By Dan Brownell
According to a recent Axios survey of 10,417 U.S. residents (bit.ly/Axios-Stat),
76% of respondents under 30 believe there’s intelligent life on other planets.
Are UFOs carrying aliens from outer space? This is an important topic for Christians to consider because what we believe about them influences our view of the universe, the assumptions that form our worldview, the existence of God, our relationship with and accountability to Him, and eternity.
The question of the existence of aliens has been a pressing one since at least 1947, when Kenneth Arnold, a pilot in Washington State, reported seeing a string of nine saucer-shaped objects flying past Mount Rainier at a speed of at least 1,200 mph. That incident was followed several weeks later by the alleged UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico, that kicked off the widespread fascination with UFOs.
Over the decades, the U.S. government has quietly investigated UFOs but has — at least publicly — dismissed them (although it used sensational media reports as cover for its top-secret military research). But in December 2020, Congress ordered the U.S. intelligence community to divulge what it knows within six months. On June 25, 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the nine-page unclassified report “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” (The government now uses the term “UAP” to avoid the stigma associated with UFOs.) A PDF of the report is available online at bit.ly/UAP-Report.
The report is significant in that it was widely expected to provide concrete evidence for the existence of technologically advanced aliens. UFOs/UAPs are so deeply ingrained in pop culture that many — consciously or unconsciously — assume that, if a flying object’s identity is unknown, it must be of extraterrestrial origin. But the report showed no evidence of aliens.
The UAP Report’s Major Findings
According to the report, there’s no evidence that UAPs are American technology or of alien origin. In addition, it said that few solid conclusions can be drawn at all because of the relatively sparse data. The report states, “The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP” (UAP Report, pg. 3).
The report also explains that experts could reach few conclusions because of the risk of misinterpreting the data. It concedes that the most puzzling sightings “could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis” (UAP Report, pg. 3).
For UFO enthusiasts, the report was disappointing. Rather than providing earthshaking revelations, it presented little detail. Of the 144 UAPs mentioned in the report, the only one positively identified was a “large, deflating balloon.”
Four Explanations for UAPs
The report listed five possible explanations for UAPs: “airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG [U.S government] or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall ‘other’ bin” (UAP Report, pg. 3). This article reorganizes the five explanations into four groups, combining some in the UAP report and adding “Satanic Deception,” a category the report doesn’t consider because of its secular worldview and assumptions.
- Natural Phenomenon
- Human Technology (American or Foreign Adversary)
- Alien Technology
- Satanic Deception
- Natural Phenomenon
According to CGI.org’s article “UFOs Exist! But What Are They?” (bit.ly/CGI-UFO), a high percentage of UAPs have a simple explanation. “Most UFO sightings — about 95% — do have a natural explanation, and more than a few have been deliberate hoaxes and pranks. Some photographs have been found to be nothing more than pictures of flung hubcaps and garbage can lids, shot to deceive a gullible public. Most UFO sightings are, in fact, nothing more than mysterious ‘blobs of light’ in the sky. Numerous explanations have been attributed to various UFO sightings: satellites, planes, weather balloons, temperature inversions, phases of the moon, ball lightning, marsh gas, mirages, clouds, stars, migrating birds, light leaks in cameras, and even vivid imaginations.”
Apologist Dr. Ron Rhodes, author of more than 60 books and president of Reasoning from the Scriptures (ronrhodes.org), agrees with CGI.org’s assessment, and his book UFOS: The Truth About UFOs and Aliens — A Christian Assessment provides more insight into the UFO-like characteristics of ball lightning:
“The ball lightning explanation for UFOs has been explored in some detail by researcher Philip Klass. This little-known kind of lightning, which involves plasma, ‘is usually oval in shape and an intense red, is often heard to sizzle, and moves around with unpredictable vigor, sometimes hanging motionless, at other times darting about at high speeds with instantaneous changes in direction.’
“Klass studied some 746 UFO sightings, and in almost every case, he discovered that the reported UFOs displayed characteristics typical of plasma — color, shape, erratic movement, and hissing. He writes: ‘The strong electrical charge of a plasma could also explain the frequent reports of interference with radios, lights, and automobile electrical systems in the vicinity of UFOs. Since a plasma has little mass and is responsive to electromagnetic fields, its erratic flight and high-speed reversals of direction posed no theoretical problem. Moreover, plasmas reflect radio waves, so they cannot be ruled out when UFOs appear on radar screens.’
“There are still further possible explanations for UFO sightings. For example, we now know that the military is working on various methods of displaying 3-D (three dimensional) holographical images in the sky as a form of nonlethal weaponry. Obviously such images would not be detected by radar, which is consistent with many UFO reports. Someone could easily see such an image in the sky and think it was an alien spacecraft.”
According to the Smithsonian Channel report “What Radar Jamming Has to Do With UFOs” (bit.ly/SC-RadJam), some UAP sightings may be the result of radar jamming, a military electronic countermeasure in which artificial targets are created on radar to fool adversaries. The story explored an account of a Belgian Air Force pilot’s pursuit of what a radar signal processing expert later determined was a deliberate spoof to mislead the pilot. At one point, the speed of the radar target’s plunge was so extreme it was “beyond the performance of any known aircraft.” And tellingly, the pilot never actually saw the target. It only appeared on radar.
False sightings can be attributed to many other reasons, too, including camera lens distortions known as “bokehs.” In addition, Rhodes also explained that thousands of pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth — including old satellites — can reflect sunlight and appear to be UAPs.
In fact, space is becoming so cluttered that a recent Nature.com article (bit.ly/Nat-Sat) points out that the huge increase in satellites is causing visual pollution in the atmosphere and interference with astronomical observations. “Aerospace companies have launched about 2,000 internet satellites into orbit around Earth over the past two years, nearly doubling the number of active satellites…. Now, in what would be the biggest international step yet towards addressing these concerns, diplomats at a United Nations forum next month might discuss whether humanity has a right to ‘dark and quiet skies.’”
- Human Technology (American or Foreign Adversary)
Not Technology Developed by America (U.S. Government or Private Industry)
The UAP report states there’s no evidence that UAP sightings are linked to U.S. technology. While it’s possible that secret American technology has been developed that’s not disclosed in the unclassified report, well-established scientific principles discount the possibility they could account for UAPs that violate the laws of physics.
The most baffling incidents are those that exhibit unique characteristics described by the Department of Defense Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) as “The Five Observables.” These attributes are discussed in detail in a History.com article (bit.ly/Hist-5-Obs).
The Five Observables
1. Anti-gravity lift. In these incidents, witnesses report there are no visible control surfaces, such as wings, and no discernible means of propulsion.
2. Sudden and instantaneous acceleration. These craft are reported to feature instant acceleration, stopping, and changes of direction that would rip apart manmade vehicles and their occupants.
3. Hypersonic velocities without signatures. These UAPs leave no detectable signatures, unlike known manmade aircraft, which leave behind telltale signs such as exhaust gasses, vapor trails, heat trails, and sonic booms.
4. Low observability, or cloaking. Observers report that even when they have a clear view of a UAP, it’s often hazy and indistinct.
5. Trans-medium travel. These craft can travel through multiple media and can easily transit from one to the other.
As mysterious as these incidents are, they can have simple, down-to-earth explanations. In the Guardian article “I Study UFOs – And I Don’t Believe the Alien Hype. Here’s Why” (bit.ly/Guard-MW), British UFO skeptic Mick West quickly solved an alleged UFO incident that fooled numerous Chilean military and civilian experts for two years. The UAP turned out to be a commercial aircraft. It was identified as “Iberia flight 6830, departing Santiago airport…. Radar data confirmed that the exact location of the plane matched the UFO.”
These baffling cases involving The Five Observables bear marked similarities to traits associated with the occult, and many are likely explained by supernatural origins, as will be explained under the Satanic Deception section.
Not Technology Developed by Foreign Adversaries
In recent years, China and Russia have made major strides in military technology, and it’s possible they’re using advanced technology to covertly assess U.S. defense capabilities. Frequent sightings of UAPs near U.S. military installations and Navy ships could point to this. High-tech espionage poses a serious national security concern and is one of the main reasons the report was commissioned. The degree of threat is unknown, however, and these clusters of sightings may occur merely because the military is better positioned and equipped to encounter the phenomena. The report says the U.S. military sightings “may result from a collection bias as a result of focused attention, greater numbers of latest-generation sensors operating in those areas, unit expectations, and guidance to report anomalies” (UAP Report, pg. 5).
In any case, both Americans and foreign adversaries are bound by the laws of physics, so they can’t account for sightings that violate those laws. In addition, it seems unlikely that China and Russia would be so advanced in one area of technology yet remain lagging in others. China is only now beginning to develop an aircraft carrier-capable navy and has struggled with the engineering needed to produce fighter jets with engines and control surfaces that can compete with the U.S., so it’s hard to believe that they could field spacecraft capable of the feats reported by witnesses.
Finally, if China or Russia — countries with aspirations for global dominance — currently had technology that advanced, they probably would have already used it to overpower the U.S. and the rest of the world. They have openly boasted of their desire to rule the world, so they would be eager to use this technology to achieve their goals.
Considering all these factors, it seems extremely unlikely that either America or foreign adversaries are responsible for the sightings linked to The Five Observables.
- Alien Technology
Lack of Physical Evidence
The UAP report doesn’t mention any physical evidence of alien spacecraft, spacecraft wreckage, or alien bodies despite the long-held belief that the U.S. government is hiding some. Non-governmental science research doesn’t show support for intelligent alien life either. In fact, no one has provided evidence of any life at all beyond Earth — not even a single cell. Reputable experts are skeptical too. According to a Space.com article (bit.ly/Space-UFO), Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, a research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said he’s hesitant to call UAPs extraterrestrial. “There is absolutely no concrete evidence that I know of that points to them as being extraterrestrial.”
According to Jay Seegert, a physics major and speaker for The Starting Point Project apologetics ministry (thestartingpointproject.com), space travel from another planet is implausible. The closest planet outside our solar system is 4.37 light years or 26 trillion miles away. Even if aliens were traveling at one-tenth the speed of light (about 18,600 miles per second), it would take them 43 years to reach us. During that time, they would have to dodge 100,000 bits of space dust per cubic kilometer. If they struck a single piece of space dust, their ship would suffer catastrophic damage. Using the formula ½MV2 to calculate the impact force, a spaceship traveling at one-tenth the speed of light colliding with a speck of space dust weighing one-tenth of a gram would result in an explosion equivalent to 10 tons of TNT.
“Exotic” Materials Aren’t Really Exotic
Luis Elizondo, a former U.S. intelligence specialist, has claimed that the government possesses exotic materials, allegedly from UFO crash debris. However, the UAP report makes no mention of this. While it’s possible this data was omitted from the unclassified report, another source reveals additional insight that casts doubt on the claim. A Vice article (bit.ly/Vice-Ex) reported that some purported UFO material belonging to the private company To the Stars, which now employs Elizondo, may just be an industrial byproduct. Dr. Chris Cogswell, who holds a PhD in chemical engineering, said, “The chances of it being important scientifically are extremely slim. On top of that, it may not be much more than a piece of slag from an industrial process, for instance it has been suggested this may be from the Betterton-Kroll process.”
In addition, the term “exotic” is somewhat of a misnomer. It implies that the substance is composed of an unknown material that doesn’t exist on Earth, but the exotic materials mentioned in the article have been identified as aluminum and bismuth/magnesium-zinc, which are known metals found on Earth:
Furthermore, the To the Stars company doesn’t have the objectivity and singular focus typically associated with serious science research. The company founder, Tom DeLonge, is a rock musician with an interest in UFOs and paranormal activity. To the Stars is part of the larger organization To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences (tothestarsacademy.com), which has an entertainment division and publishes books and other materials about the paranormal. Its website says, “The entertainment division creates worlds. Science fiction stories for millennials that inspire and transcend. We are a publisher, a merchandiser, and a production studio. We have stories about dreams, consciousness, paranormal, UFOs, and many other things that once used to be taboo….”
Objections From Logic
The “alien technology” theory doesn’t withstand the scrutiny of logic either. If the craft are piloted by aliens, their actions seem inconsistent and contradictory. They raise questions such as the following:
-If the aliens are so advanced that they’ve somehow discovered a way to overcome the laws of physics, why are there so many reports of them crashing? If they’ve overcome the laws of physics for flying, shouldn’t they have overcome them enough to prevent crashing?
-Why are these craft so elusive? If their intent is to remain hidden, they’re doing a poor job. Their advanced technology should allow them to remain undetected within Earth’s atmosphere because, so far, they’ve stayed completely invisible in our solar system and in their approach and departure from Earth. Radiotelescopes can pick up small asteroids from great distances, and the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN) tracks more than 27,000 pieces of space junk, frequently guiding the International Space Station out of the path of even tiny pieces that could damage it, yet none of these highly sensitive instruments has ever detected a UFO entering or departing Earth’s atmosphere, the solar system, or beyond. So if aliens can be that stealthy in space, why not on Earth?
On the other hand, if these craft want to be observed, they could do a much better job of that as well. They could allow detailed and undeniable evidence of their presence. They could even make contact if they wanted to, landing at the U.N. building and introducing themselves to the media and representatives of all the world’s leaders. Instead, they seem to be playing a cosmic game of cat and mouse.
-If the aliens’ intentions are friendly, why haven’t they intervened to help mankind? If their intentions are hostile, why haven’t they already attacked us?
The Fermi Paradox, named for renowned physicist Enrico Fermi, points out the problem of unconfirmed alien life: If so many habitable planets exist, why don’t we have conclusive proof?
Objections From Theology
Scripture seems to preclude intelligent alien life. This isn’t just an argument from silence. Throughout the Bible, God reveals a unique and exclusive relationship with humans. The timeline of Scripture and its focus on Earth point to this exclusivity.
For instance, God called Israel to be His chosen people and made an exclusive covenant with them. As part of that covenant, He made His dwelling place enthroned above the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, first in the tabernacle and then in the temple. Later, when the Old Covenant of the law was superseded by the New Covenant through salvation in Jesus, the church became the “Bride of Christ,” using marriage, the closest and most exclusive relationship in human experience, to picture the exclusivity of the relationship between Jesus and Christians. The end times prophecies, which reveal the eventual fate of the entire universe — its complete destruction and replacement by the New Heavens, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem — are tied directly to human events on Earth.
If God had created intelligent beings on other planets, it would have created an irreconcilable conflict within His creation and with His plan of redemption on Earth. Scripture states that Jesus could only be incarnated, crucified, and resurrected once. “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Rom. 6:10 NIV). If God had created intelligent beings on other planets, He would have given them a free will because that’s consistent with His nature. At some point, these beings would have disobeyed Him and would have needed a savior too, which wouldn’t be possible because there’s only one Savior.
There would have been other conflicts within His creation as well. According to Romans 8, when Adam and Eve sinned, they caused all creation to fall. If beings on another world existed, they would have suffered because of the choices that Adam and Eve made on Earth.
Finally, the exclusivity of mankind is evident in that Jesus took on a human form permanently at His incarnation. Throughout all eternity, He will retain His dual nature, being 100% God, yet also 100% human. Because of His great love and sacrifice for us, Jesus will forever be in physical human form.
Aliens Point Away From God
Not only do the events and focus of the Bible challenge the existence of intelligent alien life, but the idea of alien life presents other biblical inconsistencies as well. For example, if aliens were sinless, we would expect that they would be like God’s holy angels and continually give glory to Him. But there are no reports of this. If aliens were sinful but redeemed, we would expect that they would be given the opportunity and responsibility of being messengers to share the good news of salvation with humans. But we don’t hear of this happening either.
If, however, aliens are sinners but are unredeemed, we would expect them to consistently point us away from God (like the fallen angels do), which matches what we know about them. For example, in 1997, 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide, believing they would go to heaven after their death by being transported aboard a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet.
Explaining Away the Rapture
Christians have speculated for years that the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:14–17) will be explained away as aliens ridding Earth of those who stand in the way of progress. Mankind has certainly been conditioned to accept this premise, as the media has been cultivating the idea of aliens through countless TV shows and movies since the 1950s, from Buck Rogers and Lost in Space to Star Trek, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and countless others. And indeed, the idea that aliens will cleanse Earth of those who reject New Age philosophies is widely held among followers of the occult and paranormal.
- Satanic Deception
Satan Is a Deceiver
Scripture tells us that Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV) and will use “all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie” (2 Thess. 2:9 NIV). Satan is known as “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). This title could mean that in addition to ruling over the spiritual realm of evil, he may also rule over the physical atmosphere, which is the primary domain of UFOs.
The Occult Connection
UFOs have a direct association with the occult. In times and places where people honor the God of the Bible and Scripture, the occult has much less influence. But wherever atheism or non-Christian religions have sway, occult influences greatly increase because God loosens His leash on Satan and his fellow fallen angels. The Bible explains that God allows this to point rebellious and self-destructive people back to His loving care. He doesn’t force them against their will, but rather allows the natural consequences of their rebellion to show them that His path is right and leads from death to life. This principle is revealed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
The rise of UFOs began in the 1940s and ’50s. Before that, UFO reports were rare in the Christian West, but they spiked in the middle of the 20th century when we began to turn away from God and toward the occult. Since then, we’ve been conditioned through pop culture — comic books, novels, music, radio, television, movies, social media, the internet, etc. — to accept the idea that alien life is real, but Satan isn’t. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, one of Satan’s most effective strategies is to convince us he doesn’t exist.
Some UFOs May Be Satanic Manifestations
Although most UFOs can be explained by natural phenomenon, some may be Satanic imitations. In UFOS: The Truth About UFOs and Aliens, Rhodes says, “When we keep in mind the scriptural fact that Satan has the ability to bring about counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9), I think a viable explanation of those UFO sightings that are not rooted in natural phenomena may in fact be rooted in the work of Satan.” He adds, “In seeking to unravel who these ‘aliens’ are, it is highly revealing that while UFOs typically do not respond to aerial pursuit or standard approaches (such as radio contact), the standard tools of the occult have often been claimed to have established contact in innumerable cases. Those who successfully make ‘contact’ are those typically involved in one or more of the following: trance states, seances, clairvoyance, spiritism, automatic handwriting, peering into crystals, levitation, out-of-body experiences, and the like.”
Many people have claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Rhodes suggests these alleged encounters are also related to the occult. “ Could it be that, particularly for those already involved in the occult, Satan blinds their minds and in some way induces a mystical dream-like experience in their minds in which they ‘perceive’ that they are being abducted (though they are not actually physically abducted) — a dream that is later ‘recalled’ and ‘remembered’ by means of hypnosis as being a ‘true event’?”
Can Satanic Deception Account for The Five Observables?
Satanic deception may explain the science-defying characteristics of The Five Observables. If demons are posing as UFOs, that would explain why they can defy the laws of physics. Rhodes elaborates: “In support of the idea that UFOs may in fact be manifestations of Satan or demons is the belief by some individuals that the UFOs themselves are alive. Brad Steiger, who has written a number of books on the UFO phenomenon, said: ‘I have even come to suspect that in some instances, what we have been calling “spaceships” may actually be a form of higher intelligence rather than vehicles transporting occupants.’ Likewise, John Keel noted that ‘over and over again, witnesses have told me in hushed tones, ‘You know, I don’t think that thing I saw was mechanical at all. I got the distinct impression that it was alive.’”
Rhodes also points to Jacques Vallee, the French UFO researcher who was the inspiration for a counterpart character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. According to Rhodes, Vallee “cites the ability of these objects to seemingly materialize on the spot — very abruptly, out of nowhere, as it were — as a key evidence. These objects sometimes seem to have a ghostly, apparition-like demeanor — sometimes giving indication of having the ability to ‘float’ through solid matter. Further, even though these entities seem to appear out of another dimension, Vallee says ‘this does not exclude a material physical presence at the time of the sighting.’”
We don’t need to worry about an alien invasion, but we do need to be concerned about Satanic deception and spiritual warfare. Whatever the identity of the UAPs, there’s overwhelming evidence based on theology, science, and logic that they’re not aliens from other planets. As mentioned previously, as many as 95% of UAP reports have a natural explanation. For that reason, Rhodes suggests that “When one sees a UFO, one is on safest ground assuming that there is a natural explanation. Now, it could be that there is not a natural explanation — and in that case it may involve occultism or demonic phenomena…. But a good starting point is to suspect a natural explanation.”