One giant leap for a man

Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, has died.  Another  Lutheran with an interesting vocation.

UPDATE:  It appears he was NOT Lutheran, identifying himself at one point as a “Deist.”  Thanks to you factcheckers in the comments section.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    Was Armstrong a Lutheran? He seems to have been Deist who was raised a Methodist, according to footnotes accompanying the Wikipedia article on Armstrong:

    109. James R. Hansen (2005). First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. Simon and Schuster. p. 33. ISBN 9780743281713. “It is clear that by the time Armstrong returned from Korea in 1952 he had become a type of deist, a person whose belief in God was founded on reason rather than on revelation, and on an understanding of God’s natural laws rather than on the authority of any particular creed or church doctrine. While working as a test pilot in Southern California in the late 1950s, Armstrong applied at a local Methodist church to lead a Boy Scout troop. Where the form asked for his religious affiliation, Neil wrote the word “Deist.””

    110. James R. Hansen (2005). First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. Simon and Schuster. p. 35. ISBN 9780743281713. “[Neil Armstrong's mother] wrote on October 27, 1969, to a Methodist minister in Iowa … “but when he was a senior in high school, and even more in college, he began wondering about the truth of Jesus Christ. I felt sure he was praying less…. [Today] he is not teaching his own two fine sons about Jesus Christ. This fact causes a million swords to be pierced through my heart constantly.””

    Armstrong’s funeral will be a private, family memorial service held in Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday. No details of the service have been announced. Perhaps we’ll find out more afterwards.

  • Tom Hering

    Was Armstrong a Lutheran? He seems to have been Deist who was raised a Methodist, according to footnotes accompanying the Wikipedia article on Armstrong:

    109. James R. Hansen (2005). First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. Simon and Schuster. p. 33. ISBN 9780743281713. “It is clear that by the time Armstrong returned from Korea in 1952 he had become a type of deist, a person whose belief in God was founded on reason rather than on revelation, and on an understanding of God’s natural laws rather than on the authority of any particular creed or church doctrine. While working as a test pilot in Southern California in the late 1950s, Armstrong applied at a local Methodist church to lead a Boy Scout troop. Where the form asked for his religious affiliation, Neil wrote the word “Deist.””

    110. James R. Hansen (2005). First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. Simon and Schuster. p. 35. ISBN 9780743281713. “[Neil Armstrong's mother] wrote on October 27, 1969, to a Methodist minister in Iowa … “but when he was a senior in high school, and even more in college, he began wondering about the truth of Jesus Christ. I felt sure he was praying less…. [Today] he is not teaching his own two fine sons about Jesus Christ. This fact causes a million swords to be pierced through my heart constantly.””

    Armstrong’s funeral will be a private, family memorial service held in Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday. No details of the service have been announced. Perhaps we’ll find out more afterwards.

  • Michael B.

    Apparently a very humble man as well, despite all of his achievements.

  • Michael B.

    Apparently a very humble man as well, despite all of his achievements.

  • mikeb

    Armstrong was a great hero but not a champion of the faith; everything I’ve seen indicates he was a deist. I suppose he never read Psalm 19.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+19&version=KJV

  • mikeb

    Armstrong was a great hero but not a champion of the faith; everything I’ve seen indicates he was a deist. I suppose he never read Psalm 19.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+19&version=KJV

  • Tom Hering

    The following paragraph in the NYT article that Dr. Veith links to really bugged me:

    A few hours later, there was Mr. Armstrong bundled in a white spacesuit and helmet on the ladder of the landing craft. Planting his feet on the lunar surface, he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (His words would become the subject of a minor historical debate, as to whether he said “man” or an indistinct “a man.”)

    Wasn’t this straightened out a long time ago? Didn’t Armstrong always insist he said “a man”? Well, apparently, the evidence shows he simply flubbed the line he practiced.

  • Tom Hering

    The following paragraph in the NYT article that Dr. Veith links to really bugged me:

    A few hours later, there was Mr. Armstrong bundled in a white spacesuit and helmet on the ladder of the landing craft. Planting his feet on the lunar surface, he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (His words would become the subject of a minor historical debate, as to whether he said “man” or an indistinct “a man.”)

    Wasn’t this straightened out a long time ago? Didn’t Armstrong always insist he said “a man”? Well, apparently, the evidence shows he simply flubbed the line he practiced.

  • Jon

    @3mikeb

    A deist is bases his belief in God on natural law, on the orderliness of the universe.

    Why do you think deist belief is incongruent with Psalm 19, then; “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord, the firmament His handywork”?

  • Jon

    @3mikeb

    A deist is bases his belief in God on natural law, on the orderliness of the universe.

    Why do you think deist belief is incongruent with Psalm 19, then; “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord, the firmament His handywork”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Not a Lutheran.

    Lutherans: stop pretending that celebrities are Lutherans when they’re not. There is no evidence that Armstrong was a Lutheran. There is precious little evidence of what he believed at all. But what there is appears to point to deism, as Tom notes (@1).

    Humorously, there is a persistent rumor among Muslims that Armstrong heard the Muslim call to prayer on the moon and so converted to Islam.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Not a Lutheran.

    Lutherans: stop pretending that celebrities are Lutherans when they’re not. There is no evidence that Armstrong was a Lutheran. There is precious little evidence of what he believed at all. But what there is appears to point to deism, as Tom notes (@1).

    Humorously, there is a persistent rumor among Muslims that Armstrong heard the Muslim call to prayer on the moon and so converted to Islam.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Todd said.

    The drive to find people like yourself (wrt belief, or ethnicity, or whatever) that achieved great things reflects a profound sense of insecurity.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Todd said.

    The drive to find people like yourself (wrt belief, or ethnicity, or whatever) that achieved great things reflects a profound sense of insecurity.

  • SKPeterson

    Anyone who makes even a fleeting contribution to the benefit of mankind, or ventures into space, is declared an honorary Lutheran by act of the Lutheran World Federation. Don’t you guys know anything?

  • SKPeterson

    Anyone who makes even a fleeting contribution to the benefit of mankind, or ventures into space, is declared an honorary Lutheran by act of the Lutheran World Federation. Don’t you guys know anything?

  • mikeb

    Jon @ 5

    Psalm 19 refers to the living God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is presented via Scripture and who can be known by his Word. Deists reject the idea that we can know the Creator in this manner and so, even if they admitted that “the heavens declare the glory of God” based upon natural observation, they still don’t believe in the person whose glory they proclaim, the God who is presented by Scripture, the (one and only) god who we call God, Jehovah, or Yahweh.

    Change the name and you’ll see what I mean: “The heavens declare the glory of the ‘Great, Universal, Unnamed, Deity.’”

  • mikeb

    Jon @ 5

    Psalm 19 refers to the living God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is presented via Scripture and who can be known by his Word. Deists reject the idea that we can know the Creator in this manner and so, even if they admitted that “the heavens declare the glory of God” based upon natural observation, they still don’t believe in the person whose glory they proclaim, the God who is presented by Scripture, the (one and only) god who we call God, Jehovah, or Yahweh.

    Change the name and you’ll see what I mean: “The heavens declare the glory of the ‘Great, Universal, Unnamed, Deity.’”

  • Jon

    @9mikeb

    But, Mike, your earlier supposition that he never read Psalm 19, or wouldn’t appreciate it or perhaps not agree with it, because he’s a deist doesn’t really follow, or at least it’s not supported.

  • Jon

    @9mikeb

    But, Mike, your earlier supposition that he never read Psalm 19, or wouldn’t appreciate it or perhaps not agree with it, because he’s a deist doesn’t really follow, or at least it’s not supported.

  • Jon

    OK, so where’d the Lutheran connection come from? Nothing I’ve found hints at it.

  • Jon

    OK, so where’d the Lutheran connection come from? Nothing I’ve found hints at it.

  • Tom Hering

    Armstrong just couldn’t have been Lutheran:

    Before leaving the Apollo 11 moon-landing module, U.S. astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin [a Presbyterian] took a Christian Communion, including a wafer and a thimbleful of wine from a kit prepared by his pastor. Neil Armstrong “watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time,” Aldrin recalled. (National Geographic News)

    As we all know from our discussions here, no true Lutheran can resist saying something – nay, a lot! – when faced with a merely symbolic Lord’s Supper.

  • Tom Hering

    Armstrong just couldn’t have been Lutheran:

    Before leaving the Apollo 11 moon-landing module, U.S. astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin [a Presbyterian] took a Christian Communion, including a wafer and a thimbleful of wine from a kit prepared by his pastor. Neil Armstrong “watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time,” Aldrin recalled. (National Geographic News)

    As we all know from our discussions here, no true Lutheran can resist saying something – nay, a lot! – when faced with a merely symbolic Lord’s Supper.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom, ha! (I would’ve “liked” your comment, but…)

    Jon, it’s weird. Veith linked to Ask.com, which itself points to three URLs as possible sources for an answer as to Armstrong’s faith. Two of those point to wiki-sourced Answers.com. Which, in short, is a joke. I’ve poked around on Answers.com, and the short answer is that an anonymous contributor to that site appears to have invented the Lutheran thing out of whole cloth. No citations (of course not, it’s Answers.com), no justification. Curiously, the answerer appears to have been Muslim, as he wrote:

    He is Lutheran. Many people believe that he is a muslim, because he discovered radioactivity coming from Mecca. Even though this is true, he was a Lutheran Christian.

    Which refers to part of the Muslim Armstrong myth, about his discovering special things about Mecca on his journey.

    Anyhow, it’s all gone now. Since it’s a wiki, I edited the answer myself. So now this page is the main Internet source for the claim that Armstrong was Lutheran.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom, ha! (I would’ve “liked” your comment, but…)

    Jon, it’s weird. Veith linked to Ask.com, which itself points to three URLs as possible sources for an answer as to Armstrong’s faith. Two of those point to wiki-sourced Answers.com. Which, in short, is a joke. I’ve poked around on Answers.com, and the short answer is that an anonymous contributor to that site appears to have invented the Lutheran thing out of whole cloth. No citations (of course not, it’s Answers.com), no justification. Curiously, the answerer appears to have been Muslim, as he wrote:

    He is Lutheran. Many people believe that he is a muslim, because he discovered radioactivity coming from Mecca. Even though this is true, he was a Lutheran Christian.

    Which refers to part of the Muslim Armstrong myth, about his discovering special things about Mecca on his journey.

    Anyhow, it’s all gone now. Since it’s a wiki, I edited the answer myself. So now this page is the main Internet source for the claim that Armstrong was Lutheran.

  • mikeb

    Jon @ 10

    It’s called rhetoric.

  • mikeb

    Jon @ 10

    It’s called rhetoric.


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