I recently received an email forwarded to me (and directed to me) by someone involved in a MUFON chapter. I think readers may be interested in it, and so I thought I’d blog it. I have removed all names of people and chapters in the original email and my replies. My replies are block-indented.
Here it is:
I shared your site and the “Christian Symposium” site (http://www.christiansymposium.com/) with the local MUFON chapter. It caused a lot of discussion and I basically told them that if they had some serious questions I’d at least ask you if you would mind answering them. They all seemed interested in how a Christian even viewed this topic.
I told them you were a busy guy and might not have time but if you did you’d probably use your answers to post on your blogs. In any regard below are the questions they had and if you can do this let me know and then when ever you get the time to respond to the questions that is fine. I just thought it was kind of cool that a group of non-Christians would seek this type of feedback.
(1) In view of the fact that most evangelical/fundamentalist Christians believe that mainstream science is wrong about the theory of evolution, and, thus, don’t have complete confidence in mainstream science to find and promote true knowledge about the world, do the speakers/participants in this conference believe that mainstream science should tackle the study of UFOs and alien abductions since at this time mainstream science does NOT study UFO and alien abductions in a long-term, systematic way? If mainstream science does ever study UFOs, will evangelical/fundamentalist Christians accept the conclusions of mainstream science about UFOs and alien abduction?
This is one of those “odd but understandable” questions. The question presumes to know what an evangelical/fundamentalist Christian is, and (worse) equates the two. As such, you need some background before I can get to an answer.
Fundamentalists and evangelicals are not the same thing; never have been historically. When I first took an interest in Christianity, it was under the ministry of a fundamentalist church. There I heard evangelicals consistently denounced for (in most cases) their lack of “ecclesiastical separation” (fundamentalists believe that neither they nor their churches should do any sort of cooperative religious work with anyone who isn’t also a fundamentalist). They really despised Billy Graham, for example. THIS is the group that also thinks a six day creation (24 hr days) is the only “biblical” view. I didn’t stay in fundamentalism long once I got through college. I would then have been classified as an evangelical. But evangelicals are a variegated bunch to say the least. I spent nine years in my PhD program in Madison, WI, and at my church (which was pretty conservative theologically) NO ONE I knew held to a six day creation. Our church was heavily populated with professors from the university and graduate students – I’d say 90% in the hard sciences. For example, among the membership were the head of the Botany department, the head of environmental sciences, two research physicists, a professor in electrical engineering, a geology PhD, a couple doctoral students in chemistry, and a guy in artificial intelligence (computer science). There were a bunch of others in nursing and pre-med, or in their residencies. Those of us in the humanities were quite out-numbered.
Evangelicals are therefore mixed. Some (maybe even the minority) hold to six day creation (the so-called “literal” view). Many hold to either (and they aren’t the same) theistic evolution or intelligent design (those who think intelligent design opposes evolution don’t understand it – ID opposes RANDOM, purposeless evolution, which is traditional Darwinism – ID is perfectly comfortable with evolution so long as it is a process kickstarted by a Creator. And THAT is the point of agreement. Evangelicals and fundamentalists all believe in a creator, but many embrace evolution as fact in that context. The question posed tells me that the questioners (like many Christians whose exposure to Christianity is shallow Christian radio or something like that) really haven’t done much reading in the subject matter. That’s not a sin; it’s just evident here.
So, to the actual question, which was: “do the speakers/participants in this conference believe that mainstream science should tackle the study of UFOs and alien abductions since at this time mainstream science does NOT study UFO and alien abductions in a long-term, systematic way? If mainstream science does ever study UFOs, will evangelical/fundamentalist Christians accept the conclusions of mainstream science about UFOs and alien abduction?”
The short answer is that most don’t care, since science has not ponied up actual physical evidence of intelligent alien life (NOTE: their rejection is BECAUSE OF FAITH IN SCIENCE). They want real hard evidence. Anecdotes are not hard science, abduction tales are not hard science, videos (especially today) are not hard science, even physical remains are not hard science SINCE they can tell us nothing about who made the object. To date, the UFO community has produced NOTHING that actually pleases ATHEIST SCIENTISTS! So why should CHristians who happen to be scientists, or who happen to want science to confirm aliens, be any different. They aren’t. But THAT is speaking for the bulk of Christians, NOT for fundamentalists. Fundamentalists DO distrust science precisely because of the evolution issue. I see no necessary link between alien life and evolution. If one of my professor friends at church were asked this question (and I know since I asked it), they’d say intelligent aliens evolved elsewhere in the universe as part of God’s will for creation. It all goes under creatorship. And anyone who thinks genetic similarity between aliens and humans is a problem hasn’t thought too deeply about the subject. We are genetically similar to pigs, for example – does that mean that pigs made US? The typical “if aliens have similar DNA to us then that proves we evolved from them or they made us” nonsense is just that: nonsense that ignores genetics of KNOWN creatures! But I digress. A fundamentalist will likely view alien life as a tool to prove evolution because that is the way many scientists will parse it. But in doing so you can see that the enemy isn’t the alien; it’s the notion of evolution.
(2) According to Bible scholar Gregory J. Riley in The River of God, ancient history reveals that the ancient world’s views of angles and demons divides into two competing views: (1) angels and demons were seen as the gods’ links to humanity — the pagan world’s view and (2) angels and demons were split into God’s links (angels) and the Devil’s links (demons) after Zoroastrian good/evil dualism influenced Israelite religion after the captivity in Babylon — the Christian world’s view. Thus, using these two ancient world views, modern day UFOs/alien abductions can be interpreted within these two competing views of the spiritual world. If a UFO researcher is not a committed evangelical/fundamentalist Christian, how does he/she figure out how to decide between these two basically different ancient spiritual world views of the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon?
This view if angelology is so deficient and simple-minded that it would take pages to respond. Maybe that’s because angelology is my academic specialty and I’m too close to it! What about ancient religions that had their gods directly interact with humans without angels? What about the beliefs of various civilizations before Zoroastrianism that didn’t buy the Zoroastrian view? Burn the book and let me give you some better titles in its place.1
Now we need to define what a real alien is. By “real alien” I mean a life form that lives on a planet within OUR universe, and who needs to eat, drink, reproduce the species, draw oxygen, have definite lifespans, can get diseases, are subject to physical laws, etc. If a true alien were here that alien would be judged by most Christians in accord with its acts (are they good or evil?). Christians can have ET as a third category (this is actually one of the lectures I proposed for Roswell this year – a spin off of my usual lecture “Can Christianity Accommodate a Genuine ET Reality?” The reason most CHristians would accept the third category is that neither angels nor demons are presented in the Bible as life forms that need to eat, drink, reproduce the species, draw oxygen, have definite lifespans, can get diseases, are subject to physical laws, etc. They would HAVE TO make it a third category. Personally, I think the issue is a bit more complicated than this, but most people would be fine with the third category – angels, demons, and aliens would all be accepted as real and distinct. Haven’t these people ever read C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra trilogy!?
(3) Do evangelical/fundamentalist Christians support the idea of mainstream science and/or scholarship conducting controlled, double-blind experiments/tests on alien abductees to determine how well alien abduction intrusions can be lessened or stopped by evangelical/fundamentalist Christian methods?
That’s the kind of thing that would be expected and needed — if it ever gets done. This is obviously directed against XXXXXXXX. If anyone out there has read my UFO Religions blog, they know that, while I am perfectly willing to believe that abductions (whatever they really are) can be and have been halted by appealing to the name of Jesus, they also know that I’ve written (which would make it public) that appealing to the name of Jesus is no guarantee for stopping any other evil. God, Jesus, and the reality of evil is a complicated theological subject (and contrary to the Gnostics in the UFO community, their view isn’t coherent and is built on a caricature of Christian views, not a clear-headed analysis of the biblical data). Evil is real and has real power, but is factored into something Christians calls sovereignty (and few Christians seem to understand it). Evil is not something that God said could be turned on and off by appeal to Jesus. It is something Jesus and God will overcome. These are simplistic statements for the sake of email space, so keep that in mind. Personally, I would welcome double-blind testing, but I think the Cubs will win the World Series before anything like that ever happens (first we have to have aliens!).
(4) In view of the fact that evangelical/fundamentalist Christians have been working assiduously on the study of UFOs/alien abductions (judging from their production of at least 25 books whereas the rest of the religious community has produced perhaps six or seven in 60 years), do evangelical/fundamentalist Christians support the study of UFOs by mainline Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, etc., in order for us to see how well their explanatory schemes might take account of the entire field of UFO and alien abduction evidence?
I’ve never heard any Christian ufologist object to anyone else getting involved. If there are real aliens (see the above definition) then all mainstream religions will have to adjust somewhat to account for them. That will be easy for the Bible itself, which simply and clearly says God is the creator of all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16). But it will be difficult for people – Christians and non-Christians alike – who use stupifyingly dense logic like “if it isn’t written in a Bible verse itself it isn’t real” (yeah, like microwaves, toilet paper, the known planets, microbes, etc.). People like that just aren’t thinking and may not be capable of thnking about such things – – and so they should not be allowed to further the discussion since they cannot do so.
Hope this helps. Now you see why I did four hours of Q&A in one night at a HUFON meeting! Fun stuff.
- Okay, I’m not really in favor of book-burning! However, this isn’t a very good book to read if you want to understand Israelite thinking on gods, angels, and the backdrop of high Christology. Riley is a New Testament scholar, and so has little or no knowledge of Israelite religion, so as to see how simplistic this explanation is. He also has apparently done no work in tracing Jewish binitarianism back into Israelite religion preceding the Persian era. In short, this is what youget when you try to explain New Testament thinking without either the Old Testament or Israelite thought set in its ancient Semitic (not Persian) context. One more note: the title of Riley’s book wasn’t noted by the emailer. The subtitle is “A NEW History of Christian Origins” – seems to telegraph that it is at least a bit avant garde, which should be a red flag. ↩