Scientists are making groundbreaking discoveries about the planet Mars. Is there really evidence of water on Mars? Is there life? What does this mean for a Christian—and what can it teach us about the amazing future that God has in store for mankind?
Ever since Percival Lowell claimed to have found mysterious "canals" on Mars a century ago, scientists have wondered: "Is there water on Mars?" For some, the presence of water is a pragmatic question; astronauts could more easily mount a mission to a water-rich planet than to one dry and desolate. Most observers, however, are interested in water as a vital ingredient for past—or present—life on Mars.
Last year, the United States launched an $820 million mission sending two "rovers"—Spirit and Opportunity—to the Martian surface. Spirit's safe landing last January 3 pleased NASA scientists, but it was Opportunity that provided the most remarkable data shortly after its January 24 landing, indicating that it landed near the now-dry bed of an ancient salty sea, and that water was once widely present on Mars—a finding later reinforced by the Spirit rover.
"Liquid water once drenched the surface" where Opportunity landed, said NASA associate administrator Ed Weiler. "Moreover, this area would have been a good habitable environment."
We remember scientists' excitement in 1996 when an Antarctic meteorite was said to contain evidence of Martian life. After careful review, most came to doubt that too-hasty hypothesis. The Mars rovers' findings will undergo similar scrutiny in the months ahead. Even so, evidence of water has fueled many astrobiologists' speculations about how life might have arisen on Mars, and what this could mean about life on Earth. Some scientists suggest that life could have come to Mars from Earth, after volcanic matter was carried there through space. Other scientists theorize that life may have originated on Mars and traveled through space to Earth. What does Scripture say? The Bible does not tell us whether or not there is—or has been—life on Mars. It tells us that Earth was formed in its present state after a devastation that had left it "without form and void" (Genesis 1:2). It tells us that among all the species, only human beings have been created with a "spirit in man" that sets them apart (Job 32:8; 1 Corinthians 2:11; see also Questions & Answers on page 15 of this issue). Although scientists have found that human beings and chimpanzees share 98.5 percent of the same DNA gene sequences, and bottle-nosed dolphins exceed mankind in average brain size, the "spirit in man" gives human beings capacity far beyond all other species. And it is to mankind alone that God gives His Holy Spirit, in preparation for an amazing future as full members of His family.
What is that amazing future? The Bible reveals that today's human beings will in the future inherit the whole universe, and indeed "all things" (Hebrews 2:8; Revelation 21:7). So it is no wonder that mankind today looks to Mars. We are destined for the universe. But while scientists look to Mars' past and wonder about the present, Christians look to Mars' future, and know that they will be a part of it.
How can we be part of that future? Not by looking for water in Mars' past, or even its present, however fascinating this may be. As Christians, we seek "living water." As Jesus Christ said: "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). Just as we require water to sustain physical life, we require "living water"—God's Holy Spirit—to sustain spiritual life. Nourished by that living water, today's true Christians are joyously preparing for Tomorrow's World!