Life on Mars, Part 4 – Implications for Mars

To summarize what we’ve discussed so far, the Bible – looking at the whole of the revelation and not coming to it with preconceived notions – is seen to describe an earth that was created and existed long before the recreation account given in Genesis 1:2-2:7.  Before the state of chaos and ruin in which we find it in Genesis 1:2, it was inhabited by angels, placed there and given authority do that they might fulfill God’s purpose and serve His plan.  The leader of these angels, Lucifer, rebelled against God, becoming the being now known as Satan the devil, and ultimately about one-third of the angels joined him in this rebellion.  That rebellion ended as all such rebellions do: in failure.  Their sin resulted in the destruction of the world, bringing it into a state of tohu and bohu – it was now a desolate waste and a chaotic ruin.

But God’s plan will not be thwarted, and the earth is renewed over the course of six days, culminating in the creation of man on that day and a Sabbath rest on the next.  Deceived and tempted by that being Satan, who still sits in authority over this world, man took the wrong path in those early days and chose to decide right and wrong for himself instead of accepting God’s revelation of right and wrong.  So the path to tohu and bohu began to be trod anew.

This catches us up with the earth.  But what of the rest of creation?  Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth.  The word “heavens” is, indeed, plural, though not all translations make this clear.  Does the Bible speak of multiple “heavens”?  Yes, it does: the heaven of the earth’s atmosphere (Daniel 2:38); the heaven of space, home of the stars and planets (Isaiah 13:10); and the “third heaven” of the spiritual realm and God’s throne (2 Cor. 12:2).  Genesis 1:1 suggests that the word “creation” – in its broadest meaning – encompasses all of these things.  The earth is surely God’s handiwork, yet so too are the moon, the sun, the stars and the planets.

Romans 8:20-21 teaches us something interesting.  It says that, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  Some have interpreted “creation” here to mean this earth, which was so subjected at Adam’s sin.  Others have said that “the creation” is the society of man and was so subjected at the confusion of Babel.  But there is no need to limit “the creation” in this way.  Actually, Romans 8:22 adds the context that the “whole creation” is under discussion: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

We have sent numerous probes and space craft into the solar system and beyond.  And while the images they bring back are marvelous to behold and stir the imagination, the scenes always communicate the same message: a creation subjected to futility.  Mars, specifically, has been the source of awesome pictures, from the time that Viking landed on its surface until now, when Spirit and Opportunity are roaming and exploring its rugged landscapes.  Pictures from such images always, as varied as they may be, always fit within the same theme, and show us a wasteland, desolate and uninhabitable.  I marveled at the first images I saw transmitted back from the most recent missions, but – right or wrong – two words constantly leapt into my mind as I gazed at them: tohu and bohu.

And the thought makes me wonder: Did the rebellion of Satan and his demons have any consequences beyond the earth?  Was only the earth a beautiful place before that rebellion?   A war in one’s land brings devastation to more than the combatants, themselves, and the effects of humanity’s aggression are often felt far and wide – and the longer the war, the greater the potential for devastation.  What havoc might a war in the spirit realm cause?  How long might such a war last?  God says that with Him a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day (2 Peter 3:8).  We know that time passes for angelic beings (Daniel 10:12-13), but just what is the nature of their relationship to the flow of time?  Resisting the temptation to be too dogmatic (to which I am sure some readers feel I caved a long time ago), we must at least admit that what we don’t know opens up many possibilities.

Was Mars always in such a devastated state as this?  Scientists who have no “dog in the hunt” in terms of Biblical understanding and interpretation have certainly envisioned a “wetter, warmer” Mars in the distant past.  Is there room in Scripture for such a possibility?

While Scripture doesn’t mandate a “life worthy” Mars, I don’t see any passage in the Bible in which it is ruled out.  As far as I can tell, it is entirely feasible within the boundaries of Scripture that in that distant past Mars was a lovely creation, with lakes, oceans, forests – possibly even animal life.  The picture painted by the whole of Scripture demands Adam and Eve to be the first humans beings, in possession of the human spirit and capable of having a relationship with God.  But is there any such restriction on animal life?  I don’t see one – much less on microbes and single-celled organisms, which might be considered more closely related in terms of their importance and role on earth to the non-animal organic landscape of our planet than they are to complex animal life.  (This would seem to fit the view of some authors, such as Peter Ward & Donald Brownlee in Rare Earth).

Given the possibilities for a solar system that could have been in a much better state before the state of tohu and bohu to which (at least) the earth was exposed, what might we find while exploring the desolate landscape of Mars?

  • Nothing?

Certainly a possibility.  Rocks.  Dirt.  Craters.  Maybe some liquid water under the surface.  Scripture certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that what we we’ve seen already is all there is to see.

  • Fossilized microorganisms?

Again, I don’t see anything that rules that possibility out.  (For the record: I do not believe that famed Martian meteorite ALH84001 contains fossilized evidence of life on Mars.  While I suppose it is possible, the other more reasonable explanations seem, at the very least, to make the jump to an “Aha! Life!” conclusion a bit hasty.)

  • Live microorganisms – perhaps under the surface?

Now that would be fascinating.  Certain bacteria (often called extremophiles) can survive in the harshest of environments here on earth, and it is even possible that some can survive traveling through space, embedded within dust grains and protected from harmful radiation (Rare Earth, p. 73).  Again, I don’t see this as being ruled out by scripture.

  • Fossilized complex, non-human life – say the equivalent of a tree, insect, or animal?

Why not?  Could the young Mars – as a part of a beautiful original creation, before it may ravaged by the angelic war that took place in that distant past – have been a beautiful paradise, full of fields and streams and creatures of amazing variety, like we see here on earth?  Was there a Yellowstone somewhere on its surface?

I would be as giddy as the stereotypical schoolgirl if the Mars rover Opportunity were to roll up to a cliff and find exposed there a fossilized grizzly bear, or a petrified Redwood tree – or even the impression of a dragonfly.  Signs of complex life on Mars would be the news of the century.  But highly “evolved,” complex life that appeared to remarkably match that of earth’s would be more than that: It would cause all but the blindest of souls to question whether such life could have “evolved” at all.

Yet, personally, I suspect that any complex life that might have been placed on a beautiful, “original creation” Mars would be wonderfully different than what we see here.  Similar in theme, just as life here seems to display many common themes, but expressive of that love God seems to have for variety – an attribute so remarkably and beautifully displayed here on Earth (cf. Romans 1:20).  Here on our small blue and green sphere, we find such a thrilling yet humbling variety of living things.  What wonders crafted by the hand of God may have trod the ground of a Martian forest?

The time before Genesis 1:2 leaves much room to speculate!  And speculation can be a great deal of fun – as long as we do not lose sight of the fact that it is, as beautiful as the thought may be, only speculation.  And speculation does have its limits, leading us to the last question…

  • Fossilized man?

No way.  Here our speculation comes to an abrupt end.  Man is an original creation on the earth, the tale of which is told in Genesis 1 & 2.  Adam and Eve were the first.  Unlike all the animals that were created on the sixth day in Genesis 1, which were created “according to their kind” (Gen. 1:24-25), man is uniquely not described as being created after a “man kind.”  Rather, man is described as being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26).  Taken together, these three verses, vv. 24-25, paint a remarkable and wondrous picture, as if God is saying, “Let us make the animals after their kind, but let Us make man after Our kind…”  And that is exactly what God did.

That great God, both the Most High (whom we now call the Father) and the living Word (whom we now call the Son) created man to be after the God kind…  a fact that is one of many remarkable clues to our ultimate destiny.  (But that’s a different blog entry!)

For those who have trolled through all of these “Life on Mars” entries, I greatly appreciate your patience, and I hope that the “payoff” hasn’t been too disappointing.  After working so hard to swim through my verbosity, arriving at a conclusion of “Life on Mars? Maybe…” may seem small wages for your toil!  At the same time, I hope it has helped to put the search for “life” on Mars into perspective.  The history of the universe is more amazing than we know, and it is a history surpassed only by its incredible future – a future prophesied to be under the direction and loving care of the expanded God Family (Hebrews 2:5-8; Romans 8:16-22).  Regardless of the verdict as to whether or not there has ever been life on Mars – indeed, whether there is any there now – the Bible does seem to say that there will be one day.

So, as I said many posts ago, I do believe that Mars will be “terraformed” one day, but not the way that our current generation of scientists and futurists foresee!  It won’t be at the hands of a greedy human race, barely capable of managing it’s own planet.  Rather, if Mars is transformed into the beautiful jewel that may have once been, it will be at the hands of the glorious sons and daughters of God, as their Kingdom – the Kingdom of God – grows forever, increasing without end (Isaiah 9:7).

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21, KJV

[If you would like to look further at the connection between the future of the universe and the future of man, consider reading our brief article, Will We Conquer Space?, and (even better) ordering our absolutely free booklet Your Ultimate Destiny, which goes into much more detail and explains – straight from your Bible – why you were born and the mind-bogglingly, glorious plan God has for you.]

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5 thoughts on “Life on Mars, Part 4 – Implications for Mars

  1. Hi Mr. Smith,

    I’ve thought about issues like this for a long time, both as a student of biblical Hebrew and as a lifelong amateur astronomer. Here is my perspective, for what it’s worth.

    What we see in the Universe beyond Earth, so far as anyone can tell, is more like “unfinished furniture” (to use Mr. Armstrong’s analogy) than *tohu wabohu*. Right from the beginning of matter and energy as we know it, the Universe was subject to the Laws of Thermodynamics and their informational equivalents — especially the Laws of Conservation and Decay. It was subject to the various other laws of chemistry and physics as well. So naturally, it was bound to be “subject to futility” right from the beginning, awaiting the intervention of intelligence to “finish the furniture”. As it is, there’s nothing out there that we know of that demands or even suggests the intervention of malevolent intelligence. Rather, it suggests the absence of benevolent intelligence, after that One Great and Benevolent Intelligence created the Universe in the first place.

    I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of intelligent order (at least) in the Universe, and wiser heads may have come up with nice technical names for them. One kind of such order (what I’ll call “first-degree order”) is that inherent within space, time, matter, energy, and the natural laws that describe how these interact. The other kind of such order (what I’ll call it “second-degree order”) is the artificial order imposed on the natural order. What man manufactures represents this kind of order. So does the information found in organic life, which information does not arise by time, chance and natural law. This kind of order demands intelligence.

    Let me put it another way. The more we learn about the galaxies, stars, planets, satellites and such, the more evidence we have that they have been formed in a way consistent with natural law and nothing more. We can’t say the same about organic life, no more than we can say that about man’s inventions. The DNA and RNA molecules did not create the information they contain, for example!

    What *tohu wabohu* implies is the turning upside down of a “second-degree order” — an order once imposed by God on the natural “first-degree order” of the earth. We have yet to find any evidence that there was ever a “second-degree order” imposed anywhere else in the Universe. The discovery of (say) living or fossil life on Mars would constitute such evidence, but we know of no certain discovery thus far. The simplest explanation is that the task of imposing “second-degree order” was to be given to God’s intelligent creatures — perhaps the angels if they qualified, and certainly man if he qualified (and once glorified).

    Meanwhile, what we do see in the Universe beyond Earth is almost entirely a “first-degree order”, the natural result of processes of formation and conservation on the one hand and of decay on the other. The craters on the Moon, Mars and other planets and satellites aren’t signs of supernatural destruction — just of original accretion and later natural development, which we can see going on in our Solar System and around other stars right now. If you have enough big and little rocks falling together (for example), you’re going to get a globe with a lot of pockmarks and broken rocks on its surface. Satan’s rebellion would have had nothing to do with that.

  2. Of course I should add that films like the documentary “The Privileged Planet” show 1) the first-degree order in the Universe allows life like ours and planets like Earth to exist; 2) there are many elements of what rationally may be called second-degree order in what’s associated with the Earth (a big Moon, lots of water, a clear nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, an excellent position relative to the Sun and the galactic core, etc., etc.). Both kinds of order require benevolent intelligence to create, but Satan’s malevolent intelligence couldn’t do away with the first-degree order and there’s no provable sign I know of that he did anything to any supposed second-degree order beyond Earth. Everything people point to as proof of the latter can be accounted for simply and directly as the result of first-degree order decaying in the absence of intervention by a benevolent intelligence.

  3. Jerry Young

    Have not read the earlier “life on Mars” posts, so this might have already been commented on. But I thought the theory of sub-surface microorganisms on Mars being killed by evil man’s machines was pure conjecture. In other words, no real evidence or basis other than imagination. I also thought the “fossils” on the asteroid were determined to not be actual microorganisms. But it does make for interesting conversation.

    If there was such organisms found on Mars, would they actually be considered alive in the biblical sense? It might sound odd, but my thinking is that life is linked to blood. Such organisms do not have blood. Fluids, but not blood. I recently learned that scientifically viruses are not considered to be living. My thought is similar to a virus, organisms without blood would not be considered alive. This would also include plants. Not sure about bugs. Also not sure what affect any of this would have on the conversation.

  4. Howdy, Mr. Young!

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to concerning sub-surface microorganisms being killed by machines, but I agree with what you are saying: No satisfying evidence has yet been found to “confirm” the existence on Mars of any life at all, not even microbial. I recall the “buzz” about the meteorite (meteorite ALH84001) and its “fossil” — but if anyone kept up with that story, they will also recall that a number of non-organic processes were also suggested that could have created the same “fossil” (and such non-organic processes on earth do, indeed, produce such non-fossils). Thus, the meteorite is far from conclusive and adds no evidence to the case for life on Mars.

    As for where microorganisms would fall in any Biblical organization of “life” — that’s a great question that I considered for this entry, but did not think on fully enough to comment on it in a large way. I think that there are several things to consider:

    1. God made plants on the third day and animals on the sixth. Where would bacteria land? If they are considered “tiny animals” then it would be day 6. I lean toward day 3, though, since they are more of an “environmental lifeform” (and out comes the fuzzy thinking that prevented me from writing on this, originally!). If plants were created on day 3, then that would mean cellular life had its start then, and that could include bacteria, if their role was more of an environmental one. Then again, maybe the timing of the creation of single-celled life depended on their type — some belonging more to the plant variety, some to the animals. Since, in some ways, life today is dependent on certain bacteria (like little nanotechnology robots), perhaps those types were created when the lifeforms they “serve” were created.

    The distinction between animal and plant tends to be a man-made distinction that gets fuzzier when we get away from obvious details that are clear at the “common sense” level. (E.g., What is a sponge? A fungus?) I think this is what you point out.

    2. Viruses — don’t get me started. They show some degree of intelligent engineering, but what role could they have played in a pre-sin world? I don’t know. I could conjecture. But I won’t. :^)

    3. As for the life/blood link, that’s a great point to bring up. I don’t know that God commits in Scripture to use the word “life” or “living” in a strict sense that differs from how we normally use it, though I’m certainly open to be enlightened! I can;t, off the top of my head, think of a passage in which the word “life” is related directly and non-symbolically with plants, for instance.

    Regardless, I am using “life” in this entry in the “high school biology class” sense. If I recall (and, wow, this is a real stretch of recall!), biologists tend to say something is alive if (1) it responds to stimuli, (2) it can reproduce, (3) it metabolizes, and (4) it is capable of growth. (I see that the Wikipedia entry has some interesting things to say, though, and lists seven conditions in the conventional definition of life.) Such things on earth (whether they would fit a Biblical definition of life or not) signify something important, as there is no known undirected, unintelligent, natural process (discounting evolution) that can produce such forms of existence apart from pre-existent life and intelligence. So, whether a bacteria or a blade of grass counts as biblical “life” or not, finding either of them on Mars would be significant.

    And, again, I am making no predictions — simply pointing out that there is room within the confines of Scriptural truth for either result: life on Mars or no life on Mars. Either possibility fits within the Scriptures cozily and comfortably. Finding a Starbucks on Mars, however, would be another matter (though, it would not be surprising).

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