The Cosmic Drama

They're questions that both fascinate and frustrate: Is there life on other planets? Are extraterrestrials real -- or merely a fantasy? Not long ago, two Vatican astronomers weighed in on the question; both leaned toward the idea that E.T. just might be out there somewhere. "The universe is so large that it would be folly to say that we are the exception," says the Rev. George Coyne, director of the Vatican Astronomic Observatory. His colleague, the Rev. Christopher Corbally, suggests that belief in extraterrestrials would not conflict with Christian doctrine: While Christ is indeed the Savior for Earthlings, He is not necessarily the only Savior for the whole universe. Well, these are interesting ideas. But even more intriguing is a fact about which many Christians are unaware. Belief in the possibility of alien life originated more than two thousand years ago by those who were eager to discredit religious belief. In Crisis magazine, Benjamin Wiker, a fellow with the Discovery Institute, writes that, historically, the idea of aliens arose among ancient materialist philosophers called the Epicureans "as part of an overall philosophical argument." According to Wiker, their theories were rooted, "not in evidence but in the desire to rid the world of religion." Epicurus and his disciple Lucretius taught that belief in gods who intervene in human affairs was the root of all evil, leading people to engage in such atrocities as child sacrifice. Their solution, Wiker says, was to eliminate religious belief by embracing a materialist view of the universe. They got rid of the need for a divine creator by asserting that everything in the universe came into being as a result of the chance jostling of brute matter -- that is, atoms. Wiker writes, "Because the number of atoms in a limitless universe is infinite, the random motion of the atoms must have produced a 'plurality of worlds.'" Worlds that -- like Earth -- contained, as Lucretius put it, "various tribes of men and breeds of beasts." Early Christians viewed these claims with understandable skepticism. First, they believed that anything that lived independently of air and water had to exist in the air -- and hence would be, by definition, spirit, not some kind of embodied extraterrestrial. Second, they believed the teachings of Genesis: that God, not chance, created the universe and human beings. And most important, Wiker writes, early Christians believed that "the incarnation of Christ was the union of God's divinity with our humanity." Humans "were thereby placed at the center of the cosmic drama, which made no room for questions about the redemption of other intelligent beings -- even angels." Today we're witnessing a huge resurgence of interest in extraterrestrials. As was the case two thousand years ago, those who reject belief in God are at the forefront of the search for Little Green Men. Some people spend their whole lives trying to prove something is "out there." Over the next few days I'll explore the modern belief in extraterrestrials, UFOs, and alien abductions. I hope you'll continue reading, because you'll learn thoughtful answers to a question that has plagued so many for so long, including Christians: Are humans alone in a vast and mysterious universe -- or do we have company? For further reading and information: Benjamin Wiker, "Alien Ideas: Christianity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," Crisis, November 2002. Paul Davies, "E.T. and God," Atlantic Monthly, September 2003. "IU Scientists to Help in Mars Life Search," Associated Press, 6 January 2004. Marla Scott, "UA professor studies possibility of life on Mars," The Crimson White, 7 January 2004. "Landers may resolve riddles of Mars life, water," CNN, 23 December 2003. Andrew Bridges, "Alien-hunters gaining new respect," MSNBC, 7 September 2003. Christopher J. Corbally, S. J., "Religious Implications from the Possibility of Ancient Martian Life," Vatican Observatory, University of Arizona, February 1997. BreakPoint Commentary No. 021210, "Prophets, Gospels, and Aliens: Our Christ-Haunted Culture." (Archived commentary; free registration required.) Hugh Ross, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men (NavPress, 2002). Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God? (Word Books, 1994). Peter Augustine Lawler, Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (ISI Books, 2002).


Chuck Colson


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