The information we have today about the nature and form of our Solar system was not always available, and although today the Heliocentric (a solar system with the sun at the center) view of the solar system has been thoroughly proved, and accepted by most Christians, it was not always so.
During the medieval era most believed that the earth was the stationary centre of our solar system. They understood that the sun and all the other planets moved around the earth. They had certain philosophies and scientific arguments passed on from the Greek philosopher Aristotle that would suggest that they were right.
But the beginning of the 16th century, a bright light arose on the horizon as Nicolaus Copernicus, a mathematician, astrologer and Catholic cleric (in good standing with the Church, we might add) started writing a book on a different model of the solar system. He suggested Heliocentrism. It says that the sun was in fact the centre of the solar system and all the planets, of which the earth was the third one, was moving around the sun in orbit. He printed his book “On the Revolution of heavenly Spheres” in 1543 in Nuremberg. He started writing in 1506 and it took him 24 years to write it and another 13 years to publish. His ideas were later substantiated further by the discoveries of Johannes Kepler (1609), Galileo Galilei (1610) and Isaac Newton (1687).
It was a radical idea that must have taken a great amount of courage to publish. And so Nicolaus received strong criticism and rejection from the Church, because the Church believed that the Scriptures said different. – That the earth was immovable and upon fixed foundations.(Ecc 1:5; 1 Chron 16:30; Ps 93:1; Ps 96:10; 2 Sam 22:16 to name a few)
Now this was at no ordinary time in history, it was also the time of the Great Reformation when brave men arose to confront the Roman Catholic Church on what they believed to be systems and traditions that have hijacked the Church over centuries. Trademarked by Martin Luther’s 95 theses that he pinned to the church door on the 31st of October 1517. These brave men fought to liberate and bring people to what they called the ‘Sola Scriptura‘ (meaning: By Scripture alone) principle of doctrine, in which they rejected some of the traditions and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
And here is where the difficulty lies. It is these same men who invoked ‘Sola Scriptura’ who opposed the new scientific discoveries of Nicolaus Copernicus on the basis that it contradicted the literal interpretation of Scripture. The same men who brought light to one aspect was still blind to another. Here is what they thought of Copernicus and his discovery:
John Calvin preached a sermon in which he denounced those who “pervert the order of nature” by saying that “the sun does not move and that it is the earth that revolves and that it turns”.
Abraham Calovius said: ”Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”
In 1539, Martin Luther said: “The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.”
Their opposition to Copernicus’ discovery was based on their miss-interpretation, understanding and application of Scripture, although ‘Sola Scriptura’ was the fundamental principle of their reform.
It is evident that we got it wrong. We got it wrong by using the Scriptures incorrectly in the past, yet somehow we believe that we NOW have it right. I would like to suggest that there are still a couple of huge surprises awaiting us, we are not done yet, we are in process of awaking from the myths of the past, learning God afresh, His world and our place in it.
The greatest mystery to me is that Christians today, especially those who are the beneficiaries of the great reformation, people who have seen and tasted its benefits, believe that God is now done with reforming us – That his process of reforming us has ceased and was a once off 16th century phenomena. I believe that this is a misunderstanding.
We are still in a process of learning how to understand Scripture, how to apply it, what should be read literally and what should not.. Before we become the ‘perverters of the order of things’, and the ‘fools who turn truth upside-down’ and those that ‘place the authority of our interpretation and understanding above that of the Holy Spirit’.
We cannot cry ‘Sola Scriptura, and through that practice the supremacy of our own limited interpretation or understanding as if it is God’s. We must allow God to continue to teach us and show us a more mature way to read, interpret and understand.
We cannot worship our interpretation of the Scriptures and call that the Word of God. School is not out. We are still miss-interpreting some things and calling it “Bible truth”. Then we hit others over he head with it. HaHa.
But take courage… God is not done with us and we have a long way to go.
God is not done with the way we understand His world, our existence and the glorious future of His Grace in us. And as Martin Luther and John Calvin’s miss-interpretations had to be exposed (for it was inevitable), so many of ours will still be laid bare.
We are in a very long process and the best is yet to come!!!
God is bigger and better than what we could ever have imagined.
(I have started a small series of YouTube videos wherein I explore some of the things we need to re-considder. It is called ‘Awaking from the Myth’ and you can access the first two uploaded episodes by clicking on the image below:)