Young-Earth Creationist Ken Ham is making headlines for the first time since his disastrous debate with Bill Nye last year. On the 45th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 landing on the moon, Ham penned a piece lamenting the amount of money spent trying to find extraterrestrial life.
Now, I had initially assumed this was a response to Pope Francis’s recent statement that he would baptize aliens should they be interested in converting to Catholicism, which presumes the possibility that salvation was open to them in the first place. And indeed it seems like Ham’s comments might have been such a response, in some loose way, though he never makes this clear or not. What is clear is his strong statements that salvation is for humans only:
Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word). To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.
An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.
One can therefore be forgiven for thinking this logically necessitates that any and all alien life found in the universe is automatically excluded from salvation and therefore must go to hell in Ham’s fundamentalist schema.
But Ham has pushed back against this in a response to the flurry of media coverage. Aside from the typical claims of lying and general paranoia about irresponsible “secularists” who will do anything to slander him and his ministry, Ham seems to think he never said what he said. He lists a number of the article titles saying he believes aliens are going to hell and calls them “nonsense” and “a piece of fiction.”
So evidently somebody is pretty confused as to what Ken Ham said–but unfortunately that person seems to be Ken Ham. As I just quoted above, Ham himself wrote that aliens are excluded from the salvation of Christ. This means aliens would go someplace else and presumably Ham believes there are only two possible destinations. So his critics could certainly be forgiven for leaping to the conclusion Ham believes aliens would go to hell, assuming we ever find any to condemn. He’s technically right in that he never used the phrase “aliens will go to hell,” but he did say the opposite: “Only humans go to heaven.” And the two are essentially saying the same thing. He even quotes the very bit I quoted above in his response to clarify that he did not say aliens would go to hell–which is puzzling since that is exactly the implication one takes away from reading his original piece.
Now, a number of sources are claiming that Ham wants to defund NASA or the space program because the search for aliens is pointless, but to be fair to Ham, this is something he really didn’t say. His article never refers to the space program, though he does write condemningly of the millions of dollars spent searching for alien life. “I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life.”
But given that Ham’s piece appeared last Sunday, on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission, it is easy to see how his comments created the impression that he was condemning the entire space program. After all, why write such a negative piece and release it on that day in particular unless you thought the two things were connected? Perhaps this was a simple coincidence, but if it was it was certainly sloppy of Ham.
Regardless, Ham did construct a theological claim that excludes all non-human life from salvation, and this is a fair reading of his words even if he doesn’t realize that’s what he was saying. This is the danger of building a fundamentalist culture of trying to emphasize answers instead of questions and refutation instead of interaction and discussion.