|UFOs and the
Bible: Close Encounters of the Sacred Kind
(Oct. 1, 2010) -- A group of
people has a mass sighting of a huge, airborne glowing object
that follows them for many miles and even protects them from
attack. Someone is seen being lifted into the sky on a beam of
light. A man witnesses unexplained circular vehicles with living
creatures on board.
Pretty much sounds like your
typical, modern-day UFO sightings, right? Wrong. These are vivid
accounts of stories from the Old and New Testaments. "If
are some type of intelligent power from
another world, they may have been around for millions of years
and may have been involved in the development of the biblical
religion, and I do believe that is the case," said the
Rev. Barry Downing, a retired Presbyterian
Rev. Barry Downing, a retired Presbyterian
minister, believes Earth has been visited by extraterrestrials,
with accounts of encounters going all the way back to biblical
times.In his 1968 book, "
The Bible and Flying Saucers"
(Marlowe), Downing suggests that extraterrestrials in technologically
advanced spaceships played a major part in events depicted in
"You can go through the
and look for signs of things that hover in the sky and seem to
be intelligently controlled and interact with the biblical people,"
who served 34 years as pastor of the
Presbyterian Church in
has tirelessly researched this material for decades. As a student
at the University of Edinburgh
he specialized in the relationship between
natural science and theology and is listed in
Who's Who In Theology and Science.
a space ship with rings
a close encounter during
courtesy of forteantimes.com
The theory that many of the miraculous
events of the Bible could
be explained by the intervention of aliens first struck
in the early 1960s. "When I was in seminary, the conflict
between science and religion had become fairly clear, and some
of the more liberal professors basically said, 'We can't believe
in things in the Bible,
like the resurrection and ascension
we can't believe in the angel world
-- this is all mythology.' "But when you dismiss these things
as mythology, you end up with a god with no power, and nobody's
going to bother with a god with no power." It was during
his years at the University of
started thinking about the possibility
of visits from outer space. And he wondered how that might to
apply to the concept of the angels in the
Let's consider a few biblical
stories that Downing has
closely examined and see how they measure up to what we know
encounters. Probably the best known
and most dramatic of these has to be the parting of the Red Sea
-- a miracle that saved the
who were fleeing their lives of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.
Downing cites the "pillar of cloud by day and the pillar
of fire by night" that led the Jews during their Exodus
from Egypt. "This object hovers in the air and then leads
the Jewish people up to the Red Sea, and hovers over the Red
Sea during the parting of it, and I believe, uses its propulsion
system to split the waters of the sea so the Jews can cross.
"When the Jews got on the other side, the Egyptians came
in with their chariots and got in a good long way before something
strange happened. According to the
Bible, Moses raised
his hands in the air and the walls of water collapsed, which
I take to be the power was turned off."
But if this story really happened,
can it be explained in modern scientific terms? At the National
Center for Atmospheric Research in
Boulder, Colorado, software engineer
recently suggested that the Red Sea event was more a miracle
of nature than divine intervention. "The parting of the
waters can be understood through fluid dynamics,"
said. "The wind moves the water in a way that's in accordance
with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two
sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in."
and his team of researchers speculate
that a very strong 60 mph wind -- blowing for 12 hours -- could
have resulted in the water parting, if you will, upstream and
downstream, which might have opened a dry walkway for the Israelites.
Maybe not, says
"I believe that some type of force field was used by the
pillar of cloud and fire to push the water back," he said.
"The wind theory is OK if
you leave the pillar of cloud and the fire out and if you leave
out huge amounts of details. But if you actually want to pay
attention to what the Bible
says, then the wind theory doesn't work."
explains that the events of the
and other amazing biblical happenings were described by people
who had limited knowledge of science. "The Jewish people
didn't know about Einstein's Theory of Relativity or about force fields and so, the language they
use is like a stunning glance: The Lord in the pillar of cloud
and the fire looked down."
says another possible
encounter happened to the prophet
In the Douay-Rheims
translation of the
Bible, Ezekiel says:
"Now, as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel
upon the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the
four of them -- their construction being as it were, a wheel
within a wheel. When they went, they went in four directions
without turning as they went. "The wheels also had a size
and height and a dreadful appearance, and the whole body was
full of eyes round about all the four. And wherever the living
creatures went, the wheels went beside them, and when the living
creatures were lifted from the earth, the wheels also were lifted
with them. What we have is a picture of four flying saucer-type
vehicles with four astronauts that were floating in the air beside
each of these vehicles,"
"I think that a lot of the
miracles were done by what we would call advanced technology,
but the biblical people had no clue about technology -- a chariot
wheel was advanced technology for them." And, of course,
there's the famous story of the
that tells of Jesus taken up to heaven as his apostles watched
from the ground. "The disciples are gathered together and
they see him carried up into the sky in a cloud -- the word 'cloud'
really comes to understand some type of heavenly transportation
system," said Downing.
kingdom of heaven sounds like "a possible interplanetary
or intergalactic civilization, and that there's some kind of
heavenly organization of which he was a part and which is there,
and toward which we will go when we die. But, in the meantime,
he's trying to teach us behavior patterns that are expected when
we get to that place." Downing doesn't think the current
secular culture can accept the premise, not only of
and aliens in the Bible,
but in today's world, as well. "I
don't think our culture wants to deal with the idea that we've
got a power here that's greater than we are."
views about possible alien visitation
include a radical theory of the origin of humans. "I think
if the aliens are there and are doing the abductions and biological
experiments on people that we read about -- if they're this far
advanced in terms of air travel, and if they've been around for
millions of years, why can't we suppose that, maybe they've shaped
life on Earth? "And if this is true, guess what? We are
a designed species, and this would mean intelligent design really
is the story. Darwin is out, to some extent, and it means
a lot of vested interests get hurt on the scientific side by
this. What would it do to world religions in general? You'd have
a lot of bloody noses on both the scientific and religious side
with where this would go."
But the retired minister says
his belief in extraterrestrial visitors doesn't conflict with
his belief in the Trinity of Christian faith. "God, the
father, is what I would call the God who is other than we are
and is largely inaccessible. If this God is so unlike us and,
by and large, beyond us, then how does this beyond-us God reach
out to us in love, and the biblical answer is through mediators,"
he said. "I trust that there's an invisible and unreachable
God the father, who I know only through a combination of things,
including the revelation of the
Old Testament of angels, or mediators, or through what I would
call the extraterrestrial reality we now have flying around us,
and doing what I think it's done for many centuries." -
So, there you
go. The premise of Angels as aliens is not as weird and whacky
as you might expect.