By Timothy Cockes
Exploration is “a part of what God has built into us.”
Physics professor Bill Nettles said the moon landing, making its 50th anniversary this week, should help believers “realize that as image bearers of our heavenly Father, we are created as creative, imaginative people.”
“We should be curious, while at the same time we should be humble,” said Nettles, chairman and university professor of physics at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. “While we may be able to analyze and understand some of the structure and function of this world, and even use it to our benefit, we didn’t create it and we don’t control it.”
The launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, resulted in astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepping foot on the moon on July 20 and famously placing an American flag on the moon’s surface.
Armstrong delivered the famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he stepped onto the moon’s surface in one of the most significant scientific achievements in history.
Discovery and exploration, Nettles noted, can lead to a greater amazement and worship of God.
“As we gain more understanding, we, as Christians, should stand in even greater awe and have a deeper sense of not understanding our world,” Nettles said. “To put it another way, as Christians we need to realize that the more we learn, the greater the number of things that we don’t know. That’s because the mysteries of God are unfathomable, but we can have deep joy in that thought.”
In addition to the importance of the moon landing as exploration of the created world, Christians also can view it as an opportunity to worship God both for what He has allowed mankind to discover and for who He is.
A Baptist Press report in July 1969 detailed the comparison of the moon landing and the resurrection of Christ by one of the scientists who worked on the Apollo 11 mission.
“The resurrection joined the earth to the stars because it gave man a reason not to cower in a cave, but to develop potentials, to move, to grow, to plan larger vistas,” Edward B. Lindaman said.
Lindaman envisioned space exploration to be a means by which mankind looks outside oneself in order to ask important questions.
“Is what I see below merely an uncontrollable biological process?” Lindaman said. “Is what I see merely a chance combination of protons in a cosmic test tube? Or do I see a community of beings trying to become more human by sharing, trying to follow in the footsteps of one, the creator of the earth?”
Another act of worship related to the moon landing involves one of the Apollo 11 astronauts.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, a Presbyterian, paused for a moment to take communion on the lunar module around two hours before stepping onto the moon.
Kelly Boggs, editor of the Baptist Message in Louisiana at the time, wrote about Aldrin’s partaking of bread and wine in a Baptist Press article from 2010. Aldrin took communion while reading the words of Jesus from John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
This moment of Aldrin thanking and worshiping God, Boggs wrote, was something all Christians can learn from and share in, no matter where they may be.
“Aldrin’s humble act of acknowledging God and thanking Him for protection and strength is inspirational,” Boggs stated. “Only a dozen people in the history of the world can relate to the exhilaration of taking one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind. However, most people — especially people of faith — can relate to Aldrin’s need to rely on God in all endeavors great and small.
“People of faith understand that whether a person is on the moon, or just sitting in traffic, he or she has a need for the Lord. Acknowledging God and thanking Him is simply a natural response to this reality — a response as natural as breathing.”
Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press summer intern and graduate student at Liberty University. Used with permission.