This is the second in the BioLogos series of excerpts from Mark Noll’s book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.
In this, part II of the series, Noll “explores historical reasons for the difficulties besetting efforts at bringing scientific knowledge and biblical wisdom together.”
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Here is the first part of the article, as a teaser:
Of the many books that have treated the record of religious-science engagement since the sixteenth century, the best have demonstrated that there has never been a simple conflict between biblical theology and natural science.1 Rather, that history has been marked by a sustained series of negotiations, breakthroughs, well-publicized flashpoints, much conceptual rethinking, lots of ignorant grandstanding, some intellectual overreaching by starry-eyed avatars of a supremely all-competent “Science,” some intellectual overreaching by determined “defenders” of Scripture, much noncontroversial science carried out by Christians, a huge quantity of scientific advance accepted routinely by believers, and much more.
At the dawn of modern science in the early seventeenth century, the iconic experimenter and polemicist Galileo Galilei recorded exceedingly wise words about how to combine investigations of nature with complete trust in Scripture. Implicit in his comments was an anchorage in christological realities that I hope to make explicit at the end of this chapter. If Galileo’s guidelines had been followed, the history of science and religion in the modern West would have been much calmer than what actually unfolded. Galileo’s comments are worth quoting in full before exploring why it has been so difficult to follow his proposals for peace between belief in Scripture and reliance on the results of scientific investigation. His standpoint combined a number of basic dispositions:
- trust that sense experience, rigorously controlled and creatively contemplated, could reveal truths about nature;
- trust that biblical interpretation and scientific interpretation cannot in principle conflict because God is the author of both Scripture and nature;
- realization that much in the Bible is not intended as a scientific description of the world;
- realization that interpretation of Scripture and interpretation of nature often require legitimately different procedures; and
- confidence that what God allows humans to learn about nature could help discern what God has revealed in Scripture.
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You may read HERE the first part in this series.