In reliving the historic Apollo 11 moon landing this past week (see the PBS American Experience, Chasing the Moon film), it came to mind that the Apollo 11 team of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins would never have made it there, if it had not been for the rocketry skills of Wernher Von Braun. In his earlier years, Von Braun built rockets, for Adolph Hitler, that threatened the city of London, during the latter stages of World War 2.
A former Nazi, Wernher Von Braun came to the United States, to eventually gain the confidence of President John F. Kennedy, encouraging that the Americans could actually beat the Russians to the moon. Von Braun’s Saturn V rocket sent the astronauts to the moon, to make their historic, televised visit, on July 20, 1969.
Towards the last portion of his life, Von Braun revealed that he believed in God, and that God’s design could be seen in creation. So, it would appear that Wernher Von Braun was a “Creationist.” But what kind of “Creationist” was he? Was he a Young Earth Creationist? An Old Earth Creationist? Or an Evolutionary Creationist?
Many Christians are deeply divided on this issue.
Both the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis, make the claim that Von Braun was indeed a Young Earth Creationist. Such sources contend that Von Braun criticized the teaching of evolution only in public schools. In defense of his view, Von Braun stated in a letter, that was read in a California court case, over Young Earth Creation being taught in schools:
- ‘for the amazing string of successes we had with our Apollo flights to the moon … was that we tried to never overlook anything. It is in that same sense of scientific honesty that I endorse the presentation of alternative theories for the origin of the universe, life and man in the science classroom. It would be an error to overlook the possibility that the universe was planned rather than happening by chance’
It would appear, also, that Von Braun did write a forward to a book, endorsing Young Earth Creationism. But as a blogger for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports, Von Braun later clarified the meaning of this letter:
- “1. If fundamentalistic religion means belief that the book of Genesis gives a correct scientific account of how the world came into being; that 4004 BC is the date of the origin of the earth, and that all living things were “created” in their final form rather than developed through evolutionary, “survival-of-the-fittest” processes, then I am most emphatically not a believer in fundamental religion.
- 2. If, however, the question is whether behind the many random processes which are operating in nature, there is a “divine intent”, my answer is an equally emphatic “yes.” With this position I am only sharing and accepting the views expressed by giants of science such as Newton, Kepler, Faraday, Pascal[,] and Einstein.”
It would appear that the Young Earth Creationist claim, of Von Braun believing in an earth that is less that 6,000 years old, is complicated by Von Braun’s later clarification. He would more than likely be somewhere between an Old Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationism.
Either way, Von Braun was clearly a “Creationist,” in the sense that he was a Christian. But the specific belief he held, as to the age of the earth, along with the related age of the universe, where the scientific consensus holds as being about 13.799 billion years old, and not 6,000 years old, according to Young Earth Creationists, appears to have been in some measure of flux, during his life.
But something tells me that the specific details of Von Braun’s beliefs, and their relationship with the beliefs of most scientists today, who hold to the scientific consensus, might not gain that much interest among many Christians today, at least, not as much as it should. Yet perhaps, it is better to focus on the fundamental belief that God created the universe, the “who” of Creation, and not get so hung up on the exact timing and mechanical detail as to how God created the universe.
I take to heart, that the inventor of the awe-inspiring, massive Saturn V rocket, that put a “man on the moon,” looked to the God of the Bible, for his own inspiration.