Re: Augustine on science

Date: Fri Feb 08 2002 - 15:50:21 EST

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    << In The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim)
     (translated by J. H. Taylor, Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982,
     volume 41) Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39 Augustine wrote:
     "Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens,
     and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the
     stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable
     eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about
     the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he
     holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a
     disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian,
     presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these
     topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing
     situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh
     it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is
     derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred
     writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose
     salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected
     as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they
     themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our
     books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the
     resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of
     heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts
     which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
     Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble
     and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their
     mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound
     by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly
     foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy
     Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they
     think support their position, although they understand neither what they say
     nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]"
     Stephen J. Krogh, P.G. >>

    Both Ted and Stephen have given us this valuable quotation, which evidences
    more wisdom than many YEC's affirm. But, given Augustine's statement on the
    smallness of the stars as confirmed by Gen 1:16, and I recall now his
    statement rejecting the claim of long ages in Egyptian history, saying "They
    ...being deceived by a kind of false writing, that say: 'The world has
    continued many thousand years,' whereas the holy scripture gives us not yet
    six thousand years since man was made." [The City of God 12:10, New York: E.
    P. Dutton, 1945, p.317], which puts him right back into the YEC camp, I would
    understand the quotation about not interpreting the Bible in ways that are
    scientifically nonsensical to mean that interpretations which contradict
    consensual science do not reflect the true meanings of Scripture because the
    true meanings would agree with scientific truth. If so, then he is still
    regarding the Bible as a scientific text.

    I would like to see a statement from him which says or implies that the
    science qua science in some part of the Bible is the science of the times, or
    at least is not necessarily in agreement with up-to-date science. You can
    find that in Calvin, but I have not yet seen it in Augustine. However, I have
    read little more of Augustine than his commentary on Genesis; and, I may have
    missed something even there.


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