Those of you who know me will know that one of my least favorite subject is end times (eschatology). That might surprise you, given that I’m a Bible scholar. I mean it, though. Over on my other blog, The Naked Bible, I once wrote a short post on how everyone cheats on eschatology. Eschatology is one of those subjects where most people have no idea why they could be drastically wrong and (worse) why there’s no way to know the right position even if you’re aware of the pitfalls. And anyone reading this who’s thinking, “well, Mike, I interpret the Bible literally and that tells me what’s going to happen in the future” are perhaps the worst off. It’s so much more complicated than that, and literalism doesn’t help, even if we knew precisely what that term meant and how to apply it consistently (which no one does).
Why do I mention this? To get you prepared (at least for point #4 below). I’ve decided to start a thread on this blog entitled “Understanding the Christian Fundamentalist View of UFOs and Aliens.” A better, but clunkier, title would be “Understanding why Christian Fundamentalists Think UFOs and Aliens are Demonic.” Basically, there are four reasons for this:
1. Abductee testimony of the forcible trauma of their experience.
2. The similarity of abductee testimony to early Christian (and otherwise) reports of demonization.
3. The similarity of abductee testimony to the events described in Genesis 6:1-4 (and other ancient Jewish texts).
4. A belief that the events of Genesis 6 (and so, an alien presence) is a specific touchpoint in New Testament teaching about the Second Coming (or, for many, the notion of a rapture — which is not the same as what is broadly thought of as the Second Coming).
Readers of this blog know that I’m not in the fundamentalist camp on this issue, primarily because I don’t see such 1:1 correlations. But on the other hand, I don’t oppose the position either since (see below) I consider to be one of several possible views. I think there are multiple explanations for what are called “alien abductions.” I also do not accept as necessary the idea that UFOs have anything to do with abductions; they may, but they also may be entirely separate issues. Here’s a summary of how I think the UFO / ET / abduction phenomena could be parsed:
1. UFOs and non-human intelligences may or may not even be related issues. Here are the sub-categorizations:
(A) All real UFOs (i.e., those that are clearly not astronomical or meteorological phenomena) are above top-secret human craft, using exotic technologies not even widely used within the military.
(B) All UFOs are produced by non-human intelligences. That may mean they are physical (material), or that they are not physical (material). The latter includes both an inter-dimensional sense and a projected sense (see D below).
(C) Some UFOs are man-made, some are made by non-human intelligences.
(D) Some UFOs are man-made, some are manufactured (visually) by human or non-human intelligences.
2. Non-human intelligences may or may not be related to what the Bible would call demons or aliens. Here are the sub-categorizations:
(A) There may be a complete overlap (aliens = demons, or aliens = angels, some of whom are fallen/evil);
(B) There may be partial overlap (some aliens = demons, or some aliens = angels, some of whom are fallen/evil, but some aliens may be either extraterrestrial beings [occupants of a physical planet somewhere] or some aliens may be extra-dimensional beings [having nothing to do with a planetary existence as we know it]).
(C) There may be no overlap at all (there are demons [or fallen angels] or demons or aliens or extra-dimensional beings, each in its own category or box).
My goal in starting this thread is twofold: (1) to help those outside the Christian community understand the “fundamentalist” view (and I do *not* use that term pejoratively) — to understand how that view coheres given its presuppositions, and (2) to help those who hold the view appreciate that it isn’t as tidy as they might think — that they may not want all their eggs in that one basket.
Some of you might be wondering what prompts this. I was recently interviewed by a Columbia University grad student about Christian involvement with “UFO and alien stuff,” and I was struck (anew) at how many Christians involved in the subject are really of one view (the fundamentalist view). That doesn’t bother me that much, though. More troubling is how the whole subject is linked to a very narrow view of eschatology — one that has significant problems at the presupposition level, where all eschatology is really done. But I can’t really cover #4 without the others.
More pointedly, I’m becoming concerned that this view is so prevalent that, if we ever really find out what all this stuff really is, and it *isn’t* about demons and the rapture, the faith of *many* will be harmed and the Christian message will appear either buffoonish or ineffectual for accommodating an ET reality. Both would be an unnecessary (but understandable) shame.
Stay tuned . . . and contact your friends. This won’t be a lightweight discussion.