In 1632 the scientist Galileo (who was a man of faith) dared to support the radical 15th-century idea of Copernicus that all planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun. Immediately, Galileo was proclaimed a heretic by the Pope who quoted Scriptures in his attempt to disprove what science was proving.
Earlier, Protestant heroes had joined in quoting Scriptures condemning Copernicus.
Martin Luther said, “This fool Copernicus wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture in Joshua 10:13 tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” John Calvin quoted Psalm 93 in his attack on Copernicus. “The earth also is established. It cannot be moved.” Calvin added, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”
Melancthon, one of Luther’s closest allies, used Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 to condemn Copernicus. “The sun also rises, and the sun goes down and hurries to the place from which it came.” Then he added these dangerous words: “It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to obey it.”
Because Christians refused to let their understanding of God’s Word be informed by science, Copernicus was condemned and Galileo was declared a heretic and placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life. In 1992, 359 years later, Pope John Paul II finally admitted the church had been wrong to ignore science and to interpret the Bible literally.
The Pope said something we must never forget: “Recent historical studies enable us to state that this sad misunderstanding now belongs to the past.” Unfortunately, the apology came too late to relieve Galileo of his suffering. What if the biblical scholars of Galileo’s day had said to Galileo, “We don’t agree with your Copernican theories, but we love and trust you. As long as you love God and seek God’s will in your life, you are welcome here.”
~Rev. Dr. Mel White