The God-Astronaut Theory
Erich von Däniken popularized the idea that the appearances of God in the Bible were actually UFO encounters. Primitive man, so the story goes,
was not able to grapple with the great technology of extraterrestrial visitors, and therefore mistook these aliens for divine beings. Thus the
miracles and wonders of the Bible quite likely took place, and needn't be denied. They must simply be reinterpreted in light of current knowledge and
the presumed technology of our space brothers.
The God-astronaut theory has been promoted by others as well. More recently, Zecharia Sitchin has taken up a line of argument in which the God of
Scripture is replaced by a god of immense technology. This idea is also fostered by numerous television shows and movies. Those who approach the
Bible with this presupposition find it quite easy to interpret a cloud as a spaceship, or a resurrection as a feat of medical genius. Proponents of
this theory are committed to finding UFOs—convinced as they are that biblical religion is a record of extraterrestrial creatures, not an
That the God of the Bible might have actually been some sort of alien life form is an increasingly popular thought. Besides the numerous books on the
subject, there have been of late a variety of science fiction programs making similar claims. One recent television show (presumably fictional) tells
of an Episcopal pastor who is forced to face up to the reality that UFOs may invalidate all of his previously held religious beliefs. The underlying
assumption is that traditional Christian interpretations will have to be abandoned because all of life's mysteries will be explainable in terms of
advanced extraterrestrial visitors. This episode highlights what many people believe, that UFOs are the missing link in the quest to know more about
man's origin and place in the universe. After all, if UFOs are capable of such amazing feats, traditional religion might be seen as meaningless.
Many, many people are being exposed to this type of pseudo-scientific mentality. Discerning Christians know such influence affects the way people
think about matters of ultimate importance. Therefore, believers must learn to counter the arguments for outer space religion.
The Ingenious Substitute Religion
Throughout history there have been many attempts to deny or twist the Christian message. During the early years of the Church, various heterodox
teachings arose concerning God, Christ, and the locus of divine revelation. Fortunately the Church (in God's grace and providence) responded by
grounding its theological formulations in the apostolic testimony derived from Scripture.
In recent times, the attacks have been of a more skeptical nature. Surely, the biblical writings aren't to be accepted at face value. Modern man
cannot be expected to believe the Scriptures record literal truth. Along these lines, many now-famous arguments have been devised by which we can
"better understand" what the Bible records. Jesus' resurrection, for instance, has been interpreted in many ways. Some prefer to believe that the
resurrection is nothing more than a fable added to the Christian tradition long after the fact. Others have conjured up elaborate explanations in
order to deny the historical evidence. Of course, one major problem with these theories is that they tend to ignore all or part of the Bible's story
line. As might be expected, then, many Christian apologists have displayed the inconsistencies and contradictions inherent in these liberal
UFO religion, however, represents an entirely different brand of attack on historical Christianity. Proponents of the God-astronaut hypothesis don't
necessarily reject the basic historicity of the Old and New Testaments. In that sense, they represent a less skeptical brand of interpretation. In
fact, they often attempt to assimilate biblical events into their theories. Rather than attacking its contents and denying its basis in history, they
accept much (if not all) of what the Bible records. At the same time, though, there is a strong denial that God is all the Scriptural writers claim He
is. Proponents of the God-astronaut theory do this by plugging the UFO phenomenon/extraterrestrial hypothesis into the biblical text. There reasoning
is something as follows: The people of Bible times were, for the most part, sincere and reliable individuals. Therefore what they record is probably,
in the main, an accurate reflection of what they thought they had witnessed. Their limitation, though, was that they didn't have the technological
know-how of modern man, and so they erred in their interpretations of what actually transpired. In other words, the biblical authors/characters had
enough sense to know they had observed "something," but recorded their observations in light of their own antiquated presuppositions. They weren't
able to identify a space ship, so they labeled it a cloud. Miracles were merely the misidentified medical practices of an advanced alien culture.
The God-Astronaut hypothesis (and the religion it spawns) represents a very clever attempt to deal with the biblical data, while simultaneously
denying its very basis. On the surface such an argument looks plausible. But closer scrutiny reveals some glaring weakness in the theory of religion
from the stars.
1. Those who want to find UFOs everywhere in the Bible are usually quite sloppy when it comes to interpreting the biblical texts.
Because their ultimate allegiance is elsewhere, UFO enthusiasts are not usually careful students of Scripture. For many, the alien agenda has so
consumed them that they are unable to honestly interpret a passage. Thus they tend to construct flawed interpretations of historical events, and so
misrepresent the original author's meaning.
The only sure way to accurately interpret the Bible (or any literature) is by letting it speak for itself. In other words, the only valid guide to
interpretation is exegesis. This means interpreters must not force their assumptions into the text. The goal, rather, must be to determine what the
biblical authors intended to convey by the words they penned. Fanciful interpretations may capture the imagination, but they misrepresent the Bible's
One common example where ufologists mishandle a biblical text is the now famous case of Ezekiel's encounter with God (Ezekiel 1:4ff). Those who wish
to find flying saucers in the ancient writings look for support in such places as this. Ezekiel's "wheels," for instance, are thought to be UFOs. A
closer look at the passage, however, shows how fallacious this interpretation is. The so-called UFOs are actually part of a vision which Ezekiel
receives from God (v. 1). A vision, of course, is not an actual physical manifestation, as would be the case, presumably, in a UFO encounter. In fact,
Ezekiel's companions apparently remained unaware of what had transpired. Therefore, what might sound like evidence to be marshaled in favor of the
UFO phenomenon is actually nothing of the sort. "By picking some elements out of context, reading into the particular verses things you want to see,
and by frankly manipulating the words of the text to suggest something that it is not, then it is possible to claim this was an alien spacecraft. . .
. This all shows the danger of inaccurate research."
2. If UFOs are responsible for the contents of the biblical record we are left with the same problem which C.S. Lewis defined years ago, the
A number of years ago, C. S. Lewis spoke of what has often been referred to as the trilema of Christ. Many in his day (and in ours as well) tried to
manufacture a Jesus devoid of the supernatural, a man with admirable qualities but only a man. Such has often been the case. Whatever the specifics,
men seek to reconstruct Jesus in a manner which fits their preconceived notions. Not surprisingly, He is nearly always portrayed as something less
But Jesus hasn't left us with such an ambiguous portrait of Himself. No man could make the claims He made and still be considered a good and honest
individual. This is where the trilema comes into play. Either Jesus was not telling the truth when He claimed to be the Son of God—in which case He
was a colossal liar. Or He sincerely believed Himself to be that which He obviously was not—thus inviting the label of delusional. Or He was who He
claimed to be—the eternal Word made flesh, the Lord from heaven (John 1:14). These are the only reasonable options: Lord, liar, or lunatic. Lewis's
famous words are worth quoting:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral
teacher; but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that
Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg.—or else he would
be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up
for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any
patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Obviously, since Jesus is neither deceiver nor crazy man, He must be the divine Messiah.
This same truth applies when considering the claims that Jesus was actually an alien, and not the Son of God. Here is a theory which promotes the
belief that Jesus was an honest individual, a teacher of righteousness. But what of his stupendous claims, claims of equality with God and the like
(Mark 2:5; John 5:23; 8:58)? To deny He uttered such words contradicts the wealth of evidence to the contrary. Acknowledging that Jesus made such
claims but deceived his hearers in doing so, puts us back in "Lewis territory." How could a good man, a wonderful model of all that is right, be so
outlandishly misguided or deceptive when it comes to his very identity? Good men tend not to promote their own worship. Descent people aren't apt to
freely accept adoration. Men of marvelous character don't make claims of deity. The Jesus was an alien concept just doesn't make sense. If He was an
alien (or was manipulated by them—the situation remains the same either way), Christendom must face up to what must be the most devastating act of
deception in the history of mankind. And all fairminded individuals must ask why a supposedly advanced race, in its attempts to assist humanity, would
so mislead us. Why would they build us up only to dash all of our hopes? Again, the theory is neither logically nor psychologically plausible.
3. The people of Bible times are not to be classified as ignorant and uninformed. Had they truly encountered alien craft or some such thing, they
would have been able to convey that fact adequately.
Many assume that the people of Bible times were backward and ill equipped to accurately describe their experiences. Therefore technological marvels
would appear to them as miracles. But this goes against the available evidence. Though ancient peoples didn't posses advanced scientific knowledge,
they did have enough common sense to know the difference between, say, a saucer-shaped object and a cloud. If the biblical writers had truly
encountered the aliens described by many ufologists, they would have been able to give reasonably accurate, albeit pre-scientific, descriptions of
their experiences. Yet there is little that resembles a full-fledged, modern UFO sighting.
There will always be those who look for (and expect to find!) a demon (or UFO) around every corner. But an evenhanded approach looks for a more sure
basis for belief than mere conjecture. Of course UFOs may not be extraterrestrial visitors. Instead, they may be better explained as part of a
spiritual control system. If so, the mechanism which undergirds the UFO phenomenon may well have played a (sinister?) role in the unfolding of
4. The Bible and the God of the Bible have changed far too many lives to be relegated to the category of alien history. Furthermore, the internal
consistency and inherent authority of Scripture argue for a divine rather than an extraterrestrial or merely human explanation of its existence.
There is more to apologetics than defending the faith. Christians also have the responsibility of going on the offensive. That is, it is important to
lay out the Bible's story line in such a way that its inherent beauty and consistencies are manifest to all who are willing to see. Biblical
Christianity has a remarkable record in that it has been the impetus to positive change in the lives of countless millions throughout history.
Individuals, families, even nations, have been forever transformed by the truths of Scripture. The Bible makes claims and promises which have been
validated in the lives of different people from many backgrounds in every age. Surely this argues for a divine rather than a high-tech explanation of
its origin. Only God can change a human heart; the Bible has been the divine instrument to that end (e.g., Psalm 19:7-11; 119:1, 9, 89, 97, 114).
The Bible's contents are also a marvelous thing to behold. While we shouldn't minimize the doctrinal disputes which have arisen throughout Church
history, it is none-the-less true that the Bible displays an inner coherence. Its teachings make sense; they fit together. The countless volumes on
theology are evidence that the Bible is no ordinary book. This, in turn, supports a divine rather than an extraterrestrial explanation for its
The idea of life from outer space has not gone unchallenged. Before closing this section, therefore, it might be helpful to list some of the authors
who debunk the God-Astronaut thesis. These include the following:
Alnor, William. UFOs & The New Age: Extraterrestrial Messages and the Truth of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992.
Boa, Ken and William Proctor. The Return of the Star of Bethlehem. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980.
Lewis, James R., ed. The God's Have Landed: New Religions from Outer Space. New York: State University of the New York Press, 1995.
Rose, Fr. Seraphim. Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1975.
Story, Ronald. The Space-Gods Revealed. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1977.
Wilkinson, David. Alone in the Universe? Crowborough: Monarch Publications, 1997.
Wilson, Clifford. Crash Go the Chariots. New York: Lancer Books, 1972.
________. The Alien Agenda. 1974; New York: Penguin Books, 1988.
________. The Chariots Still Crash. Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1975.
Wimbish, David. Something's Going On Out There. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company Publishers, 1990.
As many of these authors argue, the substitute religion proposed by certain ufologists is an inaccurate reflection of the biblical record. Though
there are some similarities between UFOs and ancient events, these are usually superficial and the result of an overly-active imagination.
Furthermore, the fact that the phenomenon approximates but does not duplicate historical realities may indicate something quite sinister. Whatever
UFOs are, the ideas which are sometimes associated with them look like forgeries. This means that far from being the key to unlocking Scripture, the
UFO phenomenon looks more like a clever counterfeit of true religion. This doesn't furnish us with complete answers as to the identity and nature of
these alien forces. It does, however, show us something of the deceptive nature of the "gods" from outer space. ....
The God-Astronaut Theory --"Manipulating" Matter? — The
Capabilities of Angels