NASA’s chief scientist recently made headlines by saying, “We’re close to finding and announcing alien life on Mars… but is the world ready?”
The statement from Dr. Jim Green was in relation to the sending of two rovers from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) next summer “to drill horizontally into rocks and deep into the surface, in the hope of finding evidence of living organisms.”
The question “Are we alone in the universe?” is one that haunts all of us, but none more than the scientific community.
Why won’t we be ready for the answer?
“It will be revolutionary,” offers Green. “It’s like when Copernicus stated, ‘No, we go around the sun.’ Completely revolutionary. It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results. We’re not… I’ve been worried about that because I think we’re close to finding it and making some announcements.”
“What happens next is a whole new set of scientific questions. Is that life like us? How are we related? Can life can move from planet to planet, or do we have a spark and just the right environment and that spark generates life – like us or not like us – based on the chemical environment that it is in?”
Yes, those are compelling scientific questions.
But what we shouldn’t have to be concerned about are the spiritual ones. The Bible offers no explicit or direct teaching about the possible creation (much less existence) of life on other planets.
It does, however, offer three theological truths that can guide our thinking:
First, God is bigger than we think. This is good to remember when it comes to things like life on other planets or any other scientific discovery that might present itself. Remembering the size of God reminds us to be humble and to be slow to draw conclusions. All of science is simply finding out what God has designed, and it’s an ongoing process of discovery.
Second, all life is from God. No matter where we find it, or what it’s like, it’s from God. The opening verse of Genesis speaks of God creating the “heavens and the earth,” which literally refers to everything that is. What “everything” means, we do not know. There could be many worlds, many universes, many realities and many dimensions that God may have created. To think that we’re the extent of His creative energies borders on arrogance.
Just as an aside, beware of those who will trumpet the discovery of life on another planet as disproving the need for a God. How did life on Earth come from non-life? It’s simple—from another planet. This is called panspermia—the idea that the first life, along with the beginning complexity, was seeded here from another planet, such as Mars. So no need for a God.
Not so fast.
If all the scientific challenges surrounding life beginning on its own on Earth can be solved by saying that life began somewhere else and got here on the back of a meteorite, well then how did that life start there? You cannot escape the challenge of life, at some point, having to come from non-life.
Finally, all of creation matters to God. No matter where there is life, that life matters to God and should be valued by us. Going further, if we find intelligent life on other planets, we can be assured that God loves them just as He loves us and has provided a way for them to know Him and to share eternity with Him.
So while the scientific community may be bracing for the discovery of life on other planets,
… this Christian will simply enjoy the unfolding discovery of all of God’s creation.
James Emery White
Sarah Knapton, “Nasa Chief Scientist: ‘We’re Close to Finding and Announcing Alien Life on Mars… But Is the World Ready?’” The Telegraph, September 28, 2019, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.