Science Discussed Pt. 1

Sitting between two fires he avoided the noxious fumes. This was the prescribed action by the Paris consilium in 1348 to protect Pope Clement VI from the Bubonic plague. The consilium deduced Saturn and Jupiter's alignment was causing a release of noxious fumes into the atmosphere which resulted in a Papal estimate of 23 million dead due to the plague. 

While the Pope's action did protect him from the plague, even though the proposed causes of the plague were incorrect, the sheer fact that followers of Christ were taking action against the disease is inspiring. According to Glenn Sunshine in his book Why You Think The Way You Do, the Church took to science to explain the cause of the plague in the midst of the golden age in science for the followers of Muhammad. Sunshine explains:

Although the medieval period is often described as a golden age for Muslim science, this is only partially true...the prominent Sufi scholar Abu Hamid al-Ghazali argued...that Muslim philosophers who in any way called into question the teachings of the Qur'an or of Islam were infidels...Islam teaches that Allah directly contols everything and can do as he pleases with the world. Seeking explanations of physical processes was thus either not possible or inappropriate.

Sunshine goes on to tell the story of Ibn al-Khatib, a Muslim physician who lived in Spain during the Bubonic outbreak. His al-Khatib postulated that the plague was do to a contagion spreading throughout the masses in Europe. Because his thought pattern called Allah's authority into question, insinuating that the physical world determined who would receive the plague rather than the will of Allah, al-Khatib was imprisoned in 1374 for holding non-Islamic views. Shortly after his imprisonment a mob of people broke into the prison and lynched al-Khatib because his views of contagion were non-Islamic.

A person's view of the world greatly impacts how and why they work to understand the world. Rodney Stark notes in his book For The Glory of God that the scientific revolution is a misnomer when it lays the claim that science pushed through the "superstitious barriers of faith". Stark highlights that the, "flowering of science took place in the sixteenth century (from) the normal, gradual and direct outgrowth of Scholasticism and the medieval universities...theological assumptions unique to Christianity explain why science was born only in Christian Europe.

The next few Principal's Desk submissions will center on the topic of how followers of Christ have been compelled to understand more of Christ through the study of science.

We are blessed to have committed followers of Christ who understand the history of their academic discipline and work to instill in students the philosophy as well as the practice of honing knowledge and understanding of the world. Armin Jahr's testimony above is a brief example of how students at Hillcrest Academy are being equipped to live a life of significance in God's world.


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