Our secular world is fascinated by aliens.
The Guardian news website – not exactly a hub for right-wing conspiracy theorists – posted an article recently that was shared over 9,000 times on FB. It said the following:
A Russian radio telescope scanning the skies has observed “a strong signal” from a nearby star, HD164595, in the constellation Hercules. The star is a scant 95 light years away and 99% of the size of Earth’s own sun. It has at least one planet, HD164595b, which is about the size of Neptune and has a 40-day year.’
Is it ‘life, Jim, but not as we know it’?
Not quite. In less time than it takes to watch a re-run of E.T. on Netflix, scientists threw cold water over the party, by claiming the signal is probably nothing more than natural interference.
So much for a close encounter.
(Oh, and science has grown more pessimistic about the likelihood of other life in the universe).
And yet, the whole idea of alien life raises questions for Christians: is alien life compatible with the Bible? Or would the discovery of alien life be the death knell of Christianity – the extraterrestrial equivalent of finding the bones of Jesus Christ?
Here are some of my thoughts:
1) The Bible is Silent About Alien Life
So we need to be cautious about coming to any conclusions.
God hasn’t spoken about alien life in the Bible. So we can’t come to any firm conclusions. (Of course, if alien life is ever discovered, we’ll have more to say!).
Presumably, God doesn’t think the ‘alien’ question is important. And yet, the absence of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence of absence. Christian scholar Martin Thompson puts it this way:
It is not the burden of the Genesis narrative to deal with other life forms on other planets (should they exist), but the absence of that concern does not necessarily imply that the issues raised are ‘non-questions’ (though they may be) […] Alien life is not a concern in Scripture but it would be a mistake to read any significance into the absence of reference to the existence and significance of life on other worlds. Arguments from silence are notoriously weak.’ 
However, the Bible does have something to say about other non-human intelligent life forms:
2) The Bible Says There Is Other Intelligent Life In This Universe
Namely, Spiritual Beings: Angels and Demons.
According to the Bible, humanity is not the only created intelligent life form. Intelligent, but spiritual, beings – angels and demons – are also present. These beings are different from humans, in that they’re not made in ‘God’s image’. They’re a different kind of intelligent being, a part of the creation, but with a different relationship to God than us image-bearers.
And so, theologically speaking, just as there are intelligent spiritual beings in the universe – who don’t bear God’s image – in theory there could be other intelligent physical beings – who don’t bear God’s image.
But what about other ‘image-bearers’ – beings like us with a unique relationship to God? Is the Bible open to their existence?
3) The Proverbial Wookiee In the Room: If Chewbacca Was Real, Would He Also Be Made in God’s Image?
This is where things get a little more complex.
Without trying to confuse anyone, the key questions we need to ask are these:
a) Human beings, as creatures made in ‘God’s image’, occupy a unique place in the universe (Gen 1:26-28). Does that uniqueness automatically entail alone-ness? Are we the only image-bearers in the entire cosmos?
b) After the God-man Jesus Christ died on the cross, he was resurrected as a (divine) man (Luke 24:39-43). And he’ll remain a man – a God-man – for the rest of eternity (Heb 1:3-13). Does Christ’s eternal, resurrected human nature show that we are alone in our uniqueness – and therefore the only image-bearers in the universe?
After all, if there are other aliens made in God’s image, why would Christ have chosen to become – and remain – a human for all eternity, and not a proverbial Wookiee from Kashyyyk?
4) Another Possibility: Christ Dying For the Entire Cosmos
Including for other fallen alien image-bearers of God.
As if we haven’t speculated enough, here’s another option: the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ has a saving impact on all of the cosmos, including fallen extraterrestrial image bearers.
On thinker, John Davis, – drawing on the impact of Christs death and resurrection on the whole universe, from passages like Col 1:15-20, Romans 8:20 – puts it this way:
[T]he Pauline Christology of Col 1:15-20 makes it unnecessary to postulate additional incarnations or atonements in order to conceptualise the possible reconciliation of any alienated extraterrestrials elsewhere in the universe. The once-for-all incarnation and death of Christ on the Cross has already provided the basis for such a reconciliation (vv. 19, 20).’ 
To translate from academic speak, Davis is saying is that Christ’s death is so cosmic in its effect, that it could, in theory, be sufficient for all fallen image-bearers – not just humans.
Again, it’s speculative (to say the least!).
But it does provide a possible way of reconciling the existence of extraterrestrial life with the Bible.
The Best ‘Close Encounter’ Ever
People are clearly fascinated by the idea of extraterrestrial life.
Why is that?
Most likely, it’s because we all want something bigger, better, more “out of this world” than our mundane, ordinary lives. And what better than an encounter with E.T. to give us that?
And yet, there’s something even more life-changing on offer than a close encounter with an alien race: it’s a close encounter- not with mere creatures – but with the Maker and Lord of the Universe Himself. ‘
And better yet, we don’t need to find Him. He came to us, turning up on our doorstep:
John 1:14 14 And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus – the God-man – is so much more glorious than any alien ever could be.
And He gives us life – real life, eternal life. A spiritually resurrected life now; and a physically resurrected life when He returns to fix this universe.
That’s good news, which is ‘out of this world’.
That’s good news worth sharing.
 Martin Thompson, ‘Extraterrestrial Life and the Cosmic Christ as Prototype’, SBET, 18/2 (2000): 162
 John Davis, quoted in Thompson, ‘Extraterrestrial Life’, 177.