Science & Faith

by R Jeffrey Grace

One of the most vexing issues facing ministers in the Church is the pastoral impact of the debates raging in our media and schools over the implications of evolution for those of us who believe that God created “the heavens and the earth” which includes human kind. At the heart of this vexation lies a very critical and fundamental issue: The nature of sacred doctrine and how it relates to the disciplines of science. There probably isn’t a better thinker to turn to for this issue than St. Thomas Aquinas. At the very beginning of his Summa Theologica, he lays the foundation for the study of sacred doctrine and its relationship to the rest of the sciences. We will begin with a careful look at Aquinas’ starting point and then see how it might be applied to some scientific issues which have seemed to conflict with sacred doctrine.
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The Monkey Business of Religion

by R. Jeffrey Grace

As I argued in my article The Church and the Cosmological Revolution, the opposition by the Catholic Church to Galileo and the cosmological revolution in general, was due to a pastoral concern.  To summarize my argument, the news that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe shattered the common understanding of how everything was put together.  In that understanding, the new vision of the sun at the center of the universe and Earth as one body among many that circled the sun was tantamount to saying that there was no God.  The church leaders knew very well that such a radical change in world views would leave the vast majority of believers without a framework for understanding who God was and where we stood in relation to God.  They may not have articulated it quite this way, but they understood the threat.  It would take a very long time for theologians to articulate an understanding of God within this new vision… and in fact, to this day the struggle to do so continues.  It’s not only the Catholic Church nor even Christianity that struggles with the new vision… many religions are still going through the same struggle. The modern day version of this struggle is being played out in the so-called “Intelligent Design” debate.

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The Church and the Cosmological Revolution

By R. Jeffrey Grace

In order to understand why the cosmological revolution in early modern Europe was first met with resistance by the Catholic Church we can take a closer look at the most famous example of this resistance: the confrontation with Galileo over the heliocentric view of the universe. To place it all into context, recall that the accepted view of the world and the cosmos at that time was of an orderly hierarchy of sorts, where the earth sat at the middle of it all. As one ascended into the heavens one encountered perfect spheres within which the heavenly bodies were embedded. God was located beyond the outermost sphere. This realm where God was located was a realm of pure perfection and as you descended from this realm you became further removed from perfection, until the lowest realm, the material realm, was reached. That is where we were located on Earth.

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