Tides rise and fall with it. Moonflowers open to it. Dogs bay at it. Lovers stroll under it. And now American astronauts, in mankind’s most daring adventure, are ready to set foot on it.
If Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin are finally able to descend their lunar module’s nine-rung ladder to the surface of the moon, the achievement should be welcomed by Christians as a blessing and an opportunity. Let believers breathe prayers of thanksgiving that God has enabled man so to coordinate his energies as to make possible this dramatic new exploration of divine handiwork. It is nothing short of a God-given miracle that assigns man the intelligence and will to make half-million-mile round trips to the moon.
Perhaps Apollo 11 will awaken Christians to begin to discover the spiritual opportunities opened up by space travel. We are already late. This is a main concern of space scientist Rodney W. Johnson, who calls for inter-disciplinary consultations on the meaning, possibilities, and problems of our “escape” from the earth (see the interview beginning on page 3). Vocational pietism is not enough. Especially in this crucial area, Christians have a responsibility to relate their faith to their work at a deeper level.
Philosophers, theologians, and Bible scholars have been strangely silent on the implications of space travel. They have felt there is not much to go on. But the time is here when we must search more deeply and determine to put the Christian faith on record with a thoughtful and creative attitude toward space exploits. To talk about the moon and planets symbolically and figuratively will not be enough. If Christians do not speak to the issues substantively, the world will take its cues from alien ideologies.
The intellectual risks of space travel are as acute as the physical hazards. But they need not scare us. Indeed, they ought to prod us to search more diligently for an authoritative rationale.
One fear is that the awesome wonders of space will encourage pantheism. Could we get so caught up admiring creation that nature itself becomes our object of worship rather than the God who is responsible for it? A man beholding the natural beauty of a woman can to some extent regard her as a creature of God deserving of admiration, and he can even be thankful for God’s gift of sex. But at some point this appreciation deteriorates into lust.
Another danger is that space travel will enhance the appeal of the subtle cult of scientism. Let no one minimize the technological sophistication necessary to put a man on the moon. This achievement is a resounding tribute both to individual ingenuity and to teamwork. What we must guard against is letting these tremendous scientific and technological breakthroughs become ends in themselves. Let us remember that what brings us progress can often be easily perverted into bringing us misery. A good example is the development of nuclear energy—it can be our fuel today and our devastation tomorrow.
There is also legitimate apprehension that the space program will be too militarily oriented. There have been good reasons for involving the armed forces in the space program to such a high degree. For one thing, the space venture requires a high degree of discipline, and the military is one of the few areas of human life where discipline is still a paramount consideration. But it will probably be better for the country and for the world if the role of the military in space decreases. Military men ought not to be disqualified from becoming astronauts, but civilians ought to be given greater opportunities for taking part. And women ought soon to be given the chance as well.
Perhaps the most regrettable part of our space program so far—and the most subtle danger—is the public indifference to it. We seem to have become blasé. Excitement over a space shot is quickly forgotten, and it is doubtful whether today NASA’s Frank Borman is better known than baseball’s Frank Howard. Perhaps the reason is our declining national pride. Or perhaps we don’t see anything in it for us. Either way it is an unhealthy sign.
Let us hope and pray for a successful lunar landing. May it help to dispel our gloom, and glorify our God. One reason why God made the moon was that it would be a “sign” (Gen. 1:14), a manifestation of himself. In other words, the moon is there in part to attest to God’s greatness, both to believers and to unbelievers. It bears testimony to the fact of a supreme intelligence behind all things that exist. It speaks eloquently of both the magnitude and the magnificence of the God who put it there.