In the early 1500’s, around the time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine chapel, Balboa was the first European to sail into the Pacific, and Machiavelli, an Italian historian and philosopher wrote The Prince, Copernicus wrote something that would reverberate the halls of science for centuries. 1

Copernicus was an Italian astronomer that may have been the first to consider, if not the first to suggest in the written word, that the earth was not the center of the universe. “What appear to us as motions of the Sun arise not from its motion but from the motions of the earth.” 2

Imagine, centuries ago, when science was limited to what we could observe with the naked eye, someone suggesting that the earth, the very pillar we stand on, actually moved. Yet, our every day experiences told us otherwise. Everyone, everywhere, every day of their lives, saw the sun rise and the sun set. This simple observation is backed up by the scripture. (Psalm 113:3) (Isaiah 45:6) Yet Copernicus was suggesting otherwise.

Roughly 40 years after Copernicus first wrote about and began to explore our solar system, another significant character in history came into this world. His name was Galileo, born on February 15, 1564. Many today view Galileo as the secular saint who was forced to deny his astronomical findings by the church. Some have written that Galileo was tried as a heretic or tortured until he would renounce his findings. Carl Sagan, in his book Cosmos, wrote that Galileo was in a Catholic dungeon threatened with torture unless he recanted his heretical views. 3 Christopher Hitchens put it this way, “Galileo might have been unmolested in his telescopic work if he had not been so unwise as to admit that it had cosmological implications.” 4

This past weekend my son handed me a book by Kris Vallotton, titled Moral Revolution The Naked Truth about Sexual Purity. He was interested in what I would think about it, so I took the weekend to read it.

Without turning this into a book review, I will just share what Vallotten wrote in his brief mention of Galileo, “In the early 1600’s a scientist named Galileo, through the invention of the telescope, observed that the earth revolved around the sun and not the sun around the earth. The Catholic Church was the political force of that day, and Galileo’s scientific discovery was opposed to the Church’s theology, so the Pope tried him as a heretic. The Church authorities forced him to renounce his discoveries and placed him under house arrest, where he lived out the last years of his life.” 5 Vallotten went on to say how the Catholic Church relegated the public to ignorance and lies via a highly developed system of punishment.

Point Number 1. Galileo was never tried as a heretic, not by the Pope or anyone else.

Galileo actually had two meetings with at the Vatican over the years. The first meeting, in 1616, was about Galileo’s lectures supporting the heliocentric view, (the view that the earth revolved around the sun). It was a warm welcome by the Catholic Church since Galileo was famous and well respected. While there, he stayed at the grand Medici Villa, meeting with the Pope and other cardinals more than once. 6

Cardinal Bellarmine was head of the investigation and was quite familiar with Galileo’s view. Bellarmine was no slouch to the science of that day, and wrote a letter that said if the earth did revolve around the sun, and not the sun around the earth, “…we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of scripture which appear to teach the contrary.”7 Sounds reasonable don’t you think? Bellarmine went on, “…this is not a thing to be done in haste, and as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me.” 8

Essentially Bellarmine was saying, make sure you are correct, then we can revisit scripture and consider our interpretations. D’Souza put it this way in his book, What’s So Great About Christianity, when investigating how Bellarmine dealt with the situation, “This is a model of sensible procedure. Bellarmine assumed that there could be no real conflict between nature and scripture, which is what Christianity has always taught.” 9 Simply, Galileo was told not to push the heliocentric view and returned home. The case was closed, the findings and conclusion of the church were filed away.

Alan Hirshfeld, in his book Parallax, which tells the story of how we came to measure distant stars wrote, “Galileo laid the blame for the papal restrictions not on the Church, but on the conservative Aristotelian philosophers who had precipitated the Pope’s action, [Galileo wrote] ‘They have endeavored to spread the opinion that such Copernican propositions in general are contrary to the Bible and are consequently damnable and heretical…’” 10

The second meeting took place about 16 years later, after Galileo published a book in 1632 with two main figures, the Pope and Galileo. In his book, the Pope and Galileo debated the heliocentric view. In Galileo’s defense, the Pope at that time was a personal friend to Galileo, previously known as Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, now Pope Urban VIII.  I would imagine that Galileo felt he had much more freedom to express his views on the sun being the center of our solar system, rather than the earth. Galileo erred in the length of his leash. In his book, Galileo gave the Pope the name of ‘Simplicio’ which means ‘simpleton’ in Italian. Not the wisest of moves. Imagine giving testimony in a courtroom, and some how insulting the intelligence of the judge who is presiding over your case. Galileo may have been brilliant, but there may have been some omission of common sense in the blue print.

A year later, Galileo returned to Rome to meet with the Inquisition. The consensus was that Galileo was undermining the authority and teachings of the church. Notes from Bellarmine years before were found which compounded the event. It became clear that Galileo had already been told not to push the heliocentric view. Galileo was told to recant his views, which he did, and was placed under house arrest.

Point Number 2. Yes, house arrest. The first five months in the palace of the archbishop of Siena, (must have been difficult), and then he returned home to his villa in Florence. 11 He was allowed to visit his daughters, and continue his research. He died of natural causes nine years later.

What was interesting to me is Vallotton is citing the NOVA special found on PBS.org. Sources that would be fair to say have a liberal slant on just about every issue you can think of. Now, what I am not saying is just because he cited information from a leftist source, it should be dismissed as inaccurate. What I am saying is, when you research history, don’t limit yourself, move beyond PBS, ushistory.org, the dailymail.co.uk, and Wikipedia.

Science and Christianity are not at odds with one another. It is disappointing to see Christian leaders fall prey to the secular historical spin that has been pushed since Darwin visited the Galapagos islands.

When researching topics, the Internet is a vast resource that, by-in-large can’t be trusted, but can be extremely useful when used with sound judgment and common sense. One indication that points to the reliability of a published text is how the author or authors cite. That is, I would be extremely skeptical if they are using web sites and Wikipedia vs. published materials they have probably read, pulled off their shelf, or at least checked out from the library.

 

Sources:

1. Hirshfeld, Alan W. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.
2. Ibid.
3. Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Random House, 1980. Print
4. Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great-How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Company, 2007. Print.
5. Vallotton, Kris. Vallotton, Jason. Moral Revolution The Naked Truth about Sexual Purity. Minneapolis: Chosen, 2012. Print.
6. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.
7. Brodrick, James. Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar. West Monasterii, London: Newman Press, 1961. Print.
8. Ibid.
9. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.
10. Hirshfeld, Alan. Parallax The Race To Measure The Cosmos. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.
11. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.

 

 

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The Truth about Galileo by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

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