We in the West live in an overwhelmingly secular culture that says materialism is the only reality. There is no supernatural, only the natural. There is no metaphysical reality, only the physical. Matter alone matters. Or as Carl Sagan once put it, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be”.
It is interesting that some holding to the materialist worldview – be they evolutionists or atheists – are quite keen about the search for life elsewhere in the universe, perhaps on other planets from far-away galaxies. Why this interest? For some, it is almost a bit of a crusade. You see, they dislike the Biblical account which says there is a creator, and that in this created order, there is something special – mankind, the apex of God’s creation. Human beings are special, in the Biblical understanding, and are set apart from the rest of creation. We are not mere animals, but individuals made in the image of God, with eternal destinies.
The atheists and secular humanists of course strongly reject such an idea. Thus their obsession to find life elsewhere, to somehow disprove the Biblical account. They want to undermine and disprove the uniqueness of human life, and they think that by finding it elsewhere, they will be able to throw out the Judeo-Christian worldview and the high place it gives to humanity.
If this extraterrestrial life cannot be found, then the materialists have a hard time denying that life on earth seems to be pretty special, as if it were designed that way. But design (and a designer) are both anathema to the materialists.
Now I do not necessarily think that if we did discover life elsewhere, it would be a major blow to the Biblical worldview. But leaving that aside, it does seem that SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and other such projects certainly are important to the materialist worldview.
But of course it is not just the atheist or Darwinian or materialist who is eager to discover life in other parts of our universe. Plenty of other people may even have religious or spiritual reasons for such a search. Thus new-agers and others are often keen on such searches.
But whether this search is part of an effort to disprove God and attack the Biblical account of creation, or just a genuine fascination with the possibility of life elsewhere, the thing all those involved in such a search are missing is this: there is in fact life beyond this planet. Indeed, we are not alone in the universe. Even more amazing, this alien life form has actually made contact with us.
The Bible is in fact the record of this alien invasion, if you will. Throughout the Old Testament God manifested himself in various ways to his people. But the supreme manifestation of God of course comes in the form of the Incarnation. God became one of us. The Gospel of John begins by clearly setting this out for us.
“In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only – who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)
And this of course is why we celebrate Christmas. God became man, dwelt among us, showed us what God was like, died a horrible death on a cross to suffer for our sins – all so that we might be reconciled to God and live forever with him.
That in a nutshell is what Christmas is all about. It is about intelligent life from beyond this planet making contact with us, and telling us about what this extra-terrestrial life is all about. So we can stop the search. God has already taken the initiative. He has spoken, he has revealed himself. So we no longer need to try to figure out God (which is what religion is all about). Christianity is about God taking the first and last steps. He has done it all on our behalf. Ours is merely to respond to the great Christmas gift: God’s son, saviour and redeemer.