John Glenn’s faith grew stronger in space



By Mark Ellis

John Glenn in 1962
John Glenn in 1962

As an American astronaut he gained heroic stature when he became the first man to orbit the earth aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. Previously, he won five Distinguished Flying Crosses in World War II, and years later went on to become a U.S. Senator from Ohio.

Perhaps less well known is that he was a man of deep Christian faith. Yesterday, when he left the bounds of earth once more at age 95, he passed into the arms of his Savior, Jesus Christ.

He was one of the pioneering astronauts of the Mercury program at a time when space travel was inherently risky. He said he prayed every day during that time. Those prayers were needed on Glenn’s historic first orbits in space.

astrojpg-2e0ab6f2a5044f2eDuring the return on February 20, 1962, Glenn’s heat shield was thought to have come loose and many believed it might fail during re-entry, which would cause Glenn’s capsule to be incinerated in its fiery descent.

Glenn was instructed to take manual control of the capsule and described “a real fireball outside” as he re-entered the atmosphere. Thankfully, his and many other prayers were answered when he splashed down safely in the Caribbean.

Shortly after his flight, he delivered a sermon, “Why I Know There is a God,” that described his enlarged perspective on God as a result of the mission.

In his message, he marveled at the size of the universe. “Our galaxy is some 100,000 light years in diameter…we realize how difficult it is to visualize the tremendous scale of the universe beyond our solar system. The limits of the telescopically observable universe extend at least two billion light years from us in all directions,” he told his listeners in 1962.

Then he expressed awe at discoveries from the microscopic level. “Come back to what we know of atomic particles, the smallest particles known. Atoms have a great similarity to our solar system in that they have electrons rotating about a nucleus in regular patterns.”

“Now what is the point I am making?” he asked. “It is the orderliness of the whole universe about us, from the120217052709-john-glenn-1962-orbit-story-top smallest atomic structure to the most enormous thing we can imagine.”

“Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of their own accord? I can’t believe that. This was a definite plan. This is one big thing in space that shows me there is a God. Some power put all this in orbit and keeps it there.”

For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

A few years later, Glenn became an elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. He attended the National Presbyterian Church as a member of Congress. “I’m a Presbyterian, a Protestant Presbyterian, and I take my religion seriously as a matter of fact,” he once said.

In 1998, Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 mission, becoming, at age 77, the oldest person to travel in space. After that remarkable mission, he told reporters: “Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible. To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs,” he said.


Related: Encounter with Jesus on the moon left astronaut changed


  1. Why is it that so many people like to take an uplifting and inspiring arrticle and then tear down the author or person written about – What soever things are pure, what soever things are of good report – think on these things…

    Lyne – the operative word is “he’s reported” so obviously you don’t know. Aro – what John Glenn saw was a new perspective of created earth – He did not see God…that does not take anything away from his faith….

    How do you think non-Christians react to an article like this when they see these divisive comments below it from other Christians. It’s really sad.

    • EXACTLY, Evon. I’ve wondered that myself many times. If they’re not a Christian, then why oh why are they ON A CHRISTIAN SITE?

    • Evon, Avo was just paraphrasing what Christ said from John 20:29 “Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” “. There was no criticism of Mr. Glenn.

  2. What was a “man of faith” doing in the Democratic party, which supports non-biblical platforms such as killing innocent unborn babies, and supporting the homosexual “marriage” agenda. I also say the same thing about another so-called “man of faith”, Jimmy Carter who in addition to supporting the Democratic agenda, has nothing but praise for the dictator murderer Fidel Castro?

  3. From an outside perspective, we can see that It didn’t matter where people were from, what they had done, or who they used to be; Jesus used all people for the good of His will. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples of people that were used for the greatness of HIS glory.

    Abraham -Was old.
    Elijah – Was suicidal.
    Joseph – Was abused.
    Job – Went bankrupt.
    Moses – Had a speech problem.
    Gideon – Was afraid.
    Samson – Was a womanizer.
    Rahab – Was a prostitute.
    Samaritan Woman – Divorced.
    Noah – Was a Drunk.
    Jeremiah – Was young.
    Jacob – Was a cheater.
    David – Was a murderer.
    Jonah – Ran from God.
    Naomi – Was a widow.
    Peter – Denied Christ three times
    Martha – Worried about everything.
    Zacchaeus – Was small and money hungry.
    The Disciples – Fell asleep while praying.
    Paul – A Pharisee who persecuted Christians before becoming one.

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

    God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called and as you can see, He uses imperfect people to achieve His perfect will.

  4. RL Well said , excellent point! I do believe that a step towards Eternity with HIM comes to those who have Evil in their Souls but with GOD’s direction finally see’s the evil for what it truly is and what is the price to pay. The surrender and change of Soul comes through Free Will given to us by GOD.

    Hebrews 13:21?

  5. Psalm 19:1

    For the choir director: A psalm of David. The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.

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