Heaven is used in three different ways in the Bible.
One is the sky we see, our atmosphere.
I will destroy humanity whom I have created from the face of the earth, both humans and beasts, creeping thing, and birds of heaven - Genesis 6:7 (NKJ)
And he [Elijah] prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced fruit - James 5:18 (NKJ)
The other is what is often referred to as “outer space”
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matthew 24:29 (NKJ)
And take heed, lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage (Deuteronomy 4:19).
The third is the heaven available to us after death.
I will be discussing the first two heavens, both created by God.
Two of the frequent themes of this blog are the relationships between Christianity and science and Christianity and the arts. These two pairs used to often operate not only in harmony but with a similar worldview in the past. Unfortunately, it seems lately that both science and the arts conflict with Christianity. Too many think that Christianity is opposed to both science and the arts, and that both should be opposed to Christianity. In fact, according to an article by Christianity Today,
“The three men were the first to leave Earth’s orbit and reach humanity’s nearest neighbor in space. The awe of the moment was acknowledged with the reading of the first 10 verses of the King James Bible. The words thrilled many, caused a bit of controversy, and confused those who couldn’t see the connection between the greatest scientific adventure of the modern era and an ancient religious text”
These quotes from two of the astronauts I think have spiritual aspects to them-
In this way, humans first recorded their home planet from another world. 'It was,' Borman later recalled, 'the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life, one that sent a torrent of nostalgia, of sheer homesickness, surging through me. It was the only thing in space that had any colour to it. Everything else was either black or white. But not the Earth.' Or as Lovell put it, our home world is simply 'a grand oasis'.
This blog is about the decision of Frank Borman to read Bible verses from space. He was one of three astronauts who in 1968 were the first people to orbit the moon in Apollo 8. He died just this past November at the age of 95. He was described by all as an unassuming man, who according to Wikipedia a psychiatrist said he was the less complicated man he had ever met. Mr. Borman was raised as a Christian and maintained his faith throughout his adult life. According to the same article quoted above from Christianity Today, this was how he felt before the mission.
“In the days before the flight, Borman found himself overwhelmed by the thought he might die in space. He turned to his faith for help. He was raised Episcopalian and remained in the church into adulthood. His Christianity was, by all accounts, simple and faithful. He attended church and prayed regularly, and in the midst of his anxiety, he committed his wife and children to God and asked for the strength to focus on the mission”
“I didn’t want to be a heroic casualty in man’s conquest of space,” he recalled. “I wanted to be a living, breathing husband and father.”
Frank Borman was told that he would be broadcasting from space on Christmas Eve to people here on Earth. He did not know what to say and according to the same article above he asked a friend who in turn asked his wife. Her name was Christine H. Laitin and here is some of her story in relation to Borman’s decision to read the beginning of Genesis as his Christmas Eve message to earth.
“Christine H. Laitin, 65, a former ballerina and member of the French Resistance who helped write a famous Christmas message from Apollo astronauts on a voyage to the moon, died of lung ailments April 5 at her home in Bethesda.
Mrs. Laitin was born in Paris and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and the Sorbonne. During World War II, she danced at the ABC Ballet in Paris and took part in the resistance to the German occupation. On Dec. 21, 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell and William A. Anders were scheduled to take Apollo 8 on a six-day voyage that would include the first trip around the moon. Borman was asked to read a Christmas message during the flight, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration estimated that it would reach the "biggest audience ever to hear the human voice up to that time." . . .The question was what to say. The astronaut felt that his own efforts to write something sounded like an apology for U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Joseph Laitin, then an official of what is now the Office of Management and Budget, was enlisted in the effort but soon found he had the same difficulty that Borman did. Enter Mrs. Laitin, who found her husband sitting at their kitchen table at 3 a.m. surrounded by crumpled drafts. When he explained what he was trying to do, she suggested the first verses of the Book of Genesis in the Bible: "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth . . . ."Her husband took the idea and added a simple closing: "And God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth. “Borman thought the message had the majesty and universal quality he was looking for, and he read it to the world on Christmas Eve 1968. He credited Mrs. Laitin in accounts of the mission.”
I end with a video from the John 10:10 Project, who I have used many times in this blog. It is about that flight and contains a reading from Genesis that the three astronauts read on Christmas Eve while orbiting the moon