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Government Report on UFOs

July 19, 2021


Dr. Craig discusses the theological implications of life on other planets.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, we’ve all been following with interest this report that was to be released by the military on UFOs. It was released back in June.[1] Not much in it. Have you been following this UFO report craze?

DR. CRAIG: When I was a high school student, I was really into this subject. I followed the work of J. Allen Hynek who was a professor at Northwestern University who was a UFO specialist, and I found it very, very interesting to try to understand what in the world these aerial phenomena could be. I've lost interest in it since that time but it was fascinating to find that again the U.S. military is taking this very seriously and wants to have some sort of explanation for these unidentified flying objects.

KEVIN HARRIS: A couple of things just that stood out from the report that I looked at. They had a little summary. First of all, they looked at reports between 2004 and 2021, and then the second thing is that most of these unidentified flying object reports probably do represent physical objects because the majority of them (reading it here) “registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.” So they said, “Yeah, there's a physical component to most of these.” They did offer a caveat that said these sensors and the things that we use to identify are most of the time for a specific task. They're not for hunting UFOs.

DR. CRAIG: What is significant is it means that they're not simply optical phenomena – either hallucinatory or optical illusions like a rainbow – but there is that physical element. That's highly significant, I should think.

KEVIN HARRIS: Obviously this brings up a lot of theological and scriptural indications. David Instone-Brewer, who's an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Tyndale House, Cambridge, has an article on it that brings up some things that C. S. Lewis has said.[2] You know of David.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. He’s been doing good work. Tyndale House is a wonderful nonprofit study center just off the campus of Cambridge University. It specializes in biblical studies, Old and New Testament studies. For decades now, Tyndale House has served as a kind of center for evangelical biblical studies and conferences, especially to help doctoral students in those fields to successfully complete their doctoral studies. As a result, in Britain there is a very strong evangelical presence in the field of biblical studies in no small part due to the work at Tyndale House. I remember in earlier years attending conferences there where I got to meet F. F. Bruce, Richard France, Jimmy Dunn, Colin Hemer, and other great scholars all of whom were participating in the work at the Tyndale House Conference and Study Center. So I am thrilled to have David Instone-Brewer working there and to be able to interact with him briefly on today's topic.

KEVIN HARRIS: He starts off the article by saying that the government is taking UFOs . . . unidentified flying objects. I just want to remind everyone that that's what UFO means – and there are different names for them – but they are “unidentified flying objects.” They're not spacecraft necessarily.

DR. CRAIG: Right. Exactly. They're not little green men or necessarily aliens from outer space. They're just aerial phenomena that haven't been explained.

KEVIN HARRIS: He said even without these sightings the possibility remains that life may exist outside this planet because of

the trillions of stars and planets in the universe [that] lead many people to conclude that there must be life on more than one planet [whether we’ve seen the UFO or not].

DR. CRAIG: I don't think that's a good argument at all. You very often hear this from secularists who will say there's got to be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe because otherwise there'd be so much wasted space. I thought what Instone-Brewer goes on to explain very well without mentioning the terminology is that the fine-tuning of the universe shows that in fact the grand size of the universe is really a natural precondition for cooking up the heavy elements in the stellar interiors and the hot furnaces of these stars that are then dispersed throughout the universe by supernovae and then form the basis for our organic life. So that in order for organic life forms such as ourselves to exist the universe needs to be around 14 billion years old, and given that it's been expanding during that entire time it also therefore has to be just as big as it is. So it's not as though the size of the universe implies that there has to be intelligent life elsewhere. All of this forms the natural precondition simply for life to exist here on Earth. And when you look at the odds against the evolution of intelligent, information-processing organisms like ourselves, even non-Christian evolutionary biologists who don't believe in God will tell you that this is so incomprehensibly improbable that it's unlikely that intelligent life exists anywhere else in the known universe. We seem to be it. Now, that's from a secular perspective, of course. God is always free to create life on another planet just as he has on this planet. So if God exists I think you actually have to be more open to the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent life than you do if you're an atheist.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dawkins said that life started only once; because it's so immeasurably rare he doesn't think that there's life anywhere else. That's what he hints at. Hawking says he doesn't think so because he thinks that they would have turned up and met us and said “hello.” Both of them are very skeptical of there being life.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I think those are quite typical today in the scientific community.

KEVIN HARRIS: My whole life I've heard, “I have sheep that are not from this flock.” A lot of people have said that means there's life on other planets. Or Hebrews talks about other “worlds.” However, as David points out in this article, that's really not very good exegesis of those.  Don’t use that, in other words.

DR. CRAIG: Right. He says that when Jesus talks about having other sheep than this flock he means Gentiles – people who are not Jewish – and they will come into the fold, as well. It would be fanciful to think that Jesus was talking about extraterrestrials.

KEVIN HARRIS: The Inquisitor is brought up, and they executed a lot of people for some of their scientific discoveries. As this article points out, one of their problems was that Christ would have to go to those planets and die, too, for those inhabitants. And so that was too problematic. But it's kind of sad to see people like Giordano Bruno who were executed for saying other stars are inhabited – you know, planets.

DR. CRAIG: That's frightening, isn't it? The intolerance. And I would say, frankly, that theologically I have no problem whatsoever with the idea that Christ may have experienced multiple incarnations – that he not only became a human being on this planet, but he could have become a Klingon on some other planet to save them if they fell into sin at all. It's also possible that there are planets with extraterrestrial intelligent life where people did not disobey God and therefore sin is not an issue for them and they don't need to have an incarnation and a redeemer. But if they do, I can't think of any theological reason why the Second Person of the Trinity could not have multiple incarnations.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah. Why not? I like this, too. I think it's an important point that he brings up next in the article. He says the Bible “is not an encyclopedia” and we tend to want it to be.

The Bible’s purpose is to reveal God’s nature and to tell us the message of the gospel

But it doesn't tell you everything about cellular mitosis somehow in a pre-scientific time. Nor does it even talk about some of the Greek and Babylonian cultures – their advances. So it's not an encyclopedia.

DR. CRAIG: When you think that all of the stars that we can see with the naked eye are all in our galaxy, and that scientists did not even discover that there were extra-galactic nebulae and other galaxies in the universe until the early 20th century, well then it's just utterly unrealistic to think that the Bible should be telling us about those distant and deep reaches of the universe.

KEVIN HARRIS: He elaborates on that. He said,

We should avoid looking for hidden facts about the universe in the Bible, because this is not part of the message God intended to communicate. . . .

The Bible doesn’t attempt to tell us everything we want to know, but it does tell us with absolute certainty everything we need to know for salvation: the good news that Jesus died for all our sins and that God wants to forgive everyone who repents.

DR. CRAIG: Right. I want to underline that point because this is relevant for my treatment of the doctrine of Scripture in my systematic philosophical theology. Namely, the purpose of Scripture is not to teach us science. Rather, it is to tell us everything we need to know to find salvation, redemption, and the knowledge of God. And so it is wrong to comb through the Bible looking for scientific information. That's not the intention of these authors.

KEVIN HARRIS: As we wrap up today, it all seems to come down to this quite often. Aside from the points we've looked at in the article, and that is: If a spacecraft landed on the White House lawn today and alien beings from another planet walked off and said “hello,” that does not disprove Christianity, or does it?

DR. CRAIG: Not at all. It has no relevance at all. I think ethically, if these creatures are persons albeit not human persons but persons nonetheless, then we would have ethical obligations in how we treat them and how they should treat us. It would occasion all sorts of interesting questions about relating to them, but theologically it wouldn’t have any impact or implications for God’s plan of salvation for people here on planet Earth.[3]