It has been theorized that our universe can be divided up into about two trillion galaxies. And with that much space to consider, many are left wondering if life might exist on other planets. For the Christian, this shouldn’t be too hard to conceive of. After all, we believe in a God who loves to create and who has already created life outside of our planet, such as angels.
So with this in mind, could life exist on other planets? Perhaps. But even if we were capable of fully answering that question, we’d still be left with the bigger philosophical question: Why? Why would it exist? Why do we exist?
The first answer to this question is fairly simple: We exist because God wants us to. We are because God loves. From a Christian perspective, intelligent life is intentional life, for all creation comes from God. We are not the product of mere happenstance or divine accident. We exist out of God’s desire. Though He saw the evils we were capable of, He still decided that life was better with us than without us. And so the community that is God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—extended life to a new community of earthlings in their various forms.
This loving view of God is vastly different from the worldview painted by the false gods of ancient history. For the stories that the false gods spun to their followers were stories in which humans were, more or less, slaves—created by the gods to do their bidding. As Bible scholar John Walton notes:
Gods were believed to have needs for food, drink, clothing, and housing. People had been created with the explicit purpose of providing for these needs. At the same time, when the gods were properly provided for, they would in turn provide care and protection for the people. This symbiosis between humans and gods provides the parameters for the Mesopotamian religious system. Religious obligation was defined by the rituals that were performed to meet the needs of the gods. The understanding of the gods was construed in terms of their provision and protection. People were only required to be ethical because ethical behavior brought order to the world, not because the gods were ethical. Gods were not imitated or morally elevated; they were authority figures who demanded attention and offered benefits.Walton, John H., and J. Harvey Walton. Demons and Spirits in Biblical Theology: Reading the Biblical Text in Its Cultural and Literary Context. Eugene, Cascade Books, 2019, pp. 56-7.
This was the symbiotic relationship between humans and the false gods. Humans served the gods as the gods saw fit and the gods would take care of them in return. This is already a drastically different story than that of the ethical God of the Bible who made us because of His love—a love seen tangibly when that same God decided to make himself a lowly human being named Jesus in order to serve, restore, rescue and love not only His friends, but also His enemies—a God willing to die for us just to make that kind of radical love clear.
This kind of love flies in the faces of the false gods and makes the God of the Bible pop with color and beauty incomparable and unimaginable. A God who becomes human to save humans? A God who is willing to die for us even though He doesn’t need us alive in order to sustain Him? Now that’s a loving God.
But this is where many Bible teachers stop in answering the question of, “Why do we exist?” We’re painted a picture of a loving Creator with a big heart, but left with little vision as to what we are to do with our lives. We came from love, we live in love, and we go to love. The end.
While this teaching is all well and good since “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) and the most important commandments are to love God and neighbor (Mk 12:29-31), existing simply to love feels a bit abstract when it comes to a vision statement. Have we really no firmer idea as to why we’re here other than to love and be loved?
Actually, we do. And that vision statement is right where any good organization expects to find it: Right at the beginning of their documents—in this case, the creation story of the Bible. That is to say that we are made in the image of God and therefore we exist to image God on the earth.