Opinion by Jim Denney
In the summer of 1970, before my senior year in high school, I went with a high school youth group from California to a Young Life camp at Malibu, British Columbia. During the long drive up the Pacific Coast, we stopped at a home in Oregon for the night. The girls slept inside and the boys sacked out in sleeping bags in the backyard.
As I lay awake, looking at the stars, I noticed one “star” moving erratically, zig-zagging from side to side and up and down, dancing rapidly in a seemingly random pattern. I wanted to call out to someone to confirm what I was seeing, but everyone else seemed to be asleep. I pulled back the flap of my sleeping bag and stood up.
“Hey, Jim,” someone whispered. I turned and saw that Dave, a guy I knew slightly, was sitting up in his sleeping bag, watching the same manifestation. “Do you see that?” he said.
“Yeah. I see it.”
We both watched the zig-zagging “star” for about a minute — then it shot straight up, fading to darkness as it ascended. In seconds, it was gone.
I asked Dave what he thought it was.
“I dunno,” he said. “All I know is that thing was weird.”
About a year ago, I sat and talked to a man in his eighties named Kenny. He’s a longtime friend of my mother and my late father, and a sober man of good judgment and good Christian character. He told me that, one time in the 1950s, he drove his pickup on California Highway 33, near the little oil town of Coalinga. Seven or eight miles north of the town is a place unofficially known as “Stinky Hollow,” due to the sulfurous “rotten egg” smell that lingers around the many pumpjacks that extract crude oil from the ground.
It was late at night when Kenny passed through Stinky Hollow. He noticed a bright glow off to the side of the road. Curious about the light, he pulled off the road, got out of his truck, and walked toward the glow. Coming over a rise, he saw something disk-shaped perched on the ground, glowing brightly and large enough to hold several people. He stopped, and while he was deciding whether he should approach it, the object lifted off the ground, ascended into the night sky, and faded as it traveled straight up.
He had no explanation for what he had seen, and he said he’s never seen anything like it before or since. I have no explanation for what Kenny saw, nor for what I saw. He and I both saw “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs) — with the emphasis on unidentified. Many people want to believe that UFOs are flown by alien beings (often referred to as “extra-terrestrial intelligences” or ETIs). That’s certainly one possibility.
I recently came across an article at the Huffington Post by science writer (and atheist) Jeff Schweitzer. His piece is called “Earth 2.0: Bad News for God,” and he suggests that the discovery in July 2015 of a seemingly earth-like planet orbiting the Sun-like star Kepler-452 (about 1,830 light-years from Earth) suggests that life may be common in the universe. He concluded that the discovery of alien life on other worlds would be “bad news” for those who believe in God.
I was intrigued. Why would the discovery of alien beings on other planets be “bad news” for God? Schweitzer explains: “Let us be clear that the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of God, and all life was created in six days.”
Where does the Bible unambiguously say that “only humans were made in the image of God”? I’ve never seen any passage in the Bible that makes such an “unambiguous” statement as Schweitzer claims (he hangs his hat on a forced interpretation of Genesis 2:1).
The fact is, the Bible clearly contradicts Schweitzer’s claim. The Bible actually states that there are alien, extraterrestrial, nonhuman, intelligent beings in the universe. The Bible calls them “angels” (which means “messengers”). And if the alien race known as “angels” exists, why not other nonhuman races?
In fact, Genesis 6:1-4 refers to a mysterious race called the Nephilim. These are clearly nonhuman beings, as we understand humanity, but little is said about them other than that they were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” prior to the Flood of Noah (the Nephilim are also referred to in Numbers 13). Some students of the ancient Hebrew language believe the word Nephilim means “those who cause people to fall.”
Are UFOs piloted by aliens from distant planets? Are they piloted by angels? By demons? I don’t claim to know.
When I was writing my Timebenders science fantasy series for young readers in 2001-2002, I showed my editors a draft of the fourth book in the series, Lost in Cydonia, which featured some blue-skinned, golden-eyed aliens on the planet Mars. My editors said, “You have to rewrite this. You can’t have space aliens in the story.”
“The Bible says there are no space aliens in the universe, only human beings.”
“Where does the Bible say that?”
“I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve always heard. We don’t want Christian parents to think that our books have space aliens in them.”
“Have you ever read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis? He has intelligent alien races in Out of the Silent Planet — the eldila, the sorns, the hrossa. And there’s the Green Lady and her husband in Perelandra. No one objects to the space aliens in Lewis’s books.”
“When you sell as many books as C.S. Lewis, you can have space aliens in them. But right now, you have to take them out.”
I solved the problem very simply. I changed my aliens to angels, and otherwise left the story exactly as it was. My editors loved the book. Why? Because angels are an alien race. Both the unfallen angels of the Lord and the fallen angels known as demons come from — and belong to — an unearthly reality.
As the apostle Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
What did I see in the sky that summer night in 1970? What did Kenny see lift up from the ground and fade into the night sky over Stinky Hollow? Were they visitors from another star system far from Earth? Where they manifestations of spiritual “rulers” and “authorities” from the “heavenly realms”?
What do you think Kenny and I saw?
Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.
And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.
Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland.