The U.S. government has been tasked by Congress to issue a report on Unidentified Flying Objects in June this year. UFO sightings have been reported for decades, and previous U.S. government reports have tended to discredit them, saying most sightings have natural explanations. Ufologists, those who follow UFO reports, investigate them and extensively report on them, claim the government is hiding information that should be made public. The hope is that this report will reveal all the government knows with honesty and transparency. But what does it mean for believers?
An authority with knowledge of what this report will likely contain has stated that the results will be "profound and transformative." He did not go so far as to say the report will indicate UFOs are vehicles from outside our planet. But that implication can be easily reached by the words he used. The government has recently released videos of U.S. military pilots tracking UFOs and discussing what they are seeing. This is unprecedented and is tacit acknowledgment by the government of the existence of the unexplained UFO phenomena. A report that concludes even the possibility of extraterrestrial visitation will definitely be profound. This would mean that life exists on other planets, and they are superior to us, at least in their technology.
This raises several questions to those of us who are Christians:
— Did God create life on other planets as He did on Earth? Do these aliens share the same values we are taught by Jesus?
— What is the possibility that these aliens are responsible for all communications written in the Bible that we attribute to God, including the birth and life of Jesus?
— Is what we consider supernatural totally understood by aliens with their advanced technology, and nothing is supernatural to them?
— No prophet in the Bible has written about life outside of Earth. Prophecies have been accurate about events that come about on Earth, so why has God not revealed to earthly prophets the existence of life elsewhere?
— Has God revealed to some living today who, like the prophets of old, could inform us of life elsewhere and how we should interact with them?
— The Bible contains predictions of events yet to come, particularly in the book of Revelation. The indications are that severe natural disasters are a part of these events. Will aliens with a significantly advanced knowledge intervene to help in some manner, or could they even be causing such disasters?
— Satan exists. What might aliens know about Satan and how he operates on Earth? Does Satan exist elsewhere also to confound their lives?
— Why have these aliens not communicated with us? Has God instructed them not to communicate with us, like He doesn't permit communications between us and those in heaven (with rare exceptions)? Should we seek communications with them?
Permitting ourselves to explore these questions will indeed be transformational. The simplest approach would be to conclude, as the government report will likely do, that we don't know what UFOs are, and until God informs us in some way about life elsewhere, we shouldn't speculate and should go on living life as usual. But we could also expand our prayer life to include this subject and actively ask God about life outside Earth. Can we find current-day prophets who could seek the answers we need?
An equally simple approach would be to answer my first question by assuming God is responsible for all life in the universe. Perhaps any aliens visiting us also live under God's authority, and the answer to my eighth question is that God has instructed them not to interfere in any way with life on Earth. Until we are given definitive knowledge of alien life, it may not make sense to speculate.
But Christianity is increasingly being challenged today, so all the questions on the list above, and probably many others, will be raised. We'll need to find effective ways to respond. The second and third questions will likely be the most provocative. As belief in God declines, many people seek ways to discredit His existence. The possibility that aliens created our beliefs in God and guided us through the thousands of years of life as described in the Bible can be used to discredit the supernatural realm that is fundamental to our belief in God.
Equally provocative is the seventh question. If the aliens have created the conditions we see as supernatural, are they also conducting satanic activities? If so, why? If the supernatural exists for aliens as it does for us, and God and Satan also exist for them, they must know about the contentiousness between God and Satan. Is the battle against Satan as described in the Bible, with huge effects on Earth, to be conducted in the domain of the aliens also? Does that explain their interest in us? Or has that battle already been waged in their realm, and what can we learn from their experience? There is room for considerable speculation around this question.
The other questions raise the issue of how we communicate with God. Has God been communicating with us about life in the universe, and we haven't listened, haven't understood? What do we do to get His guidance on how we deal with the possibility of life on other planets? Some people say they have the gift of prophecy. Have they heard God's message about life on other planets but have felt it hasn't been timely to reveal it? Or have they been too timid to reveal it or believe it an advantage not to share it? Or perhaps they haven't recognized the messages God has been giving them? Do we need to create a greater openness to receive communication from God on this subject?
As usual, a few questions raise many others.
Dayton Maxwell has worked in development assistance and crisis response management from 1959 until the present. This includes a career with the U.S. Agency for International Development, four years each with the Non-Government Organizations International Voluntary Services and World Vision International, serving as a consultant with General Dynamics Information Technology and currently with International Professional Associates Inc. He served in Laos, Chad, Niger, Bosnia and Iraq with USAID. He holds a B.S.E.E. from Iowa State University and an M.A. from the University of Hawaii, earned while a fellow at the East West Center. He has published articles and chapters in books; the most recent is in a book on President George Bush that has just been published.
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