For a long time scientists have speculated about the possibility that life exists on other planets. Some of them are pretty well convinced that life does exist elsewhere and that it is only a matter of time before we find conclusive evidence for it. Sometimes snide remarks are made about theologians who have made this earth the center of the universe and cannot admit there might be life anywhere else.

As a theologian I have nothing to say about the possibility. As I read it, the Bible confines itself to God’s concern for and demands on those who live on this planet. It says nothing about any who may live on other planets. I have no doubt that if there are such beings, the God who is love has made suitable provision for their needs. The important thing for us on this earth is not to speculate about what is on other planets but to get on with the business of living for God and serving our fellow men. It is enough for us that God loves us and sent his Son to die for us. That shows the depth of his love and concern for those he made.

William A. Rusher thinks some scientists are reluctant to accept the fact that they have no evidence for life on Mars. Although Viking I and Viking II carried out some very sophisticated tests, they came up with nothing that indicated life. It interested Rusher that those who reported the results of these space probes would say no more than that they had not proved either that there is or that there is not life on Mars. He points out that proving the absence of life would require an analysis of every part of the surface of that planet and, to be quite sure, of the interior as well. He ascribes the form of the report to the scientists’ unwillingness to admit that mankind seems to be alone in an otherwise lifeless universe.

Why should there be this unwillingness? Possibly, as Professor E. van den Haag says, because many “are at least unconsciously dissatisfied with the idea that ‘This is all there is.’ They need to feel that somewhere else in the universe, living beings are happier than we are—have solved the problems that beset our lives.” People have lost the idea of paradise. But they still have an unconscious desire for it, and this desire finds a form of fulfillment in the notion of happy beings on Mars or some more distant star.

It is an interesting suggestion and may well be right. The biblical position is that God loves us and has made provision for our needs. But if we turn away from God’s gracious provision, then those deep needs are not met. While they remain unmet they cause dissatisfaction. There can be little doubt that one reason for tension and unhappiness in our world is to be found just here.

There is, then, a continuing search for some way of meeting these needs, and van den Haag thinks that this lies behind the scientists’ hope for life on some other planet and their assumption that if there is such life it will be well disposed toward us. Somehow we all make this assumption. If there is life elsewhere we want to be in touch with it. But this may be a very great mistake. What reason have we to think that life elsewhere in the universe will not be hostile and seek to destroy or despoil us? Why should we assume it will be interested in helping us solve our problems? That is just wishful thinking, a manmade substitute for the God of love who sent his Son to be our Saviour.

We may observe similar results from the neglect of other Christian affirmations. Many who still profess the Christian faith have opted for a Christianity that dispenses with hell. The result has nowhere been better put than by W. MacNeile Dixon in his Gifford Lectures: “The kind-hearted humanitarians of the nineteenth century decided to improve upon Christianity. The thought of hell offended their susceptibilities. They closed it, and, to their surprise, the gates of heaven closed also with a melancholy clang. The malignant countenance of Satan distressed them. They dispensed with him, and at the same time God took his departure. A vexatious result, but you cannot play fast and loose with logic” (The Human Situation).

People do not realize that it is not easy to do away with hell without at the same time getting rid of heaven. I do not mean that we are forced into an acceptance of every detail of a hell that some of an earlier day knew far too much about. They spoke more confidently about the details of the place of punishment than Scripture allows, and in reaction some others abandoned the whole concept. But if there is nothing corresponding to hell, then we all pass into the afterlife. There is then no distinction between the good and the bad, between those who have trusted Christ and those who have not. All are in the afterlife together, with the evil apparently having as much right to it as the righteous. It is this world all over again! There is no place where righteousness dwells.

MacNeile Dixon also suggests that those who got rid of Satan found they had lost God. I think he means that if we take Satan as no more than the biblical personification of evil, we are logically compelled to take God as no more than the biblical personification of good. We should think through what we are doing when we tamper with the biblical picture.

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The Christian faith is a coherent system that proceeds from the facts that God loves us. has made provision for our needs, and has revealed in Scripture what it is necessary for us to know about all this. We are made in a certain way and we have certain needs. On the physical level we need things like food and rest. And on another level we need forgiveness, the assurance that our evil deeds will not be held against us. We need a sense of purpose, the conviction that life is more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” To abandon the faith or part of it or to deny that these things are important does not alter the facts. We are human; we have human needs; and they are fully met in Christ. The world in which we live is proof that they are met nowhere else.

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