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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wernher von Braun, space program, modern scientists (Copernicanism? Christianity?); Part 15

      This continues from Part 14, a series on Copernicanism and Geocentricity (see Intro & Contents in Part 1) in response to a letter from a young person ("Josh") who asked if I believed Geocentricity ... and did not ridicule me in his question.
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      Now I move back to our present day.  One of the questions that racked my scientific mind as I grappled against Copernicanism: that the successes of the Space Program proved that geocentricity was problematic.  But in one of Gerardus Bouw’s books, he makes the point that all the equations of the space program are identical whether geocentric or heliocentric.  This is inadvertently somewhat confirmed when one discovers in Encyclopedia Britannica that the formulas to predict eclipses are based on a fixed earth (“For this purpose it is convenient first to consider Earth as fixed”). —
      But what about the Space Program's most famous scientist/proponent – the German-American Wernher von Braun?  As I learned more of him, there came some sadness, and a surprise.
Wernher von Braun
"Father of Rocket Science"

      Wernher von Braun is held up by some in the Reformed camp as a great scientist who was also a Christian -- ICR, AnswersInGenesis, Creation Moments.  However, as one reads of his life, he left his Lutheran upbringing as "he converted to Evangelical Christianity" (Wikipedia).  More problematic for those who claim him for the teaching of "creationism" are his own words as recorded in the book The Voice of Dr. Wernher von Braun: An Anthology.  The following quote is taken from a speech delivered to Belmont Abbey College, Nov. 22, 1971 (p. 169):
"I am quite confident that the great majority of Church leaders know in their hearts that this united front can best be presented by a common faith of all Christians in the basic teachings of Jesus Christ. But it means learning to live with the findings of Copernicus, of Galileo, of Darwin."
So the "creationism" camp would do well to reconsider their claim in light of this statement by von Braun.  Von Braun is also quoted with the following from the same speech (pages 168-169):
     Some people seem to have serious difficulties tying together certain Biblical passages with the reality of science, such as the story of creation given by Genesis, of the account of Joshua’s poetic appeal for the Sun to stand still while the Israelites avenged themselves over their enemies. The interpretation of Biblical passages has been the subject of argument between wiser men than myself for centuries. My own views on the delicate topic are that it helps to bridge the gap between the Bible and modern scientific thought if we remember that the Bible deals with man as well as God, and most of the people of whom the Bible speaks suffered from the same human frailties that we experience today.
     In my opinion, (and let me emphasize here that I fully respect and honor different views) insistence on an inflexible type of religion, holding to a literal interpretation of every word of the Bible as ultimate truth will tragically delay reconciling some of the Biblical references to scientific interpretations. But I believe, with all my heart, that religion, like science, is evolutionary, growing and changing in the light of further revelations by God. While the Bible is the best preserved account that we have of the revelations of God’s nature and love, we should recognize that particularly the early books, such as Genesis, were not written by scientific observers and witnesses, but by scribes who recorded ancient shepherd songs and tales because of their allegorical beauty.
And later he says:
Understanding the nature of the creation provides a substantive basis for the faith by which we attempt to know the nature of the Creator. 
Glenn Branch
NCSE
This last statement is indicative of others made by von Braun that contain an element that is hard to swallow by evolutionists – it uses the words creation and Creator.  Glenn Branch, a speaker and blogger for the NCSE (National Center for Science Education) posted a blog "Not Exactly Rocket Science" where he seemed to struggle to find clear evidence of von Braun's teaching on the subject of creation, turning to what others said and finally quoted of von Braun.  He could have saved himself some time and just read the above book and found plenty of evidence of Braun's "fence-straddling".

So we see that von Braun's position on the Bible largely follows what modern theology teaches -- that the Joshua account is "poetic", the Bible is from human authors not always divinely inspired, and that "a literal interpretation of every word of the Bible as ultimate truth will tragically delay reconciling some of the Biblical references to scientific interpretations".
      Werner von Braun is largely an enigma to the world, straddling the fence in many ways.  I will leave this account of von Braun with a picture of his gravestone (Find-A-Grave), which most certainly is not advertised by NASA or the NCSE:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Psalm 19:1
To see a Bible verse on the gravestone of any well-known scientist of our age was a shock to me. —

      But in reading of dozens of modern day well-known scientists, one despairs of finding almost any that claim Christianity;[He who is not for me is against me. Luke 11:23] ... with the possible exceptions of Werner HeisenbergOwen GingrichJohn Polkinghorne, and... Wernher von Braun.   Of these, I have not found any who would defend against Copernicanism and for the Bible.  Again, reading of the well-known scientists of the twentieth century up to our time is largely an exercise in reading of self-avowed atheists/agnostics or Jews, not withstanding names such as the "Trinity Test" or the "God particle".  Can the field of "science" be so utterly barren of faith?

      The Saviour said
Matthew 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The modern-day scientists who claim Christianity are not the ones to be followed in their weakness, as our Saviour's words warn us.  Indeed, my faith is so weak that I look only to those who
  • give the Bible its full authority... as the very Word of God, 
  • don't accommodate the Bible to "science",
  • are proponents of what Andrew Dickson White called "an ancient belief based upon text-worship ...  in that branch of Protestantism which claims special enlightenment."
Who are these that we should follow their "enlightenment", i.e. the Bible? -- see my masthead!
And can you believe it?... I still have a "love" for true science through all of this.  —  In the next Part 16a, I go back to the old (German) Missouri Synod in 1898 as it grappled with...  Copernicanism.