There has been an explosive increase in UFO sightings, especially flying in sensitive military airspace over the last few years. The US military has recently declassified several reports, and last year the US Congress held its first UFO hearing in 50 years to seek clarity on these unidentified flying objects seen by the military, the air force, and civilians.
While UFOs have generally been discredited as super-advanced aircraft from foreign nations such as Russia or China, other phenomena offer reasonable explanations for such sightings, like air balloons, drones, birds, or some other natural phenomenon. Of course, there are countless UFO fabrications as well. However, while the percentage of sightings unaccounted for is very low, maybe 1%, the number of such sighting are still numerous, for example, if you have 100 000 sightings, you have 1 000 sightings unaccounted for, which is significant.
Perhaps the most convincing in my opinion is the USS Nimitz “Tic Tac” UFO in the 2004 official U.S. government video that was one of those declassified. Two navy fighter jets from the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, encountered a white “Tic-Tac” shaped UFO above the ocean’s surface and was later recorded via a military radar system. The footage is impressive! Either way, such sightings, whether forgeries or authentic, have created no shortage of conspiracies and sensationalism.
With the great expanse of our universe and billions of galaxies, and likely multiverses, I find it reasonable to believe that there is life out there among the trillions of stars. With this recent increase in UFO sightings, I began asking myself, at least hypothetically, what it would do to my Christian faith and theology if we finally encountered intelligent alien life.
Few Christians are willing to engage with the topic. However, Joe Vokov[i] gives us three reasons why the existence of aliens should offer us no challenge to the Christian faith which I found somewhat helpful:
- Christians already believe in non-human intelligent life
Christians believe in a supreme deity, Yahweh, though he is uncreated. And then there are created non-human intelligent beings, which one might argue are extraterrestrial: angels and demons. There are different kinds of angelic beings like cherubim, seraphim, and archangels. If non-human intelligent life exists in some categories, it may exist in other categories of which we are unaware.
It is at this point that I should state that some Christians who have engaged with this topic at a scholarly level like Chuck Missler, Michael Heiser, and Hugh Ross believe that UFO sightings are related to involvement in the occult, demonic activity, or other malevolent supernatural forces and therefore are non-physical entities. Hugh provides an excellent discussion on this topic which I find convincing. But let us continue hypothetically.
- Christianity and Scripture do not rule out aliens
Christianity and Scripture provide us no good reason to believe or disbelieve in the existence of aliens, other than those non-human entities already mentioned in Scripture. The Bible makes no mention of aliens or UFOs (some people believe otherwise), but this does not necessarily disprove their existence either. Scripture was written for human beings to reveal God to us and show us the way of salvation. It wasn’t written to answer every question we have or to reveal all of life’s mysteries.
- Christian theology develops, it’s not static.
God is a being entirely other, so it makes no sense to talk about him being static or otherwise. However, he has revealed that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever—he never changes (Malachi 3:6; Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). And while theology also never changes, at least it ought not to, it does grow and develop. It is organic. Think of it as a growing organism, it’s the same animal, but it grows as it develops, but it never changes from its origin. Our encounter with aliens, if we ever do encounter them, would provide another opportunity for our Christian theology to develop and respond to such an encounter without undermining our faith. With some help from the theologian, Russell Moore,[ii] this brings me to further reflection:
Humans, as far as we know, are the only beings created in God’s image, as Genesis 1:27 tells us. Incidentally, this verse is not without controversy when it comes to this topic. Some have asked that if there were aliens in other parts of the universe, surely Jesus would need to save them too. Not necessarily. Firstly, they may not require redemption, like the angels. Secondly, there may be no redemption offered to them, as in the case of demons (In my view, this is most likely, at least with regards to recent UFO sightings and its relationship to the occult). Thirdly, aliens may be more like animals—albeit intelligent ones—that are incapable of perceiving God and being in a relationship with him. Lastly, if there is redemption offered to them, it may be offered by some other means that exclude Jesus’s incarnation, because Jesus can’t incarnate himself in multiple different ways. Jesus’s sharing in our human nature is permanent and eternal. In this sense, humanity may well be very unique.
Therefore, the high point of this discussion must be grounded in Jesus’s incarnation, the Word became flesh (John 1:1–14). If there are aliens (demonic or not), God created them too, and yet, he chose to share in our humanity and become one of us. The apostle Paul writes, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16; ESV). Ultimately, all creatures will fall on their knees before God (Philippians 2:10-11).
I think it is likely that there is intelligent life out there, and yet I find it offers no challenge to Christianity or our theology. On the contrary, it’s another reminder of God’s grace to redeem humanity and his unspeakable love towards us to become a human being and give his life up for us so that we may be reconciled to the Father (Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8–11; John 3:16).
[i] Vukon, Joe. 2021. “Can Christians Believe in Aliens?” YouTube video, 9:42. Joe Vukon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKQiEbVX2fM.
[ii] Moore, Russell. 2019. “Aliens.” YouTube video, 9:25. Russell Moore. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEZfhrSU_XA.
Image: UFO by Kellepics, https://pixabay.com/photos/fantasy-landscape-spaceship-ufo-5848285/
Short Bio: Robert Falconer was born and raised in South Africa and is a Theologian who holds degrees in architecture and theology. Following periods of practicing architecture in Scotland and South Africa, he and his wife spent time working as missionaries in Kenya before returning to make their home back in South Africa. Robert works at the South African Theological Seminary as the Head of Student Research and has a wide range of research interests and ideas, which he shares with the layperson through his series of blogs and sermons, in addition to publishing academic papers. Robert lives in St Francis Bay, South Africa, with his wife Catherine and their sons Ezekiel and Gabriel.