A Deist, a Christian, and an Atheist Go to the Moon

Forty-eight years ago Neil Armstrong spoke the words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin, his partner on the moon mission, radioed Nasa before stepping out of the space module. “I would like to request a few moments of silence,” Aldrin said, “and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

How did Aldrin contemplate the events and give thanks? He observed communion. You can read more about the controversy this sparked, particularly from the aggressive atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair in this article at The Guardian that reports a lawsuit by O’Hair kept the ceremony from being broadcast.

Neil Armstrong, reportedly a deist, respectfully watched Buzz Aldrin observe communion before the two stepped out of the space module and Armstrong spoke the words heard round the universe. Aldrin’s home church Webster Presbyterian church, near Houston, where Aldrin served as an elder, has commemorated the event. To this day every July they observe “Lunar Communion Sunday” where they showcase the chalice Adlrin used for the Lord’s supper in space.

These three worldviews, deism, Christianity, and atheism, illustrate that science alone doesn’t dictate one’s view of what’s ultimately real. For Armstrong the world is the result of an impersonal source. For O’Hair it’s a cosmic accident. For Aldrin, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

While science doesn’t decide here, only one perspective offers humanity an objective foundation for intrinsic worth―a basis for human flourishing.

Aldrin’s view, which I obviously share, offers not only an explanation for the world we live in but for our place in it. When King David pondered creation in Psalm 8, called a “Star Gazer’s Psalm” as it only mentions night lights, he asked this pressing question, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?”

This beautiful Psalm demonstrates man’s privileged place in the created world. David answers the question “What is man?” by showing that humanity has intrinsic worth and dignity given by the Creator. That’s probably why Aldrin quoted this Psalm on his return trip to Earth, and why his church recites it every Lunar Communion Sunday.

Want to know who you are? You are not an accident. You are created and loved by God. That’s glory. That’s what the heavens are showing us if we have eyes to see and ears to listen.