Showing posts from 2017

The Providence of God

In the book of First Samuel, when we’re first introduced to Saul, whom the Lord had chosen to become Israel’s first king, we find a remarkable instance of God’s providence.
Saul was the son of a wealthy man named Kish. As it happened, Kish’s donkeys wandered off, and he sent his son to go find them. After three days of searching without success, Saul determined to return home, lest his father cease to be worried about the donkeys and begin to worry about his son. But Saul’s servant advised that since they were so near to Ramah, the city of the prophet Samuel, they ought to consult him to see if he could divine the location of the missing donkeys. This is where the curtain is pulled back for just a moment and we’re allowed a glimpse of the secret working of God. The day before Saul arrived in Ramah, the Lord had said to Samuel, “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel” (9:16).
Did you catch it? It's n…

The Copernican Revolution and Man's place in the Universe

In a previous post we noted the conventional wisdom that posits an eternal conflict between Christianity and science, a narrative made plausible only by a selective reading of the historical evidence.
One of the many subplots of this narrative is the Columbus and the Flat Earth Myth. The truth is that virtually no educated person in Columbus’ day believed the earth was flat—not leaders in church or state, not university professors, and probably not even the average medieval serf plowing the field of his lord.
Another subplot focuses on the supposedly catastrophic consequences of the Copernican Revolution for the Christian faith. Prior to the 16th century nearly everyone took for granted that the earth lay at the center of the universe, a view known as geocentrism. This certainly seemed obvious enough. After all, do we not see the sun, moon, and stars move across the sky? What could be more obvious than the fact that the heavenly bodies circle a stationary earth?
The ancient astronomer…

The Curious Case of Jephthah's Daughter

What exactly did Jephthah do to his daughter? The usual—but by no means universal—view is that he literally sacrificed her (i.e., slit her throat and burned her on an altar). This seems to be the implication of the text. 
Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “Whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”
Then Jephthah came to his home in Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances… And [he] did with her according to his vow that he had made (Judges 11:31, 34, 39)
If he did indeed put her to death and burn her on the altar, then the episode is a tragic illustration of the morally chaotic period of the Judges. But I don’t think this is what Jephthah did. In the first place, in a variety of ways Jephthah showed himself to be a faithful man. He committed the outcome of his campaign against the Ammonites to the Lord’s providenc…

Columbus and The Flat Earth Myth: Washington Irving's "Mischievous Nonsense"

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He took three ships with him, too, And called aboard his faithful crew. Mighty, strong and brave was he As he sailed across the open sea. Some people still thought the world was flat! Can you even image that?
- A traditional child’s poem -
In a recent post we remarked that conventional wisdom assumes a perpetual conflict between Christianity and science—perpetual and inevitable—because the two are inherently irreconcilable.[1] The history of science is said to be the history of the emancipation of the human race from the ignorance and superstition foisted upon society by two millennia of Christian teaching by obscurantist clergy who suppressed (sometimes violently) discoveries that undermined the view of the world as depicted in the Bible.
John William Draper, for example, accused the Catholic Church of “ferociously suppressing by the stake and the sword every attempt at progress.”[2] This idea of the violent persecution of sc…

A Few Thoughts on Creation

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. ~ Genesis 1:1 ~
This simple statement is staggering in its implications. It provides us with a wealth of information. A series of affirmations and denials can be derived from it that has a bearing not only on theology, but also anthropology, philosophy, history, science, and ethics. In fact, there is no area of human thought that ought not presuppose the truths contained in it.
(1) The statement denies atheism, not so much by affirming as by assuming the existence of God.[1]
(2) It denies polytheism in all its forms and affirms by implication the existence of one eternal God, the Creator and Lord of all.
(3) It denies pantheism and affirms the existence of God before and apart from the heavens and the earth.
(4) It denies emanationism[2] and affirms that all things were made by a purposeful act of divine will.
(5) It denies eternality to the cosmos and affirms its beginning.
(6) It denies that the universe exists necessarily and affir…

Christianity and Science

Conventional wisdom has it that there is interminable conflict between Christianity and science, that the two are irreconcilable. The conflict thesis—as this idea is called—was touted in two widely influential books written in the second half of the 19th century:  History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) by John William Draper and History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) by Andrew Dickson White. Draper, for instance, wrote:
The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.[1]
The tale goes something like this: The theoretical foundations for science were laid by the ancient Greeks when they began the project of seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena instead of resorting to explanations involving the activity of…