17.6.09

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.

10 comments:

  1. Actually the phrase "All Truth is God's Truth" was coined by Arthur F. Holmes.

    To which Bill Gothard said "Nuh, uh"

    And to which Holmes muttered under his breath, "Your mamma."

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  3. Great article!
    I, too, would love to see the "marriage" restored.

    To add to what Larry said, CS Lewis also took a stab with that one (possibly before Holmes?). He introduced me to the Tao Te Ching with the phrase "All Truth is God's Truth"

    Mere Christianity, I believe?
    Possibly Weight of Glory... it's been awhile.

    Guess Rob Bell's a reader...

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  4. Did Rob Bell really say that meaning different religions?

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  5. James the point isn't that all religions are true in an absolute sense, but that they all contain truth. If there is anything within the religion that hold up, its because it managed to describe the world as God ordered it.

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  6. Ah, gotcha. I haven't read any Bell stuff yet, but I plan to. But as you may know, this is one of the criticisms lobbed at him so I was wondering if he really said anything like that.

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  7. I'm not familiar with Velvet Elvis. I did read Sex God and thought it was BRILLIANT. I described how Holmes used the phrase.

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  8. You make a great point that b/c we know how great God is in comparison to us that we could never fully understand Him. So often, I think we hold onto this idea of Him. But those are ideas perhaps grounded in tradition or translation, and they say something true about Him, but may not contain the whole truth.

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  9. Great post Steve!

    So often I find myself saying and tapping on my Bible, "The Truth is right here; it's how we interpret the information that causes the problems." When a die-hard young-earth, fiat creationist couldn't understand why I "lean" toward progression creationism, he challenged me and why I don't firmly stand on my position if that's what I believe. I quickly pointed out the story of Galileo you share here.

    I think science and theology will once again be married when archeologists find the smoking-gun evolutionary link in Noah's ark.

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