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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Science Historians; Math– Loss of Certainty; Copernicanism Part 17

[2017-06-14: added note at bottom]
      This continues from Part 16c, 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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      The history of science from the "early modern period" (Copernicus to Newton) up to our modern period is a broad one indeed.  As I have read through what must seem dozens of authors, I wanted to summarize them, but have despaired of doing so.  The reading can be interesting and it can be saddening.  I will present two examples of the latter:
Prof. Peter Barker

(1)  Prof. Peter Barker of the University of Oklahoma presents himself not only as an authority on the history of science, but also on... Lutheranism.  But is this really so?  Here is his comment regarding the Lutheran Confessions in his essay "The Role of Religion in the Lutheran Response to Copernicus" among the essays in the book Rethinking the Scientific Revolution edited by Margaret J. Osler (page 68):
The unfortunately named Formula of Concord was an attempt to heal the breach between strict Lutherans and less-strict Phillippists and others sympathetic to Calvinism. Issued on June 25, 1580 (the fiftieth anniversary of the Augsburg confession), it was accepted by Saxony, Württemberg, and Baden, ... The employment of the formula thus deepened the divisions it was intended to heal, by obliging people like ... Kepler, to choose between a new orthodox Lutheranism that opposed Calvinism, and the older Phillipist version that tolerated it. Kepler's response was to follow a career that avoided the Formula.
Barker claims to be a judge over the Lutheran Confessions, essentially saying the naming of "Formula of Concord" was deceptive.  To him, it is not important to hold to the teaching of the Bible, especially not for Johannes Kepler.  Rather the maintenance of unity or "concord" should not depend on what doctrine is taught.  Barker discusses Luther, Melanchthon and other Lutheran theologians, but he has already disqualified himself from true theological history.  It is not surprising that he, like J. R. Christianson, discounts the Table Talks of Luther against Copernicanism (page 64).  Even sadder than Prof. Barker are the modern Lutheran theologians who agree with him concerning the Formula of Concord!
Prof. Mark Noll

(2) Prof. Mark A. Noll, Another example of the sadness comes from Noll, a "Reformed evangelical Christian" now teaching at the Roman Catholic Notre Dame University.  Noll is particularly troublesome in his history of B. B. Warfield regarding evolutionism and inerrancy.  In an article on Andrew Dickson White on the BioLogos website, in Part 3 he makes the following statement:
B.B. Warfield

“Perhaps even more notable as someone who promoted major aspects of Darwin’s science in the United States was a theologian from Princeton Seminary, Benjamin B. Warfield, who was alive and active when White published his big book. Warfield’s support for evolution is especially noteworthy since Warfield was, in his day, the nation’s strongest supporter for the theological concept of biblical inerrancy, the belief that the Bible makes no mistakes whatever. Warfield wrote carefully about evolution and with several qualifications, but he also articulated his conviction on many occasions that natural selection did not in principle contradict historic Christian faith nor did it undermine a very high conception of the Christian Scriptures.”
Part of what is troubling in Noll's sweeping statement of "Warfield's support for evolution" is that Noll himself admits that "Warfield wrote carefully about evolution and with several qualifications".  What Noll omits here is what he stated earlier in his portrait of Warfield in Elwell's Handbook of Evangelical Theologians, pages 32-33:
“Warfield’s opposition to naturalistic forms of evolution never wavered. On several occasions he wrote on Darwin and, in so doing, took pains to show that if Darwinism meant random, purposeless change, then it must be opposed by every Christian.”
It would seem that these statements would not fit well with the BioLogos theme!  In the end though, Warfield did seem to exhibit weakness in defending against evolution as it is generally understood today.  And how modern theology will highlight this weakness!
      But Prof. Noll is incorrect about Warfield being "the nation’s strongest supporter for ... biblical inerrancy" for even Noll has heard of Franz Pieper whom he purposely ignores as the great Lutheran teacher of the Twentieth Century.  I believe it was Warfield who "called upon" Dr. Pieper to write his essay "Luther's Doctrine of Inspiration" for his periodical The Presbyterian and Reformed Review in 1893.   So Prof. Noll misinforms us to a degree about Warfield.  And he apparently follows Warfield's weakness on inerrancy and prefers to infer that Warfield really meant to teach the Scriptures are in error regarding the creation account. — It is quite easy for Prof. Noll to ignore Pieper, especially since today's LC-MS largely ignores (or repudiates)... Franz Pieper.  But I have news for both Noll and today's LC-MS — Franz Pieper, the Twentieth Century Luther!  If anyone wants to know the true account of Martin Luther on the Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, they should read what Warfield printed of Franz Pieper's essay -->> HERE.
      With "evangelicals" such as Prof. Mark Noll, is it any wonder that the bookstores today have complete sections on the history of science, typified by popular authors like Shawn Otto who says in his book The War on Science (pages 48-49):
“Is it better to base our knowledge on reading an old book, or on observations of nature before our very eyes? ... If it is inaccurate, can we take any of it seriously?
Indeed, Mr. Otto would find agreement in the second question from... Luther, Walther and Pieper!  It is an excellent question, albeit with two entirely different responses.
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      To finish this post, I would reprint a portion of the Preface to Morris Kline's book Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty:
     This book treats the fundamental changes that man has been forced to make in his understanding of the nature and role of mathematics. We know today that mathematics does not possess the qualities that in the past earned for it universal respect and admiration. Mathematics was regarded as the acme of exact reasoning, a body of truths in itself, and the truth about the design of nature. How man came to the realization that these values are false and just what our present understanding is constitute the major themes. ...
     Many mathematicians would perhaps prefer to limit the disclosure of the present status of mathematics to members of the family. To air these troubles in public may appear to be in bad taste, as bad as airing one’s marital difficulties. But intellectually oriented people must be fully aware of the powers of the tools at their disposal. Recognition of the limitations, as well as the capabilities, of reason is far more beneficial than blind trust, which can lead to false ideologies and even to destruction.
Quite a refreshing judgment of not only modern mathematics, but perhaps much of today's "science".
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In the next Part 18a I want to publicize Carl Schöpffer's list of famous German scientists in the mid-1800s who at least questioned Copernicanism...

[2017-06-14: see this later post confirming correspondence between Warfield and Pieper]