Updated: Nov 26, 2019
Science fiction has burned into our minds the idea that life exists throughout the universe. An acceptance of biological evolutionary theory and a basic application of statistical probability would suggest that with so many stars in the sky, and with so many planets orbiting those stars, extraterrestrial life seems almost inevitable. In fact, depending on which polls you look at, between half and three-quarters of Americans believe that aliens exist, and at least 39% believe that they have even visited Earth. Furthermore, at least 4 million Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens. Given the popularity of the subject and its ubiquity in media and entertainment, it's important to consider the scientific evidence as well as the theological implications and investigate what scripture has to say on the matter.
The Pope's chief astronomer recently affirmed once again the Vatican's belief that mankind is not alone in the universe. While the Vatican is not the bellwether of Christian orthodoxy it once was, unfortunately this view is not limited to a few Catholic clergy out of touch with the greater flock. Indeed the belief in aliens is as widespread in the church as it is in pop culture. In fact, a poll done in 2014 for National Geographic reported that a whopping 77% of Americans believe there are signs that aliens have visited Earth. Compare that number to another poll which found only 74% of Americans believe in God and you begin to realize the pervasiveness of this idea. But is the belief in alien life forms biblical? The short answer is no- there is not one iota of textual support for this idea. The most common defense I've heard is that the Bible doesn't say that aliens don't exist and therefore we shouldn't rule the possibility out. There are multiple problems with this line of reasoning, but I'll just mention two- that an argument from silence is a well-known logical fallacy and that the bible isn't silent on the uniqueness of mankind. To "not rule the possibility out" would first require that accepting that possibility didn't contradict statements which clearly are in the Bible. The issue isn't what the Bible doesn't say, but rather what the Bible does say. The Theological Incompatibility
Scripture clearly describes Earth as the focal point of all creation, not just one world among many. This central theme begins in Genesis and continues all the way through Revelation. Earth is referred to as the footstool of God many times in scripture, connecting Earth exclusively to God's throne room. The Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ. These metaphors make little sense if Earth is simply one of many populated worlds in God's creation.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. -Gen 1:1-2
Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? -Isa 66:1
"But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING." -Mat 5:34-35
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. -Rev 21:1-2
Things get more interesting when scripture clearly states the purpose of the rest of the universe was for man's benefit, specifically for signs, times and seasons. The light each celestial body emits was also specifically for Earth's illumination. Again we see that everything in the universe exists for man's benefit.
Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, Gen 1:18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. -Gen 1:14-19
Now a major theological problem occurs in Romans when Paul states that man's sin brought the curse into "all creation" (Greek: cosmos). C.S. Lewis wrestled with this issue in his Out of the Silent Planet sci-fi trilogy, but he didn't resolve the inherent theological problem. If man brought death and destruction to the whole universe, that means any alien lifeforms would be under the curse by default by no fault of their own.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Rom 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope Rom 8:21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. -Rom 8:19-22
This becomes a major issue when we realize that scripture clearly states that Christ only died once and only for mankind (He had to become one of us to pay the penalty for us—the principle of the kinsman redeemer).
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. -Rom 6:10
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—or until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. -Rom 5:12-19
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit... -1 Pe 3:18
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. -1 Co 15:21-22
Some may argue, "But maybe God just died once for mankind, and also once for each other alien race!" To that argument from silence, Revelation chapter 21 offers a clear answer—only mankind will enter eternity with God. Not only that, but God makes His dwelling place here on Earth for eternity—which would seem rather selective of God if He did indeed create other inhabited worlds.
So, in order to leave the possibility for aliens open, one must reject or rationalize these texts away as they quite clearly leave no room for intelligent life on other planets. In order to believe in aliens and be a Christian, one must reject the stated purpose of all the heavenly bodies in Genesis and insert their own purpose—to facilitate alien life. One must also reject the entirety of the biblical passages which clearly communicate man's special position in creation and the church's unique and monogamous marital relationship with the creator. One must then accept that man's sin brought the curse of death upon all creation—that includes all possible aliens in the cosmos. In effect, they would be damned because of us. But here's the kicker—one must then also accept that apparently God doesn't care about their death and damnation because He only became a kinsman redeemer for mankind, and only makes His eternal home on Earth. Does this sound like the character of God as described in the Bible? So there can only be one possibility that allows aliens and the Bible to coexist, and that is that aliens have no souls and are therefore the equivalent of extra-terrestrial plants and animals—which are part of God's creation but not eternal creatures made in God's image and not superior or even equal to mankind.
But of course it is only intelligent life on other planets that people are referring to when they talk about "aliens" and their physics-defying uber technology that allows them to traverse impossible distances across the universe. It is interesting that most who believe in aliens also typically believe that they are superior to mankind in both intelligence and technology. This should be pretty alarming for a Bible-believing Christian as this soundly contradicts scripture which states that man is the pinnacle of creation, only surpassed in glory (for now) by the angels.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet. -Psa 8:3-6
For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. -Heb 2:5-8
The Origin of Alien Life
So we've established that the Bible is not neutral to the concept of aliens, it is actually quite opposed to it—so where did this pervasive idea come from? The answer is both apparent and equally non-biblical— evolution—the idea that the universe was not created by God, but happened by chance over the course of billions and billions of years. This concept then encouraged the idea that if life happened on this planet, then it must have happened on many others. This logic of course assumes life to be a simple thing and therefore statistically probable, but science has increasingly proved the opposite to be true. The scientific view that life only required a few variables in order to exist (called Drake's Equation) back in 1961 produced estimates of at least 1,000 alien civilizations in our galaxy alone. But as science progressed, the number of known required variables increased from just a few, to over 400. This has put the odds computed by Drake's Equation so low, that statistically we are probably alone not only in our galaxy, but in the entire observable universe. The statistical probability hasn't discouraged scientists at SETI from holding onto hope though. They always think they're right on the verge of contact, despite countless sensational false alarms.
But the bigger issue is that we have assumed that evolution happened on this planet. This is actually an assumption because there is exactly zero empirical evidence supporting the theory of molecules-to-man evolution. We have never observed abiogenesis, or a species changing into another, or even beneficial mutations. Actually we've never even observed a mechanism which could even make such mutations possible. In fact, what we have observed points to evolution being absolutely impossible (see this post for details). So Christians have been duped into believing evolution on this planet is a fact, which has led them to assuming that it has occurred elsewhere in the universe as well. Both of these ideas are contrary to biblical teaching and boil down to two completely anti-biblical ideas—that God did not create and that man is not special in that creation. The first undermines God's place and authority, the second undermines man's place and authority and both undermine the Bible's place and authority. Now ask yourself, who benefits from God's, man's, and the Bible's authority being undermined? The reality is that the theory of evolution set the stage for the belief in aliens and the popularity of the former is directly proportional to the popularity of the latter. As evolutionary theory began to gain mass acceptance in the Western world, the idea of aliens took off in pop culture. Books and movies began propagating the myth in dramatic fashion and the era of science fiction dawned, capturing the hearts and minds of the world. The 1968 book Chariots of the Gods hypothesized that ancient, primitive man (according to the theory of evolution) could not have pulled off the engineering feats that archaeology had discovered, so more advanced (via evolution) alien races must have come given poor man a helping hand. This book launched the "ancient astronaut" theory and spawned a deluge of books, movies and TV shows including the 1994 hit movie Stargate and the History channel's 2010 premier of the Ancient Aliens series. The imagery and themes are utterly consistent, though hardly original.
The more aliens infiltrated pop culture, the more people believed in their actual existence and therefore reported sightings, experiences and abductions increased proportionately. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the reports of UFO or alien sightings are directly correlated with the science fiction imagery of their day. In other words, when flying saucers were the alien spaceships in film and TV, people reported seeing flying saucers, but as film and TV special effects and imagery changed, so did the sightings. When aliens in films were little green men, people reported being abducted by little green men. When aliens in films were tall slender gray beings, so were the reports. This is indicative not of the reality of aliens and their spacecraft, but of the power of suggestion and the impact media has on human imagination and perception. Mid 20th century science encouraged the idea of alien visitation as technology exploded during, and especially after, WWII. Rocket engines and the space program captured the imagination of a nation and the promise of flying cars and intergalactic travel seemed just around the corner. Then science started to rain on everyone's parade and we began to understand the vast distances and impossible odds associated with space travel. As we began to understand the physics, we began to understand the dream of even interstellar, let alone intergalactic, space travel may just be that—a dream. The laws of physics set boundaries on even theoretical speed, regardless of the technological capabilities to actually achieve them. As the science progressed, the universe got bigger, not smaller. So Hollywood, UFOlogists and the alien true believers had to come up with a new hypothesis as it became clear that ET could not visit Earth even if their technology could propel them at velocities near the speed of light. This shift in paradigm produced science fiction concepts like "warp drives" and "sub-space" in Hollywood in order to overcome the speed of light limitation that physics demanded, but the shift was even more dramatic in UFOlogy. The Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis was largely abandoned by UFOlogists altogether. Instead, UFO's and their implied alien pilots were explained by a new hypothesis—the Inter-Dimensional Hypothesis. As science and physics proved interstellar travel impossible, UFO's and alien visitations were now legitimized by a new set of explanations—namely that aliens were inter-dimensional beings, not bound by the laws of physics. Instead of physical metal flying saucers, UFO's were now more ethereal—spots of light and glowing orbs which could simply pop into our dimension and pop out without any trace while zooming around our atmosphere without having to comply with the laws and limits of physics and gravity. This paradigm shift essentially made aliens and UFO's non-physical entities, which effectively placed them squarely in the paranormal/supernatural category rather than the previous physical/scientific one which had originally lent them so much credibility. The Spiritual Implications Now it becomes clear why UFOlogy essentially became a religious movement, practically synonymous with New Age, mysticism and the occult. Researchers began to discover that people who had these encounters of the first through fourth kind began to seek those experiences and encounters again and were actually able to through the occult. Even many abductees, who reported the experience as the most horrific of their life, appeared to exhibit classic Stockholm Syndrome and began to identify with their abductors, which led to wanting to befriend them. They were then able to get back in touch with their "alien" abductors through the New Age and occult practice of channeling. This link between UFO's, alien encounters and the occult is well documented, yet many Christians still somehow think that belief in aliens is an innocent and even biblically-endorsed view. But what seems innocent at first, becomes increasingly dark and sinister the deeper you go. Consider for a moment the following: - Alien abductions are almost always terrifying, sexually exploitive and psychologically traumatic. - UFOlogists' research has demonstrated that virtually anyone regardless of age, ideology, income level or education is susceptible to alien abduction experiences. There is only one demographic that seems rather immune to becoming victims—Bible-believing Christians. - UFOlogists' research has documented a very peculiar pattern in alien abduction experiences—that anyone who calls out the name of Jesus during the ordeal has reported the experience abruptly stops. - UFOlogists' research has documented the few cases where a former abductee has channeled their former abductor and developed a relationship to the point where the "alien" being has disclosed their name. Some of them are very foreign-sounding, but many are actually very familiar—names like "Molech" and "Ishtar"—names of ancient Old Testament pagan gods and goddesses. - When comparing a case of demonic possession with a case of alien abduction, the two are almost identical in reported experience. In the 2009 fictional movie, portrayed as a docu-drama, The Fourth Kind, (trailer below) this similarity is overtly demonstrated. I actually went to see this movie when it first came out purely out of curiosity to see how Hollywood would portray this overlap. The film actually ends with an interviewer asking the protagonist, "You said they [the alien abductors] claim to be God?" She replies, "No, they pretend to be." This is about as telling of demonic activity as it gets.
Finally, alien abduction experiences are not new, they just are going by different nomenclature these days. In ancient societies these experiences might be attributed to spirits or demons. In the Dark Ages they might be attributed to sprites and fairies. In Medieval Europe, these experiences were so common that even the church fathers had to acknowledge them and develop official categorization of them. The result was the identification (invention) of a particular demon class called the incubus and succubus. These demons were responsible for terrorizing men and women at night and performing strange sexual acts and experiments on them. But if you study the history and cases of all these experiences, they are eerily similar to reported alien abductions, which are also very sexual in nature. However, they're explained using different terminology and imagery—in accordance to what was popular and acceptable in the culture at that time. This can be explained as either humans trying to explain an experience within their established frame of reference, or else demonic entities tailoring their activity to align with any given set of cultural norms and imagery.
The sexual element should not be downplayed or ignored here though. This is a common theme in scripture as well as history. Whether it be the Nephilim in Genesis 6, fairies or sprites, incubi and succubi, or aliens, there is always a sexual element to these encounters. Why? Well Satan loves to use sex to destroy people and it is a particularly devastating method as God designed sex to be one of the most intimate and vulnerable physical and spiritual experiences available to mankind. There are few better ways to hollow out a person and steal their sense of sanctity and worth than to violate them sexually. From temple prostitutes to orgies and even ritual rape, sex has always been a major part of pagan worship, cults, and secular culture. Satan perverts what God intended for good as a tool to kill, steal, and destroy and it is highly effective. Conclusion We are left with only a few options given all this information. The first option is that evolution produced multiple alien species which are vastly superior to mankind in every way and developed technology that overcame death and their physical bodies, now existing as immortal non-physical, shape-shifting, inter-dimensional beings who enjoy deception, masquerading as gods and inflicting trauma (physical, psychological and sexual) on "lesser" species in the universe and who are somehow able to communicate metaphysically with others through occult practices. The second option is they are actually spiritual beings which the Bible identifies as demons. The latter explanation may be too much to swallow for the unchurched, scientifically-minded Westerner but for Christians, this should be a no-brainer. The same spiritual entities that were deceiving and leading ancient man astray are doing the same thing today but have to adapt their tactics to suit the modern sensibilities of Western culture and thought, so they can't present themselves as "demons" or "spirits" in order to entice people, they have to present themselves as "aliens." No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. - 2 Co 11:14 This should shed some light on why Western Christians do not hear about many cases of demonic possession in the West, but see it more often on the mission field. It's not that demonic activity doesn't happen in the West, it just operates under a pseudo-scientific facade as Western societies have increasingly accepted a "scientific," rational, materialistic worldview and therefore have rejected the reality of the spiritual and supernatural. So the appropriate question isn't how many cases of demonic possession occur in the US, but rather how many cases of alien abductions occur. The answer may surprise you. Estimates are in the thousands per year and a 2002 survey estimated 2.9 million Americans had experienced four out of five classic alien abduction symptoms (the Roper report mentioned earlier puts that number at 4 million). Also of note, of all reported UFO sightings worldwide, the vast majority of them come from Western nations with the United States alone accounting for nearly 50% of them despite having only 3% of the world's population. The amazing thing about this phenomena is that it has been successful in deceiving many, many Christians who are under the false impression this is all in the name of science and therefore it would be ignorant to not believe in aliens. So the Vatican and many others in the church endorse what can quite safely be identified as demonic activity and in doing so, undermine God's word, God's power in creation and man's rightful place and authority in all creation. They make this grave error not because there is any empirical evidence—all current evidence points to life being unique to Earth—but simply because evolutionary scientists postulate life exists elsewhere in the universe and hope that maybe someday, we might be able to verify that fantasy. So if you're reading this and you're a follower of Christ, I would caution you to carefully examine the evidence and determine which source of information you choose to base your worldview on—science fiction and the occult, or the Bible. Either way you're going to have to accept some rather uncomfortable conclusions for the average Western thinker—that a realm beyond that which science can examine exists and these encounters of the first through fourth kind are not purely physical, but actually metaphysical, paranormal, supernatural or spiritual in nature.
But this is good news for the church and non-believers alike. As these are not alien, but demonic beings, they are under the church's authority and can be dealt with accordingly. There is an incredible practical implication to this realization, namely that there is freedom for the afflicted, and you may actually know someone who needs it. During my week on biblical worldview in a Discipleship Training School back in 2012, I ventured off into this topic for some reason and after class found out why. One of the students approached me and explained that she had experienced a sexual "alien" abduction years earlier, but could not explain it, so kept quiet about it. Even after becoming a Christian, she had no clue what to make of that terrifying experience. But after hearing my lecture, she finally had a frame of reference to put it in, and as a believer, knew she now had the spiritual authority to deal with it, be healed from it, and prevent it from ever happening again. She no longer had to live in fear or shame. My hope is that this powerful revelation will no longer be alien to your theology. For Further Study: I highly recommend "Alien Intrusion" by Gary Bates which researches and exposes the UFO phenomena in our culture.