Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Equal time for my critics. A letter to the editor re: the danger of heliocentrism.

One of my readers was thoughtful enough to write-in and critique my column on the dangers of heliocentrism.

Return to universal truth

Regarding Mark Peterson’s column of Feb. 7, using his own statements, his education has yet to begin. (Proverbs 9:10)

Darwin wasn’t the first to teach evolution as a fact. There are many references to this “religion of no god” in the Bible. St. Paul discovered it in the Epicurean culture, in Greek philosophy and elsewhere, however, it wasn’t called “evolution.”

Mr. Peterson stated the truth when he said, “heliocentrism is Biblically false.” However even today we refer to both the sun and the moon as rising and setting. We know the earth rotates on its axis about 1,000 mph at the equator, along with the entire atmosphere. The earth orbits around the sun at about 64,800 mph. It’s been theorized that the sun also is traveling at a tremendous speed.

The entire universe is in the Creator’s hand. He stretched it out to its present form (Isaiah 42:5). Since the God of the Bible created and controls all things, He can and did do anything He wanted to. What difference does it make as whether the earth or the sun is the center of the universe when the universe extends to infinity? Where is the center of infinity?

The lies of humanistic religion (evolution) are taught as fact in our schools, even though evolution has been disproved many times. Religion hasn’t been taken out of the schools – Christianity has. Why do public schools have so many problems with discipline, cheating and disrespect? Christian schools have almost no such problems because they teach the word of God. Christian students graduate knowing they are worth something and didn’t just come from primordial slime.

If you want some good science, look in the Bible. It is filled with scientific facts that have not changed since the triune God instituted them.

Fredric Schille
West Bend

I'm completely unsure how to respond.



Other Side said...

Whew. It would be best not to.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Fredric Schille is treating the Bible as if it were a science textbook. The Bible is not a science textbook, and it was never meant to be read as a book that teaches literal scientific truths.

The Bible is a book about Salvation History, and it has to be remembered that the Bible can only be properly understood when read as a book of Salvation History.

Moreover, the authors of the sacred books in the Bible sometimes used literary devices and figures of speech when teaching about Salvation History. We use these same common figures of speech today. For example, when the weatherman says the sun will rise at 6:00 tomorrow morning, we don't accuse the weatherman of some great scientific blunder. If a biblical author mentions something about the earth's or the sun's movements, we should not assume that author is making some truth claim about astronomical science.

We would never expect a book of poetry to teach us the literal truths of science. A book about Salvation History, even if divinely-inspired, cannot be expected to provide literally true science lessons either.

Mpeterson said...

Thanks for your comment, but how do you distinguish science from religion, and where do you think Mr. Schille is mistaken about this difference?

For me it's always seemed pretty clear and I've simply never understood why people have the point of view expressed in Mr. Schille's letter.


Anonymous said...

When using the word "science" here, I am referring to the branch of knowledge that includes the physical and biological sciences.

In using the word "religion," I am referring to the branch of knowledge that includes the things of God, His existence, and His work through Salvation History. A few things about God can be discovered through the use of human reason alone (philosophical proofs of God's existence, etc.). Building upon what man can know naturally and sometimes only dimly through natural revelation, God has revealed Himself in supernatural ways (the Bible, in the Person of Christ, and in the Church) so that every person can more easily understand God and His plans.

God's revelation of Himself in the Scriptures can be said to be entirely true when we realize the Bible is a book about Salvation History. The Bible is always true in the order of salvation history, according to the Church that collected the books of the Bible and has interpreted the Bible for 2000 years. The exact scientific and historical details contained in the Bible might not always be entirely accurate in the order of secular history or science, but that should not raise a problem for us. Again, individual stories in the Bible were not always meant to re-tell in exact and accurate detail the literal history of the Middle East or the literal truths of the physical and biological sciences.

Having said that, there are stories in the Bible that are also historically accurate in the order of secular history. After all, a book about Salvation History that revolves around the Person of Christ and what He actually did on Earth is going to have many accounts that are true in the order of secular history. The secular history of Christ and His real work on Earth are intimately tied up to the order of truths in Salvation History.

The accounts in the Gospels are mostly accurate. We assume this for many reasons, but I will just name a few here: The Gospels are based on numerous eyewitness accounts. The Gospels were written close to the time of Christ. Secular history corroborates the events recorded in the Gospels. As a culture we believe many facts about secular history that have much less hard evidence than the evidence we have for the Gospels being reliable accounts. If someone, for example, questions the idea of Christ working miracles in the Bible, it is not that the account in the Bible is necessarily wrong. The person refusing to believe the miracle accounts might just have a bias against the idea of a God who can suspend the laws of nature, etc. The person might be a materialist who believes only in what can be seen or touched. We know things exist that cannot be merely seen or touched. Love, conscience, and virtue are a few examples.

How do we know whether or not an author intended to convey literal truths about science or historical events like in the Gospels?

First, subject the passage to the historical-critical method, as you would any other book. What did the author intend to convey? What literary form did the author use? Who was the author addressing? Using this method, for example, we can see that the author of the Book of Genesis was more interested in telling about Who created the world and His omnipotence than exactly how God created the world or how long it took in strict scientific terms, etc. Using the historical-critical method, we see the authors of the Gospels intended to give a real account of the life of Christ.

I think Mr. Schille has good intentions, but he is mistaken when he tries to insist that the Bible is a good source for scientific information. The Bible may or may not be a good source of scientific information. A scientific claim mentioned in the Bible can really only be classified as a real piece of true science if it fits with what our human reason has discovered about science. God revealed Himself in the Bible, but God also created the human person with a rational intellect to learn the truths of science. It's unfair to the Bible to insist that it should contain accurate scientific accounts when it never intended to do that. In fact, often a biblical account of an event that is not literally true scientifically can better bring out the real and basic truths of Salvation History. How many people would want to read a book about God and His Works that reads like an engineering manual or a science textbook?

A Cardinal of the Catholic Church once said, "The Bible is a book about how to go to Heaven. It is not a book about how the Heavens go."

Mpeterson said...

Thank you so much for this thoughtful account. It dovetails closely with what is now the Vatican position on evolution: that it serves as a scientifically based account of the physical existence of humans without contradicting religious accounts of spiritual life found in faith and scripture.

As for whether we can know anything at all "supernaturally" -- well, that's a point of 4000 years of debate so, maybe a blog isn't the best place to take it up. ;^)

If you haven't read it, you might enjoy Elaine Pagel's (the classicist and New Testament scholar) book "Beyond Belief" which details the history of what became the New Testament -- in particular on the choice to include the Gospel of John rather than the Gospel of Thomas.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark. I'm a big believer that faith and reason do not contradict each other, as Aquinas pointed out. Pope John Paul II, a pretty good philosopher in his own right, also took up the theme of the relationship between supernatural faith and reason in his encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio." It's a great little read.

I've never read Elaine Pagel's book. I'll check that out this week.

Take care!