Check out the post by Mac Tonnies (thanks to Nick Redfern for posting this).
I think much of what Mac says here is quite coherent. I’ve recently offered to do a lecture in Roswell next summer on the topic of why, in terms of biblical theology, intelligent alien life forms (if they exist) may be physical beings and yet not angels or demons. The argument goes like this:
1. The Biblical theology of (a face-value take on what the Bible says about creation) requires that there be a firm distinction between the Creator and everything else (the created). This Creator-creature distinction is a necessary dualism for biblical theology, and has been recognized as such ever since we’ve had a Bible. If the Creator-created distinction fails (if the God of the Bible is a created being), then all really is One, and we have Gnosticism, no Big Bang, no beginning, no ultimate separation from God (Hell), and no need of salvation (we all go back to God anyway). Obviously, these are attractive ideas in today’s climate. I note them here only in view of the question as to whether they are biblical. They cannot be biblical given the firm Creator-creation dichotomy. That’s the point.
2. Number 1 means that ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that exists, other than the Creator God, must be made of SOMETHING – i.e., it MUST, of theological necessity, be material, or composed of matter. If not, then it is uncreated — but there can only be one uncreated Being (the Creator).
3. This in turn means that if, say, there are “inter-dimensional” beings (beings we cannot see in our dimension, but which can enter and leave our dimension), they must be made of something. The “invisible world” of the Bible fits this description: real entities, though invisible to us, which can “enter our space” and even alter their materiality in our space, who have intelligence and will and can choose to do good or evil. Christians (among others) awkwardly call this the “spiritual world” – even though it still MUST be material, and therefore natural to maintain the Creator-created distinction.
4. Number three yields the “inter-dimensional being” hypothesis biblically coherent. The next question is: are what we think of as ETs angels, demons, or something different? What separates (in part) the angels and demons (and gods) of the Bible from ET descriptions is a dependence on technology (some craft). Angels and demons are never described as being DEPENDENT on technology for what they do. I would also say that they are never described as USING technology to do anything, either. This isn’t the case with presumed ETs who need craft to appear or disappear. ETs in craft that do “interdimensional things” would suggest a third category, other than angels or demons. Think of it this way. If we as humans ever develop the technology to move interdimensionally, that wouldn’t make us angels or demons. Yes, one can said we could be misconstrued as such by lesser beings, but if those lesser beings are capable of written description and describe our ships, that resulting description would not be what we see in the Bible, a document produced by a literate culture.
5. If ET was not a demon or angel, as a rational being, its behavior deserves to be judged by other rational beings. This is especially true if it is superior in rationality. We, as humans, would largely agree that it is ethical to treat lesser beings respectfully, especially if that lesser being can somehow communicate its needs, fears, pain, etc. to us. We have an ethical responsibility to respond in a way that does not harm the lesser. If we have superior technology (which stands to reason), we would be ethically bound to use our smarts to treat the lesser in a way they would want to be treated. If a superior ET isn’t doing that to us, who can communicate pain, abuse, fear, etc., we have a description for that (human rights abuse) and a single word for it (evil).
Again, all I’m arguing for here is that the IDEA that an ET could be real (material) is reconcilable with a face0value reading of biblical theology.
What you say is all very logical to be sure. But what if the technology is just a ruse to make us think they need it? I’m not denying that they are still material beings of some kind, but I wonder if they want us simply to think that they have some kind of incredible technology to divert us away from their true nature. One other thing. You say that they may not be gods. Do you mean elohim, which I have understood from your work to be different from angels and demons? If they are not divine beings, then what are they?
@aeneas: Good questions. BOTH a demonic entity and a non-human, non-demonic entity would be made of something. This kind of existence (inter-dimensional; another dimension) is different than a non-human EMBODIED being of THIS dimension. THAT is actually what many (most?) people are thinking of when they think of intelligent aliens. THOSE beings would not be gods (elohim) in the biblical sense, since their proper habitation is embodiment in this dimension. Those beings in the former category (by nature disembodied and from another reality plane) would be elohim in the biblical sense that they are not from the “embodied realm”. That, however, says nothing about abilities and attributes per se, since not all elohim (in the Bible) have the same attributes.
I am open to the possibility that such disembodied yet material beings of another dimension / plane of reality could “manufacture” technology as a misdirection. That said, it doesn’t make much sense to me. Doesn’t seem worth the effort to invent something you don’t really need just so you can fool people into thinking you DO need it.
I’m clear now on what you were saying about elohim in the previous post. Elohim might using some kind of technology while in the embodied realm is certainly an interesting thought. On the other hand, they might make it look that way simply to fool people into thinking they are aliens from another planet. Or like Vallee has said, these superior beings take the shape of technology that is familiar to us but slightly more advanced. At any rate, I don’t think it would take much effort for divine beings to create whatever shape they want us to see. I suppose that there could be all sorts of these beings entering into our space with different abilities and different intentions. However, I can’t imagine that any of it is really in our best interest.
I’m not sure I’m with you on this. As I’ve never (knowingly) met an angel, I can’t be sure whether they’d use technology. The bible may never describe angels as using technology but it’s a long stretch to presume they can’t or never would if it met some useful purpose. There’s also Elijah’s chariot and Ezekiel’s wheel. I’m very familiar with your work on the latter and the throne iconography of the ANE so I’m not suggesting UFOs in the bible. I cite these as examples of mechanical contrivances with some potential angelic involvement, though.
I’m also still not clear on the distinction between elohim and malakim/shedim.
Anyway, having recently read through most of the Malleus Maleficarum (15th cent. manual for witchunters by Heinrich Kramer), I’m perhaps not feeling overly charitable toward a biblical/spiritual interpretation of UFO phenomena. To lend a biblical eye to any natural phenomena at all seems more and more like an extraordinarily bad and potentially dangerous idea.
Something else about this that I have a hard time sorting out. Do angels or demons or elohim occupy outer space (and not just another dimension)? I read something one time that tried to theologically support the notion that all of these beings can exist in what we call outer space as well as a heavenly dimension. If the latter is true, then would we find divine beings, perhaps with manufactured technology, in space? Or are they locked to heaven and our earth?
@Matt : If we want to talk about a biblical view of angels, we’re best sticking to what we’re told, not what we can imagine. Hence my comment about angels and technology.
Elijah’s chariot wasn’t a real mechanical craft. That makes zero sense given the description — horses on fire and not burning, and horses flying.
Your last sentence doesn’t make any sense to me. It raises these questions that I need you to comment on: (1) How do you know that the ET issue is a completely natural phenomenon? (2) How do you know that the material in the Maleficarum is equatable to the ET issue? (3) What rule is that that would disallow the biblical writer from commenting on the natural world? (4) What rule is there that disallows us wondering about whether the content of the Bible might be describing something in the natural world?
Some these questions tread on others in the list. I’d need to know what you mean to understand which (if any) are appropriate.
@Matt : We already know what Ezekiel saw as well – it is quite consistent with Babylonian iconography and astrology, and they didn’t make any sculptures of spacecraft. See
@aeneas: we need to think about the terms we use: “heaven”, “hell” for instance. These are not places we could travel to in terms of OUR natural world. They aren’t in outer space. We couldn’t be pointed in the right direction and, given enough time and fuel, go there. These terms are the language of cosmic geography — they describes “places” that are outside the realm of our physical universe and its physical laws. That means they COULD be some other dimensional reality, or they may be something else we can’t wrap our minds around.
I certainly understand that heaven and hell can’t be found out in space. However, I’m wondering if elohim are bound to earth (including its atmosphere). In other words, can they pop in and out of space outside the earth as they perhaps do on earth and in its skies? So, assuming that elohim are behind UFO’s–whatever their physical/spiritual natures might be–could they appear to astronauts on the moon? or mars? Or any space in between? I know the bible may not be clear on this, but how far might their power stretch beyond a terrestrial setting?
I guess the point I was trying to make with the Elijah reference was that it was a “something” – an angel didn’t just show up and pick Elijah up bodily. Something bearing the description of a burning chariot showed up and swept Eliajah away. Sounds mechanical to me. It would be fair to argue that angels aren’t mentioned as being the operators so maybe it doesn’t matter. Anyway. I’ll try to address your other questions.
(1) We don’t know what is behind the ET phomenon. It would technically be an “argument from ignorance” to claim it could only be natural, but the same applies to a claim that it’s a supernatural phenomenon. (4) We can guess all we want but it’s still just wild conjecture, (2) which is what I suggest characterized much of the dark ages, in which absurd theories cloaked in the authority of religion caused so much misery and suffering. I’d have hope we’d take a lesson or two from that. On your last question (4) I suppose there’s no rule against that. But on the other hand, you seem to be arguing (elsewhere) that the Bible can be wrong due to a pre-scientific worldview and still be inerrant because the Bible’s purpose is spiritual and doesn’t claim to be a scientific authority. So then its only use would be to examine it on a spiritual basis, but then we’re back to (1).
@aeneas: You wrote, “can they pop in and out of space outside the earth” — I’d reword this to “they can pop in and outside of other dimensions of which our earth and universe are not a part” — in order to reinforce (and be consistent with) the notion that the realm of the elohim is NOT our realm at all, though the realms can “touch” and interact.
@Matt : were the horses mechanical horses? Could the chariot have broken down? Could it have run out of fuel? I’m being a bit facetious here, but it’s important — these are all properties of a mechanism. I don’t think this was the point at all. God can introduce any visionary “thing” in our universe that he wants to, and it doesn’t need to be a machine.