AI searches for life on Mars

I have always wondered what other Christians think about the possibility of “alien life” on another planet. This news story provides an opportunity to ask the forum for its various views on the topic.

Its a little closer to home than perhaps many Christians imagined. i recall when growing up statements such as “God would not let us have access to life on other planets”…my understanding is that we are the only planet to have fallen into sin.

In light of this forums preference for the evolutionary Christian view, and a caveat:

that i have not really thought much about whether or not my current theology allows for the potential of finding traces of life on planets such as Mars,

i am intrigued to hear responses to the news story below from you guys.

What is your Christian world view response to the story below? If it turns out science finds evidence of ancient life on Mars, how might that affect your world view? What would be your thoughts on how it got there? Why is that life no longer on Mars? How would we explain this biblically? If there was once life on Mars, and its now extinct, what does this mean for the biblical claim of salvation via second coming of Christ according to the Christian World view with regards to us on this planet? How would Christians biblically reconcile the extinction of all life on Mars if it turns out there was once was life on said planet? Would this spell disaster for the Christian religion?

I don’t think it would affect my worldview one way or another. If there’s life on Mars or elsewhere out there in the cosmos, it will still be a part of God’s creation and still something for us to marvel at. Psalm 19:1 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t consider extraterrestrial life to be a part of that in one form or another.


I find the question itself fascinating, and I’ve heard it before. What difference to reality does anyone’s theology or philosophy make? One’s theology or philosophy might affect their ability to deal with reality, but not the other way.
As James said, it’s still part of God’s creation.


Agree with the above. While not a problem for EC, as it reads Genesis theologically rather than literally, i really do not think it would be a problem for more literal readings either. The Bible does not comment on a lot of things that are not relevant to God’s revelation to man, and life elsewhere in the universe is one of them. Of course, it would be nonsense to the original authors and audience who had no idea that the lights in the firmament were planets and suns around which other planets spun.


The research team expected the AI would sort their 134 samples into two distinct groups: living or non-living.

But, Professor Hazen said, the AI surprised and delighted the team, separating the samples into three: non-living, recently alive and alive in the ancient past.

Ha! AI’s emerging behavior may be a greater threshold than finding a microorganism in space

I am a Christian. But I wouldn’t say I have a “Christian world view.” I was reading SFF before I read the Bible. Maybe that is why I find it hard to understand why this would be a problem for Christians.

I never had this idea that all things should revolve around Christianity and I would say that I am hostile to this kind of thinking. The Bible only says we are given dominion over the earth and the space-time structure of the universe suggests the rest of it really is none of our business.

Questions for science not Christianity.

To me that is like asking how we should explain computers and cell phones Biblically.

Not for my Christianity. There are some versions of Christianity which should disappear.


I guess as someone who does not take genesis literally and as someone who believes that accommodation leads towards pantheism and understanding that in the same way that god accommodated ancient Jewish people as Yahweh they also accommodated ancient Indians as Vishnu, and so if they ever find life in space, including intelligent aliens with language, art and religion, their god will simply be the same as my god just accommodating them like they did us. Presuming its faith points towards love.

I think this sums up pretty well my view on alien life, and also illustrates the shift that my thinking has undergone as I moved away from a YEC perspective. For me, so much of what I previously believed was about controlling the narrative, which made it difficult for me to really be curious about what was true. I gave an inordinate amount of importance to my own worldview. Ultimately, what my “theology allows” does not determine the reality of anything, on this planet or others. So at this point, I am mostly just curious. I think it would be really neat if there was a way to prove there was life on Mars or elsewhere. Either way, I believe God made it all. New discoveries always provide the opportunity to appreciate that God is bigger than I used to think.


The history of spiritual awakenings is one area where we get an inside glimpse of his surprising character… I mean those angels must have been absolutely floored when God made himself known to a group of lowly hominid hunter gatherers


Hugh Ross has been saying for decades that signs of life will be found on Mars and/or other places in the solar system. It will be from remnants of the detritus from the earth’s surface blasted into space by cometic and meteoric impacts.

Interesting responses above. I might add the questions, if life on Mars is found to have existed but is now extinct:

  1. how does one reconcile the above with the Biblical claim that Christ died once for all sin?
  2. If life on Mars was also of Gods creation, then why does it appear that life on Mars not provided with any means of salvation?

And this is probably the most fascinating questions for me…

  1. what if life on Mars was offered salvation and it is a physical example of what this earth will look like after Revelation 21? (ie universe history is to repeat itself)
  2. are supernovas and now this potential for life to have existed on Mars examples of ongoing sin throughout the universe and God keeps trying over and over again to get it right even though he keeps giving his creation freewill and they keep screwing it up by transgressing his laws? Lets face it, Mars looks pretty desolate (and desolation is a repeating illustration/theme in the Bible)
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  1. how does one reconcile the above with the Biblical claim that Christ died once for all sin?

We have no idea. The Bible doesn’t specify if it’s only addressing matters on earth or elsewhere in the cosmos over all time.

  1. If life on Mars was also of Gods creation, then why does it appear that life on Mars not provided with any means of salvation?

We have no idea. It’s possible they had no need for it. Or they did have means of salvation. We have no recorded history of Mars or its inhabitants.

  1. what if life on Mars was offered salvation and it is a physical example of what this earth will look like after Revelation 21? (ie universe history is to repeat itself)

What if?
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in the heavens.

  1. are supernovas and now this potential for life to have existed on Mars examples of ongoing sin throughout the universe and God keeps trying over and over again to get it right even though he keeps giving his creation freewill and they keep screwing it up by transgressing his laws? Lets face it, Mars looks pretty desolate (and desolation is a repeating illustration/theme in the Bible)

We have no idea. There are all kinds of claims.
Earth has looked - been - very desolate as well.
God’s will will be done independent of our speculation or understanding.

If you’re open to thinking about the possibilities these ideas pose for Christians, there are some pretty good novels out there that deal with these questions.

CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy (I liked the first book the best; I didn’t like the last book)

Stephen Lawhead’s book Dream Thief (Overall the story is meh, but the parts on Mars and with the main character’s new friends is worth putting up with the less thrilling parts.

Chris Walley’s Lamb Among the Stars quartet at least starts well. I only read the first volume, when I was the church librarian. It’s written for middle schoolers, so it’s fast. I liked some of the ideas he was exploring, which I thought were fresh. He deals a good deal with challenge of understanding sin once we get off planet.

Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and The Children of God. These are outstanding, but you really need to commit to reading them both. The first book ends in utter despair. Don’t end your reading with it.

Lewis also write a fair amount about challenges of thinking theologically in the space age, also the nuclear age. He even considered the idea of multiple incarnations of Christ, if that were needed and how it might come about. I don’t know that he settled on anything in particular though, which would be to his credit in my view.


It wouldn’t affect my view at all. The Christian story, as we understand it, applies to this earth. There is, or has been, or will be, intelligent life on other planets somewhere in my view, and God would have treated them in His own way, which may or may not be similar to the Way we know. I would assume there are Incarnations for every such civilisation.

C. S. Lewis noted that people had said “The universe must be full of alien life - doesn’t that disprove Christianity?” and “We must be alone in the universe - doesn’t that disprove Christianity?” This highlights the fact that claiming that these would be a major problem for Christianity is not generally based on a sound reason. Certain Christian and Christian-ish groups have made pronouncements on the existence of extraterrestrials, but the reasoning behind those claims is also problematic.

Note that life and intelligent life would have different implications. Mars might (or might not) have had conditions suitable for bacteria-like life in the distant past, and there might (or might not) be environments where tough bacteria-like life could survive to the present. But bacteria do not sin and do not need salvation; they are not of much theological import. Certainly they are interesting components of creation, etc., but bacteria on Mars not getting a Savior is not a serious issue. Mars does not show any evidence of having a chance at developing intelligent life, unless you count the possibility that Earth’s life started on Mars and then developed further after reaching Earth as making us possibly be intelligent Martians.

Lewis pointed out that intelligent life elsewhere would have four possible spiritual states (with the caveat that communication on the topic could be difficult). They could be unfallen and not need salvation. Christianity affirms that angels are like that; it wouldn’t be difficult to theologically accept this category of aliens. They could be completely fallen with no prospect of salvation; that would be a similar category to demons. They could be unfallen but vulnerable to falling, like Adam and Eve before the fall. They could be fallen and in need of salvation, like us. It’s not in principle all that different from the situation with explorers in the 1400’s and 1500’s encountering new people and wondering if they needed salvation; after all, Colossians 1:6 says the gospel is growing throughout the whole world, so many medieval thinkers declared that continents not reached by the apostles must not be inhabited.

If aliens need salvation, it could be either through a way distinctive for them, or it could be that the gospel is supposed to spread from Earth to them. Lewis pointed out that this does not mean that earth is extra special. Salvation could start here because we were the worst-case situation. Christianity could develop elsewhere in a way that makes its history on Earth a mere footnote.

Of course, Lewis also pointed out that the treatment of other humans by human explorers does not suggest that we would do a good job of treating aliens well. He thought it was probably just as well that the vastness of space made actual physical contact between races quite unlikely.

I don’t think that a young-earth position should make much difference on accepting or rejection the possibility of life elsewhere. (I think I have encountered young-earth advocates making pronouncements on whether alien life could exist, but I don’t recall any basis for those claims.) God could create life in as many places as He wanted to by whatever means He wanted to. There exist “young earth in an old universe” positions. A young universe position runs into the problem that Mars and other objects in space have myriad features pointing to vast age, just as Earth does, but that does not directly determine the question of whether there would be life there.

The headline is a bit misleading. The AI is actually being used on terrestrial samples and some meteorites; it has potential to be used on Martian samples. The article does a good job of admitting limits - it’s having about a 10% error rate on known samples. Investigating what factors the AI is using to discriminate among the samples would be a valuable next step. But this would be detecting a chemical hint that something different happened for the sample. Probably an actual signal for alien life would be a unique chemical signature, not encountered on Earth. But the chemistry of abiotic organic molecules would likely be different on other planets or moons, also; determining what actually indicates life will not be easy, contrary to all the headlines about “Potential chemical sign of life found in space”.


The bacteria statement is i think one that only that adds to the dilemma this question poses…

Are not these kinds of things {bacteria} found only in a biosystem? If we find evidence of them on Mars as an ancient form of life that is now extinct, how exactly that does help our cause here?

Wouldnt discovery of extinct life on Mars create significant problems given that such a discovery would immediately cast doubt on the ability of a God to understand what he is doing? Why did it go exctinct? What was the purpose of that failed effort?

Finding evidence of failed life on another planet suggests that we have evidence fo a God who would attempt to create life on Mars only to have it die out due to conditions not being suitable for expansion of that life form into anything else. I think that casts significant theological doubt on the bible claims concerning the power and knowledge of God.

The bible very specifically tells us God is all-powerful and more importantly, all-knowing.

  1. Psalm 147.5 5Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.

  2. Isaiah 40:28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out.

  3. Hebrews 4: 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

  4. 1John 3: 20Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things.

The problem i think Christians face here is that we have a universal effect of the falling of Lucifer from Heaven and he and his angels being cast down to this earth (Revelation 12).

  1. Rev 12: 9And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

If salvation was offered to other planets at different times, then he died more than once for those planets/beings/creation. That is not something we can reconcile given:

Christ died once for all sin and when Christ ascended back to heaven, he sat at the RHS of the Father.

The heavenly sanctuary is a universal place of leadership…this is not a localised position of control its universal. There is one God, and he does not delegate His authority or even His ability to forgive sin to any other.

I understand that some may make the point “but this was only for mankind”, however, that is exactly where the problem gets worse…this is where scholars traditionally come up with the doctrine that mankind on this planet is the only place to have fallen in the entire universe. We also find evidence of this in the council found in the first chapter of the book of Job…

  1. Job 1:6One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satana also came with them
  2. 7“Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan.
  3. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.”

If life is found to have existed on Mars, theologically what was the purpose of God putting it there, and more importantly, how does one explain biblically the failure of that endeavour? The bible specifically tells us, Christ was the only one who could die for sin and he has done this only once. Is this evidence for the idea that theologically, there are other world replicas of the heavenly sanctuary and that Christ, in the event any of those other worlds has sinned (or might sin), goes and gets crucified for them too? If so, how do we explain that Lucifer and His angels was cast down to this earth in Revelation 21 (no other worlds are mentioned)

Those are all good questions, and I would not pretend to know the answers, but know the God of the universe may have mysteries and plans beyond our understanding and our need to know. If there are other worlds with being created by and in relationship with God, there is no reason to believe the nature of their worlds and their relationship mirrors ours.
My personal hunch is that life is rare in the universe, and perhaps it takes an incubator the size of a galaxy to produce something like the earth. So, perhaps there are beings in relationship with God on many galaxies with different histories but we will never know in this life, as the expanse of the universe is too great and we are too small and finite.


That is a good point Phil…but does the potential for finding evidence of life on Mars that has died out not cause problems even for this suggestion because of the question of sin being universal rather than local? Even if we say it has nothing to do with sin, we still face a major hurdle with the idea that God created and it failed on Mars.

btw, i am really glad to have a discussion with you guys that is not a yec vs teism debate…i think this topic is universal for Christianity generally and i believe that its a potentially problematic issue for either side. Thank you for engaging with me on this.

Predicaat Logica, a=a en b=b

faith =a
science =b

[quote=“adamjedgar, post:15, topic:52229”]
Are not these kinds of things {bacteria} found only in a biosystem? [/quote]

It depends on what you mean by “biosystem”. Bacteria are biological, so their presence automatically means that there is a biological system and an ecosystem present, But it may be an extremely simple one- just a single kind of bacteria interacting with non-biological components is possible.

If I find a cake pan with just a couple of old crumbs in it, does that tell me that the baking effort was a failure? On the contrary, that probably suggests that it was successful, because the goal was not to create a cake that would last forever.

The Bible does not tell us much about why God does things in the particular way that He does. Rather, it assures us that He knows what He is doing and that He is working good for those who trust in Him. Thus, we can confidently say that any past or present bacteria on Mars fulfill(ed) God’s purpose for them. But we can’t confidently say that we know what all the purposes are.

Part of the function may be to better display God’s creativity, wisdom, and power through the diversity of creation. A vast universe in both time and size gives more different displays of God’s handiwork than a small one. Perhaps part of the reason for the discourses on examples of creation near the end of Job is to emphasize that God has more purposes than just us.


Not their mere presence, not quite, unless there was active metabolism. They could be…

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