What would happen to Christianity if alien life is discovered?

Assume for a moment that life is discovered somewhere else in the universe. How does extraterrestrial life fit into a Biblical framework? If alien life is found, would it completely undermine the reliability of the Bible? A proper answer to that question would depend in part on the kind of life discovered. Before beginning to answer the question it is important to remember this is all hypothetical. No life of any kind, no matter how tiny, has ever been found anywhere else in our solar system. Some claims of evidences of life or the existence of materials necessary for life have been made, but those claims are notoriously difficult to test and verify. At this point no evidence exists that could reasonably lead one ot conclude there is life out there.

Popular science fiction focuses on alien life that intelligent or semi-intelligent. Of course, a movie about alien bacteria floating around in alien pond scum growing, dividing and floating around some more is about as entertaining as an elementary school biology film about the habits of earth bacteria. Science fiction entertainment requires alien life that is intelligent enough to produce conflict and drama. Intelligent life is not the only kind of life on earth. Consequently, to answer questions about alien life and the Bible one must consider the many different kinds of life.

From a Biblical perspective, alien life is not necessary. The purpose of God in creation is the revelation of His own glory. Life on other planets or in distant galaxies is not strictly necessary for the accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose. Of course, one could argue that life in the bottom of caves, under the Arctic ice and in the darkest depths of the ocean is not strictly necessary for the revelation of God’s glory. Regardless, from a Biblical perspective alien life is not neccessary to understand what God has revealed or for the accomplishment of what God has promised.

If life were to be discovered in the universe, it seems to me that microbial life is the most probable. The tiny bacteria that breakdown and recycle the elements of this earth might be found somewhere else fulfilling the same basic role they fulfill on the earth. Such a discovery would offer no proof of evolution, would not contradict any teachings of the Bible nor would it undermine any Biblical principles. The discovery of microbial life outside of earth would have no real impact on the Bible, creation or a Biblical worldview.

The discovery of a slightly higher order of life, like plants and animals, does not seem to be that likely, but granting the possibility for the sake of discussion what impact would such a discovery have on the Bible and Christians? Imagine in some future generation scientists develop a space ship capable of making the journey between the stars. During one an exploratory trip astronauts find a jungle planet, teeming with animal life. What impact would such a discovery have on Bible believers? As with microbial life, the presence of lower orders of alien life does nothing to undermine or destroy the teachings of the Bible. Life on another planet offers no more conclusive proof for evolution than does life on this planet. All such a discovery would mean is that God created other planets teeming with life that show off His power, majesty and eternal Deity.

Unfortunately, space has run out for this answer, so we’ll have to take up the matter one more time in the next article and consider a Biblical theology of intelligent alien life.

What about Aliens?

It seems that every few months there is another announcement of evidence of water on extra terrestrial bodies. The most recent one being the discovery of what appears to be an ancient lake bed on Mars. This announcement has more or less coincided with the release of a major movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. The prospect of life somewhere besides earth is tantalizing. Astronomers spend huge amounts of time looking for evidence of life on other planets. Since water is key to life on this planet the search for life similar to that found on earth starts with the search for water. Many hope we will find life out there somewhere, many are convinced life exists elsewhere in the universe and a few believe extra terrestrial life has found us.

With the widespread allure of alien life, what is a Biblical framework from which to think about life originating somewhere other than earth? The Bible’s creation account must still guide the Christian’s life and thinking. Many who accept evolutionary explanations of life think there must be life elsewhere. The sheer magnitude of the universe and vast number of stars has convinced some that extra terrestrial life is a certainty. The Biblical perspective is silent about any physical life outside of earth. The Bible is not silent about the origin of all life. The creation of all life happened because of the decree of God. Any life in the universe exists because it was created by God during the six days of creation. All Biblical references to the creation of life only describe the creation of life on earth. Admittedly, this is not conclusive that God did not create any kind of life anywhere else, but the only creation of life that God reveals to man is that of life on earth.

The Bible also declares the entire universe has been cursed by man’s sin. Romans 8 says “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” This means that any life found in the universe is going to be suffering under the curse of sin. Utopia and the salvation of civilization will never be found off planet. This also means that man has a very unique position in the whole of creation. Genesis 1 and 2 announce this with the declaration that man was created in the image of God and given dominion over the earth. Romans 8 shows just how far that uniqueness extends. Because of man’s sin, all 32 billion light years of the universe are cursed. If there is life elsewhere, it labors under the curse of sin and longs for the time when Christ will make all things new. If there is life elsewhere, man still has a unique position among all creation. In the next article we’ll consider some questions of what effect the discovery of alien life would have have on this Biblical world view.

Why is Creation so Important?

Biblical creationism is important because of the effect a wrong understanding of Genesis has on the whole of Scripture. The devastation of misunderstanding Geneis is most catastrophic when it comes to Jesus and His death on the cross for salvation. When one treats the accounts of creation as spiritual, symbolic or allegorical he leaves no rational basis on which to conclude Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation from sin is anything but spiritual, symbolic or allegorical. While many view Genesis as an allegory and Jesus’ death for sin as a historical reality, their affirming the truth about Jesus is not a result of the symbolic understanding of Genesis but contrary to it.

Why make such a strong statement? Multiple places in the New Testament draw a direct link between Jesus as the creator of Genesis and Jesus as the Savior of men. One of the reasons the Bible gives for Jesus’ ability and authority to redeem a people to Himself is that He is the creator of all. John 1 draws a clear line between the Creator and the Savior. The gospel of John intentionally copies the opening of Genesis, “In the beginning.” From the beginning of creation, John moves to discuss the one who is life, light and salvation. In the first chapter of his gospel, John introduces Jesus as the Creator who came into the world to give eternal life. In Colossians 1 Paul follows the same logical course John did. He introduces Jesus as the creator of all who took the sin of creation upon Himself on the cross. Hebrews 1 describes Jesus as God the creator who made all things and upholds all things. This same Jesus who is God the creator and God the sustainer cleansed men of sin by His death on the cross. These passages draw a significant theological and practical connection between Jesus as the Creator and Jesus as the Savior.

Some may object that these passages do not repeat the Genesis depiction of creation. One can affirm Jesus as creator through evolutionary means without undermining the truth of Jesus as Savior. This is simply not the case. In Colossians and Hebrews both passages refer to the historical events of creation, without describing the details, and to the historical events of redemption, also without describing the details. The authors clearly expected the readers to have a Biblical, historical understanding of the events to which they referred. The absence of specific details about the creation week does not mean they are up for debate, unless one is also willing to leave the details of Jesus death and resurrection open for debate. How hopeless it would be if man had nothing but a metaphorical Savior who erases metaphorical sins and promises a metaphorical heaven! If the Savior and His salvation are concrete realities, the creative work must be as well. To re-interpret those first passages which tell us of the creation and the God who created is to leave one open for reinterpretation the later work of the Creator God to redeem His creation.

Why is Creation so important?

On the last two Sundays of March the Everlasting Truths broadcast team aired two hours of discussion about Biblical creationism. Biblical creationism is the belief that the account of creation found in Genesis 1 and 2 is an accurate record of historical events that occurred as described in those two chapters. To some, this may seem to be a lot of time invested in something that is, at most, of secondary importance. If science has discovered life evolved as a product of chance mutations occurring over millions of years, why should Christians get in a lather and say that science is wrong? At first glance creation may seem to be unimportant in view of larger message of the Bible. In reality, the creation account of Genesis is vital to the rest of the Bible. A misunderstanding at the beginning threatens a correct understanding of the rest of the Bible.

A misunderstanding of the account of creation has profound impact on how views the Bible (and how one views the Bible has a profound impacton how one interprets the creation passages) and how one thinks about Jesus. Not that everyone who misunderstands Genesis will have a wrong understanding about Jesus and the Bible, but the logically consistent result of a rejected or wrongly understood Genesis is a wrong understanding of the Bible. Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible’s teachings. A wrong understanding of Genesis leaves the Christian with a weak foundation on which to build a Biblical theology. Without a sound Genesis foundation the Christian is forced to construct extra-Biblical buttresses and supports to uphold certain other doctrines.

Despite some arguments to the contrary, no grammatical or contextual reasons exist to conclude Genesis 1 and 2 are intended to be anything but historical fact. The words chosen and the structure of the verses show an obvious intent to declare a historical event. The later chapters of Genesis continue to communicate historical realities with the purpose of connecting the events of thousands of years ago to present day readers. The book of Genesis was written to provide the historical background of sin and the people of God. The book of Genesis was written as part of the basic foundational information needed for a right understanding of God and His plan to deliver men.

The events of Genesis 1 and 2 have an intentional connection to the rest of the history of Genesis. To doubt the creation accounts historical accuracy or to reframe it as an allegory leaves no rational basis for concluding any of the rest of Genesis is not also allegorical. If creation did not occur as described, did man sin as described? What about the flood of Noah, did that happen or is it an allegory for something else? How about the events at the Tower of Babel? Did the world rebel against God (again) and suffer God’s punishment of confusing language and dispersing the family groups, or is it a symbol of something else? If Babel in Genesis 11 is allegory, is Abraham in Genesis 12 also allegory? What about Isaac and Jacob? Is all the history of Genesis, the first 50 chapters of the Bible, just a massive picture of some other reality?

This same question also affects the rest of the Bible. When the Bible describes impossible historical events, are those just allegorical accounts that do not communicate genuine facts? If the plain language of Genesis 1 and 2 can be discarded because it is difficult, conflicts with prevailing scientific knowledge and is scorned by most of the American elite, then what reasonable basis does anyone have to keep any of the other difficult, unpopular truths of the Bible. It is no exaggeration to say that a rejection of Biblical creationism leaves one without the sound foundation necessary to accept the rest of the Bible as true. At best, the reader’s acceptance becomes an arbitrary decision based upon the individual’s subjective conclusion of the importance of a Biblical feature.

Do you have to believe in Biblical creation to be saved?

Biblical creationism is a very important subject. A wrong understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis can have significant impact on how one understands the rest of the Bible. Often the impact of rejecting or reinterpreting the Bible’s creation account is far greater than one realizes. Creation is a foundational issue that influences many core Biblical teachings. As important as Biblical creation is, does one have to accept Genesis 1-3 as literal and historical truth to be be saved?

The Bible speaks in very clear terms about those things that are most important. When it comes to the matter of salvation, the Bible states exactly the principle truths that must be professed as part of the gospel. The Bible describes in no uncertain terms what must be confessed and believed to be saved.

1 Corinthians 15 defines the gospel, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” These things must be proclaimed when giving the gospel and must be believed to be saved. In Romans 10:9 Paul also describes the things which must be believed to be saved. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

The things which must be believed for salvation are: Jesus is God. Jesus is God who died for our sins. Jesus’ death occurred just as the Old Testament said it would and the New Testament said it did. Jesus died, was buried and restored to life by God, just as the Bible says. To be saved one must admit his own guilt, acknowledge Jesus’ deity, accept Jesus death in place of the sinner and affirm Jesus is living now and forever.

Notice these verse do not mention anything about Jesus’ creation. Though creation is inextricably linked to the message of salvation and the work of Jesus, the Bible does not anywhere require that someone accept a literal reading of the creation account in order to be saved. This does not mean creation is a non-issue. One can be saved despite a wrong understanding of creation, but a wrong understanding of Genesis will be a serious detriment to faith, knowledge of the Bible and growth in Christ.

Does the fossil record disprove Biblical creation?

The fossil record is one of the most common objections raised against the belief in Biblical creation. The existence of countless creatures mineralized in the rock beneath our feet raises many questions. Those who believe the earth is billions of years old believe the fossils are evidence of a long progression of creatures dying out one at a time over epochs of earths’ history. A very small percentage of those animals were buried in mud and eventually became fossils.

The fossil record is used to raise two major objections against Biblical creation. The first objection is the existence of fossils in such great volume. If God created everything in six days less than ten thousand years ago, where did all the dead animals come from to form all the fossils being found today. Today the chance of something becoming a fossil is very, very small. The conditions required for fossilization don’t happen every time an animal dies. Many assume that because the conditions to form fossils are rare today, they have always been rare. Thus a very small number of the animals that have died have become fossils. The conclusion reached then is for there to be so many fossils in the earth, many animals had to die over a period of millions of years.

The second objection is the arrangement of fossils in the layers of rock. Though the classic geologic column taught in science classes can not be found as a single unit anywhere in the world, certain kinds of fossils are usually found in similar positions throughout the rock layers. Small sea creatures tend to at the bottom of the fossil layer, with fish and amphibians above them. Farther up are reptiles and mammals. At the very top are birds and hominids.

Rock layers are often believed to have bee formed over very long periods of time as the upper layer of ground is slowly covered over and compressed downward. The formation of a new upper layer of ground is thought to happen by catastrophic dust storms, volcanic eruptions or the long process of plants and animals dying and decaying. Because the process often takes a very long time, those fossils in the lower layers are believed to be much older than those in the upper layers. This general arrangement within the strata (rock layers) leads many to conclude that the deepest fossils are the most primitive because they had less time to evolve. The increase of complex creatures as the rock layers climb upward is seen as proof of animals advancing in complexity.

Once again space does not allow for a full answer on these issues, but the Bible gives sufficient evidence to offer legitimate and reasonable alternatives to the speculations of evolutionary science. Popular conception believes God because created one man and one woman and He also only created one male and female pair of every kind of animal. The Bible does not teach God only created two of each kind of animal. Genesis 1 indicates that God filled the earth with plants and animals. He filled the earth with vast numbers of animals.

The flood of Noah provides a powerful explanation for the many things found in the fossil record today. Because the flood began with the catastrophic opening of the fountains of the great deep, it is reasonable to assume those animals living in deep waters would be affected first. As the flood waters rose, those animals least able to escape would be affected next and then the more mobile until the most mobile and able were destroyed last. The sudden deluge of water that covered the earth would have created massive landslides, mud flows and currents filled with sediment and debris. The massive movement of dirt in the flood would have provided optimal conditions for the rapid formation of many layers of rock and many thousands of fossils.

The fossil record does not disprove creation. All the fossil record reveals is many thousands of dead things are buried in the layers of rock across the world. How one interprets the fossils depends on what one believes. God’s Word gives us sufficient information to explain the fossils without the need for millions of years, an increase of animal complexity or Darwin’s speculations.

If the Bible is right about creation, why doesn’t it say anything about dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs are a topic of great fascination. Whether it be through incredible CGI in popular movies, massive skeletal displays in museums or colorful pictures in children’s books, dinosaurs have captured the imagination of many people. For some dinosaurs are seen as a trump card disproving creation. Some ask if God created the dinosaurs then why aren’t there any still alive today. Some ask if God created dinosaurs why doesn’t it say anything about dinosaurs in the Bible. Some think that because dinosaurs are so different from anything alive today they must have lived eons ago and thus the Bible’s description of creation is wrong.

All of these assumptions and conclusions can easily be answered with a little consideration of what the Bible teaches. The Bible does talk about dinosaurs, directly and indirectly, though it doesn’t use the word dinosaur. The reason the Bible does not use the word dinosaur is very simple. The first major English translation of the Bible still being used today is the King James Version. The King James was translated in 1611. The word dinosaur was not coined until the early 1840’s by a scientist named Richard Owen. Any reference to dinosaur’s before that date would have used a different word or words. In the Biblical passages that describe great beasts reminiscent of dinosaurs the newer Bible translations often use the same words used in the King James translation. Simply put, the word dinosaur is not found in the Bible because of it’s relatively recent invention.

Though the word dinosaur is not found in the Bible, what is found are descriptions of beasts that appear to be dinosaurs. Two such descriptions stand out from the boo of Job. A creature called Behemoth is described in Job 40, and Job 41 describes a beast known as Leviathan. Neither of these are fictitious animals and they are creatures that would have lived in the region around Job at the time he was alive. About 4,000 years ago God instructed a man to remember a pair of massive animals that he would have seen and been familiar with. The description of Behemoth in Job 40:15-24 pictures a massive creature that eats grass like cattle, has bones of great strength, has colossal strength, lives in swampy regions and around streams, is confident against all foes because of it’s great strength and has a tail like a cedar tree. Some are tempted to suggest the Behemoth was just a large elephant or rhinoceros, yet no creature other than a dinosaur fits the descriptions of massive size and strength coupled with a tree-like tail. Though the Bible does not use the word dinosaur, it certainly describes dinosaur like creatures.

God created all animals on the fifth and sixth days of creation. This includes the lumbering dinosaurs like the Apatosaurus, the fast moving dinosaurs like Velociraptors, the soaring dinosaurs like Pterodactyls (yes, I know they are not technically dinosaurs) and the swimming dinosaurs like Plesiosaurs. After creation man sinned against God and brought the curse of sin on the whole world. This curse includes suffering and death. As a result of man’s sin, many species of animals have gone extinct in the past and are going extinct today. Though some of the dinosaurs were unique and awe-inspiring, their size and strength does not mean they were not created by God. Though all the dinosaurs are extinct today, their disappearance from the Earth does not mean they were not created by God. God created all animals, including the dinosaurs. Man’s sin is responsible for their extinction, not evolutionary epochs.

Tune in this Sunday at noon on WRUP 92.7 FM to hear the first half of a special roundtable discussion about creation and evolution.

How does the Bible explain cavemen?

In preparation for our two part radio series on Creation and Evolution, I am using March to answer some common questions about creationism. Be sure to tune in to the broadcast at noon on March 22, 2015 to hear part one in which our pastor’s round table tackles the topic of evolution.

Some of the most common objections to Biblical Creationism (the belief that God created everything out of nothing in six days less than ten thousand years ago) come from mistaken ideas about extinct animals and paleolithic people. Because evolution asserts that hominids progressively increased in vertical mobility and intellectual capacity, cavemen are often seen as a knuckle drugging, monosyllabic phenomena unexplainable by the Bible. What does the Bible say about cavemen? Can the Bible explain cavemen?

The Bible does not specifically mention cavemen (though it does talk about several men who lived in caves at some time in their lives). Cavemen as we think of them were not described until the modern model of evolution advanced the speculations of a connected chain of increasingly intelligent hominids.

Though the Bible is silent about cavemen in particular, it does describe an event which would have forced a large portion of the human population to live in very primitive conditions. This event would have driven many people away from their cities to settle difficult regions of the world. In Genesis 11 the Bible tells of a time a couple hundred years after the flood when mankind joined together in rebellion against God. God punished man’s rebellion by causing every family group to speak a language different and then by scattering the families across the world.

These people groups traveled through inhospitable regions and then settled areas still recovering from the devastation of the flood. The sudden loss of connection with the rest of humanity would have resulted in many vital skills and technology being lost to each family. Modern examples may help guide our thinking here. Were the farmers who planted Kansas and Nebraska intellectually inferior because they lived in sod huts? Were the Indians who roamed America less intelligent because they lived in tents of animal hide and only had bow and arrow weapons? We have somehow equated technological advancement with great intellect. We assume because a people were living in caves and wearing furs (though their clothing choices is a bit of an assumption as well) they must have been dumber than we are. These people were not stupid, but rather pioneers in a post-apocalyptic world.

The cavemen were not biological inferiors who had to eventually give way to more evolved homo sapiens. The reality is “cavemen” are genetically human. Typically we consider Neanderthals (or Neandertals if you’re committed to keeping up with the popular spelling) and Cro-Magnon are consider cavemen. Both groups are readily identifiable as humans. They fall well within the normal variations for a people group, and both could live in our world today without attracting any particular attention. They were men and women created by God in His image who survived in a difficult world still reeling in the aftermath of Noah’s flood.