Every once in awhile, I get to sit back and think about what I have witnessed in my life’s journey. A reminder of one of the highlights of that journey is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
My time of being involved in scientific events of significance began when I was fortunate enough to win the Westinghouse National Science Fair competition for Bloomington, Indiana, in 1954. That program allowed me to spend a few days with some of the top scientists in the country. I got to hear about what they were doing and what lay ahead in their particular disciplines. I was a high school junior at the time and totally entrenched in atheism. I believed that I had two choices. I could reject all of science and immerse myself in the senseless traditions (as I saw them) of religion. The choice I preferred was to be an atheist and participate in the wonderful possibilities of the future molded and made possible by science.
The most distressing part of the National Science Fair was that several of the best-known scientists of that day both publicly and privately expressed belief in God. My science teacher named Wayne Gross at University High School in Bloomington was a man of deep conviction that God was the creator of all things. He believed that science was just a way of understanding what God had done and using that knowledge to improve the lot of all humanity. The seeds of doubt in the religion of my parents (atheism) had been sown.
Many years later, as a science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I sat glued to the television on July 20, 1969. I was watching Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they traveled to the Moon, landed on it, and returned with massive amounts of data and samples. I had left atheism and started my ministry just a year before the Moon landing, and I had been encouraged and tutored by many people in the space program.
As a teacher, I was able to attend numerous meetings with all of the scientists who contributed to that incredible accomplishment. I was even allowed to give a lectureship at the Space Center in Houston, which was attended by a large number of the people involved in the Apollo success. The man who introduced me at that lectureship was the man in charge of the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) from the time it left the mother ship until it returned. He began the program by suggesting that there would be those who would think that I would be talking to a group of atheists since nearly everyone there was involved in a scientific way with the Apollo program. He then asked everyone who worked in the program to stand, and virtually everyone in the room stood. He then asked everyone standing who believed in God to sit down, and only four people remained standing. I know there are all kinds of objections to that action, but it underlined the fact that as Dr. Frank Baxter has said: “The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the creator.” We don’t have to put our brain in park to be a Christian.
July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing, and we are talking about returning to the Moon. Morgan Stanley estimates that the net worth of the United States space economy by 2040 will be 1.1 trillion dollars (Astronomy magazine, July 2019, page 19). There are good reasons, both politically and economically, to go to the Moon and on to outer space. As we do so, one lesson we must in mind is that every discovery we have made in space has supported the biblical record. Science and faith have a symbiotic relationship in space as well as on Earth. All of this goes beyond astronauts reading Genesis 1 as they orbited the Moon.
— John N. Clayton © 2019