God and UFOs

(10 minutes)

On July 26, 2023, House members and former military officials participated in a three-hour hearing regarding the possibility of UFOs. No evidence was offered to “prove” the existence of UFOs originating from other “civilizations” in the universe. However, an Airforce Intelligent officer (David Grusch), a retired Navy commander (David Fravor), and former Navy pilot (Ryan Graves) made bold claims about “nonhuman biological remains,” alien spacecraft sightings, and a secret government-run alien spacecraft crash retrieval site. (See the article “Three Takeaways from the Historic House UFO Hearing” on the July 26, 2023, edition of “The Messenger.”)

I am no scientist and am completely dependent on the analysis of those specializing in the study of the universe. Here are some of their findings: 

  1. The full universe is 250 times larger than the observable universe.
  2. The universe is at least 7 trillion light years across. (“Light year” refers to a unit/measurement of distance. It’s the distance light travels at a speed of 186 thousand miles per second. At that speed, light would travel 5.88 trillion miles in one year.)
  3. Our universe is 13.82 billion years old.
  4. There are at least 100-200 billion galaxies in the universe. Scientists have already detected 5500 galaxies.
  5. There are one septillion stars in the universe (That’s 1 followed by 24 zeros!).
  6. The estimate of all the planets in our universe numbers twenty septillion (that’s 20 followed by 24 zeros!). One to ten trillion orbiting planets are estimated to be in the Milky Way alone. 

My puny mind can scarcely imagine the size of our universe. I have “no dog in the fight” over the existence of UFOs or extraterrestrial life. However, I think it would be within reason to assume that somewhere in such a vast universe additional intelligent life may exist. [Of course, one could question whether there is intelligent life on this planet (other than that of dolphins, elephants, and large apes) given the hellbent speed at which humans are determined to destroy the earth]. Perhaps there was such life “long, long ago on a planet far, far away.” Or perhaps there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe in our time. If UFOs are spaceships “manned” by E. T. beings, then creatures with such developed technology are obviously more advanced than we are and, one could hope, would possess more wisdom. (We have yet to learn that knowhow is not the same as wisdom. Technology without wisdom is like putting a gun in the hand of a toddler.) I would be even more surprised if we are the only form of intelligent life in the universe. If we are, such uniqueness would have theological implications if one believed in a Creator.

So, let’s assume for a moment there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and such beings are “more advanced” than we are. What are some theological implications of that possibility for Christian faith? The following are a few rambling thoughts:

  1. A faith which assumes one can be “saved” only by believing that God came to earth in a Jew who lived 2000 years ago would need some serious adjustment. Such a limited perspective would not be fair, much less loving, for intelligent creatures elsewhere in the universe. Assumptions stemming from “docrtrines” such as Penal Substitutionary Atonement, limited salvation, predestination, the threat of everlasting torture in hell, and the unique place humans supposedly possess in this creation would all need to be reexamined if not rejected. 

Christian faith at its best has always maintained that God is eternally creating. Meister Eckhart wrote, What does God do all day long? He gives birth. From the beginning of eternity, God lies on a maternity bed giving birth to all. God is creating this whole universe full and entire in this present moment.  If God is eternally creating, then perhaps we humans and this vast universe are but one endeavor of a Creator who is infinitely greater than any of us could ever imagine. 

  1. If love, as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, is the essential nature of God, we can trust that such love will be the “saving” power and destiny for any being created by God. Mature Christian theology has always insisted that creation, salvation, and eschatology are all intimately related and must be ultimately understood under the rubric of God’s unconditional, indiscriminate, self-giving, and everlasting love. Perhaps the numbers of those who are the objects of such love are infinitely greater than we could ever fathom.
  2. Rather than threatening our faith, I suggest that the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe should be a source of mind-stretching awe and wonder. We are already promised that nothing in all creation (not even death itself) can separate us from the love of God who is stubbornly determined to reconcile all things as She becomes “all in all.” (See Romans 8, I Corinthians 15, Colossians 1, and Ephesians 1.) I’m not suggesting that New Testament writers had some knowledge of extraterrestrial beings or life on other planets. I’m simply saying that if God’s nature is love, then we can trust that love for us and any other creatures who may inhabit this or any other universe. Maybe that “all” in Paul’s writings is far greater than any of us (or perhaps Paul himself) could ever imagine, much less comprehend. 

Rather than strutting around like supremely favored beings, perhaps we should be thankful we can “walk humbly with our God” and not begrudge or discount any other journeys God has had, currently has, or will have with Her creatures.

A miserly, parochial, and rigid faith has never benefited Christianity or the world. If God is essentially love as revealed by Jesus, such infinite love is inclusive and expansive by nature and includes all of God’s creation(s). Rather than strutting around like supremely favored beings, perhaps we should be thankful we can “walk humbly with our God” and not begrudge or discount any other journeys God has had, currently has, or will have with Her creatures. If God is infinitely birthing new creations, we are but one of those endeavors of love, all of which are destined for an everlasting unfolding into the wonders and mysteries of our common Creator. As Shug says, “God’s just wanting to share a good thing.” Our problem may be that we cannot imagine how big that “good thing” is.  

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