer to Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins by David Livingstone and Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery by A. B. Curry Chair of Religious Studies, Stephen R Haynes, Ed.
[v] For more information on this specific topic, as well as others covered in this section, refer to episode 5 of Questions Aloud, entitled Racism in the Church, hosted by Dr. Michael S. Heiser, on FaithLifeTV: https://faithlifetv.com/media/369481.