Spirits in the Material World: All Truth is God's Truth
In 1633, the following conversation took place somewhere in the Vatican.
Galileo Galilei: Hey, Pope Urban VIII! I discovered that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun!
Pope Urban VIII: No, it doesn’t.
Galileo: It totally does. I can prove it. Look, I brought schematics.
Pope: The earth doesn’t move. Take it back.
Galileo: No, you take it back!
Pope: Swiss Guards! Take this egghead and stretch him until he recants and decapitate him if he doesn’t. Watch the end of Braveheart if you need some pointers.
Galileo: I take it back.
A popular legend maintains that Galileo muttered, “And yet it moves” at the end of this conversation. This probably isn’t true. He wouldn’t have risked getting in even deeper do-do. It is true, however, that this incident represents one the biggest paradigm shifts in history. Before The Renaissance, Science was a sub-discipline of Theology. To understand the material world was to understand God. If something was true, it belonged to both science and religion. The Church’s inquisition of Galileo signified the impending divorce between science and religion.
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that science and religion were ever married. A few months ago at Fuller Seminary, I was waiting for a Theology class to clear out I could begin my Clinical Psychology class. On his way out, the instructor asked what I was teaching and I told him.
“Faith and psychology together,” he said. “That’s kind of a new thing.”
“Not really,” I said, recalling a host of luminaries, from Paul to Luther to Wittgenstein.
“You know what I mean,” he said. “New for us.”
I had no idea what he meant, but smiled and nodded anyway (This guy was a guest lecturer, by the way. Regular Theology faculty at Fuller would never utter such words).
Christianity and science are often enemies now. When a rare alliance forms, it’s uneasy. Christians doing science tend to be either sheep or pit bulls. Most downplay their faith, but some bludgeon the intellectual establishment with “scientific evidence” of their worldview. It’s unfashionable to pursue truth with zeal, heedless of the ramifications for the Church or the Academy.
How ‘bout we change that.
When Rob Bell wrote, “All truth is God’s truth” in Velvet Elvis, he said what I’d been thinking but seldom saying my entire adult life. Bell was talking about different religions, but my mind went to science. I’ve always thought Christians should be at the forefront of science, not bringing up the rear or trying to subvert the entire discipline with a particular interpretation of Scripture. We should be the ones most eager for discovery and most willing to change our minds. We know our finitude next to the infinite mysteries of God. In other words, we should be passionate about scientific discovery because we know how stupid we are.
A couple times a month, let’s talk about God’s truth in the material world. Let’s revel in new discoveries. Let’s challenge bold claims unsupported by hard evidence. And let’s challenge anyone who distorts data to make a buck, whether it’s Big Pharma or the ladies on The View. We’ll seek truth, regardless of where it comes from. We’ve come along away since Pope Urban VIII. Not everybody, I guess, but most of us.
I can think of few communities better able to have this discussion than BWC. See you in a couple weeks.
P.S. Prince B sent word that he was resigning as Anti-Ombudsman. He said something about BWC becoming “tiresome and unglamourous” and needing to “put out a particularly annoying fire in Iran.” There was more, but he used a lot of words I didn’t know.