THE TESTIMONY OF A SPACE SCIENTIST
How is a space scientist led to a belief in God? I am sure that the paths are many, and I certainly am not qualified to generalize,
even for the relatively few scientists that I personally know, how they were led to a belief in God, and of what that belief
consists. All that I can discuss authoritatively is how I was led to such a belief, and what influence that experience has had
on my life.
As far back into my childhood as I can remember, I believed in the existence of God. I am sure that my childhood understanding
of God was no different from that of most children my age. God was very mysterious, very powerful, but fortunately for me, quite
far away. I can remember the shock that I got, as a lad of ten or so, when I suddenly realized that all the fine words that we
sung in the hymns during church and Sunday School services really had no practical meaning. The other people who sang them did
the same things I did, and rarely if ever demonstrated any comprehension of what those words meant. None of us seemed to apply
them in our practical lives.
As I grew older, I fell into the same trap that, I believe, holds most church attending people in the United States today, of
thinking that being a Christian meant to live one’s life as nearly in conformity with the ten commandments as possible, attend
and support the church as much and no more than the average person of our acquaintance, say grace before meals, and follow the
practices of our particular church in the observance of the sacraments and holy days. There was absolutely no idea that God could
or would direct our day-to-day living, much less hour by hour or minute by minute. I had no idea what the words meant: "Let the
Lord Jesus Christ direct your life.”
I think that I believed that the major benefits of life were from God, but more or less like the rain, He causes them to fall on
the just and on the unjust. I fully supported the prevailing idea that any personal contact with God had been limited to
the first century of the Christian era.
Two milestones on my “journey into faith” were my decision right after World War II to tythe all my income, and my discovery
that God does not allow Himself to be proved, in the scientific sense. That concept is a necessary consequence of man’s free
will, to reject God’s love or accept and return it. If it were possible to prove scientifically that God must exist, then it
would follow that man is required to honor Him. God does not want our forced obedience, and that is why He gave us free will.
The major turning point in my life came in 1956. Due to a change in the management of the company I worked for, I saw all the
years of my work in building up the acceptance of the electronic computer in business applications about to be destroyed. At
the time I was the the senior technical person in the nation-wide sales organization of the Univac Division of Sperry Rand,
with offices and staff of over two hundred in New York City. While on a business trip to Los Angeles, I inquired of the local
company sales manager if it would be possible for me to transfer to his office. Much to my delight, this was worked out, and
I moved my family to Los Angeles in March 1956. Less than two months later, our family was one of those participating in a
week-end church retreat at the Forest Home Christian Conference Center in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Our speaker for the conference was a professor of philosophy from Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota, by the name of Dr.
W. Robert Smith. Doctor Bob, as he was affectionately called, was a very homespun type of person, and a delight to listen to.
However, I can recall only one idea that he shared with us that day, that it is possible to have a personal meeting with the
Lord Jesus Christ, conversing with Him as with an ordinary person. In all of my Christian experience, I had never heard anyone
make such a statement. How could such a thing be true? How could an ordinary person, such as myself, have a personal encounter
with the Lord Jesus Christ? Such a thing was reserved for the St. Pauls and the St. Johns of Christian history. Why, I could not
even meet the mayor of Los Angeles or the governor of California; how could I possibly meet the creator of the entire universe?
Doctor Bob went on to quote a familiar Bible verse, Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear
my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.” I had read this verse several times,
but it certainly didn’t give me the idea of a personal meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ. What door was He talking about, and
how can anyone hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ in this day and age? Doctor Bob went on to say that there are two conditions
that one must meet, if one wants to have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Both are stated in this verse.
The first condition is: “If any man hear my voice.” How can anyone living today hear the voice of God? That was reserved
for the Samuels of the Old Testament, or the people who heard Jesus when He was alive in Palestine two thousand years ago. Nobody
today hears His voice. So ran my thoughts. Then Doctor Bob’s voice broke in on my thinking, saying that we can hear His voice
only if we allow Him to direct our every-day living. I certainly had never allowed the Lord Jesus Christ to direct my every-day
living. How is such a thing done? Looking back over my life, I could see that in certain major events God may have been the
directing agent: My getting a job with the Federal Government in 1930, when jobs were extremely hard to get, and my resulting
employment all through the terrible years of the Great Depression of the Thirties; my training in electronics during World War
II and subsequent acceptance at Harvard University in 1946; my introduction to the world’s first operating automatic digital
computer at Harvard and my opportunity to become the first graduate student of its inventor, Professor Howard Aiken; my
invitation to join the tiny Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which evolved into the Univac Division of Sperry Rand, with
the consequent rise to technical management and professional reputation that it brought me — none of these events were of my
own doing. Each had come to me without my effort. All I had to do was to seize the opportunity presented. Was God — or chance —
responsible for these opportunities?
Again Doctor Bob’s voice broke in on my thoughts: The second condition is, “and open the door”. What door? Each of us,
Doctor Bob said, has a secret place where we actually live, the place where we think our thoughts and make our decisions. There
is a door to this secret place we call our heart which we usually keep closed. We open it only to our family members and closest
friends. This is the door we must open if we want to meet the Lord Jesus Christ. I decided that I did very much want to meet Him.
But doubts and questions still filled my mind. Was it true? How does one do this?
Right after the meeting was over, I decided to try an experiment. I went into a nearby chapel, all alone, and simply asked the
Lord Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to me. I had no idea what would happen, if anything. But immediately I felt His presence in
that room. It was overwhelming! Although I could not see Him, I heard Him call me by name. My mind was flooded with memories of
some of the wrong things I had done in my life that I knew were wrong, and I was ashamed to be in His presence. But He told me,
in such a kind voice that I never will forget it, that He had forgiven me for those things. Then He asked me if I would allow
Him to direct my life. Of course, I said, “Yes!” I hoped He would stay there for the rest of time. I had never experienced such
a thrill at anyone’s presence as I did at His. But all too soon He was gone, and I was alone in the room. For the first time in
my life, I knew why I was alive. God Himself had prepared me for His purposes, and now He was ready to tell me what I was to do.
What an exciting thought! I could hardly wait to find out what I was to do. Leaving the building, I met Doctor Smith. He was not
surprised to learn of my encounter. But when I asked how was I to know what I was supposed to do, he answered, “Don’t worry;
He’ll tell you.”
But the days turned into weeks and months, and He did not reveal Himself or His will to me. I began to wonder if the experience
had really occurred, or was it just my imagination? Then the realization came to me that the Lord Jesus Christ had to change my
personality before He could use me for His work. And I found out, too, that He does not give us a halo, already polished, which
we can immediately start to wear. Far from it. A lifetime of wrong thinking and bad habits had to be broken down, and new patterns
established, and that process took a long twelve years. During this time, I had many evidences of the hand of the Lord Jesus
Christ in my life, particularly His guidance in my work. On one occasion, I was asked by my company to study the application of
a new computer design to a need of the Air Force. I realized that the task was above my capabilities, because it required
convincing the experts in the Air Force, who knew very little about computers, that this new design of a scientific computer
could do a better job on this supply application than a new business computer just announced by IBM. I consciously asked the
Lord Jesus Christ to help me with the study, and went to work. After about six weeks of intensive effort, I had almost completed
my study, when I was called to the headquarters of the Air Force agency to give a “progress report” (so I was told) to a few of
the headquarters experts. When I arrived, I found that about fifty Air Force experts had been gathered from all over the United
States, and they were expecting a formal presentation. Although I had only my working papers with me, I asked the Lord Jesus
Christ to tell me what to say, and started to explain what I had done. After two hours of uninterrupted presentation, these
experts gave me a standing ovation! I was dumbfounded! Such a thing was unheard of! And all but one recommended that our
computers be acquired, resulting in an order from my company totalling more than $8,000,000.
Why would the Lord Jesus Christ help in such a situation? I did not have to wait long this time for the answer. Largely as a
result of this performance, I was permitted to take a four-month leave of absence from my company, and take my family on a tour
of Europe, Africa, and South America. We visited many Christian missionaries where they were at work among the “heathen”. I
found these missionaries to be without doubt the most wonderful people I had ever met. I thought how I would enjoy helping them
in their work, but not one of them needed a computer expert to assist them, back in 1959!
Slowly, I learned how to allow the Lord to lead me in my every-day life. Because it depended so heavily on my response, this
leading was quite sporadic. I just couldn’t seem to get out of the Lord’s way! But He is so patient and so kind. Gently He would
return me to the path He wanted me to follow each time I would wander from it. Even though He had demonstrated time and again
His willingness to guide me, often I went about each new task on my strength, asking Him for help only when I ran into difficulty.
I am convinced that the Lord wants us to do this to a certain degree. He wants our contribution to be as a co-worker, not as a
puppet. He expects us to make contributions from our brains as well as from our hands and tongues. But He wants to control what
we do, and provides all the necessary resources. But He allows us a great deal of freedom about how we accomplish the task He
has set for us. This should not be surprising. An enlightened military commander does the same thing for his subordinates. He
directs their activities by assigning tasks and providing resources, but allows the subordinate to execute the task in his own
Even though I was becoming increasingly aware of the influence of God in my life, it was far from being a steady-state situation.
It was still more of a mountain-top-and-valley sort of life, with the mountain top of contact with God the occasional thing, and
the valley of self-direction the normal thing. It was much easier to see God’s hand in what had already occurred, than to see it
as it was happening. But the time was coming when the Lord Jesus Christ would more closely direct my every-day life.
Dr. Charles Corwin, a missionary friend from Tokyo home on a short furlough, one day asked me if I could assist him in procuring
a copy of a film he had seen on television. He wanted to use it as a door-opener into Tokyo high schools in order to invite the
students to off-campus evangelistic meetings. Japanese law prohibited any kind of religious meetings in public schools, so he
had to use secular materials. The film in question was a documentary of the lives of men who followed very dange ous occupations.
Immediately I recognized that God had prepared the way for this acquisition by providing me with the opportunity of doing a favor
for the president of American Broadcasting Company’s research division. Had the film been shown on the ABC network? It had. With
the cooperation of this official, we finally obtained permission to purchase the film. Without it, it would have been impossible.
So Doctor Corwin took his film to Tokyo and the Japanese high schools.
Meanwhile the Lord had opened the door for me join NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in a middle management
position. Shortly after joining the Goddard Space Flight Center in May 1967, I began attending the weekly presentation at lunch
time of one of the many excellent films NASA has produced of its work. I wrote to Doctor Corwin about these films, thinking that
he might use them in his student work. As I expected, he was quite enthusiastic. But then he dropped the bombshell that I should
come to Tokyo with the films. How could I possibly do this? I had just taken a new job at two-thirds of my former salary, with no
earned vacation time. and Japan was 10,000 miles away. But I had finally learned that the Lord never leads unless He has fully
prepared the way. So in April 1968, I found myself on a plane bound for Tokyo, with three space films in my suitcase. There I
had the tremendous experience of speaking to thousands of university students, not only about the space program but also about
my meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ. It was then that I made the discovery, since confirmed in many countries around the world,
that once I had convinced my student audience that I was a bona fide space scientist, they would accept my testimony about the
Lord Jesus Christ, usually asking many questions after my presentation.
In May 1969, I returned to Japan, this time to speak in the independent evangelical churches in Tokyo, along with an Australian
evangelist, Milton Wayne. The pastors and congregations of these churches used the combination of space film and space scientist
who was a Christian as the drawing card to attract their pagan friends and relatives to the church. Every meeting was packed,
with many turned away. Some churches reported the largest attendance ever in their history. Milton Wayne presented the claims
of Christ in a simple and persuasive way. In Japan, commitments to Christ are very difficult to obtain, but many people made such
commitments that month.
In October 1971, the Lord made it possible for me to retire from Government service two years sooner than normally possible, in
order for me to use that time in speaking to students and church audiences in many parts of the world, while the moon landings
were still popular. Since I had no contacts anywhere except Doctor Corwin in Tokyo, only the Lord could have arranged the
invitations I have since received and met for meetings in the Caribbean Islands, in Mexico and Guatemala, in Europe, and in the
Far East, more than 25 countries in all, and to give my testimony in person to well over 100,000 people, plus an unknown but
much larger number by radio, television, and news paper interviews. I have found as true as a scientific law the statement in
Scripture, “Seek the Lord, and He will be found.” Every resource needed is always present at the right time, every door
opens when required, even travel delays work to the advantage of the Lord. The more completely I have left my activities to His
direction, the more effective they have been in accomplishing what I believe to be His basic objective in the world: to draw to
Himself those who do not know Him, through the witness of those who do.
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