Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

An older internet meme, originating in 2010, features Giorgio A. Tsoukalos from the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens program.1 As Tsoukalos believes ancient astronauts visited our planet in our distant antiquity, he often speaks enthusiastically about how such extraterrestrial visitors interacted with our remote ancestors. Hence, a screenshot of Tsoukalos from Ancient Aliens sporting his crazily coiffed hair and hands frozen in mid-gesticulation conveys the simple message to the viewer of “Aliens.” Another version of the meme, also featuring the same screenshot of Tsoukalos, reads, “I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens.”  

What is the point of posting random pictures on the internet? Honestly, what is the purpose of any meme? The word “meme” derives from the Greek word “mimeme,” meaning something imitated.2 Without becoming too bogged down in explanation, a meme is a vehicle by which internet posters convey ideas. Then, others who identify with the message share it. In that simple act of reposting, one “imitates” the intent of the meme’s creator. When many people do this, we proclaim that the meme has “gone viral.” However, the power of the meme is that it will invoke a response so that even those angered by it will respond to it. For example, the “Aliens” meme is employed by those jokingly offering a Deus ex machina-type explanation for things to which we may or may not have the answers. How did ancient builders erect megalithic structures? Aliens. Who ate my last donut? Aliens. 

I cannot help but hear the voice of Giorgio A. Tsoukalos saying “aliens” in my head as I read headlines like this one from Yahoo!News: “How would humans respond to the discovery of aliens? NASA enlisted dozens of religious scholars to find out.”3 For some reason that escapes me, Hollywood has often speculated that the revelation of extraterrestrial life would destroy the faith of believers. You have likely seen such movies. There is typically some cabinet member telling the fictional President to keep things quiet lest the disclosure of the existence of extraterrestrials leads to chaos. By the way, rather than becoming terrified by the thought of aliens, the article suggests that religious people would most likely be better prepared to receive such visitors from afar. I agree with that conclusion. 

I cannot speak for other Christians, but I can say why I wouldn’t lose my faith in Jesus Christ because someone proves that the Roswell greys exist. First, my belief that God created everything that exists convicts me of the truth that if “aliens” also exist, God created them too. Genesis 1 details how God made the heavens with their inhabitants. A Christian realizes that, though the creation account mentions nothing about planets, the voice of God made Jupiter and Saturn, which are planets. Would it require more faith to believe that there could be one planet orbiting a star capable of supporting life in that sea of stars we see at night? No. Again, Genesis 1 tells us God created the heavens and the earth. It would be more a matter of what God has chosen to reveal to us. Deuteronomy 29.29 reminds us that God has only given us what He has revealed. The secret things belong to Him alone.  

Second, we ask what we can even understand about God apart from His Word. Isaiah 55.8-9 reminds us that the thoughts and ways of God are above our own. Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once stated what has since become known as one of Clarke’s Laws: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”4 We might substitute the word “supernatural” for “magic.” The existence of aliens would not destroy my faith because I might ask whether the strange phenomena I was witnessing were not “aliens” but “heavenly visitors.” Maybe Ezekiel’s “wheel in the middle of the wheel” was a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) (Ezekiel 1.4ff). Would it matter to you if God created the universe using advanced technology to which only He has access? Either way, He has the power to create and destroy us (cf. 2 Peter 3.12). 

Ultimately, all of this talk has more to do with scientists’ expectations regarding the recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.5 In addition to thinking they will see the Big Bang, scientists believe we might finally see those elusive extraterrestrials and life-sustaining planets. And why not? The government has even declassified reports about the existence of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”6 Having said what I have about not having my faith shaken by the sudden revelation that there is other life out there, though, I find it more likely that each discovery reveals what we have known all along. God placed us in a particular spot within the cosmos to see His intelligent design and realize, yes, it had a beginning. It is not eternal. And one day, we will meet Him, Who created it all.   

Sources Consulted and Cited 

1 “Ancient Aliens.” Know Your Meme, Literally Media Ltd., 3 Dec. 2021, knowyourmeme.com/memes/ancient-aliens

2 “Memes | Psychology Today.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC,www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/memes

3 Snodgrass, Erin. “How Would Humans Respond to the Discovery of Aliens? NASA Enlisted Dozens of Religious Scholars to Find out.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 29 Dec. 2021, 21:42,www.yahoo.com/news/humans-respond-discovery-aliens-nasa-024208831.html

4 Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. “What Are Clarke’s Laws?” ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-are-clarkes-laws-2699067

5 Griffin, Andrew. “James Webb Space Telescope Latest: Alien-Hunting Spacecraft Unfurls on Its Way to Study the Universe.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 30 Dec. 2021, 09:42, news.yahoo.com/james-webb-space-telescope-latest-144238287.html

6 Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Prelimary-Assessment-UAP-20210625.pdf

Christianity: A Top Five List

Christianity: A Top Five List

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Life has been found in some of the most uninhabitable spots on earth. Bacterial life thrives in Lake Vostok in Antarctica, for example. Thiolava veneris was found thriving in the aftermath of a violent submarine volcanic eruption near the Canary Islands. Organisms that thrive in extreme environments are called “extremophiles” (noaa.gov). We’re always amazed when life thrives in extremely hostile environments.

The moral climate of our planet makes it extremely difficult to thrive. Humanity has created a moral environment consisting of self-interest, violence, apathy, and general dysfunction. In terms of population, they have the clear advantage. Christians are, by definition, extremophiles. We defy all expectations by thriving in an overwhelmingly hostile environment.

That said, we are studied by those who make up our environment. Many will come to the conclusion that we’re strange and warrant no further interest. Many will consider our loyalty to a supernatural morality to be hostile (II Tim. 3.12; Rom. 5.3,4). Few will wonder how we’re able to have hope, purpose, direction, resilience, and happiness in any condition.

Why would anyone want to be an extremophile? Why would anyone willingly assume a lifestyle that automatically puts them at odds with their own environment? Here’s why:

1. Everyone is going to live forever (Jn. 5.28,29). We want to live with the creator in a perfect world (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 21.1,2; Rom. 8.18-25), not in an even worse world (Matt. 25; Rev. 21.8; II Thess. 1).

2. We didn’t make up the moral code we follow. Human error is not a factor in our worldview because it came from the creator (II Tim. 3; Jer. 31.31ff). This system can’t be corrupted and doesn’t take advantage of its constituents (unlike many human laws). We’re secure and confident because of this.

3. The creator went to extreme lengths to make sure we could easily have access to a perfect eternity (I Jn. 5.3; Heb. 9.11ff). Who wouldn’t want to follow a perfectly selfless leader?

4. We enjoy peace and existential purpose because our worldview isn’t from around here (I Pet. 1.1-10). It doesn’t matter what happens to us, we’re more than fine.

5. We’re not afraid of death (Heb. 2.14f). Self-preservation is not our main priority – how many people have done horrible things out of self-preservation? Lots! We don’t have a death wish, we’re just not afraid of death.

That’s just a sample of why we voluntarily become extremophiles. Done correctly, ours is the best life possible! It makes this one better, it makes the next one perfect. We can’t lose!

What Messages Are We Sending?

What Messages Are We Sending?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

The website Live Science recently published an article about our attempts through the years to communicate with extraterrestrial life. The piece, written by Isobel Whitcomb, is entitled “What messages have we sent to aliens?” We think of World War II as ushering in the concept of “little green men” with reported citings of UFOs (i.e., foo fighters) during aerial combat over Europe and the Pacific. Indeed, in the postwar years, Hollywood began churning out science fiction flicks like The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951.  

Yet, people were thinking of the possibility of life “out there” before the mid-twentieth century. You may recall that H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds in 1897. Whitcomb mentions that Austrian astronomer, Joseph Johann Von Littrow, conceived the idea of digging trenches in the Sahara Desert and filling it with kerosene to set ablaze to send a message to otherworldly observers. Von Littrow envisioned this plan which never saw fruition in the early nineteenth century! 

From this point, Whitcomb points out the progressively advanced plans made and executed by humanity as our technology advanced. In 1962, Soviet scientists directed radio waves at Venus containing “peace” in Morse code. Eventually, in the late 1970s, the United States sent out two spacecraft which they hoped would be discovered by extraterrestrials in interstellar space. Yes, governments have spent millions of dollars to be greeted only with silence. (Another Live Science article by Mindy Weisberger posits that aliens ignore us after observing us like animals in a zoo.)  

Rather than worrying about messages that will never receive a response, we ought to concern ourselves more with messages we send to terrestrial and celestial beings. As Edgar Guest famously reminds us, most people would rather see a sermon than hear one. Indeed, our lives are sending out a message to others.  

  • We are sending a message to our spouses. Do husbands, specifically, love their wives as Christ loves the church? (Ephesians 5.25) Have wives been encouraged to love their husbands? (Titus 2.4) Do the husband and wife recall that they are not to separate what God has joined? (Matthew 19.6)  
  • We are sending a message to our children. Children see whether mom and dad seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6.33). Are fathers bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6.4)? Are mothers doing as Eunice and instilling a sincere faith in their children? (2 Timothy 1.5) 
  • We are sending a message to our neighbors. Do they see someone who strives to live peaceably with others to the extent to which it is possible? (Romans 12.17-19) Do they see someone following the “Golden Rule”? (Matthew 7.12) Do they know you love them as you love yourself? (Romans 13.9) 
  • We are sending a message to our enemies. Do they see someone who loves them despite being their enemy? (Matthew 5.44) Do they see one turning the other cheek to them? (Matthew 5.39-41) 
  • We are sending a message to the lost. Do the lost see one whose lack of self-discipline disqualifies the Gospel preached? (1 Corinthians 9.26-27). Do they see someone ashamed of the pure, unadulterated Gospel message? (Romans 1.16) 
  • We are sending a message to God. Our ways lay before the eyes of God, and He is watching all our paths (Proverbs 5.21). He will judge us according to even the secret things we have done (Ecclesiastes 12.14). Since God knows the heart, He knows who merely gives Him lip-service (Matthew 15.8-9). 

Yes, we are sending out messages. What messages are we sending? No, we don’t have to worry about miscommunication with the “Roswell Greys,” but we should concern ourselves with the message God and our fellow humans hear from us.  

Works Consulted: 

Whitcomb, Isobel. “What Messages Have We Sent to Aliens?” LiveScience, Future US, Inc, 20 Mar. 2021,www.livescience.com/messages-sent-to-aliens.html

Weisberger, Mindy. “Are Aliens Ignoring Us? Maybe We’re Already Their Captives in a ‘Galactic Zoo.’” LiveScience, Future US, Inc., 25 Mar. 2019, www.livescience.com/65063-meti-galactic-zoo-aliens.html.  

Further Reading: 

Janos, Adam. “Mysterious UFOs Seen by WWII Airman Still Unexplained.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 15 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/news/wwii-ufos-allied-airmen-orange-lights-foo-fighters

Pilgrims And Strangers

Pilgrims And Strangers

Neal Pollard

The two Sundays Kathy and I spent in Israel were with the church in Nazareth, about two hours north of where we are staying near Jerusalem. An interesting fact in a nation where an overwhelming majority of citizens are either Jews, the largest group, or Muslims, still a significant, but smaller group, is that there is a fairly small number of those professing to be Christians. The congregation in Nazareth, which has around 40 members, is comprised almost entirely of Arab people. As I spoke with one of the men yesterday, he said something that will stay with me a long time. He talked about how Arab Christians are viewed by their fellow-citizens. If Jews sees him standing beside a Muslim, they think he’s a Muslim. As most Arabs in Israel are Muslim, that seems logical. They see him as a potential threat and enemy. But, Arabs who find out he’s a Christian, and there are so many ways to readily see he’s not a Muslim–clothing, customs, etc.–see him as infidel or even a traitor. His remarks were in response to the sermon I preached from 1 Peter 2:21-25 on how Jesus handled persecution. He says that the Arabic Christians can tend to feel like people without a country.

Now, while you and I do not share the unique circumstance of Arab Christians in Israel, there is a similarity we see from earlier in 1 Peter 2. Peter tells Christians, “ Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (11-12). We’re going to “look” different, abstaining from fleshly lusts. We’re going to “act” different, keeping our behavior excellent doing good deeds. Whether we physically look like the people who observe us or we look different from them, our Christianity will be noticeable and observable. That’s not the same as doing your works in order to be seen of men (Mat. 23:5). Instead, living the Christian life–no matter what–will inevitably catch the attention of the people around us. 

I’m grateful for the object lesson I received. Pray for our Arab brethren, men and women in a spiritual sense who are “without a country.” Pray for our brethren in places where their faith in Christ is scorned and more overtly persecuted. Pray for us, that we will be salt and light which stands out and stands up for Jesus in our daily places where darkness persists.

John and Carla learning a few Arabic words and phrases from the local Christians.