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Christians might have reasons to suspect that aliens don’t exist – one could reasonably expect God to say such a thing if it were true in His holy Word – but naturalists generally have no need to reject the possibility of E.T. existence. There might be naturalists who personally find it unlikely, but very few would claim that it is impossible or that belief in aliens is like believing in Santa.
However, this seems to be incompatible with naturalism. If there is no way for an atheist to exclude the possibility of intelligent life in our universe, how can s/he exclude the existence of intelligent, spiritual life outside of it? Openness to alien life seems to be necessarily combined with an openness to the supernatural.
The naturalist might respond that we have no objective reference point to non-physical persons, while aliens can be viewed as simply animals that happened to evolve elsewhere. To this objection I would point out that we can imagine vastly different aliens in out universe, and if we add possible parallell universes – that most naturalists are open to – there’s really no limit to what creatures we can conceive as possible.
Hence, openness to alien life seems not to rest on references to earthly animals but on what’s logically possible. And there is no logical contradiction in imagining non-physical, spiritual beings. To those who think that non-physical beings are impossible I would simply point out that that’s a circular argument that presupposes naturalism.
We have no evidence for the existence of alien life, or the existence of other universes. Yet most atheists would say that it’s entirely possible for aliens or other universes to exist. I find it arbitrary to view the existence of supernatural entities as impossible due to (perceived) lack of evidence when one does not draw that conclusion concerning aliens.
So just to be clear: I’m not saying that I know that aliens exist, or that God is an alien. What I’m saying is that a naturalist either must say that alien life is impossible, or cease to be a naturalist. There is no middle ground.
I’ve just finished Narnia author C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles and provide a review in the video above. I really enjoyed it and was fascinated by the philosophical arguments Lewis uses to argue against naturalism, the idea that nature is all that there is and that miracles thus are impossible. His main argument is that if naturalism were true we would have no reason to believe that our reasoning reflect reality, an argument I have written more about here. Lewis also uses a moral argument for the existence of a supernatural or transcendent reality, and answers to several objections to miracles.
I’m currently reading C.S. Lewis’ classic book Miracles, where he starts off by discussing why naturalism – the idea that nature is all that exist and that anything supernatural is impossible – really is an unreasonable position to hold. This is because reason itself would be fully explained by nonrational causes, and thus be unreliable. Naturalism is thus self-defeating since one cannot then reasonably subscribe to it.
“This, as it seems to me, is what Naturalism is bound to do”, Lewis writes. “It offers what professes to be a full account of our mental behaviour; but this account, on inspection, leaves no room for the acts of knowing or insight on which the whole value of our thinking, as a means to truth, depends.” (Miracles, Fontana Books 1947, p. 22).
Alvin Plantinga has developed a simliar argument where he points out that evolution, which basically all naturalists accept, presents a defeater for why one should believe in naturalism. this evolutionary argument against naturalism can be presented as such: (more…)
William Lane Craig is in my view a very good Christian apologist and philosopher, and I regularly listen to his Reasonable Faith podcast. Even though I think he could use some more revival fires and hands-on mission work in the dirt, his intellectual defense for the Christian faith has undoubtedly helped many and led several people to the Lord. In a recent podcast, Craig and Kevin Harris discussed miracles and whether it is rational to believe in these. As a charismactivist, I find the topic highly interesting.
There are many different forms of philosophical and theological objections against the existence of miracles that all are quite easy to respond to. Cessationism is a Christian view which says that miracles did exist in the times of the Bible but then ceased when the Bible was written; ironically, this idea is not found in the Bible. Naturalism is the idea that the supernatural – obviously including miracles – does not exist, but this cannot be proven just as atheism cannot be proven. In fact, as long as the existence of God is not disproven and thus possible, it is entirely possible that miracles exist, as Craig points out in this short video:
In the podcast, Craig and Harris discussed another form of objections against miracles that is quite unique. Philosopher Hans Halvorson has argued that under no circumstances should one believe that a miracle occurs today: “for any event you experience in your life, no matter how strange, surprising, or wonderful, you should not believe that it is a miracle. Similarly, if somebody tells you that a miracle occurred, you should not believe him.” Yet, he also says “it can be rational to believe in the miracle stories of the Bible—because the miracle stories in the Bible are relevantly different than the purported miracles of today.” This is some kind of secular cessationism – miracles don’t happen today, but it’s possible to believe in Biblical miracles because they’re different.
Listen to Craig’s and Harris’ response to Halvorson’s article below:
I couldn’t help but notice that when I had written about my friend Simon Adahl and all the miracles he is experiencing, and the post was share within the MennoNerds network that I am a part of, a brother who has studied theology and is a part of a Mennonite church asked why MennoNerds was sharing stuff like that (“reading it is a waste of time”). I understand that people who have not met Simon or others who experience the power of the Holy Spirit can have a hard time trusting them, but to me it’s very strange for a Christian to think it’s waste of time to read testimonies about miracles. After all, that’s basically what the four gospels are all about.
I won’t speculate in how this individual was thinking, but generally a lot of Christians are impacted by the naturalist worldview that has been quite dominating in Western society for the last two hundred years. Even though it is clearly non-Christian in its reasoning, it has impacted especially academic theology but also “liberal” churches that do not have much charismatic, Spirit-filled life. The consequences is a type of Christianity that is extremely different from the original, biblical Christianity.
In May this year, I had to privilege of holding a lecture at a Christian student organization in my home town of Uppsala, Sweden. I spoke about the supernatural worldview that has been dominating most cultures throughout world history and that most people still believe in today, but that has been challanged in recent years, especially in the Western world, by naturalism. Naturalism is, according to Oxford English Dictionary, “the idea or belief that only laws of nature (physical law) (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) and forces operate in the world; the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world.”