Moonshot: What Barth, Tillich, and Tozer Thought of the Space Age

CT’s 1958 interview provides some bearing on today’s missions to the sun, Mars and beyond.

It seems like so long ago that a moonshot was just a moonshot. Today, “moonshot” has come to mean an improbable mission—curing cancer, artificial general intelligence, or interstellar flight—a giant leap for mankind. Humanity’s current leap is toward the sun, as the Parker Solar Probe speeds toward its third perihelion—the point in an orbit closest to our home star—in September.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonshot—his one small step on July 20, 1969—it is easy to forget how improbable reaching the moon seemed before we actually did, when a moonshot was just a moonshot, 11 years before at the dawn of the Space Age.

What might pastors and theologians from 60 years ago think about the success of our space missions today? In digging through our archives, we discovered that Christianity Today posed the question, “Moonshot: Its Meaning?” to 25 of the greatest theological minds of 1958, from Karl Barth to C. S. Lewis to Paul Tillich to Emil Brunner, coupled with a lead-off essay by A. W. Tozer, “A Christian Look at the Space Age.”

What does a moonshot mean for a Christian? Reading over the brief interviews today, several themes stand out: How do Christians interpret world events rapidly occurring without misreading their implication for Christians? In contrast to the many horrific events of the 20th century, can space exploration offer a new hope for the world? Or more of the same? And how does space exploration change the way we see people and the way we see God?

We had only just begun to absorb the ramifications of the Nuclear Age when the Soviet’s Sputnik 1 changed the trajectory of our world in the fall of 1957. With …

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