Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Is There Room in Theology for UFOs?

Note to readers: Each Monday I am posting a portion of my weekly newsletter. This was published May 6.

Up here in the wilderness, it can get scary at night. There are strange noises in the forest, not to mention the occasional mysteries in the skies. UFO’s? Raising the question is likely a diversion for me. A way to think about something besides identity politics or Covid, both of which I have exiled to the Siberia of my brain. Maybe it has something to do with just finishing a book. After a year holed up writing (what Buchanan describes as a relentlessly tedious and solitary act, one likened to house arrest), I am at a pause. I am waiting for the publisher’s edits and after 367 days of such intense discipline, I am prone to distraction.

Looking for something outside of theology and leadership (where I have lived) I began reading Gideon Lewis-Krause’s article in the latest New Yorker, “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously.”  I began wondering if I have ever taken the subject honestly. Have I had encounters without recognizing who is right in front of me (sort of like the disciples on the Emmaus road with Jesus)? Some consider the subject of UFO’s “the greatest secret in human history.” After all, there have been untold accounts of extraterrestrial spaceships and alien encounters, many of which have been classified with no intention of release.

I should state up front that I did have early encounters as a boy (at least in movie theatres). Invaders from Mars, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers did some real work on my psyche. My closest meeting with another world, however, came when I served time at a military school in Roswell, New Mexico. This was twenty-one years after an alien spaceship was said to have crashed near the vicinity of town. I had heard rumors that crash debris and anthropomorphic bodies had been recovered and kept in some top-secret warehouse (later confirmed in the TV series, Roswell, New Mexico). All I know is that there were some cadets I encountered at NMMI that I am certain were aliens from another planet (especially our drill instructor). They were not doglike creatures who smelled of sulfur, but their mannerisms reminded me of certain Twilight Zone episodes I used to watch.

Lewis-Krause notes that the government has recently put together a formal group called the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, and it is expected to bring a report in June. Perhaps the secret will come out. Maybe it will begin with the assertion U.F.O.s have been documented since biblical times. In 1974, Josef Blumrich, a NASA engineer, argued that Ezekiel’s heavenly vision was a meeting, not with God, but with an alien spaceship.  

Is this true? Does the Bible speak of other encounters? What about the Nephilim found in Genesis 6? Didn’t they come from another world? Should I devote more of my time sitting out under these clear, wilderness skies looking for spaceships traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier, yet without a sonic boom?

In my collection of theologies, I can’t find anything in the subject indices that refer to extraterrestrials or UFO’s, but here are the questions I think theologians would ask—

-do other worlds suggest there could be another God? (short answer-no)

-does the uniqueness of humanity above all other creatures indicate that our specialness in the eyes of God transcends all other creatures, no matter how many other worlds might have living beings? Or has God made this vast universe, at last guess to be at least 28.5 gigaparsecs, just for us?

-can these sightings be experiences of the unseen world of demons and angels?

-would an actual encounter with an alien from another planet threaten, confirm, or make any difference to one’s Christian faith?

-would creatures from another realm be sinless—or did Jesus die for them as well? Is redemption a story unique to this world’s history?

-does the biblical peek into eternity, as revealed in Scripture, give any clues that we will join up with those from other realms to reign and rule with God?

-if there is intelligent life in other realms, why would God keep it secret?

Beyond the questions asked, a theologian might simply say that what characterizes theology is not the comprehension of divine mysteries or apprehension of human/extraterrestrial possibilities, but faithfulness to the Word of God. If there is any pondering to be done under the skies, let it be on the greatness of who God is and what is his revealed will. Whatever we give thought to, let it be to what matters most.

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