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The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science Paperback – August 13, 2001
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--David C. Lindberg, Isis
'... admirably lucid ... an arresting and provocative thesis. Harrison's sophisticated analysis is essential reading for anyone interested in the field of science-and-religion.'
--John Hedley Brooke, Metascience.
'Probably the most significant contribution to the early modern relationship between science and religion to be published for ten years.'
--Fraser Watts, Expository Times
'... a valuable survey and compelling account of the interaction between biblical hermeneutics and the natural sciences.... Well written, balanced, and rich in documentation....'
--Stephen Snobelen, Ambix
"The achievements of this ambitious book should be debated by scholars." Religious Studies Review
"Harrison has written a very interesting addition to the literature about Protestants and science, one that expands our understanding of the history of science and of ideas about nature." Mark Stoll, Environmental History
"Harrison's book is well written and his arguments are easy to follow...I am convinced of the importance and fruitfulness of his approach in investigating the study of nature and the study of the Bible as inextricably linked." Church History
"peter Harrison's splendid new book adds to the mounting evidence that the relationship between science and religion has been much more complicated than the military metaphor of an incessant "warfare" allows." Journal of Religion
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Top Customer Reviews
The book opens with the tradition that emerged out of the early church, most importantly from Origin and Augustine, in which each physical object was believed to symbolize hidden theological or moral truth. In this way the physical reality of objects came to be overshadowed by their spiritual significance. Truth and meaning were not to be sought in the objects themselves, how they work, or cause and effect, but in the spiritual realities that they symbolized. For example, in the early church and through the Middle Ages it was widely reported that the pelican possessed all kinds of fabulous traits that paralleled the work of Christ. But as Augustine wrote, what was important in these accounts was not their factual accuracy, but their spiritual significance. As a matter of fact, many of the early church writers were antagonistic toward curiosity about natural phenomena, since they held that natural knowledge was inferior to supernatural knowledge.Read more ›
The change happened in the second decade of the 16th century, All Saints Eve to be exact, in the year 1517. Luther never realized the full impact of what he did. By starting the Reformation, he set in motion not only the religious movement of Protestantism, but the Reformation had secondary effects spread out throughout society. What this book emphasizes is how that change influenced how natural scientists viewed nature. Many of the early scientists openly cited Luther as their inspiration to study nature instead of relying on previous experts.
This is not a short book, it covers quite a swath of material including examples, documenting the first tentative steps in the development of the scientific method to where it was fully operational, and how that development was guided by the Reformation with its return to the Bible as the sole authoritative source of theological teachings.
The ancient "fathers" of the church, Origin, Augustine, etc, were platonists first and Christians a distant second. The mosaic influence almost disappeared from their Christianity. Plato taught physical existence is just a poor copy of the spiritual. The function of our world is to prepare for the next. The cosmos, earth and everything in it is here to give clues to the afterlife. This was called "realism" (interesting that realism today indicates the opposite). This is not a Bible teaching.
Harrison's idea is - that when Plato was abandoned and Moses was accepted - science could start. "It is commonly supposed that when in the early modern period individuals began to look at the world in a different way, they could no longer believe what they read in the Bible. In this book I shall suggest that the reverse is the case: that when in the sixteenth century people began reading the bible in a different way, they found themselves forced to jettison traditional conceptions of the world. The Bible - its contents, the controversies it generated, it's varying fortunes as an authority, and most importantly, the new way in which it was read by Protestants - played a central role in the emergence of natural science in the seventeenth century." (5)
The most important change was the method used to sift knowledge, biblical or natural. The switch from reading the Bible as ahistorical (like a geometry book) to reading it in its context, and grasping what a reader would understand when written, was profound. It requires the reader to draw from the text, not insert into the text.Read more ›