With the aid of science, the kingdom of God is gradually evolving and forming a mature civilization on earth. For centuries Christians have been repeating in the Lord's prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and now it is easier to see it happening.
How Science Aided the
Spread of the Gospel
Dr. Robert C. Frank
Professor Emeritus of Physics
at Augustana College
Christians Have Grown in Numbers
• The followers of Jesus have grown from a small number in the
middle east in the first century to over two billion spread over
the entire earth today.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
• The spread of the gospel involved the work of the Holy
Spirit. Using a phrase from Luther’s catechism, the work
of the Holy Spirit is to “call, gather, enlighten, and
sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth.”
• During the long history of Christianity, science has remained a
silent partner in the background in the spread of the gospel.
Its role in that capacity has been rarely acknowledged.
• For a very long period the spread of the gospel depended
upon people gathering and talking person to person. That
• Jesus and the Apostle Paul traveled mostly by walking or
riding on beasts of burden. Paul occasionally traveled by boat.
Transportation On Water
• Sailing ships were used from ancient times until the 18th
century when steamships were developed.
• Early missionaries from Europe came to the Americas mainly
by sailing ships. Later missionaries traveled from the Americas
to Africa on steamships. Steam engines involved the science
• In the 20th century, diesel engines replaced steam engines on
Transportation on Land
• From ancient times until the 20th century humans walked or
rode animals to get from one place to another on land.
• Automobiles driven by gasoline engines were developed at
the beginning of the 20th century and are the major form of
land transportation today. Gasoline and diesel engines also
involved the science of thermodynamics.
• Rail transportation was first introduced in England for travel
on land at the beginning of the 19th century using steam
• By 1890 electric power became practical for city trollies and
some city to city travel. Later, in the 1940’s, diesel engines
were found to be even more useful.
Transportation by Air
• The first practical applications of air transportation began at
the beginning of the 20th century with planes designed by the
Wright brothers and others. Air transportation involves the
science of fluid dynamics.
• Charles Lindbergh made the first flight across the Atlantic in
1927 opening the way for intercontinental travel.
• The advantage of air transportation was that you could go
anywhere without highways or rails. Only landing strips were
How Improvements in Transportation Benefitted
the Spread of the Gospel
• Advancements in land and air transportation improved the
ability of Christians to meet face to face either for worship
services or for holding meetings to work out differences in
• Christians could travel to meetings much easier and faster.
• Advancements in communication had the greatest effect on
the spread of the gospel because the story could be told
without face to face contact.
• It is also in communication that science has had its greatest
The Printing Press
• The printing press was invented by Johannes Guttenberg in
about 1450 CE. Copies of written material could be shared
with many more people.
• The availability of printed documents facilitated the
Reformation which took place in the 16th century. Information
spread much more rapidly.
Printed Copies of the Bible
• The first mechanically printed Bible was prepared by
Gutenberg in about 1455. It was in Latin and printed in color.
• Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament in German
was published in 1522 and the complete Bible in German was
published in 1534 with the help of others.
• The popular King James English version of the Bible was
published in 1611. Today the Bible is easily available to all
people in many versions and languages.
Telephones and Radio
• The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the
1870’s and permitted the electrical transmission of the human
voice over long distances, but it required wires.
• Radio transmission became practical at the beginning of the
20th century and was a major advancement because it did not
Electromagnetic Waves and Radio
• It was the scientific research of Hans Christian Oersted,
Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th century
that provided the knowledge of the behavior of
electromagnetic waves used in radio, television and our
modern wireless cell phones.
Evangelism by Radio and Television
• In the 1920’s and 30’s a number of preachers with unusual
speaking talent began to broadcast their sermons over the
• Among the more famous were Aimee Semple McPherson,
Father Charles Coughlin, Charles E. Fuller, and Ralph Sockman.
• In the 1950’s when television became available, other’s who
took advantage of it to reach larger audiences were Rex
Humbard, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and Oral Roberts.
A Major Turning Point in Science
• The development of the transistor in the late 1940’s may
be considered the most important invention of the 20th
• It focused attention on the atomic properties of solid
• Shortly after the transistor was invented scientists and
engineers began creating tiny electrical circuits embedded
in solid materials. They are called microchips. The electrical
circuits created in the microchips became smaller and
smaller and more reliable.
• Microchips are now used in radios, TV sets, computers, cell
phones, and control devices.
• The tiny electrical circuits in microchips could be used to
control rockets that placed satellites in orbit around the earth.
• At certain distances above the earth, the satellites remained
stationary over specific locations on the earth.
• They could thus be used as relay stations for radio and
television waves that traveled in straight lines.
• The communication satellites in fixed orbits made it possible
to use radio and television to communicate between various
points on the spherical earth.
• Gradually small computers with incredible memory and word
and image processing capability were developed and used for
• A computer network called ARPANET was originally set up to
connect computers for military purposes, but as computers
became available for home and commercial purposes
networking quickly became useful for connecting any and all
• Eventually the Internet carrying text, voice, and images was
developed in the 1990’s as a network to connect computers
all over the world.
• Less than a decade ago, the availability of small computers
made electronic books available. eBook readers like the Kindle
and Nook are shaped like tablets but have faces that can
display text. The pages are easily turned by hand movement.
• The eBook readers can be carried in one hand while having
storage capacity for a large library of books.
• The availability of eBook readers makes it possible for pastors
to carry four or five entire Bibles with them at all times as well
as a variety of commentaries.
• Once eBook readers were developed and small portable cell
phones were available, it was only a small step to insert an
entire computer in the cell phone.
• This made it possible to not only send email or text messages
and pictures, but also to interact with the entire Internet and
download material for research purposes.
• The cell phone can then also be used as an eBook reader and
entire Bibles carried on your telephone.
Web Sites for Church Congregations
• Most church congregations in the US and in many foreign
countries have web sites that keep their members as well as
outsiders informed about their activities.
The Christianity-Science Relationship
• We have seen that for a very long time the effective spread of
the gospel has been aided by advancements in science and
• Without the improvements produced by science and
technology, Christianity would be as limited as it was in the
• Scientific research, however, has also required the teamwork
taught by Christianity. So the relationship is vital to both.
Christianity, Science and Education
• The Christianity-science relationship has also had an
important role in the evolution of education.
• Luther and other reformers wanted everyone to learn how to
read the Bible and the printing press made that possible so
education increased much more rapidly.
• Today television, computers, and the Internet have increased
the capacity of everyone to learn new things more quickly and
people are learning from each other.
Isn’t it Time to Recognize the
Importance of the Relationship?
• Since science has had such an important role in the spread of
the gospel as well as in the relief of suffering, it seems natural
for me to think of science as a gift from God. Perhaps it is
time for Christianity as a whole to do so as well.
The Growth of the Kingdom of God
• Jesus’ comparison of the kingdom of God with a growing
mustard plant implies that he expected it to grow very large
over a period of time.
• For two thousand years Christians have repeated the Lord’s
prayer saying, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on
earth as it is in heaven” and now with the aid of science it is
easier to see it happening.
We Can See the Promised Land
• We can see, in the distant future, a civilization in which
everyone lives in peace and every human life is able to
achieve its maximum potential, but we are not there yet.
• There is still much work for all of us to do! Christ’s Team needs
us and we all need the benefits of science.