It’s possible that Carl Sagan goofed up. I hate to criticise a scientist who probably had more brain activity when sleeping than I do when I’m fully awake. Still, he may have opened the door to an alien apocalypse.
Back in 1972, he convinced NASA to place a plaque on the Pioneer 10 space probe. His idea was that if extraterrestrials should stumble across the spacecraft, they would find a kind of greeting card. Etched in gold is a drawing of a man with his hand raised and a woman, and both are buck naked, which makes a person of my generation a little uncomfortable.
But what makes me really uncomfortable is that the plaque shows our location in the solar system. Is this a good idea to be waving our hand in a big “Gidday” and inviting aliens to drop by for a barbecue? Did Dr Sagan never see a science fiction movie? Doesn’t he know that the very first thing that aliens do when they arrive on our planet is to remove the humans with lasers as if we were moustache hairs on Iggy Azalea?
You might think that this opinion is shared only by people wearing tinfoil hats. Not true. When people proposed sending radio transmissions to the stars in our galactic neighbourhood, no less an authority than physicist Stephen Hawking asked them in the nicest possible way whether they had lost their minds. Reminding us of movies such as War of the Worlds and Independence Day, he imagines that our first contact with extraterrestrials could go like the Native Americans’ first contact with Europeans, which, he says, “didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
We remember the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. His 168 soldiers arrived in Peru with “alien” technology such as guns and horses. In one battle they defeated 8000 Incas. Could the same thing happen again, only this time the conquistadors are coming from outer space?
There is a persistent idea in the Christian tradition that there are other worlds out there.
Usually, when we talk about apocalyptic scenarios, we look to the Bible. Does the Bible say anything about aggressive aliens? In a manner of speaking, yes. The apostle Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NKJV).*
Notice that Paul isn’t talking about an invasion happening in the future. He describes us as being under attack right now. And he doesn’t seem to be worrying about space creatures with tentacles and way too many teeth. He is referring to spiritual entities—demons.
In science fiction movies, we are under attack by creatures. They are physical beings much like us that we can deal with in the same way we deal with our human enemies. We often outsmart them, even if they do have superior firepower. (Lucky for us, they often tie all their weapons together on a network with about as much security as the wi-fi at Starbucks.)
So this is a dramatic difference when you compare the sci-fi world with the Bible. One has enemies you can see and shoot. The other has invisible enemies. And there is another dramatic difference. In space movies, there is no God involved in the conflict. The humans are always on their own in a Darwinian struggle for survival.
In the Bible, there is a God. And here is the important part. He is involved and has been from the beginning. Genesis says He created the moon and the stars. Did He create aliens out there among those stars? Maybe. It is not far-fetched that He has other intelligent beings in His circle of relationships. The Bible’s book of Job begins with an intriguing reference to a meeting in heaven: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord” (Job 1:6, NKJV). Were these sons of God other created life forms?
There is a persistent idea in the Christian tradition that there are other worlds out there. In his sci-fi novels, Christian author C S Lewis sees these other worlds as unspoiled by greed and aggression. Inspirational author Ellen White has said the same thing, maintaining that we are the only planet corrupted by selfishness and cruelty. Because of that corruption, Earth is cut off from contact with the other created beings. Basically, we are under quarantine like a bunch of Ebola-infected monkeys. Instead of being threatened by aliens ourselves, we are a threat to other worlds that haven’t been infected by sinfulness.
A sci-fi movie, such as Independence Day: Resurgence, has a dramatically different perspective to that of the Bible. In the movie, we must prepare to fight against evil aliens in an uncaring universe. In the Bible, we are already caught in a battle between good and evil. But in this battle, an all-powerful God is on our side and planning to help us win.
In the movie, we’re invaded by spaceships. In the Bible, there is a different kind of invasion: the sky is broken open by the second coming of Jesus, who rescues us from a violent and doomed existence. The Bible says, “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
The Bible has a happy ending, as do most sci-fi movies. But they both can’t be right. The question is: Which extraterrestrials will you prepare to meet? The ones you hope never show up, or the One you hope does?=
* Scripture marked NKJV is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.