Sermons from Science

By: Jim Virkler; ©2009

“God of the Atom” was one of my many experiences with Moody Science Films beginning in the 1940s. The films were an outgrowth of the ministry of the visionary Dr. Irwin A. Moon, a California pastor who had used effective object lessons from science back in the 1930s. He began an evangelistic outreach with Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1938 called “Sermons from Science.” The Moody Institute of Science was founded in 1945 with live demonstrations and film productions. Many skillfully crafted science films were produced over the next decade or two, such as Red River of Life, City of the Bees, God of Creation, and Time and Eternity. Their popularity is legendary.

In the 1950s and 1960s the films were marketed not only to churches, but also to public schools, industry, and the military, where in our day, the mention of religious themes may generate a storm of protest. In 1948, President Truman appointed the “President’s Commission on Religion and Welfare in the Armed Forces.” An agreement was made with Moody to use the films in military character guidance programs. At the time, the Secretary of the Army cited their obligation “to the parents of the youthful soldier to continue insofar as possible under the conditions of military service, the wholesome influences of the home, the family, and the community.” By 1951, 200,000 military personnel were watching Moody science films each year. A Supreme Court Decision in 1962 ended the practice.

According to reviewers of modern Moody science film DVD reproductions I consulted, Irwin Moon “believed that the marvels of science provided visible evidence of a divine plan of creation…a glimpse of the natural world so complex that it could only be explained, according to the films’ narrators, through the existence of a higher power or intelligent designer.” Another reviewer, after showing the DVD remakes to his children “knew that the films would cultivate a taste for beauty, a love of science, and a sound theological perspective on the Creator.” Still another writer decries the fact that modern educational programs tend to bombard children with a visual assault of flashy scenes, distracting sound effects, and obnoxious or irreverent dialogue.” Having experienced these Moody Science classics six decades ago, and having used them in church and once or twice in my public school science classes, I attest to their high quality and faith-strengthening, spiritual value.

There is a sad irony to my conclusion. Beginning roughly fifty years ago, after the Moody science films had been produced, our knowledge in the fields of genetics, cosmology, medicine, oceanography, and technology, to mention a few, have all undergone startling changes. New discoveries in these fields have proliferated exponentially. One would think, therefore, that public confidence in the reality of the Creator who fashioned it all, would also have grown exponentially. Alas! Not so. Many have become jaded to scientific discoveries. Our culture is more secular than ever. Materialism deflects us from the simple joys of God-awareness. We battle boredom, frustration, and time constraints in a society with more material goods at our disposal than ever before. Books on atheism achieve more popularity than warranted.

Psalm 29:2 (NIV) affirms the message of the Moody Institute of Science film classics. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name…” A reading of the next eight verses in Psalm 29 reads like a catalog of natural wonders Dr. Moon presented in the films. Today’s scientific discoveries reveal more and more about multiple natural wonders, flashing through our senses like a vastly enhanced Moody science film.

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