Survey the historical background of the Sermons from Science series, covering the origins and development of both Sermons from Science and its associated ministry, Moody Institute of Science (Now Discovery Media).
As a child, Irwin Moon had an intense interest in science. That interest found an outlet in the science-based practical jokes played upon family and friends. The long-suffering victims of his pranks took it for granted he would never swerve from his dream of becoming a physicist. However, Moon turned down a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League school to serve God as a pastor.
Irwin A. Moon
As the pastor of a California church, Moon sought a practical, exciting way to communicate biblical principles to the young people of his congregation. He called upon his love of science for the answer. In 1931 Moon began using science experiments to unfold a world of chemical, physical and biological wonders to his congregation. His theme demonstrated that the marvels of science provide the visible evidence of a Divine plan of creation. In his approach, the parable method of communicating truth became wedded with the technological advances of the day.
Moon began receiving requests from other churches to present these illustrated lectures, and in 1937 he resigned his pastorate to give full attention to his "SFS." He presented the programs in large civic auditoriums and on university campuses.
In 1938 Moon began traveling full-time as evangelist using his SFS under the auspices of Moody Bible Institute. The next year, with the help of businessmen from San Francisco, a SFS pavilion was built at the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair.
Irwin Moon "makes" metal float in space
For nine months, Moon presented up to eight demonstrations each day, seven days a week. The crowds were so large that demonstrations began hours prior to the scheduled time because early arrivals had filled the auditorium while others waited outside. With more than two tons of equipment, most of it homemade, Moon performed such wonders as frying an egg on a cold stove, lighting a bulb on his bare fingers, and allowing one million volts of electricity to smash through his body. Following the presentation he asked, "Can you believe these miracles are the result of chance or accident? Or are they part of a divine pattern?"
When war broke out in 1941, Moon began working among servicemen on military bases. For five years he traveled from base to base ministering to young GIs before they left for combat assignments overseas. During those days he also saw the impact that military training films had on the soldiers. He determined that his effectiveness could be broader if he put the Sermons
from Science concept to work through film. He filmed several of his platform demonstrations as well as other wonders of science too impractical for a stage presentation. Using his bathroom as a laboratory and his bedroom as the studio, Moon produced two films.
In 1945 the Moody Institute of Science was founded with a two-pronged approach to ministry, film presentations and live demonstrations. Operating on a shoestring budget, the Moody Institute of Science staff would remodel war surplus material, and invent and build the equipment needed to accomplish their goals. Time after time they would accomplish the impossible, not knowing that "professionals" considered it impossible.
In 1948, the SFS films were first made available to military chaplains. Today chaplains in all branches of the Armed Services use the films as a significant part of their ministry. With the current and classic works now on video, these films are available for home use. Many of the MIS films and videos have won national and international awards and recognitions.
In 1946, George Speake, a former navy pilot and mechanical engineer, took over the live platform demonstrations, freeing Moon to concentrate on the film ministry. For 29 years Speake challenged audiences with their need for Christ. He was especially effective with military audiences and SFS contributed significantly to the spiritual awareness of military installations.
Dean Ortner assumed the role of SFS emcee in 1976. In addition to ministering in military and civilian settings, Ortner continues to design, build, and update the SFS equipment. Today he employs such contemporary devices as computers and lasers while retaining some of the classic wonders such as the trademark Million Volt Demonstration.
Crowds line up at New York World's Fair
More than 6 million people have seen SFS since statistics
started being kept in 1949. In addition to the San Francisco World's fair
in 1939, SFS and Moody Institute of Science have been
involved in evangelistic outreaches at the Seattle World's Fair (1962),
New York World's Fair (1964-65), Montreal World's Fair (1967), Munich Olympics
(1972), Spokane World's Fair (1974), Montreal Olympics (1976) and Atlanta
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