The term UFO has a long and rich history with many colorful connotations. (1) Usually those colorful connections are green or grey (because the little men who fly UFO’s are said to be green or “the grays”). However, as many people are aware already, UFO simply stands for Unidentified Flying Object, and does not necessarily refer to craft of extraterrestrial origin. At least fourteen countries, including the USA and Soviet Union, at one point conducted government programs to research UFO’s. (2) In 2012 a National Geographic poll showed that about a third of Americans believe in UFO’s and one in ten claims to have seen one. (3) Effective today, that is 10% of 315,000,000 people living in America, or over three million Americans who claim to have seen some kind of UFO. International cases may be even larger (4).
There are many of these sightings that can be explained, from clouds, to weather balloons, to other natural phenomenon. Yet, according to numerous researchers who have extensively classified and sorted through thousands of UFO reports, anywhere between 8% to 22% of UFO sightings are truly unidentifiable cases. (5) We can estimate that around 1-2% of the population has seen a legit, unidentifiable flying object, and moreover, one that cannot be explained by any known means. (5) And these numbers are not slowing down, numerous legitimate news outlets are reporting increases in UFO activity. (4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
In the past ufology was linked with a variety of strange, delusional, and mentally unstable conspiracy theorists. That crowd is still very much involved in the UFO phenomenon, however, today there is a growing number of very serious professionals who have reported UFO sightings. And not only reported seeing them, but have been had to take measures in reaction to them. Many cases included people in large groups and with radar equipment, rather than one person with a wild unverifiable story.
Take this for example: There are numerous cases of airports, filled with trained intellectuals and professional air traffic controllers, were closed because of a UFO hovering above runway. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16 ,17, 18, 19, 20) UFO sightings over airports have happened in the past as well, one case starting an official federal investigation and program. (21, 22, 23, 24) Airplane pilots have often been at the forefront in ufology and have often reported UFO’s. (25) Today’s BBC news reports a near miss between a British airliner and a UFO; both pilots reported seeing an unidentified object pass underneath. (26) All of these cases involved multiple trustworthy witnesses with careers in aviation, which gives offers great credibility. Most also included radar equipment, which strongly negates the origin being visual refractions of clouds, stars, or other more distant natural phenomenon. Wikipedia has 119 pages related to cases with hundreds of legitimately unidentified cases, all of which have the underlying documentation and sources. (27) While the internet is filled with lunacy and quackery, there are still many cases that serious and were seriously discussed by serious academics or military/government officials. (28, 29, 30)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
That is a question I cannot answer. Truth is, I simply don’t know. I have been fascinated with this phenomenon since early childhood, when the film Independence Day, gave me an incredible fear laced with an even more incredible fascination of the extraterrestrial. Since then I had spent hundreds of hours reading about this with a childish fascination. Are there aliens? At one point I was sure there weren’t any, at another I was equally convinced they were here, heck I even beloved them to be demons, and later Nephilim. Now? I simply don’t know, and I feel I presumptuous arguing for something that appears to be improvable for now. Yet, what are our options, as Christians, and what conclusions would we draw?
1. They are demons
Some have explored the connections with UFO abductions and Christianity, summarizing this by saying that Christians are never abducted, UFO’s have no physical evidence, UFO’s abductions have occultist tendencies, and that there is a whole occult religion developing around UFO’s. (31, 32) The Bible does call Satan “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). However, the reasoning is hard to determine, and some commentators (Barnes/Clarkes) have noted that this could be in light of early beliefs that the air above was inhabited by demons. (33) It is definitely possible that UFO’s are demonic manifestations meant to seduce people into false religions. If one case of verifiable alien interaction comes true, and it induced people to turn away from God, and turn to the aliens in an occultic hyper-spiritual way, I think it would be safe to think this view is fully correct. Whether this is the case or not, it would probably be very wise for anyone to steer clear of any UFO encounters, insomuch as is possible.
2. It is the Nephilim
Others have drawn parallels between the modern day UFO’s and ancient day “son of God” encounters in Genesis 6:2-4. This view states that the “sons of God” who mated with humans were angels, and their offspring were superhuman nephilim, or giants. According to this view, todays alien encounters also involve mix genetic material between heaven and earth. In addition, the Nephilim was an event of Noah’s day, Christ said the end times will be like Noahs day, and therefore, these UFO’s are markers of the end time (Luke 17:26). Some believers of this are those who are on the radical fringe, and live in a bunker within a bunker with a daily diet of conspiracy theories, seasoned with delusional fantasies. (34, 35) Others are a more accepted by the mainstream and less bizarre, for example like Chuck Missler. (36) One thing worth mentioning, is that some theologians and Bible commentators hold to the Genesis angels theory without connections to the modern UFO movement, and I am open to that as well. (37) The larger Nephilim and UFO view is what I once held to very strongly (the few websites in the links here were among my daily reading material). If this view turns out to be true, then the end times will be vastly different than anything we expected and the Antichrist will turn out to be a mix of human and alien, as some predict. (38, 39, 40) At this moment I hardly think that is the case, however, if aliens land and one of them wants to be worshipped, I will gladly adopt this interpretation again.
3. They are extraterrestrial aliens
A couple years ago, the Vatican released a statement that belief in extraterrestrial aliens was not inconsistent with a belief in God, and that aliens would need a Savior too. (41, 42) Today, Vatican astronomers are on the lookout for alien life. (43) And as some (very weird) authors have reported, awaiting a secret alien savior. (44) Biblically, the scripture simply does not tell us about others worlds created by God. However, the Bible was written to us humans, and therefore contextually doesn’t need to disclose all secrets and mysteries not needed for our salvation. (Just like a letter to my wife, telling her to come to me, ought not tell her of every person I’ve ever talked to). Historically numerous Christians have been open to the existence of alien life, for example William Whewell, a famous protestant theologian and scientist (he actually coined the ‘scientist’). (45) In fact, Nicholas of Cusa, who is often touted as the man who “invented extraterrestrials” was a priest and a cardinal. (46) In addition, modern theologians and philosophers, have shown favorable openness to the idea of extraterrestrial life, one prominent example is Dr. William Lane Craig. (47) Do I think there are aliens out there? I don’t know, probably not, but maybe there are. In any event, I would say that if a spaceship lands on the white house lawn, the Christian faith is not changed nor altered.
4. Human source (government, hoax, hallucination)
The largest and probably most likely source of UFO’s is human. This conclusion is wipes away the fun, fantasy, and futurism found in alternative ideas, and quite frankly is not my favorite. It is common knowledge that governments perform secretive research on new mechanized weapons, including airplanes, jets, helicopters, and more recently drones. Historical accounts have given us some glimpses into top secret research projects that were mistaken to be UFO’s. (48, 49) In addition, there have been many UFO’s discounted as hoaxes, and many more that will undoubtedly be discounted in the future. (50, 51, 52) Other cases of UFO sigtings have been linked with hallucinations that are induced by sleep paralysis or temporal lobe disturbance (53) Recently it has been noted that the human brain is prone to all manner of visions and hallucinations, even apart from drug interactions and mental illness. Oliver Sacks notes that “visions were recognized as a special hazard for high-altitude pilots flying for hours in an empty sky” and “Pilots and truckers, those who monitor radar screens for hours on end – anyone with a visually monotonous task is susceptible to hallucinations” (54) Anyone is susceptible to hallucinations, a study published years ago showed that those who reported UFO sightings had no mental abnormalities. (55)
So do aliens exist? Ultimately we don’t know. We only know that which is received as special revelation (Scripture) or natural revelation (science), the rest is guesswork (speculation). It is a phenomena that should be addressed, especially if physical evidence begins to confirm it’s existence. Yet, what ever the case, our faith is not modified. If aliens don’t exist, trust Jesus; if they do exist, trust Jesus.