ET Disclosure and Christianity
~By Dr. Barry H. Downing
Prepared for MUFON
How would undeniable recognition of ET’s affect Christianity?
I have been dealing with the question of ET’s and Christianity for over 50 years. I have to say that the words “undeniable recognition” are critical. The ability of humans to deny clear evidence is well established. Years after men landed on the moon, many conservative Christians believed the story of the moon landing was a hoax.
Furthermore, there is biblical evidence that suggests that ET’s played a powerful role in developing both the Jewish and Christian religions. As an ordained Christian pastor, I have found this evidence unsettling, so I am not surprised at the way many have resisted my interpretations of the biblical evidence.
I first published my interpretation of ET influence on the Bible in my book The Bible and Flying Saucers (1968), reprinted several times here and in Europe. And I have presented an expansion of this interpretation in many issues of the MUFON Journal, as well as addressing many MUFON symposiums.
More recently I published an analysis of how different branches of Christianity would react to UFO disclosure in my bookBiblical UFO Revelations (2017). The book includes chapters that describe the possible response to ET presence in the Roman Catholic Church, liberal Protestantism, and conservative Protestantism (which has produced both the “demonic theory” and the “fallen angel” theory). I have written no chapter on Eastern Orthodox Christianity and ET’s because I could find almost no published material for this denomination.
The Old Testament and Extraterrestrials
Christianity may be seen as a branch of Judaism. Most Christian denominations consider the Old Testament to be as divinely inspired as the New Testament. The New Testament does not make sense apart from the Old Testament. Judaism can flourish without the New Testament, but not the reverse. The Jewish celebration of Passover becomes the New Testament Last Supper and Communion service. The Ten Commandments of Moses expands to become the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus in Mathew 5-7. The way ET’s appear in the Old Testament is critical for understanding what comes in the New Testament.
In 1968 Erich von Daniken published Chariots of the Gods? which was translated into English a year later, and sold millions of copies. His argument was that much of human history has been influenced by ancient astronauts (or Ancient Aliens, as the History Channel named the series inspired by von Daniken).
Chapter 4 of his book has the title, “Was God an Astronaut?” This was at the same time an absurd and penetrating question. Christians the world over knew this was an absurd question. But in the space age, it was a question that many took seriously.
Von Daniken referred to the famous “wheels” of the prophet Ezekiel, which were described as a “wheel within a wheel,” (Ez. 1:16; all biblical quotations are from the Revised Standard Version) a description sounding to modern ears like a flying saucer. Von Daniken asks, “Who spoke to Ezekiel? What sort of beings were they?”
“They were certainly not ‘gods’ in the traditional sense of the word, or they would not have needed a vehicle to move from one place to another. This kind of locomotion seems to me to be quite incompatible with the idea of an almighty God.” (p. 39-40)
Perhaps von Daniken has in mind the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Christian definitions of God often say God is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Jesus himself said “God is spirit, and those who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.” (Jn. 4:24) In another place Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3 6) John’s Gospel further states, “No one has ever seen God, the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known.” (Jn. 1:18)
If we remember key scenes from the Old Testament, we remember God speaking to Moses at the burning bush, or on Mt. Sinai giving Moses the Ten Commandments. Is there a contradiction here? God seems limited by time and space here, and is visible in some way. We need to understand that there is a kind of “theological evolution” between the Old and New Testaments.
God’s essential nature is spirit; humans are a blend of flesh and spirit (thus in Jesus the Word, the Spirit of God, became flesh), as the Creed continues, “And in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost……”
Then we come to the third person of the Trinity, “I believe in the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit].” God is able through the Holy Spirit to give some of his divine nature to humans.
The idea of God sharing his spirit appears during the Exodus. God asks Moses to gather seventy elders together so that God will “take some of the spirit which is upon you [Moses] and put it upon them.” (Num. 11:17) It is supposed that God’s will is to share his spirit with all flesh (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17). The giving of the Holy Spirit reported in Acts 2, in which the disciples all spoke in many languages, is interesting from our modern point of view. In theological terms, if our modern ET’s have the Holy Spirit, should we expect them to be multi-lingual?
I mention all this because von Daniken has too limited an understanding of the Christian God. There is an invisible and almighty dimension to the God to whom Jesus prays as Father. But God can also be fully human, and be divine at the same time, as was and is the case with Jesus. (Jews and Muslims generally do not believe in the divinity of Jesus.) Likewise, the angels of God can be carriers of God’s Spirit, and can have bodies that seem very human, but at the same time, they are not God in his almighty form. What I believe is true is that when Old Testament people had contact with the angels of God, they sometimes assumed they were dealing with God in his almighty form. [This seems to be the case of Manoah and his wife, who have a series of encounters with an angel, who promises the birth of a son to be named Samson. When the angel ascends in a flame, Manoah says to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” (Jud. 13:22)]
Thus when the Ten Commandments are given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, the text begins by saying, “And God spoke all these words saying…..” (Ex. 20:1). In the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 7, the disciple Stephen gave a long speech in defense of his Christian faith, essentially a recitation of the long history of the Jewish people, and he accused the Jews of having betrayed their faith by crucifying Jesus, “you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:53). (Paul makes the same point about angels at Sinai in Galatians 3:19.) I suspect that it had become a common belief that the being or beings who met with Moses at Sinai represented the angelic order, not God in his ultimate, and invisible spiritual form.
We find a mixture of “angelology” and God in direct contact with Moses at the burning bush. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” (Ex. 3:2) When Moses hears a voice calling to him, he asks the voice to identify himself. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6) So there is a mixture in the text, God mediated in angelic form, and God unmediated, speaking directly.
There are more than a thousand years separating the Exodus tradition and the New Testament. I cannot be sure what form of theological evolution took place during that time, but von Daniken makes a separation between God (almighty) and the angels of God which does not do justice to the larger biblical tradition. I admit this tradition is complex, but this complexity needs to be acknowledged if we are to explore the issues of ET’s and Christianity.
What von Daniken wants to do is separate the biblical angels from God, and turn them into godless astronauts, visiting earth for what he assumes are good scientific reasons. He argues that the biblical people were technologically primitive, and did not know better than to worship the ET’s/angels as gods. (And to some extent the History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series did the same thing. I remember a key character in the series saying, “This is the end of the church.” And he said this with joy. I appeared in ten of the “Ancient Aliens” programs, but was not much of a balance to the agnostic direction of the programs.)
Von Daniken pays special attention to the story of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis, chapter 19. Two “angels” are sent to warn Lot that destruction is coming, and they insist that the situation is urgent. Von Daniken suggests an all knowing almighty God would not be on some kind of time table, he ought to be able to delay the destruction of Sodom, unless a nuclear weapon was being set off at a particular time. “We may be as religious as our fathers, but we are certainly less credulous. With the best will in the world, we cannot imagine an omnipotent, ubiquitous, infinitely good God who is above all concepts of time and yet does not know what is going to happen.” “It is also difficult for enlightened children of this age to think of an almighty good Father who gives preference to ‘favorite children,’ such as Lot’s family, over countless others.” (p. 37) There are modern Christian theologians, like Bishop John Shelby Spong, who are offended by the biblical concept of “chosen people.” I am not so offended myself, having gladly not been one of those chosen students my math teacher sent to the black board to demonstrate a difficult problem.
What von Daniken offers as an alternative is that the “angels” at Sodom have nothing to do with God, but rather are godless astronauts on their own scientific mission. It may be that the people of Sodom represented a scientific batch of DNA gone bad, and the astronauts were just cleaning up their laboratory. Von Daniken sold millions of books because, in the space age, von Daniken’s speculations made more sense than traditional religious answers. Von Daniken fails to see that even if his angels are really “astronauts,” if they destroyed Sodom, they are acting in a God-like way. If those ancient ET’s are still with us, what power do they have over us now? If ET’s are confirmed to be present in an “undeniable” way, Christian theologians will face the task of making clear the relation between God and God’s angels. Will Christian theologians want to affirm modern ET’s as divine angels, or will they want to separate ET’s from angels, and from God, as does von Daniken? It will depend on what form our “undeniable recognition” of ET’s takes. I do not have enough ET information available at this time to make a guess. But if the biblical view of angels is valid, I would be surprised to find two sets of beings flying in our skies, angelic, and non-angelic. My basic faith is that the biblical angels, and our modern ET’s, are the same reality, which probably means both our scientific world view, and our theology, have to be revised.
Chariot of the Hebrew God
I came to the Bible with flying saucers and UFOs in mind. Von Daniken does not try to relate the modern UFO situation to the Bible. As a result, he missed a key biblical image that supports his case, but also in a sense undermines it. Von Daniken’s book takes its title Chariots of the Gods? from the idea that when ancient people saw a spaceship, and met ancient astronauts flying in them, they would worship the astronauts as gods, and their spaceship would be a chariot of the gods, with Ezekiel and his wheels providing an example.
In the book of Exodus, it is reported that after God sends many plagues on the Egyptians, the last plague killing the Egyptian first-born while “Passing Over” Jewish first-born, finally Pharaoh gives in, and lets Israel go. As Israel begins its journey, the people are met by what von Danikien would have called “The Chariot of the Hebrew God,” if he had noticed.
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Ex. 13:21,22)
We need to pay serious attention here.
What was this pillar of cloud and fire? From an ET point of view, it is a spaceship. Of course, traditional biblical studies have not seen it this way, nor could it. We did not even begin to develop the idea of flying saucers or UFOs until the 1950’s, and of course they were mostly ridiculed at the time, and denied of any interest by the United States government. We know now the government was lying, in the name of national security of course. But there was no way UFOs could have been of interest to seminary professors in endowed chairs at that time.
But what did biblical scholars say about this Exodus UFO? “The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire set forth in mythical language the statement of vs. 17 that God led Israel. These are symbols of the divine presence. We must not so much think of them as religious adaptations of natural phenomena as of an experience of the divine presence set forth in images which may in part be derived from natural scenes.” (J. Coert Rylaarsdam, “Exodus,” Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 1, p. 931, 1952). [Later in the text, Rylaarsdam does not call the parting of the Red Sea mythology, but rather it was a natural event (an East wind parts the sea), and supernatural embellishments like walls of water were added later. (p. 935-6)]
Rylaarsdam offers reasonable interpretations for 1952, before UFOs, before we had landed on the moon. Probably a more conservative scholar would have called the pillar of cloud something supernatural, not something mythological (a human invention). And a conservative would call all of the Red Sea parting supernatural, not part nature, and part supernatural embellishment. But when we have “undeniable recognition of ET’s,” neither the mythological nor the supernatural interpretation will satisfy most people.
Much of the scholastic world now sees Exodus as mythology. Search the Wikipedia listing for Moses, and we learn that the consensus of modern scholars is that Moses was a myth, a literary figure like Hamlet in a Shakespeare play. Moses never existed, the pillar of cloud never existed, the Parting of the Red Sea never happened. But if the ET’s were to land, or the governments of the world were to stop the cover-up, then Exodus becomes what it says it is, the memory of the people of Israel under the control of a divine/extraterrestrial power. Then the question will be: What does Christian theology say now?
I am not going to repeat what is available in The Bible and Flying Saucers. In summary, the pillar of cloud appears to be similar in shape to what we have recently called, on the basis of Navy fighter pilot sightings, “Tic Tac UFOs.” It was cylindrical in shape, cloud-like during the day, but glowed in the dark.
This UFO led Israel up to the Red Sea deliberately, with the chariots of Egypt coming from behind. This seemed like foolish strategy, unless the Exodus UFO had in it the power to cause the parting of the Red Sea, and then drown the Egyptians. Whatever force field was used to part the sea, it gave straight walls of water on each side, and amazingly dried out the mud in the sea bed. “But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right and their left.” (Ex. 14:29)
After the Red Sea, the Exodus UFO led Israel toward Mt. Sinai, dropping manna, a food supply, along the way. At Mt. Sinai Moses received the commandments of the Jewish religion, including instructions for proper garb for the priesthood, and a design for the house of worship, a tent called the Tabernacle. Once the Tabernacle was built, the pillar of cloud hovered above it, perhaps staying there several days, then moving on, with Israel following. (Num. 9:15-23) The image here of following the pillar of cloud led to a favorite Christian hymn, “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.”
There is also this interesting description of what the community of Israel noticed about the relation between Moses and the Exodus UFO (the pillar of cloud). “Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose up, and every man stood at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the door of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, every man at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:8-11)
Once ET’s are no longer in doubt, most people reading this will see a spaceship, hovering above the tent of worship, then notice as the UFO moves to a position in front of the tent door, and Moses talks to an ET, as it were, face to face. Eric von Daniken will then say, “the pillar of cloud was the chariot of the Hebrew God.”
The challenge for Christian theology will be to show why the ET’s/angels involved in the Exodus are truly divine messengers, rather than godless astronauts as von Daniken has argued, and the History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series by implication has reinforced.
What von Daniken and the History Channel have missed is this. Von Daniken admits ET involvement in the Exodus, even arguing that the Ark of the Covenant was electrically charged. He says, “In Exodus 15:10 Moses relates the exact instructions which ‘God’ gave for building the Ark of the Covenant.” [(p. 40) There is a typographical error here, it should be Exodus 25:10, not 15:10. I do not know if corrections were made in later editions.]
But if as von Daniken believes ET’s were involved in the Exodus, notice what the ET’s have done. They have created a religion that has lasted 3000 years. The Ten Commandments are not about technology, or making the Ark electrically charged. The commandment not to make any graven images was an outrageous commandment for those who had grown up in a culture in which idols were the equivalent of true religion. The Exodus process created a very unique community which lives today, whether Jewish people live in Israel, or are scattered throughout the world, they have a very distinct ethnic, moral and religious identity. Of course Jews have paid dearly in human history for their uniqueness. Von Daniken missed this, and so did the History Channel.
As I was being filmed for the Ancient Aliens series, I tried to explain to the producers that they were missing the religious work of aliens in the Bible. But the series was under heavy attack from Christian fundamentalists (as I have been), and I suspect their sponsors made it clear they did not want a really divisive religious point of view in the series.
But when “undeniable recognition of ET’s” comes, I believe Christian theology will have to deal with the issues I have outlined above. There have been a few surveys among Christians, and Christian leaders, concerning possible contact with extraterrestrials. (See Victoria Alexander, “The Alexander UFO Religious Crisis Survey,” MUFON Journal, September 1994, p. 3-7, and my response, “Religious Survey,” MUFON Journal, October 1994, p. 16-17.) Usually the questions take the form, “If you were to learn that ET’s exist, how would this affect your Christian beliefs?” And the answers generally take the form, “God made us all, so I would say, let’s be friends with ET’s.” Or as one Catholic leader said, “Baptize them.” If it should turn out in the future that ET’s land and are friendly, then we can invite them to church covered dish suppers, and have them be the speaker for the evening. This would be fine with me.
But the surveys do not have the following question: “If you were to learn that ET’s exist, and that they parted the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, how would this affect your Christian beliefs?”
Although I cannot prove this, I suspect that world government leaders know that there is a possible connection between ET’s and the Christian religion. And they have no stomach for the fundamentalist reaction that would come from releasing ET information.
Linda Moulton Howe is a long time UFO researcher, specializing in cattle mutilations. She quotes one anonymous source, who claims the United States has held ET’s captive, and the aliens claim that the human race is a hybrid they have created. “They claim that all religion was created by them to hasten the formation of a civilized culture and to control the human race. The aliens have furnished proof of these claims and have a device that allows them to show audibly and visually any part of history that they or we wish to see.” (Howe, An Alien Harvest, 1989, p. 188-9.) This opens the possibility that the “facts” of the Bible are mostly true, but we have not understood the purpose of ET power in the Bible. In other words, ET purpose may not be God’s purpose as Christian theology understands it.
Before moving to the New Testament, I want to make one point. We have looked at Ezekiel’s wheels, and the pillar of cloud of the Exodus, as Old Testament examples of ET spaceships. But from a UFO point of view, Ezekiel’s close encounter was a single witness sighting. He refers to his experience as a “vision.” We do not have clear evidence of the physical reality of the Ezekiel experience.
On the other hand, the pillar of cloud was reported to be seen by thousands, and was visible to Israel for as many as forty years. This has to be the longest lasting close encounter in human history.
At the same time, from a theological point of view, Ezekiel has a minimum influence on Christian history. He is never mentioned in the New Testament. The pillar of cloud is the divine source that guides Moses, and Moses is mentioned well over seventy times in the New Testament.
Christianity would exist without Ezekiel, but it would never have existed if not for Moses, and the Exodus UFO, the pillar of cloud and fire.
Extraterrestrials, Jesus and the New Testament
I believe it was the same ET power that started the Old Testament religion that also gave us the New Testament religion, what we now call Christianity. There is far less “ET” evidence in the New Testament than in the Exodus, except that in a sense Jesus is the “ET” presence in the New Testament, not the pillar of cloud and fire.
What is clear is the New Testament sees Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of what Moses had promised in the future. Peter’s speech at Pentecost (Acts 2) as well as Stephen’s speech before he was stoned (Acts 7), connect Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection to all of Jewish history. This was a controversial message, of course, for the Roman government and Jewish religious authorities worked together to crucify Jesus. To proclaim the resurrection was to declare both Roman and Jewish authorities guilty in God’s eyes. The resurrection then becomes the fulcrum of Jewish/Christian history. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you become Christian, if not, you remain Jewish.
From a scientific point of view, one could say there is less evidence of ET involvement in the New Testament than in the Old. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not see him as a divine messenger or authority. But there are the resurrection stories. An angel is reported to descend from heaven and roll back the stone in front of the tomb, and then sat upon it. (Mt. 28:2) Interestingly, the guards “became like dead men,” (Mt. 28:4) which is similar to some modern UFO close encounter reports in which people report being awake, able to observe what is going on, but unable to move. Jesus did not raise himself from the dead, there were ET powers involved in the resurrection.
Eventually the guards reported to the Jewish elders what had happened, and they gave the guards money saying, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Mt. 28:13) This may not be the first “UFO cover story” created by ruling authorities, but it is an early one!
Mark’s story of the resurrection identifies an angel as “a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe.” (Mk. 16:5). He was seen by Mary Magdalene and other women, and he told them Jesus had been raised from the dead. Both here and in Matthew the angel is identified by his bright clothing. No wings are mentioned.
In general angels seem very human. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2) If a man knocked on my front door wearing a set of wings, I would not be “unaware” very long.
But the key resurrection stories are not about angels, but rather about Jesus proving who he was to his disciples, and making it clear things were different. John’s Gospel tells the story of the resurrected Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in a garden outside the tomb. She does not recognize him until he speaks to her.
Later Jesus enters a room with the doors locked, and shows ten disciples his hands and side, revealing the crucifixion marks. Thomas (and Judas the betrayer) were not at this first meeting. (Jn. 20:19-25) Eight days later, Jesus appears again, this time with Thomas present. With proper viewing, Thomas believes. Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn. 20:29) Christianity is different from Judaism in the sense that you are born a Jew, if your mother is Jewish, but you become a Christian not by birth but by believing Jesus is the resurrected Messiah.
There is another strange resurrection story at the end of Luke’s Gospel. The resurrected Jesus joins two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, one named Cleopas. They did not recognize him. He talked with them, did biblical interpretation for the whole walk. They invited him to join them for their evening meal, and when he broke bread in front of them, then they recognized him. Immediately he disappeared from them, and was found later with other disciples. (Lk. 24:13-43) I will return to this resurrection story later in this article.
What these appearances did was create a group of believers who like UFO witnesses, could tell their stories, and create followers. But of course there would be doubters, and mockers. This is a story that resonates with UFO experiencers: who wants to be called a UFO nut (or a resurrection nut)? The Bible says this is divine strategy, separating believers from unbelievers.
After several resurrection appearances, the book of Acts says that Jesus had a final meeting with his disciples, and then was lifted up into the air, into a “cloud,” and he disappeared from sight. (Acts 1:1-11) This is called his Ascension, and two men “in white robes” said that he would return from heaven in the same way he went. If UFOs carry the angels of Christ, then an “undeniable recognition of ET’s” would probably be the equivalent of his Second Coming.
Oddly enough, a kind of Second Coming did occur, but its only result was the conversion of the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. This is the most important conversion in Christian history. Saul, who became Paul, was theologically trained as a Jew, and saw Christianity as an evil heresy that needed to be stopped. He was given authority to put Christians in jail, and was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest more Christians when a bright light hovered above him, and the group traveling with him. A voice came from the light asking why Saul was persecuting him. Saul asked, “Who are you Lord?”
The voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:5, 6) This close encounter story is repeated twice more in Acts, chapters 22 and 26. Paul becomes the key advocate for Christianity, turning Christianity from a religion of law to a religion of love and self sacrifice inspired by trust in Jesus and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. [See Paul’s letter to the Galatians concerning Paul’s conflict with Peter, and other Jewish Christians. Paul was an advocate for Gentile Christianity, which is the branch of Christianity that survived, while Jewish Christian Churches died out. “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal. 3:23-25)]
Paul’s Damascus road ET encounter converted him from being an enemy of Christianity to its chief advocate. Paul was intelligent, and had been theologically trained as a Pharisee. He had the ability to develop a theology for Gentiles that Peter and the other disciples did not. Whatever truth we may find out in the future about the ET’s, they had an eye for theological talent.
One of the major New Testament UFO encounters is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain, with Peter, James and John as witnesses.
A “bright cloud” hovered over them, and a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” (Mt. 17:5)
It was also reported that Moses and Elijah were there with Jesus. From a New Testament point of view, this is an early review of the idea that we are resurrected in human appearing bodies after we die. Moses had been dead for hundreds of years, Elijah did not die on earth, but was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. (2 Ki. 2:11) From a biblical point of view, those who have long been dead might now serve in an ET or angelic role. The Transfiguration story also connects Jesus to all of Jewish history, the “bright cloud” a clear reminder of the pillar of cloud and fire, and Christians therefore rightly see the Old Testament as very much part of their spiritual history, and yet clearly moving in a different direction. Jesus was not afraid to say, “You have heard that it was said…..but I say unto you.” (Mt. 5:21, 22 etc.)
I believe Jesus was part of what we might now call the ET group, what he called the kingdom of heaven. He claimed to have existed in a heavenly realm before coming to earth. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me, and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (Jn. 6:38,39) The Nicene Creed states that Jesus, “for our salvation, came down from heaven.” From our space age point of view, Jesus is the main ET in the New Testament, who came to earth, was crucified, raised from the dead, then returned to heaven from which he came.
Jesus began his life as an ET, and returned to that life. If our modern ET’s are connected to the biblical ET’s, that is how I read the Bible. The more evidence we have of ET presence, the more strongly the Christian church will be compelled to explore the issues as I have outlined them.
One troubling note is that in our times, we hope that somehow the ET’s would bring peace on earth, or that if ET’s are involved in religion, it is for the purpose of promoting world peace. Although Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers,” that is because we live in a world of conflict, much of it religious. If, as I believe, ET’s were involved in creating both the Jewish and Christian religions, and that they knew perfectly well these religions would not be at peace with each other, I have to think that the primary purpose of both Judaism and Christianity is something deeper than to bring about world peace. Even further, if we think of the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages, or the Protestant Reformation, then history is full of Christians fighting Christians. But if there is a deeper purpose for Christian faith than world peace, what is it?
Knocking on the Door of Christianity in the Name of ET’s
The publication of The Bible and Flying Saucers was my way of knocking on the door of Christianity, and saying, “ I think we have an issue here.” I had my publisher J.B. Lippincott mail a copy of my book to James I. McCord, President of Princeton Theological Seminary. President McCord and I had seen each other frequently when I was a student , since I was editor of the seminary newspaper, and I often needed news from his office.
He sent a warm letter of response dated February 3, 1969, the year we reached the moon. He praised much of my book, but said, “On the other hand, I lack sufficient imagination to have proper respect for UFOs. As a matter of fact, I still think airplanes are ‘against nature.’ But this skepticism did not keep me from enjoying thoroughly what you have written.” I was very thankful he took the time to write this letter.
And his skepticism points to the key concept of this article: not much is going to happen in the world of Christian theology without “undeniable recognition of ET’s.”
When my book was reviewed in the conservative Protestant journal Christianity Today, the reviewer was not so kind. Albert L. Hedrich said, “The Bible and Flying Saucers could be judged worthless but harmless were it not for the distortions it contains and the credentials of the author. He holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Edinburgh.” “Downing attempts to make the resurrection of Christ seem ‘realistic’ by suggesting that men from some other world participated in it and that the associated earthquake was caused by a UFO’s ‘anti-G’ beam.” He went on to say he hopes “that this book has a very limited circulation.” (Hedrich, Christianity Today, “Flying Saucers in the Bible,” June 21, 1968).
Liberal reviewers treated me no better. One reviewer of my book said, “Intelligent Presbyterians will be horrified to learn that the propounder of the aforementioned was awarded a Ph.D. by their denomination’s shrine of scholarship, Edinburgh University.” “This kind of thing is expected from assorted Bibliolatrists but hardly from Edinburgh PhDs.” (Lester Kinsolving, “Book Linking Bible, Saucers Is Way Out,” Houston Post, December 29, 1968). (Shamed or not, the University of Edinburgh has made my dissertation available to be downloaded on line: Eschatological Implications of the Understanding of Time and Space in the Thought of Isaac Newton.) We can see that both conservatives and liberals are horrified by my work, and I feel that I have not received proper credit for bringing them together.
The late UFO researcher Dr. John Mack, a member of the Harvard University faculty, found himself facing legal action from the university faculty when he started doing serious UFO research.
In his book, Passport to the Cosmos (1999), Mack stated his belief ET’s were trying to move human culture away from the mechanistic world view of the West, and toward a more spiritual world view of the East. He found religious symbolism in many forms of alien-human contact. We found some commonality in our work, and enjoyed contact at the 2001 MUFON Symposium in California. What we found is a kind of fearful resistance in his academic world, as well as in my world of Christian theological professionals, even to consider the UFO evidence.
I must say that in general Roman Catholic writers have been more open to my work than Protestants. In a review a Catholic Priest referred to two other books linking UFOs and the Bible, and then said, “This new treatment by Barry H. Downing, even if it is theologically ‘far out,’ is nevertheless the best of the lot.” “To give Barry Downing his due, however, it must be said that he treats the entire matter in an unsensational and reverent manner.” (Rev. Luke Farley, The Pilot, Boston, MA, August 17, 1968)
Even though I faced a lot of rejection I believed I should keep knocking on the doors of professional theologians. In December of 1984, I mailed a UFO survey to 100 Protestant and Roman Catholic theological seminaries in the United States. These surveys were addressed by name to the Dean or President of the seminary, depending on who was listed in Patterson’s American Education. The seminaries were selected to give a broad range both theologically and geographically.
I sent a covering letter, listing my UFO interest, and naming me as author of The Bible and Flying Saucers. I said I was seeking information which could be used in a publication I was preparing. By middle 1985, I had 26 returns.
I presented the questions on the front of an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper. I hate mailed questionnaires that go on for several pages. I sent four questions.
- Do you believe it is possible some UFOs carry an intelligent reality from another world?
- If some UFOs do carry an intelligent reality from another world, what might be some consequences for Christian theology?
- Have there been any formal studies of the relation between UFOs and Christian theology in your seminary classes? (For instance, has there ever been a suggested connection between UFOs and the biblical doctrine of angels?)
- Using the Freedom of Information Act, Lawrence Fawcett and Barry J. Greenwood, in their book Clear Intent: The Government Coverup of the UFO Experience (Reference 2), have published formerly secret CIA, FBI, and other Government UFO documents. Courts have blocked the release of hundreds of pages of UFO documents in the name of national security. Can you think of any negative consequences for Christian theology of a Government policy of UFO secrecy?
In regard to the first question, I received 11 Yes, 6 No, and 9 Other answers. Even those who said it was possible, also said “but not probable.” At this time some university scientists were saying that UFOs couldn’t be ET’s because stars with habitable planets are too far away, you can’t get here from there, so these negative scientific views probably informed seminary answers in light of the accepted science of the day.
There were some who wrote “No” to question 2, many said there would be no change to Christian theology, but one wrote, “Some would deny it, some would attempt to interpret it in the light of Scripture, many would be confused and do nothing. Theology itself would result from the above mentioned people.”
Question 3 was one that drew the most negative response, asking if a connection between the Bible, angels and UFOs had been taught in seminary classes. There were 3 yes answers, 20 no answers, and 3 others. Two out of three of those who said yes were Roman Catholic seminaries. Here again I found that Roman Catholics are more open to my theology than Protestants. Catholics have a live and working angelology, whereas for liberal Protestants, angels are mythological beings, not real beings flying in spaceships (though for many liberal Protestants UFOs are probably mythology too), and conservative Protestants of course believe angels are real, because they are in the Bible. But if you have the Bible, who needs angels, who are probably hiding away somewhere with nothing to do until the trumpet blows for the Second Coming? One conservative Protestant wrote, in regarding to connecting UFOs and angels in a class, “I hope not.”
The best response came from a Roman Catholic theologian from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, V. Rev. J. Edgar Bruns, M.A., S.T.D., D. Litt. He did not just return the form, he wrote an extended letter, dated December 20, 1984, saying he thought many UFO sightings were authentic, and went on to say, “If intelligent life exists elsewhere and has not fallen from Grace, I would consider such creatures equivalent to the biblical angels.” He went on to say that the early Church Fathers, between the “3d and 7th centuries virtually taught the same thing” in regard to “Archangels, Thrones, Dominions &c,” and that this kind of information was discussed in his seminary classes. Bruns, unlike some others, did not ask that his name not be used in any published results of the survey.
Question 4 dealt with the United States government coverup of the UFO reality. A few theologians thought it would be a mistake to cover up UFO evidence, but many of them said the government understands national security issues, and their position should be respected. One of my sentences from this section was, “What is for me the most surprising result of the answers to question four is an almost universal view that might have been described in an earlier age as ‘Pharaoh knows best.’”
Included in the article, which ran about 20 pages, was a summary of the best UFO information available at the time. After the article was written, I began sending it to Christian journals for publication. Those included: Union Seminary Quarterly Review, Theology Today, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Pacific Theological Review, Interpretation, and Theological Studies. All of them eventually rejected the article. Some rejections noted it was an unusual topic, others made no reference to the subject matter. It can be argued that my article was poorly written, and therefore rejected. I would see this as valid if these journals were busy publishing UFO theology articles by authors better qualified than I. But that does not seem to be the case.
I made the only choice that seemed to remain, I sent the article to MUFON, and it was published in the 1988 MUFON International UFO Symposium Proceedings, Lincoln, Nebraska, June 24-26, p. 38-57.
In a way the rejection of “UFOs: Four Questions for Theological Seminaries” is symbolic of what my life has been as a writer of UFO Christian Theology. I have had many other rejections, Christian magazines or journals have not been willing to publish my material. I have knocked on several doors. I was a stranger in my own home land, and MUFON took me in, and I will always be grateful. An on line website, “Strong Delusion,” owned by James Cunningham, has also been gracious enough to publish my material (sometimes much to the chagrin of other writers on the site).
But this much is clear. Here we are, more than 50 years after I published The Bible and Flying Saucers, and there just are not a lot of established theologians saying, “UFOs may be carrying the angels of God.” There are cult groups saying this type of thing, of course, such as the Heaven’s Gate cult that was following the Hale—Bopp comet in California, 39 members committing suicide during Holy Week of 1997, in order to gain salvation from the UFO following the comet. But your typical seminary professor is not saying this kind of thing.
The Roman Catholic Church has been open to UFO research, but in a limited way I think. The late Msgr. Corrado Balducci was an outspoken advocate for belief in UFOs. He appeared on Italian television saying he believed UFOs were real, and extraterrestrial, from the “natural” world, not the “supernatural” world, and therefore they were neither demons nor angels. He said his belief came from reports of so many UFO sightings. He suggested if we do not respect human eye witness reports, we might doubt the resurrection of Jesus.
It is worth noting that Balducci was a nuncio, trained to be an ambassador from the Vatican to other nations. It seems certain to me that he would have talked to other ambassadors, on a confidential level, asking what the nations of the world knew about UFOs. And he would hear that UFOs are real, and fly some kind of ET technology which the governments of the world are keeping secret. At the same time, by the rules of secret diplomacy, he would not be able to refer to his diplomatic sources.
I responded to the Balducci point of view by writing that the whole idea of the supernatural is weak, it has been a concept in theology for only about 500 years, that there is no biblical word for supernatural, and further, that our whole idea of technology is new, and modern technology would look supernatural to George Washington if he were suddenly to come to life today. (See Downing, “Balducci Interview,” MUFON Journal, September 1998, p. 16-17. Also Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, 2017, p. 33-4.)
Daniel Sheehan is an attorney who has served several high profile cases involving the Constitution. He represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers Case. He was asked to assist in preparing a briefing paper for President Carter in regard to UFOs in January of 1977. At the time he was employed as Chief Counsel for the United States Jesuit Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He decided to contact the Vatican Library to see what information they had about ET presence. Much to his surprise, his request was turned down, twice. (Steven M. Greer, MD, Unacknowledged, 2017, p. 150-152) I suspect the Vatican library contains classified diplomatic UFO reports, Sheehan was not cleared to see them.
It seems likely that the Vatican has enough UFO information, some of it classified because it has come through diplomatic channels, that the Vatican could announce to the world that ET’s are real. But this reality is awkward for Catholic theology to admit. One famous Catholic miracle happened in Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917. A huge silver disc spinning in the sky was witnessed by a crowd of thousands. From the point of view of the Catholic Church, this was a supernatural miracle, but from the point of view of UFO researchers, it fits the description of a flying saucer. (See Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, 2017, p. 35-6)
Here is the difficulty. I have taken the position that UFOs may carry the angels of God. From a Catholic point of view, this would mean UFOs are supernatural.
But the best evidence seems to be that UFOs are advanced technology, not supernatural. If they are not supernatural, they cannot be angels, would be the Balducci point of view. Since Balducci’s death, I do not hear a Catholic voice taking his place. If as I have argued the pillar of cloud of the Exodus is a spaceship, which used advanced technology to part the Red Sea, then it is possible that the angels are not supernatural. How do we undo hundreds of years of theology that has assumed the reality of the supernatural?
Liberal Protestantism is in a different place. By and large, as I have shown, liberal Protestantism has no interest—rather is horrified by my interest–in connecting UFOs and the Bible. By and large liberal Protestantism has given up believing in the supernatural, preferring to call events like the parting of the Red Sea or the Ascension of Jesus mythology, or poetry, not real events.
The best voice of liberal Protestantism in regard to UFOs is that of Ted Peters, a Lutheran theologian who published UFOs—God’s Chariots? Flying Saucers in Politics, Science and Religion (1977). Peters, like myself, has long been a MUFON consultant in theology, and teaches at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in California, and is editor of the journal Theology and Science.
Peters follows the lead of C.G. Jung, author of Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1978). (UFOs are a modern myth, but they are much more, or MUFON would not exist.) Mythology has to do with the way people respond to reality, and Peters says, “UFOs have a way of drawing out our religious sensibilities in disguised form, even when we believe ourselves to be no longer religious. Each one of us has a deep inner need to be at one with our creator and source of life.” (p. 9)
The disguised form, as Jung pointed out, is that in a scientific age, when we can no longer believe in angels as supernatural, we invent a new mythology, ET’s in spaceships. Scientists like Carl Sagan and Donald Menzel both argued that UFOs are not about science, they are a new form of religious myth created to take the place of the old religions. Menzel gave a paper at a UFO conference, “UFOs—The Modern Myth,” and Sagan “UFO’s: The Extraterrestrial and other Hypotheses.”
[Carl Sagan and Thornton Page, ed., UFO’s: A Scientific Debate (1972)]
Peters reviews my work, as well as that of von Daniken and R. L. Dione [God
Drives a Flying Saucer, (1973)] and concludes, “What is startling about the claims of von Daniken and other would be UFO theologians is that they actually humanize and trivialize God. They make natural what we believe to be supernatural. They make physical what we accept as spiritual. They say what we once thought to be extraordinary is really ordinary.” (Peters, p. 115)
I would not say there is no truth in what Peters says here. But I would point out that for Jews and Muslims, when Christians say Jesus is God, they believe we humanize and trivialize God. The problem of trivializing God is built right into the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. My argument that the pillar of cloud was a spaceship that parted the Red Sea does not make the supernatural natural, it makes the supernatural technological. And whatever the angels are, we do not know, and have never even wondered in theology, if angels might use technology.
The other issue is that neither von Daniken nor Dione distinguish between God and God’s angels. If you say “God Drives a Flying Saucer,” that trivializes God, but if you say “The Angels of God Drive Flying Saucers,” trivialization is not so obvious. For von Daniken, the ancient astronauts/angels were mistaken for gods, which I believe is a valid point, even a biblical point, as I showed in the case of Manoah and his wife. Peters does not mention any of this. (For a more extended view of Peters, see Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 49-51.)
Conservative Protestantism has mainly taken the view that if ET’s are real, they are demonic, but if not demonic, then perhaps fallen angels. There is a dark side to some UFO encounters, those putting forth the demonic theory have material to work with. UFO researcher John Keel in books such as UFOs:Operation Trojan Horse (1970) and The Mothman Prophecies (1975) reports cases of UFOs hovering over cars, frightening children, or strange phone calls coming to those who have seen UFOs, even dreams of future events that come true. For conservative Christians, these stories are evidence of demonic or paranormal powers. Clifford Wilson and John Weldon, in their book Close Encounters: A Better Explanation (1978), and Timothy J. Dailey in his book, The Millennial Deception: Angels, Aliens and the Antichrist (1995), both make the argument that UFOs are demonic.
Timothy Dailey never mentions my work, but the same cannot be said for Gary Bates, who has written Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection (2004).
Bates, like Wilson, Weldon and Dailey, sees UFOs as demonic. As key evidence, he says “many respected researchers, such as J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, John Weldon, and John Keel have noted that UFOs appear to behave deceptively.” (p. 226) Many who have had UFO contact tell falsehoods, and that is evidence of the demonic for Bates. On the other hand, there is no real “hard evidence” of UFOs at all. (He does not consider that world governments may have hard evidence.)
He says in regard to me, “[Brad] Steiger is not the only former ‘believer’ to have been deceived and to have fallen away. The Reverend Barry H. Downing is the pastor of a Presbyterian church in New York.” (p. 327) He goes on to describe the contents of The Bible and Flying Saucers, and that I am a consultant to MUFON, but I am giving out false information because “his work fails the ‘Scripture test.’”
I think it is important to notice the words “UFOs and the Evolution Connection” in his title. Bates is part of a group called “Creation Ministries International.” This group is devoted to maintaining the 6 days of creation in Genesis, and proving that Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong. He says he believes the earth is only about 6000 years old. (p. 345) Thus he is strongly motivated to prove ET’s do not exist, in the sense of being highly evolved beings from elsewhere in the universe, thereby giving more credence to Darwin’s theory. He obviously does not take our modern scientific methods of determining the age of the earth too seriously.
In regard to UFOs being demons, I would say Bates’ theory does not meet “the Scripture test.” One of the main things about modern UFO reports is they can be seen, they are physical, they show up on radar. There is no case in the Bible where demons are seen, where they show a physical reality. They are always in a human (or animal) body. (For a broader analysis of the demonic theory of UFOs, see Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 64-77, also Downing, “Demonic Theory of UFOs,” The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, ed. Ronald D. Story, 2001, p. 155-7.)
Another conservative Protestant voice has gone in another direction, suggesting that ET’s are fallen angels, in the tradition of Genesis 6 “the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, and they took to wife each of them as they chose.” (Gen. 6:2) “Mighty men” were born of this sexual union of sons of God (angels) and human women. The apocryphal book of Enoch explains that two hundred angels disobeyed God and united with human women. With this as background, Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman explain in their book Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon (1997) that UFOs may carry fallen angels, the sons of God of Genesis 6.
There are various UFO encounter reports with a sexual dimension, whether involving direct human-ET sexual activity, as in the case of a twenty three year old Brazilian farmer named Antonio Villas-Boas, or stories of sperm samples being taken during UFO abductions. Thus there is UFO evidence that can support the Missler/Eastman argument. Furthermore they understand why the demonic theory of UFOs does not hold. Angels are physical, but “The nature of demons is entirely different. They are disembodied spirits that seek embodiment.” (p. 240)
In that sense, the fallen angel theory is more biblical than the Gary Bates demonic theory. Bates understands the vulnerability of his demonic theory to the fallen angel theory, and devotes a chapter to “Who were the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6?” (p. 360-9) His conclusion is that there are several theories about Genesis 6, and it is not clear there is a dominant one. Eric von Daniken is happy to site this Genesis 6 passage as evidence of ET involvement with human life in our ancient past (Chariots of the Gods?, p. 34-5.), which is distressful to both the Missler/Eastman point of view, as well as that of Bates.
What disturbs me about the Missler/Eastman book is not what they say, but what they leave out. How can one write a book about UFOs in relation to the Bible, and leave out the pillar of cloud of Moses, the chariot of fire of Elijah, the wheels of Ezekiel, the bright cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus, or the bright light with the voice of Jesus on the Damascus Road? The obvious answer is, they did it. In Genesis 6, they have strained at a gnat, and ignored the camel. (See Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, “UFOs and Conservative Protestantism: Part 2, the Fallen Angel Theory,” p. 78-88.)
There are disturbing dimensions to the modern UFO mystery, researchers like John Keel and Jacques Vallee have made that clear. The late Budd Hopkins was angry about UFO abductions, seeing the aliens as having no empathy or moral values. But I think there is a more comprehensive Christian interpretation of the UFO mystery. I believe in some sense, on behalf of God, UFOs and their ET owners rule the earth. I have explained this in my article “The God Hypothesis.” (MUFON Journal, October 1988, p. 10-13).
When UFOs intrude on human nuclear facilities, I think they are sending a message of “watch your step” to the rulers of this world. When they seem to make fun of our modern fighter jets as in the “Tick Tac UFO” encounters, this too is a warning to our modern Pharaohs in the tradition of the Bible, so that Jewish people could tell their children “in the hearing of your son and your son’s son how I have made sport of the Egyptians.” (Ex. 10:2) Our world, especially the Western world with all its nuclear weapons, and advanced technology, which holds us all hostage to fear 24/7, is the modern Egypt. We are all slaves to our modern Pharaohs and their destructive, enslaving powers.
I do not know what the ET’s are doing about our modern political situation, but I think that the Tic Tac Nimitz Encounters of November, 2004, and the public release of information about this encounter, is part of what I call “Targeted Intervention” on the part of the ET’s. The ET’s do not want to land and take over, at least that is my impression. (See Downing, “UFOs, The Bible and Targeted Intervention,” Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 138-175. This article is an appendix, first written in January 2010, and published on the website “Strong Delusion.”)
UFOs have to do primarily with the future of the earth, and how the ET’s see their responsibility in relation to the irresponsibility (formerly called sin) of the human race.
But there is I believe a specific dimension to the UFO mystery intended for Christians, and it is biblical in the sense that it is like treasure buried in a field. The question is, will Christians see the field, dig in the field, buy the field, and own the treasure.
The Stone the Builders Rejected
When Peter was arrested for healing a crippled man, he was asked by what power he healed the lame man, and he defended his actions by saying “be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:10, 11)
The image of the rejected stone is from Psalm 118, a song of joy that one who has been struck down by enemies, like the nation Israel, will finally be victorious.
“I thank thee that thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Ps. 118:21-3)
Peter applied this image of the rejected stone, now the head cornerstone, to Jesus, crucified, and raised from the dead. It is my belief that UFOs should have been seen by Christians as a sign of hope, a sign of the presence of the angels of God. Instead Christians have mocked the very idea, or called UFOs demons, or fallen angels. UFOS are the stones that modern Christian theologians have rejected. It appears to me that the tables have been turned, as the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, if my understanding is right, now Christians have rejected the sign of Christ’s angels in the sky. This may be God’s justice for the ways Christians have mistreated Jews for centuries. In a way, I hope I am not right, otherwise the judgment of God has come upon the Christian Church. But if I am right, then the God of the Bible is very much still active in our world.
UFO abductions were slow to become a standard part of UFO research. Budd Hopkins became a leading researcher in this field, while carrying on a successful career in art in New York City. His first abduction book, Missing Time, was published in 1981. Here he noticed that people did not have conscious memories of being abducted, but they noticed missing time. Hypnosis would reveal an abduction experience within repressed memories. Hopkins also noticed that abductions happen to families, over generations. But the overall message here is that ET’s have not only technological power, but great psychological power. What are the religious ramifications of this truth? Might not ET’s implant religious images in our mind if they chose to do so?
It turns out that we already had an example of a connection between UFO abductions and religious experience, published in Raymond E. Fowler’s first book, The Andreasson Affair (1979). What began as a UFO sighting in the back of Betty (Andreasson) Luca’s Massachusetts home on January 25, 1967, led to a twenty year extended history of research, and publication, related to this and subsequent events on the part of Fowler.
Betty was in her home with her mother and father and seven children at the time (her husband, James, at the time was in the hospital, he and Betty were later divorced, and Betty married Bob Luca). The house lights began to flicker, then blinked out. A light was noticed in the back yard, Betty’s father looked out a window, and saw small human-like creatures coming toward the house. Five ET’s passed through the kitchen door without opening it, and they placed Betty’s family in some kind of suspended state. (See Mt. 28:4) Betty was taken aboard the UFO, and then began what can only be called an extended religious experience.
Betty did not consciously remember much other than the UFO landing, and the five aliens coming into her house. Sometime later, she explained some of her experience to J. Allen Hynek, a former Air Force Project Blue Book advisor, and he referred her to Massachusetts MUFON, and thereafter to Raymond Fowler, and the team he put together. The team included scientists, and a hypnotist. The group began the investigation with a scientific mind set, and were shocked when what seemed to be an encounter with ET’s turned into an experience of religious revelation. (See Raymond Fowler’s summary of his work in “Andreasson Abductions,” The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, ed. Ronald D. Story, 2001, p. 59-66; also see Betty (Andreasson) Luca’s own account of her abduction experiences, following Fowler’s article. Her experiences began as a child. p. 66-8.)
The Andreasson experiences represent a thoroughly investigated sequence by a much respected MUFON group of researchers. But so far as I know, it has not had major influence on traditional Christian theology. Some conservative Christians have told me they think Betty’s experience is demonic because there is too much paranormal activity in her experience, such as out of the body reports. But Protestant Christians do not examine modern reports of divine revelation, if it is not in the Bible, they do not deal with it (called the Protestant principle of Scripture alone). Roman Catholics do investigate reports of religious visions, but since Betty is a Protestant Christian, I am not sure they would investigate her.
But I am interested in the mind set of Raymond Fowler’s team as they began their investigation. They saw MUFON as a scientific organization, they saw UFOs and ET’s as a scientific problem to be investigated. Then the religious dimension challenged their whole scientific assumption about the ET field.
In writing the Foreword to one of Fowler’s books, Whitley Strieber said, “The remarkable experience of Ray Fowler and Betty Andreasson Luca is currently one of the most intense defining points of the change of mind. The new mind acknowledges its place in the unknown; it strips away all traces of assumption and expectation and regards the universe with open eyes.” (Raymond E. Fowler, The Watchers II: Exploring UFOs and the Near-Death Experience, 1995)
I appreciate the wonder that Strieber expresses here, his sense that UFOs have created a new mind set that “strips away all traces of assumption,” but that is not how I see it. In Christianity the church carries on with no sense that the angels of God might really be in the midst of us, even though that is supposed to be part of our faith tradition. And in MUFON, I get a sense that many members do not want the religious dimension of UFOs to be given too much credence, either because that conflicts with their own religious beliefs, or that if we are going to be taken seriously by the scientific world in our UFO research, we have to keep religion out of it. So there are a lot of reasons even in MUFON that we do not want to “strip away all traces of assumption.”
When in December of 2017, the New York Times published information about a secret Pentagon UFO study, funded with black budget money, I thought there might be a reaction from Christian leaders. But I did not see any comments published in the religious magazines I read. This raises the question of what would constitute “undeniable recognition of ET’s?”
I think that religious leaders are fine with ET’s being there. Religious leaders assume that whoever they are, they have nothing to do with Christianity. ET’s are just a bunch of space guys. I think the late Stan Freidman, a lifetime MUFON researcher, suggested maybe ET’s visit earth the way we visit a zoo. Before religious leaders react to the ET situation, they will have to suppose, be shown, or have proof, of a religious connection. Even though the Raymond Fowler material suggests modern UFOs seem to have serious religious intent, seminary professors are sitting in their endowed chairs with no sense that a living Bible is flying in our skies.
Here is my Christian question. Is there anything in the Bible that might explain what seems to me to be willful blindness on the part of modern Christian theologians to the ET situation? Does Jesus have to land on the White House lawn, hold a press conference, and say “I guess you didn’t recognize me, and my angels?” Or would even this “open the minds” of Christians?
One of the more dramatic stories in Genesis is the story of Joseph and his brothers. A musical has been made about the story, “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” Joseph is the favorite son of his father Jacob, which causes his brothers to be jealous, and leads them to sell him to Egyptian slave traders. He has some success and some failure in Egypt, his special gift of interpreting dreams eventually gets him out of jail, and elevated to Secretary of Agriculture of Egypt, having warned Pharaoh of a coming famine. Joseph plans a grain storage program, which meant that when the famine struck, Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt for grain.
When his brothers arrive, he does not reveal his identity to them. He speaks only Egyptian, and uses an interpreter to talk to them. The story goes through a long process by which Joseph teases his brothers, using his dangerous authority, giving them grain, but putting their money in their grain bags, and insisting that if they come back again, that they bring younger brother Benjamin with them. (Benjamin and Joseph shared the same biological mother, the only two children born to Rachel, one of Jacob’s four wives.) Jacob was fearful of losing Benjamin too, and it took much pleading for the brothers to convince Jacob to let Benjamin join the next trip to Egypt. But Benjamin goes, Joseph secretly plants his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack of grain, and has him arrested. At this point the brothers are in deep grief, they had promised to protect Benjamin, and failed. Finally Joseph could no longer keep up his torture of revenge, and in tears he said, “I am Joseph, is my father still alive?” (Gen. 45:3) Of course the brothers were stunned, and frightened. They remembered their sin, perhaps they would be sent to death. But Joseph forgave them saying, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5)
I believe this passage is important for our current ET situation for several reasons. Perhaps I am too Presbyterian here, but this is an early recognition of the concept of predestination. The God of the Bible plans ahead. What looked like evil, Joseph’s brothers selling him as a slave, was used by God “to preserve life.” In a similar sense, Jesus can say of those crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” The crucifixion of Jesus is God’s plan “to preserve life,” even eternal life. In this sense, Joseph is an early Christ figure in the Old Testament.
This passage also shows the “stone that the builders rejected” principle that is a divine principle throughout biblical history. Joseph was the stone his brothers rejected, and the Egyptians did not do a lot better with him, until his ability to interpret dreams got him out of jail. Joseph had dreamed he would rule over his brothers, and the dream came true. He went from being the rejected stone, to the head corner stone. In a sense as head of the grain program, Joseph became the universal savior, he saved both Jew and Gentile, his brothers, and Egyptians.
Finally, we should notice that it was Joseph who decided when to reveal his identity to his brothers. His brothers did not figure it out on their own. As we read the story, we may think in our minds, “how could the brothers be so dense, so dumb?” Perhaps the proper answer would be, “Because it was the will of God that the brothers be blind to the truth.” Both this answer, and the concept of predestination, challenge our concept of free will, and will not be welcomed by many Christians, not to mention many ET researchers.
I want to mention that there are many instances of “the stone the builders rejected” appearing in the Bible. Moses was the stone rejected when he tried to break up a fight between two fellow Hebrews (Ex. 2:13-15), and went on to be the great leader of the Jewish people. When Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint a king to replace Saul, Jesse had eight sons, but God selected David, the youngest, to be the next king. (1 Sam. 16:6-13) And again, before David killed Goliath with his sling shot, his older brothers basically told him to stay out of sight and act his age. (1 Sam. 17:19-49) The stone the builders rejected became head of the corner.
When Jesus came, he was a disguised Messiah. In order to see him as the Messiah, one had to see through the disguise. Part of the disguise was that though he was the Son of God, from the heavenly world, he was born of a woman. He was God and human in one body. “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4, 5) The conception by the Holy Spirit, reported in Matthew and Luke (Mt. 1:20; Lk. 1:35), explained the dual nature of Christ, divine and human. In other words, the ET dimension of Jesus was disguised by his humanity.
And his ministry was a process of letting down his disguise in a careful way. He did not go around shouting, “I’m the Messiah, I’m the Messiah.” The only time he said directly he was the Messiah, it was considered grounds to crucify him. (Mt. 26:57-68)
He healed the blind and lame, made the deaf hear, ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. This was the “lower class” of Jewish society (as in our own.) Jesus self identified with the “rejected stones,” healed them, and raised them up. He did not preach a “classless society” as some Christians suppose, rather he preached that in the day of judgment there would be class reversal. He said it would be harder for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. In the day of judgment, “many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mt. 19:30)
Many of his parables preached the same message. In the Workers in the Vineyard, those hired last are paid first, when the prodigal son comes home, his father rejoices, and the older brother is not happy, the shepherd leaves the ninety nine sheep, and seeks the lost sheep, the woman with ten coins who loses one, cannot rest until she finds the lost coin. Throughout his ministry, Jesus favored the losers, the rejected stones, and promised that in the kingdom to come, they would be the head corner stone.
Jesus got the attention of the religious leaders. Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher we wish to see a sign from you.” Jesus answered, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Mt. 12:39) As Jonah was for three days and nights in the belly of the whale, so will the son of man be in the grave. Jesus understands there is an evil lust in us for ET power, to see it, and own it. (How many billions of US dollars are being spent to copy UFO technology?)
This troubles me in our UFO age. We are much like the Jewish leaders, hearing Jesus stories, like we hear UFO stories, and we want “undeniable recognition of ET’s,” and Tic Tac UFOs aside, why do UFOs kind of hang on the edge of human society? If they have something good to give us, why not come forth out of the shadows. If they are the angels of Christ, throw off your ET disguise, and let world peace begin.
On one occasion Jesus asked his disciples who the Jewish crowd was saying he was. He was asking to be identified. John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah the disciples offered as the top picks. Then he asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15) Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16), and Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jona! For flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 16:17)
As we seek disclosure about UFOs, hoping our government has something to disclose, we also as Christians need to ask God to do some disclosing. Here Jesus seems to say that if it had not been the will of God, Peter would not have made this confession, he would not have “seen,” or been able to say, Jesus is the Christ.
The story is the Jewish people, for whatever reason, perhaps it was the will of God, could not see that Jesus was the Messiah, so they crucified them. Like Joseph’s brothers, who resented Joseph’s dreams that he would rule over them, both the Roman and Jewish leaders hated the threat that Jesus posed, that he might be king of the Jews. He was crucified, dead and buried. And then raised from the dead. The stone the builders rejected became the head corner stone. So it was preached, and the Jesus who started with twelve disciples, has had millions of disciples since his resurrection.
One of his reported resurrection appearances was very strange, and has already been mentioned above. Two disciples of Jesus, one named Cleopas, were on the road to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, when Jesus joined them. They did not recognize him. He pretended not to have heard the news about the crucifixion and rumored resurrection, but as they walked he explained scripture to them, saying this was all needing to be fulfilled. He said, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk. 24:26) The men invited Jesus to join them for supper in Emmaus, still not recognizing him. During the meal, Jesus took bread, broke it in front of them, and then they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. (Lk. 24:31)
Undoubtedly the two men felt foolish during that moment of revelation, as did Joseph’s brothers when Joseph self identified. But for some reason, neither Joseph’s brothers, nor the disciples on the Emmaus road, had the ability to see through the disguise of either Joseph, or Jesus. Peter was only able to confess Jesus as the Christ because it was God’s will.
How do we explain the blindness of the disciples concerning who Jesus was on the Emmaus Road? Perhaps Jesus used mind control to block the minds of his disciples. In the Betty Andreasson Luca abduction case, the ET’s used some kind of mind control to “switch off” Betty’s family, putting them in a suspended state. Betty could not remember most of her abduction, except under hypnosis. It is interesting that those skilled in hypnosis sometimes use a key word or a symbolic act either to bring the one hypnotized back to full consciousness, or even to return the person to an altered state. It appears Jesus used the “breaking of bread” as a symbolic act to bring the disciples back to full consciousness.
After Jesus self identified in Emmaus, he vanished. When Betty’s father looked out a window to see the landed UFO, he saw ET’s floating toward the house, and they seemed to “blink in and out” of reality. Jesus and the ET’s seem to have the power of mind control, and the ability to “blink in and out” of reality.
All of this makes me think about other things. I think about the many reports of UFO close encounters, and the observers remember with regret that they “forgot” to take a photo with their cell phone.
I think about a You Tube TV video of President Obama being interviewed about UFOs by Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel tells Obama about all the things he would do if he were president to find out the truth about UFOs and aliens. And Obama says, “No you wouldn’t, because the aliens control our minds, you know.” And the audience laughs. What if the minds of Christian theologians are blocked by the ET’s from connecting ET’s and angels? If this were true, where is the moral blame for spiritual blindness? I do not like these thoughts, but I do not know how to unthink them after I think them. But I suspect that most of the time, in MUFON research, we are not thinking big enough.
I find this blend of ET reports and Scripture troubling. There are no problems here for Christians if ET’s are just a bunch of space guys, with no special connection to God, other than being part of his creation.
But if ET’s are the angels of God, there are two problems. First, the ET’s that have knocked out the computer systems in our nuclear war heads, and have flown circles around the Navy jet planes based on the USS Nimitz, in November 2004, seem to be like the God of the Old Testament, shaking his fist at our modern Pharaoh’s, warning them to watch their step. This is the God who killed the Egyptian first-born at Passover, and drowned Egyptians in the Red Sea. This is a God of military power, which Jewish people still celebrate.
This God looks mean, ruthless to our modern generation. In the words of Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, and proud of it, a petty, unjust unforgiving control freak.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006, p. 31) One problem here is, if my analysis of Exodus is correct, the God of the Old Testament is not fiction. We need to be careful if we hear stories of UFOs shooting down military jets, if those jets have been sent to shoot down the UFOs. The Egyptians at the Red Sea undoubtedly saw the God of the Hebrews as a demonic God. From a biblical point of view, we often find that the political rulers of this world are the bad guys, up against the angels of God. Beware of those who say our modern ET’s are demonic, especially if those speaking have political power.
Second, if the ET’s are the angels of God, they are also the angels of Christ. Christ preached turn the other cheek, not an eye for an eye. Christ preached we should love our enemies, not kill them. Jesus becomes the God who is killed, not the one who kills. We need to remember that the Bible shows both the power of God, and the weakness of God. That is the message of the cross. But Christians should be looking to the skies for signs of Christ’s return, to see “the sign of the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt. 24:30) Not that we know when that time would be, but we should be alert.
We are not alert. I think the United States government could announce that ET’s are there, and the ET’s want us to put our nuclear weapons away, and respect the ecology of the earth, many Christians would suppose this might be a message from a bunch of outer space guys who worry about us, who have no connection to the God of Jesus. For some kind of “undeniable recognition of ET’s” to affect Christianity, other than the Second Coming of Christ, I am not sure what it might be.
Remember that Joseph and Jesus both chose the moment to self identify. In the meantime, we are left to make a faith choice, without proof. Jesus said to Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen, and believe. This is not a message most ET researchers want to hear. We want ET disclosure, not a divine game of hide and seek. But God’s faith game of hide and seek seems to be what we have.
~Dr. Barry H. Downing
Endwell, New York