Lunarians, Venusians, and Martians

How often have you heard a secular scientist express contempt for Christian belief in a supernatural Creator, or angels and devils? "Where's the evidence?" they scornfully ask. Well, if we go back a few centuries, we see evidence of an amusing phenomenon: We find eminent scientists making bizarre claims that are hard not to laugh at today -- beliefs, backed by no evidence whatever, about creatures who are "out there" on faraway stars and planets. In a Crisis article, Benjamin Wiker lists eminent scientists who believed in sun people. Of these so-called solarians, Johann Bode, director of the Berlin Observatory and known for Bode's law, asked, "Who would doubt their existence?" Religious leaders often proved just as gullible. For instance, in the eighteenth century, Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg claimed that during visions, he actually spoke with lunarians -- creatures who, he said, talk loudly "from the abdomen." Of course, modern science has proven these beliefs badly mistaken, if not a bit loony. But as Benjamin Wiker notes in Crisis magazine, "If belief in solarians, lunarians, jupiterians, venusians . . . and martians seems madness now, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was taken to be the only rational, scientifically grounded view." So theologians of the day tried to integrate aliens into their belief systems. Thus, we have seventeenth-century Anglican Bishop John Wilkins insisting that "the existence of extraterrestrials would not contradict Christianity," Wiker writes. William Hay, an eighteenth-century rector, "argued for multiple modes of salvation entailing multiple modes of Christ's incarnation." Beilby Portus, the eighteenth-century Bishop of London, claimed that "the Incarnation actually extends to all extraterrestrials." By the start of the nineteenth century, many prominent evangelicals had incorporated alien life theories "as an essential element of evangelical orthodoxy." The utter absurdity of this reveals that Christians have fallen for science's absolutist claims. We're so afraid of looking backward and unenlightened that we try to force-fit the latest cultural and intellectual fashions into our theology. A few hundred years ago, it was fashionable to believe in Martians who built canals. Today, some theologians try to mold their doctrines around cultural fashions like evolution or same-sex "marriage." Christians ought to take a lesson from the foolishness of our spiritual forebears. We must never be afraid to challenge the latest claims from secular "experts" -- scientists and sociologists. Remind everyone: Science is not the "absolute perfect science" its practitioners say it is. I hope you'll stay tuned for the rest of this BreakPoint series. You'll learn why, even today, millions believe -- despite a complete absence of evidence -- that somewhere out there, E.T. is waiting. For further reading and information: Benjamin Wiker, "Alien Ideas: Christianity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," Crisis, November 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 021211, "Pajama Parties in Outer Space: Visits from Beyond." (Archived commentary; free registration required.) Hugh Ross, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men (NavPress, 2002). Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God? (Word Books, 1994).


Chuck Colson


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