When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place . . . (Psalm 8:3).
This past Friday marked the anniversary of the day Galileo stood before the Roman Inquisition. His story reminds us that faith and science dwell in the same neighborhood but they have had a long squabble over property lines. At times a thick wall has been erected to keep each in a clearly marked and separate sphere of influence. At other times the wall has been dismantled in an effort to facilitate easy movement between the two.
Faith and Science remain uneasy neighbors to this very day.
On April 12, 1633, the guardians of religious authority called upon Galileo Galilei to defend the publication of his work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The two world systems in question were the Ptolemaic and the Copernican. Galileo had run afoul of the Inquisition crowd by advocating a Copernican view of the world – the idea that the earth moved around the sun rather than being the unmovable center of the universe.
Galileo may have been sorting out the Ptolemaic and Copernican world views but the legacy of his work for most of us is framed as a contest between religion and science. We see Galileo as the voice of reason and logic, a man led to conclusions by investigation and evidence. Opposing him stands the monolithic church with its head buried in the sands of tradition, hissing at anything that threatens long held beliefs.
This is, of course, a caricature. There are complexities involved which won’t allow us to posit a brave and intelligent thinker against an angry and ignorant church. But the tension between science and faith was real and the impact is felt even now. In our time this tension has superficially resolved by relegating faith to the realm of subjective inner experience while ceding observable and empirical realities to science.
The Bible won’t allow such a dichotomy – and, interestingly, neither would Galileo.
In the dedication written to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Galileo argues that it is the calling of the philosopher to “turn over the grand book of nature.” He goes on to add that “whatever we read in that book is the creation of the omnipotent Craftsman.” Galileo regarded what we call a "scientific discovery" as an act of "divine revelation." To investigate or research was a form of worship.
For the next few days we will be thinking about the kinds of doubt that arise from science. We won’t be trying to offer rebuttals or arguments. Rather we will be turning over the grand book of nature in order to see the omnipotent Craftsman. We will respond to doubt with worship and we will look for help in the Psalms.
For today – how do you currently think about the relationship between faith and science?
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” All that we see points us to you. The creation is your gift to us, a wordless witness to your glory. Use the mysteries around us to draw us to worship, even as we go through this day, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.