Bible X-Files

Title: Bible X-Files

Text: Ezekiel 1:4, 17, Timothy 2:15, Corinthians 10:19-20

Time: May 1st, 2010

I was recently watching the History Channel and noticed they were running a series of documentaries on space aliens called “Ancient Aliens.” I was a little surprised that the History Channel would give any credibility to alien theories, since most scholars consider it total nonsense, but I decided to try to watch a few of the episodes anyway. I figured there would be attempts to trace evidence for aliens from different ancient cultures; and they did that. I also thought they’d probably try to argue that advanced engineering was needed to construct ancient structures such as the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge, for example; and they did use these as proof of aliens. So nothing here surprised me. But what did shock me was they tried to use the Bible as proof that ancient aliens had visited the earth long ago. Now that got my attention. The source for most of the evidences of ancient aliens was a man named Eric Van Donikan, an author who has written a number of best selling books over the last 40 years, the most popular of these entitled, “Chariots of the Gods.” His basic thesis is that the origin of the major religions of the world isn’t a supernatural deity but actually space aliens visiting the planet earth in ancient times. Supposedly these space aliens so impressed the primitive people of the world that they formed religions around these encounters. I had heard of this writer many years before because my Uncle Don died in the 70s and when they were cleaning out his old truck my relatives found a paperback copy of Van Donikan’s “Chariots of the Gods” in the glove box. Nobody ever knew he had any interests in God or aliens, but he must have because he’d been reading the book. So that was 30 to 40 years ago. I’d heard of Von Donikan’s theory about ancient space aliens, but I was unaware that he tried to tie the Bible into it. Now I’m watching this series on the History Channel and they are trying to argue that ancient aliens are found in the Bible in a number of places. Does anybody believe this stuff? Somebody must believe it – or at least be interested in it – because according to some reports Van Donikan’s books have sold between 50 to 100 million copies in the last few decades. And if he’s trying to point to the Bible in support of his alien theory I can imagine there are lots of people who are confused and even misled into thinking that maybe the Bible really does support the alien theory. I would normally pass up the opportunity to comment on this kind of topic because after all I’m called to teach God’s Word, the Bible, not answer every bizarre theory that is circulating in our culture. But because this alien theory uses the Bible to support its claim I though I’d better address the issue and show that it’s nothing more than one author’s creative writing project. We’ll look at the Bible, at one of the primary passages he says proves the Bible is describing space aliens, and we’ll see what it really means. Also, I’ll try to explain how Van Donikan reads the Bible wrong, why he’s misinterpreting it and how we can avoid making similar mistakes when we read the Bible. Finally, I’ll try to give a biblical explanation for the whole cultural phenomenon of aliens. I read recently that nearly one-half of all people on the planet earth – not just in the United States or in Europe or in Western nations, but in the whole world – believe that we’ve been visited by creatures from another world. How can we explain this belief and what are we to think of all the evidence of UFO sightings? I’ll try to offer an explanation that is consistent with God’s biblical revelation.

First, there are passages in the Bible that are used to supposedly “prove” space aliens. Ezekiel 1:4, 17, “I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud of flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal. . . . As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.” This is the famous “wheel within a wheel” passage that UFO enthusiasts have pointed to for years in order to “prove” the Bible describes aliens visited the earth in ancient times. I’ve only quoted a few verses of the passage, the most descriptive ones, but really the whole first chapter of Ezekiel deals with the mysterious wheels and creatures. According to Van Donikan this is proof positive for ancient aliens and ancient UFO activity. But does this obscure verse really prove the space alien theory? To begin with we need to back up and examine the context of this passage in the Book of Ezekiel. He’s a prophet in the Old Testament and in the first verse of the chapter it states what Ezekiel is up to, “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month of the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Now we need to keep in mind that Ezekiel is a prophet and he’s reporting a vision. Now it’s not unusual for prophets to see visions – that’s one of the chief means God communicates his Word to his people, through prophetic visions. So it’s not at all unusual for a prophet, Ezekiel or any other prophet, to see visions. For example, in the New Testament, we see a similar situation in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, where John says, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,” Revelation 1:9-10. So John had a vision – and so did Ezekiel probably have a vision too. It doesn’t have to mean he actually physically saw what he’s describing. But even if he did physically see the angelic creatures and the wheels it doesn’t mean that it’s a description of a UFO and space aliens. But this is the typical method of Van Donikan – he goes looking for something to prove his space alien theory, whether he’s looking among the ruins of ancient civilizations or in biblical passages, then he finds something that could possibly, might possibly be used in some stretch of the imagination to support his theory, then he announces he’s found proof. The problem with this methodology is that it only works if you make the evidence force-fit your theory. Given enough time, energy and creative ability one can force any evidence to fit any theory, but the question is really this – what is the most natural explanation for Ezekiel 1? The Bible is a big book with a lot of content, some of which is difficult to understand, especially dreams and visions. It’s possible, as some do, to try to explain all of the hard-to-understand passages, which is perfectly ok to do because we all want to understand as much as possible. But it also opens the door to the bizarre because just about anything can be “read into” a difficult passage. That’s what Van Donikan and people like him do. They take mysterious and difficult and hard-to-understand passages – in the Old Testament mostly, but also in the New Testament – and pour their bizarre space alien theories into them. Then they announce that they have proof. No. It’s only proof if one knows ahead of time that the theory is correct, but one only knows if the theory is correct if there’s solid proof – and so on, and so on, in the circular argument.

Second, the “ancient alien” theory is a perfect example of misinterpreting the Bible using the fallacy of reading into the text our own preconceptions. 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly diving the word of truth,” KJV. If Van Donikan had spent only a little more time in Bible study instead of chasing after every little piece of evidence he could find to force fit it into his “ancient alien” theory he might not have made such a bad interpretive mistake in handling Ezekiel 1. Now the truth is, we all “read into” the Bible our own ideas and concepts; we’re human, we can’t help it. But the key is to realize that it’s a common temptation and to check ourselves so that we don’t do it too often and in too big a way. But there’s a difference between Christians making the mistake of reading their own ideas into the Bible and those who purposefully and intentionally read things into the Bible to give their own ideas credibility. Van Donikan seems to be guilty of blatantly using the Bible to support his own conclusions rather than letting the Bible speak for itself. In other words, he cherry-picks passages in the Bible that are useful for him to support his bizarre alien theories. I’ve experienced this same kind of methodology after I graduated from Fuller Seminary with a doctorate. Just after graduation, just after I paid my last seminary tuition bill and in desperate need of finances, I responded to an ad in the local newspaper for someone with a doctorate degree to conduct “research.” I thought to myself this might be an opportunity for me to utilize my research skills since I had just finished my doctoral thesis and had gotten pretty good at collecting information and putting it together in a written report. Well, as it turned out this company had a “product” – a so-called cell phone antenna stick-on strip that they were selling to “boost” the phone’s reception range. They wanted to hire me to conduct a study that proved the product really worked. In other words, they wanted me to go out and come up with proof that this thing really worked – and they wanted me to write up a report and use my academic credibility to convince people their product worked. I quickly realized that it was a scam and they only wanted to use me to sell their product; there was no evidence that it even worked, but they wanted me to go out and manufacture evidence for it. Well, after realizing what it was all about, I decided this project wasn’t for me. The ancient alien theory of Eric Van Donikan is much the same thing. It’s a theory looking for anything that can be used to sell it. The Bible is used whenever it can be force-fit into the theory. That’s not legitimate Bible study. But we all need to be careful not to come to the Bible with our own pre-conceived ideas and then try to fit the Bible to our own thinking. It’s a common fallacy, it’s called proof-texting. I’ve heard otherwise excellent Bible teachers commit the fallacy of proof-texting, in other words, they have in their mind what they want to teach and then go to the Bible to confirm what they already know. But ideally, we let the Bible speak for itself, even if it contradicts our current thinking. The problem is, it’s not always easy to know if one is proof-texting or making a legitimate point from the Bible. For example, in the Book of Revelation, there are passages that look like they are describing an atomic explosion, a nuclear blast. We know that these prophecies are talking about future end-times events so there is the possibility that they really are picturing a weapon of mass destruction, but then again, we might just be reading our own ideas of powerful weapons into the biblical text. How do we know the difference between proof-texting and a legitimate possibility? I think a good rule of thumb is to keep our explanations as simple as possible – and avoid the bizarre as much as possible. The “ancient alien” theory is reading a lot into the text, it’s pouring a lot of baggage into the Bible. We need to avoid that as much as possible.

Third, how then do we explain all the UFO sightings if not with alien visitations? 1 Corinthians 10:19-20, “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.” How do we account for all the alien reports gathered from people all over the world today? How do we explain all of the UFO sightings reported on earth today? From a biblical perspective we don’t first turn to space aliens as an explanation, instead we should look into the possibility that demonic powers are deceiving people into thinking they are experiencing aliens when they are really encountering Satan’s fallen angels. The Apostle Paul explains that people are already confused by demons in respect to false gods and sacrifices. Why shouldn’t we imagine that demons continue their work of deception by playing along with the popular idea of space aliens? It makes perfect sense that Satan would employ any and every opportunity to lead people astray spiritually, whether that be imitating God through false religious deception or spiritually deceiving people through the popular space alien mythology. Eric Van Donikan’s books don’t treat Christianity positively, but instead argue that much of the Old and New Testaments describe the activity of space aliens rather than miracles from God. This totally undermines historic Christianity. What better way to confuse and lead people astray from the true faith than to put a bizarre twist and interpretation on biblical Christianity? That’s what Van Donikan does. If the miracles of the Bible can be explained by visitations from aliens from outer space, if all of religion can be explained by human response and reaction to alien visitations, then that changes the entire biblical concept of God and truth. But if the biblical God and the biblical concept of truth is true, then all these new and bizarre reinterpretations of the Bible to prove the alien visitations are misleading deceptions from Satan. We already know from the Bible that Satan is the father of all lies. We already know that Satan will use anything in order to contradict God and God’s truth. So then why should we think it strange that he uses this new, modern, hi-tech myth to lead people astray? If he used the old-fashioned myths of ancient pagan people nobody would buy that, so he incorporates new and improved deceptions, plausible to modern thinking, to lead people astray today. Satan knows that if he can present a plausible scenario that can capture the imagination of modern people he can lead them away from the true God, away from the biblical truth, and into lies and errors and ultimately eternal destruction. So what should we as Christians do in response to the alien theories and UFO sightings we hear about on television, in books, on radio, in magazines and other sources? What should we do when we hear people talk about these things with interest? We should inform ourselves as to what is being said and then we should engage in conversation with anyone who is willing to consider the possibility that indeed there are entities out there and events taking place in the world that go under the headings “aliens” and “UFOs,” but that these things aren’t what they appear to be – they are demonic deceptions. But we should also be prepared to be mocked and laughed at. I guess today it makes more sense to believe in “little green men” than to believe in the existence of demons. When people stop believing the Bible, they start believing in anything. What a pity. But that’s where we are today in the world. But as Christians we need to continue to be witnesses for truth, even in the midst of persistent lies. The bottom line is this – we really don’t know what the whole “alien” and “UFO” phenomenon is about, but there’s a better chance it’s demonic deception than it’s little green men. But above all, we should guard the Bible against corruption from bizarre theories that seek to reinterpret it for dubious purposes. God’s Word stands as a standard against all such errors.

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5 Responses to “Bible X-Files”

  1. kyle Says:

    You sounded so sure of yourself until your conclusion, which ultimately shows you have no answer but the ignorant views of someone who is threatened by questions about their faith. Since you have no answer, you become hostile and conclude they are “demonic illusions”, but even then you are still unsure of what it is. The researchers who gathered theories from these passages would have been stupid not to research the rest of the scriptures. If you can prove to me they didn’t I might be a little less biased. But based upon facts and evidence being found, these are pretty legit theories being introduced. And being a former Christian myself, mabey you and everyone else should open your eyes and see what’s really going on.

  2. kyle Says:

    Also, mabey you should reconsider your statement on guarding the bible from becoming corrupt. One of the founding fathers said it himself. Do a little research on both sides of the spectrum. …”The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills” – Thomas Jefferson

  3. Nefbeenoupe Says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net

  4. mark Says:

    Ok, so I didn’t take the time to read your entire blog. I honestly didn’t have the time and I’m not a speed reader. The gist that I am getting is that your theory is that UFO’s are in reality of demonic origin. I’ve thought this for years and have never really had a chance to sit down with someone to hash it out. When I get a chance, I will revisit this site to delve into your reasoning. It does seem that you are right on with what I have read so far. Demons will do much to try to convince us they do not exist. At least in the way scripture defines them. They are after all.. crafty.

  5. jeffshort Says:

    thanks for your comments, i was interviewed on radio by Lynn Martin on AM 800 and asked about UFOs but decided not to get into all the nitty gritty details as I’ve outlined above because in the secular, modern world the thought of UFO aliens as demonic deception is laughable and ridiculous. I wasn’t sure I wanted to open up the whole subject without the interviewer willing to at least make it the subject of a “thought experiment.” From the sound of things she didn’t want to even go that far, so I decided to pass on that discussion.

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