The Center of Attention

The Center of Attention

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Above Image by press ūüĎć and ‚≠ź from Pixabay

Nicolaus Copernicus

In the early 1500s, around the time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, and Balboa was sailing into the Pacific, Nicolaus Copernicus, the father of modern astronomy, wrote something that would rumble in the halls of science for centuries.((Hirshfeld, Alan W. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.))

Copernicus was an Italian astronomer that may have been the first to consider, if not the first to suggest in the written word, that the earth was not the center of the universe. “What appears to us as motions of the Sun arise not from its motion but from the motions of the earth.”((Hirshfeld, Alan W. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.))¬†

Imagine, centuries ago, when science was limited to what we could observe with the naked eye, someone suggesting that the earth, the very pillar we stand on, actually moved. Yet, our everyday experiences told us otherwise. Every day of their lives, everyone, everywhere, saw the sun rise and the sun set. This simple observation is backed up by the scripture. Psalm 113:3 Isaiah 45:6 Yet Copernicus was suggesting otherwise.

Galileo Galilei

Roughly 40 years after Copernicus first wrote about and began to explore our solar system, another significant character in history came into this world. His name was Galileo, and he was born on February 15, 1564. Many today view Galileo as the secular saint who was forced to deny his astronomical findings by the Church. Some have written that Galileo was tried as a heretic or tortured until he would renounce his findings. In his book¬†Cosmos, Carl Sagan wrote that Galileo was in a Catholic dungeon threatened with torture unless he recanted his heretical views.((Sagan, Carl.¬†Cosmos. New York: Random House, 1980. Print)) Christopher Hitchens, in his book, God is not Great, put it this way, “Galileo might have been unmolested in his telescopic work if he had not been so unwise as to admit that it had cosmological implications.”1

A few years back, my son handed me a book by Kris Vallotton, one of the head pastors of Bethel Church in Redding, California. The book was titled Moral Revolution The Naked Truth about Sexual Purity, and he was interested in what I would think about it, so I took the weekend to read it.

Without turning this into a book review, I will share what Vallotten wrote in his brief mention of Galileo, “In the early 1600s, a scientist named Galileo, through the invention of the telescope, observed that the earth revolved around the sun and not the sun around the earth. The Catholic Church was the political force of that day, and Galileo’s scientific discovery was opposed to the Church’s theology, so the Pope tried him as a heretic. The Church authorities forced him to renounce his discoveries and placed him under house arrest, where he lived out the last years of his life.”((Vallotton, Kris. Vallotton, Jason. Moral Revolution The Naked Truth about Sexual Purity. Minneapolis: Chosen, 2012. Print.)) Vallotton went on to say how the Catholic Church relegated the public to ignorance and lies via a highly developed system of punishment.

Galileo was never tried as a heretic, not by the Pope or anyone else.

The Church and Galileo

Galileo had two meetings with the Vatican over the years. The first meeting in 1616 was about Galileo’s lectures supporting the heliocentric view (the view that the earth revolved around the sun). It was a warm welcome by the Catholic Church since Galileo was famous and well respected. While there, he stayed at the grand Medici Villa, meeting with the Pope and other cardinals more than once.((D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.))

Cardinal Bellarmine was head of the investigation and was quite familiar with Galileo’s view. Bellarmine was no slouch to the science of that day, and wrote a letter that said if the earth did revolve around the sun, and not the sun around the earth, “‚Ķwe should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of scripture which appear to teach the contrary.”2¬†

Sounds reasonable don’t you think? Bellarmine went on, “‚Ķthis is not a thing to be done in haste, and as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me.”((Brodrick, James. Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar. West Monasterii, London: Newman Press, 1961. Print.))

Essentially Bellarmine was saying, make sure you are correct, then we can revisit scripture and consider our interpretations. Dinesh D’Souza put it this way in his book,¬†What’s So Great About Christianity, when writing about Bellarmine and Galileo, “This is a model of sensible procedure. Bellarmine assumed that there could be no real conflict between nature and scripture, which is what Christianity has always taught.”3¬†

So Galileo was told not to push the heliocentric view and returned home. The case was closed, and the findings and conclusion of the church were filed away.

Alan Hirshfeld, in his book¬†Parallax, tells the story of how we came to measure distant stars. Hirshfeld wrote, “Galileo laid the blame for the papal restrictions not on the Church, but on the conservative Aristotelian philosophers who had precipitated the Pope’s action, [Galileo wrote] ‘They have endeavored to spread the opinion that such Copernican propositions in general are contrary to the Bible and are consequently damnable and heretical‚Ķ'”((Hirshfeld, Alan. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.))

Not the Sharpest Tac in the Box

The second meeting took place about 16 years later after Galileo published a book in 1632 with two leading figures, the Pope and Galileo. In his book, the Pope and Galileo debated the heliocentric view, and Galileo gave the Pope the name of ‘Simplicio,’ which means ‘simpleton’ in Italian. Not the smartest of moves. Imagine providing testimony in a courtroom and insulting the judge’s intelligence presiding over your case. Galileo may have been brilliant, but he obviously lacked some common sense. Of course, we are talking about the Pope.¬†

In Galileo’s defense, the Pope at that time was a personal friend of Galileo, previously known as Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, now Pope Urban VIII. I would imagine that Galileo felt he had much more freedom to express his views on the sun being the center of our solar system rather than the earth. Galileo erred in the length of his leash.¬†

After the book was published, Galileo returned to Rome to meet with the Inquisition. The consensus was that Galileo was undermining the authority and teachings of the church. In addition, notes from Bellarmine years before were found, which compounded the event. It became clear that Galileo had already been told not to push the heliocentric view. Galileo was told to recant his views, which he did, and was placed under house arrest.

Yes, house arrest. The first five months in the¬†palace of the archbishop of Siena (must have been difficult), and then he returned home to his villa in Florence.((D’Souza, Dinesh.¬†What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.)) He was allowed to visit his daughters and continue his research. He died of natural causes nine years later.

The False Narrative

What was interesting to me is Vallotton is citing the NOVA special found on PBS.org. Sources that would be fair to say have a liberal slant on almost every issue. To be clear, I am not saying that just because he cited information from a leftist source, it should be dismissed as inaccurate. What I am saying is, when you research history, don’t limit yourself; move beyond PBS, ushistory.org, the dailymail.co.uk, and Wikipedia. Many of these references and most news sources will have a left-leaning and will put the Church in a negative light, including Christianity.¬†

Texts books you find in Jr. High and Highschool imply science and religion are at odds because science deals with facts and religion deals with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. Science is facts and reality; religion is fantasy and fables. 

So what about the scripture that supports the erroneous view of the world being the center of our universe? John Lennox, the Oxford Professor, wrote, “Rather than scientific language, the Bible often uses phenomenological language – the language of appearance. It describes what everyone can see. It talks about the sun rising just as everyone else does, including scientists, even though they know that the sun only appears to rise because of the rotation of the earth. Saying that the sun “rises” does not commit the Bible, or a scientist for that matter, to any particular model of the solar system.”((Lennox, John. Seven Days That Divide The World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print))

Science and Christianity are not at odds with one another. It is disappointing to see Christian leaders fall prey to the secular historical spin pushed since Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands. It is bad enough that most public school books will push the same storyline that Galileo was tried as a heretic, tortured, or lived in squalor because of his published views. The Church vs. science, facts vs. faith, is what the world wants you to believe, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Sometimes religion does talk about things that science talks about, specifically the origin of life, creation, and the heavens. Therefore, what you choose to believe has tremendous implications on your life and the purpose of your existence. 

The earth does not have to be the center of the universe to be the center of God’s attention. – John Lennox

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Center of Attention by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great-How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Company, 2007. Print. []
  2. Brodrick, James. Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar. West Monasterii, London: Newman Press, 1961. Print. []
  3. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print. []

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