In 1633, Galileo Galilei faced hostile inquisitors who opposed his astronomical discoveries. Galileo claimed that Earth moves around the sun while the sun stays stationary, which was opposite to what Galileo’s church taught.1 This confrontation is often labeled as a “religion versus science” trial because it involved a disagreement about the meaning of Psalm 93:1:
The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.
The latter part of Psalm 93:1 allegedly clashed with Galileo’s analysis of our solar system. His telescopic measurements of movements in the heavens (i.e., sun, moon, planets, etc.) proved that Earth orbited the “stationary” sun, not vice versa. However, Roman Catholic interpretations of Scripture at the time disagreed with Galileo’s astronomical analysis, claiming the opposite was true.1 Actually, both sides were partly wrong because both sides relied on errors.
- Both the sun and Earth are moving in very predictable orbits (and thus neither is absolutely stationary), yet when described contextually both are moving in relation to one another—and to the Milky Way galaxy, as well. Plus, all motion must be described with respect to a frame of reference, so it’s most practical for observers to use their own positions as locational indices.1,2
- The Hebrew phrase translated “it cannot be moved” in Psalm 93:1 means that Earth cannot be yanked away (i.e., pulled off course) from its divinely prescribed and established program of movements—as opposed to describing a state of absolute motionlessness.2
The lesson? When religion clashes with science, expect to see examples of sloppy religion in the form of inaccurate Bible interpretations, or sloppy science as evidenced in inaccurate scientific observations and/or analysis, or both.
This is nothing new. During the heyday of the so-called Enlightenment (1700s–1800s), a fad called deism flourished. Deism was, and still is, a “free thinking”-dominated theism that exalts human reason (ignoring how fallen reason is) while keeping the Bible closed whenever science is discussed. Prioritizing popularity with secular culture, deists strive to retain some Christianity. But this unbalanced compromise over-tips the boat, eventually sinking the ship under an ocean of self-contradictions.
Accordingly, deism artificially cherry-picks fashionable Bible teachings while ignoring and discarding others that are undesirable or inconvenient.1 Modern-day deists, such as Intelligent Design (ID) proponents, often react to apparent “religion versus science” conflicts by siding with science over what the Bible teaches. Consequently, to favor science over Scripture, deists employ straw-man caricatures of biblical truth. Jonathan Sarfati highlights the approach taken by ID leader Dr. William Dembski.
Dembski justifies his Scriptura sub scientia approach (i.e., Scripture [ranked] under science) by raising the tired old canard about geocentrism….
WD: Yet, during that time [of Galileo’s trial for teaching heretical science], church teaching also held that the earth was stationary.
Unfortunately, this [ecclesiastical error] is because they kowtowed to the prevailing Aristotelian science of the day, which included the Ptolemaic cosmology….
WD: Psalm 93 [verse 1] states that the earth is established forever and cannot be moved…. A literal interpretation of Psalm 93 seems to require geocentrism.3
William Dembski’s misunderstanding of Psalm 93:1 shows his failure to properly analyze the Hebrew philology. Similar approaches are taken by others who place a reliance on science over the truth of Scripture. Making the assumption that the Bible is not to be trusted in matters of science will always lead to error.
Pity poor Galileo. If only he had today’s Newtonian astrophysics and geokinetics, a good Bible concordance, and a Bible in his own language! He could have seen that the Bible’s descriptions of God’s choreographed heavens are corroborated—not opposed—by true science.
- Grigg, R. 1997. The Galileo ‘twist.’ Creation. 19 (4): 30-32; Sarfati, J. ID theorist blunders on Bible: Reply to Dr. William Dembski. Creation Ministries International. Posted on creation.com February 7, 2005, accessed March 2, 2017. Galileo’s writings were controversial and public; he wrote in Italian, not scholarly Latin. Galileo was stigmatized as a “heretic”, sentenced to prison/house arrest, and his publications were censored—a lenient punishment by Inquisition standards!
- The Hebrew verb môt appears often in contexts that portray a pulling-away motion (e.g., Proverbs 24:11; Psalm 82:5 (“out of course”); Isaiah 54:10); also, the related noun môtâh is routinely translated as “yoke” (e.g., Leviticus 26:13; Jeremiah 27:2). See Wigram, G. V. 2001. The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance to the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendricksen Publishers (reprint of 1874 3rd edition), 670. Regarding interrelated positons and motions of the sun and Earth, see also Psalm 19:1-6 (19:2-7 BH); Psalm 104:2-5; Ecclesiastes 1:5; Isaiah 40:22.
- Quoting Sarfati, note 1 above.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.