Are we alone in the universe? You might think this is a modern question, first pondered
at the beginning of the space
little more than a half-century ago. In reality, people have been discussing this issue for a few hundred years. For instance, nearly three centuries ago, the famous hymn writer Isaac Watts opined that other planets in the solar system were inhabited, when he said, “Several of the planets . . . are vast bulky dark bodies, some of them much bigger than our earth and consequently fitted for the dwelling of some creatures.”1 Many other people suggested that, as the sun has planets, other stars might also have inhabited planets. Some people believed that there was life on the moon and even on the sun!
It’s easy to see the folly of these conjectures now that we know more about the harsh environment of those places and the strict conditions necessary for life. With new tools being used to study space, it might seem that the question of life elsewhere is a scientific one. But until we find evidence, the question of extraterrestrial life lies beyond the realm of science.
Where Does Life Come From?
Until we find evidence, the question of extraterrestrial life lies beyond the realm of science.
If the existence of life elsewhere in the universe isn’t a scientific question, what kind of question is it? At the heart of the matter is another question: “Where does life come from?” Since we didn’t observe the ultimate origin of life, this discussion belongs in the realm of theology or possibly philosophy.
Evolutionists have only two options. Either life arose on earth spontaneously or someone created it. Since evolutionists don’t want to consider the second option, they accept the first option out of hand.
If you start with the evolutionary assumption of life’s natural origin, most evolutionists believe that life, even intelligent life, must be common in the universe. They dislike the alternative possibility that evolution is unlikely and life on earth is unique because that would strongly imply that life required a Creator.
What Does the Bible Say?
Since we believers trust when the Bible tells us that God created life on earth, then we ought to turn to Scripture to see whether it answers the question of life elsewhere in the universe. But the Bible is silent about extraterrestrial life. (Note that I’m not including angels or demons under the category of extraterrestrials because they are fundamentally different from humans.) So how do we find an answer? We can still study Scripture to determine biblical principles that apply to this question.
Notice that, while the Bible doesn’t necessarily place the earth and man literally at the center of the universe, mankind does appear to be the center of God’s attention. Psalm 8:3–5 gives man unique status. Isaiah 45:18 singles out the earth as a place that God made to be inhabited.
If the universe is filled with intelligent life-forms, as evolutionists assume would be true if evolution happens all the time in the universe, then what would be the spiritual state of these extraterrestrials? If otherworldly beings truly are like us, then they must possess souls with eternal destinies. That presents a problem.
According to Romans 5:12, we are sinners because of Adam’s disobedience. Are extraterrestrials also sinners because of Adam’s sin? That would mean that Christ’s finished work at Calvary would need to atone for their sins as well (Romans 5:19). But to extraterrestrials, we are aliens, and the earth is an alien world. Therefore, the gospel message on other worlds is alien to them and might begin, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .”
Most people readily see the folly of such a theory. Therefore, some suggest that extraterrestrials may be sinners because of the disobedience of Adam-like forbearers on each respective planet. But wouldn’t that then require Jesus to have died on these other worlds to atone for the sins of alien races? According to the New Testament, Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, after Jesus ascended from earth, he went to sit at his Father’s right hand (Hebrews 10:12). Therefore, we can be sure from Scripture that Jesus quite literally died once for all.
Some Christians will argue that perhaps extraterrestrials may not have fallen into sin and hence are not sinners or subject to its effects. But Romans 8:18–25 speaks of how man’s sin tainted all of creation, including the whole universe. As a result, God must replace the current universe with a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10–13; Revelation 21:1). It is inconceivable that sinless beings could inhabit sin-tainted worlds, especially since they and their worlds will be destroyed at the end of the age.
Playing the Odds
Many arguments for extraterrestrial life simply rely on the odds, an approach which is also not scientific. Our galaxy holds hundreds of billions of stars, and elsewhere are over 100 billion galaxies like our own. The reasoning goes that with so many stars, if only a tiny fraction of stars have orbiting planets, then there must be many earth-like planets where life could exist (though to date, astronomers have found nearly 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, but none of those planets are earth-like). This argument assumes a naturalistic origin for life. But life does not arise spontaneously because lifeless matter cannot give itself life. Only God can create life.
The bottom line: it appears the earth is unique where life is concerned. As Isaiah 45:18 says,
Thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”