Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 21, PAGE 1-3a

September 29: 1966

The Faith Of A Scientist

Werner Von Braun

("Editor's note: Dr. Werner von Braun, director of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is one of the world's leading rocket authorities and space scientists. In the following article, Von Braun gives his thoughts on "the two civilizations today" - science and religion. This article was obtained through N. A. N. A. 's religion editor, Roland Gammon.)

The two most powerful forces shaping our civilization today are science and religion. Through science, man strives to learn more of the mysteries of creation. Through religion, he seeks to know the Creator.

Neither operates independently. It is as difficult for me to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science. Far from being independent or opposing forces, science and religion are sisters. Both seek a better world. While science seeks control over the forces of nature around us, religion controls the forces of nature within us.

As we learn more and more about nature, we become more deeply impressed and humbled by its orderliness and unerring perfection. Our expanding knowledge of the laws of the universe has enabled us to send men out of their natural environment into the strange new environment of space and return them safely to earth.

Vastness Of Space

Manned space flight is an amazing achievement. But it has opened for us thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. Our outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe only confirms our belief in the certainty of its Creator. Finite man cannot comprehend an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and infinite God. Any effort to visualize God, to reduce Him to our comprehension, to describe Him in our language, beggars His greatness.

I find it best through faith to accept God as an intelligent will, perfect in goodness, revealing himself in the world of experience more fully down through the ages, as man's capacity for understanding grows. For spiritual comfort, I find assurance in the concept of the Fatherhood of God. For ethical guidance, I rely on the corollary concept of the Brotherhood of Man.

Scientists now believe that in nature, matter cannot be destroyed without being converted into energy.

Not even the tiniest particle can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction--only transformation. Would God have less regard for his masterpiece of creation, the human soul?


Immortality, to me, is the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Since the dawn of history, man has believed in immortality. This credo has been an essential element of many primitive cultures and it has been retained in the religions and philosophies of more enlightened ones.

Its meaning far transcends dialectic pronouncements by philosophers and theologians about what we can expect after our departure from this world. Since time immemorial, the concept of immortality has exerted a profound influence on the lives of uncounted millions.

Soul Distinguishes Man

His soul is what distinguishes man from beast. An animal's actions are solely controlled by its basic urges such as hunger, fear, love, and need for shelter. These urges set upon the animal's glands, and his response to the glandular impulses is entirely automatic. In an animal's makeup, there is no room for freedom of the will, for searching curiosity, for freedom of doubt and conflict between urges and ethical standards. An animal does not know that mysterious little needle, called conscience, that tells us what is right and what is wrong. Only man has been burdened with the conflicts arising out of being an image of God cast into the form of an animal. And only man has been bestowed with a soul which enables him to cope with the eternal problems arising out of this conflict.

Intellectual Adventure

Today, thousands of scientists all over the world are engaged in the greatest intellectual adventure ever undertaken by man: Attempting to understand the origin and functioning of a physical universe that is vast in space and time, complicated in detail, and awesome in its orderliness.

Thus, to say that science's only purpose is trying to discover physical laws to increase man's control over the forces of nature is no longer an adequate explanation of science's goal; for, the concept of science itself has grown. The raw material of science attempts to build a model of time, space, and matter. When new knowledge is discovered, the old model is not discarded; it is simply changed according to the pattern of relationships which the scientist finds in this set of experiences.

By his willingness to change his model or his concepts, the scientist is simply admitting that he makes no claim to possessing ultimate truth. His scientific laws are essentially descriptions of his observations. Scientific laws do not control reality but merely try to explain it; therefore, the laws may be changed when new knowledge is revealed.

New Frontiers

Scientific discoveries have come at an ever-increasing pace, for the truth is not static. For every new answer, a dozen new questions spring up, Science is facing wide open frontiers in many fields; the atomic nucleus is becoming more and more enigmatic; the origin and structure of the universe are still shrouded in mystery; and the exact bodily functions of living organisms still evade complete understanding. The Golden Age of Science is still ahead of us.

The scientist works in an atmosphere where doubt is an accepted way of life, and unnecessary authority rejected. Thomas Huxley has said of the scientist:

"For him skepticism is the highest of duties, blind faith the unpardonable sin."

The rise of science has been accompanied by a loss of tradition, which has been the mainstay of faith. Clashes between science and religion have, therefore, been frequent. And yet, it is one of the greatest tragedies of our times that science and religion have been cast as antagonists. To resolve the conflict, it has been tempting to adopt a policy of peaceful co-existence, and divide our experience into two parts, granting science control over one part, and permitting religion its authority in the other.

Let science investigate the physical world while religion explains spiritual matters, this argument goes. When science gets to the end of its rope, let faith take over to account for the unexplainable. This is a fatal step. Two separate worlds for science and religion might work if no scientist were ever a Christian, and no Christian were ever a scientist. But science and religion do not operate in separate realms.


You cannot build a wall between science and religion. As science explains more of the intriguing mysteries of life and the universe, its realms expand into those areas which previously were either unknown or accepted solely by faith. Every experience we have--physical or spiritual--must fit together into a pattern that is credible and meaningful. Man is the observer of the universe, the experimenter, the searcher for truth, but he is not spectator alone. He is the highest product of that creation. And he is directly affected as more and more of the wonders of that creation are unveiled.

Science and religion may be compared to two windows in a house, through which we may observe the world about us--or our neighbors. (And there are other windows, such as art, literature, and history.) Whatever we observe through any of the windows it this allegorical house must fit into our model of the universe and our place in it. If it does not fit, we must revise our model, change our thinking, broader our understanding of creation.

In our modern world many people seem to feel that our rapid advances in the field of science render such things as religious beliefs untimely or old-fashioned, They wonder why we should be satisfied in "believing" something when science tells us that we "know" so many things. The simple answer to this contention is that we know many more mysteries of nature today than when the Age of Science Enlightenment began. There is certainly no scientific reason why God cannot retain the same position in our modern world that He held before we began probing His creation with telescope and cyclotron.

While science is not a religion, it is a religious activity by its presuppositions, its method of working and its search for truth. The Creator is revealed through His creation. As Charles A. Coulson says, "Science is helping to put a face on God." We should remember that science exists only because there are people, and its concepts exist only in the minds of men. Behind these concepts lies reality--revealed to us only by the grace of God.

Gift Of Life

Each person receives a gift of life on this earth. A belief in the continuity of spiritual existence, after the comparative mere flick of three score and ten years of physical life here in the endless cycle of eternity, makes the action of each moment life an investment with far reaching dividends. The knowledge that man can choose between good and evil should draw him closer to his Creator. Next, the realization should dawn that his survival here and hereafter depends on his adherence to the spiritual rather than the scientific.