The Mars Polar Landing

On 3 December 1999 NASA's Mars Polar Landing spacecraft blasted off in hopes of finding life on Mars. It appears now that the effort failed as the craft can not be contacted--the costly vehicle is lost. The Mars Polar Landing project is but one of many attempts aimed at discovering life somewhere in the universe beyond earth. For instance, SETI is a mammoth effort using radio telescopes to intercept radio and other electronic emissions from intelligent life maybe many hundreds of light years away. There is enormous interest in this as the fascination with aliens and UFO's on the non-scientific level illustrates. NASA's effort certainly is directed by some of the best minds in the scientific community and is one I follow closely.


Mark Lupisella, a scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in an interview in connection with the Mars Landing Probe, that the discovery of life outside the earth could have implications for the traditional religions--meaning Judaism and Christianity presumably. In fact, he implied that such a discovery would be a 'death blow' (my terminology) to the traditional religions and that people would no longer find them credible or need them. (See Michael McCabe's article 'Idea of Alien Life Gaining Credibility' in the San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 1999, page A3.)

Mark Lupisella means that the discovery of life in the universe other than on earth would mean that life could spring up anywhere, where the conditions were right, thus diminishing the need for a creator God if not negating it altogether. And this seems to be the prevailing mood I encounter as I watch the scientific attempts to find life, intelligent or not, in the universe. Such a discovery would apparently reinforce the extreme view of many Darwinists that evolutionary theory accounts for the existence of life and that all the creation stories are therefore simply mythological.

What About Extraterrestrial Life?

Does the Bible say anything directly about the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial life? I do not think that it does.

Does the Bible, and/or doctrine derived from it, imply or infer that there is or is not life elsewhere in the universe? Again I do not think so though I know there will be differing opinions within the Christian community.

In Genesis it is written that God the creator made man in His own image, male and female He created them (see Genesis 1:27). This creation took place on planet earth and there is no record of life being created anywhere else. The Scripture does not explicitly say that God's work of creating life only occurred here but that is the picture one gets. Basing a belief, however, that life is only possible on earth, it may be conceded, is one rooted in silence. At any rate believing one or the other is acceptable biblically--and I do not think that adhering to one or the other should warrant the application of either the conservative or liberal label.

For me whether there is life elsewhere is irrelevant--certainly not a death blow to my faith. As a matter of fact, I do not think there is life created in the image of God anywhere else in the universe. This is an extra-biblical concept of mine, one I can not prove from Scripture--it is pure speculation. Yes, I would be surprised if humans or other forms of intelligent life that had an accurate, I mean biblical, concept of God were to be discovered somewhere in the universe. I think it possible though that life may be found, even life forms resembling mammals, even life forms structurally identical to human beings, somewhere other than the earth. Looking like a human being does not mean that such a creature is created in the image of God for the image of God is spiritual and not physical. (The Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon fossils have not persuaded me that they are creatures made in the image of God.)

The Reason For My Conviction

The reason for my conviction that the existence of life forms in places other than our earth is ultimately irrelevant, albeit interesting, is the actuality of the person and work of Jesus Christ. That God the Father sent His Son to this planet earth is incontrovertible. If life forms anatomically similar to human beings were found on every planet and moon in the universe it would not change the reality of who Jesus is and what He did. And this is not a case of hiding my head in the proverbial sand or a refusal to face scientific fact. No, Jesus is the one unchangeable fact, the one Truth that I measure all else by. Being the same yesterday, today, and forever, He is the only constant in the chaotic, ever changing universe where even scientific 'truth' comes and goes.

The Case of Spurgeon

C.H. Spurgeon was a student of astronomy, an amateur certainly, but well versed in the science of his day. In his Lectures To My Students (Zondervan Publishing House, page 425) is this somewhat lengthy but significant quote:

The nearest planet that revolves around the sun is Mercury, which is about 37,000,000 miles from the great luminary. Mercury, therefore, receives a far greater allowance of light and heat from the sun than comes to us upon the earth. It is believed that, even at the poles of Mercury, water would always boil; that is to say, if the planet is constituted at all as this world is. None of us could possibly live there; but that is no reason why other people should not, for God could make some of his creatures to live in the fire just as well as He could make others to live out of it. I have no doubt that, if there are inhabitants there, they enjoy the heat. In a spiritual sense, at any rate, we know that men who live near to Jesus dwell in the divine flame of love.

Here is Spurgeon then who would not be shaken in the discovery of life forms outside earth. No 'death blow' to him if even on nearby Mercury life was found. He would only find it interesting and no doubt discover in it an illustration of the truth of the gospel.

A Final Point

My concern in this essay is that people in the scientific community and those who are influenced by it would not dismiss or reject Jesus based on a faulty notion like the one Mark Lupisella expressed.

Whatever may or may not be out there can not damage or compromise the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To think so is error and error of the most dangerous kind.

Jesus must be studied Himself, the probes must be sent out to investigate Him, the telescopes must be aimed in His direction. Then He will be found because the promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him.

Kent Philpott

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