God's Two Books

God's Two Books

Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science

Book - 2002
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How do we resolve conflicts when fundamental sources of knowledge and belief--such as science and theology--are involved? In God's Two Books , Kenneth Howell offers a historical analysis of how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century astronomers and theologians in Northern Protestant Europe used science and religion to challenge and support one another. Howell reveals that the cosmological schemes developed during this era remain monumental solutions to the enduring problem of how theological interpretation and empirical investigation interact with one another."Writing history requires a constant shedding of our misconceptions about the past," says Howell. God's Two Books reshapes our understanding of the interaction of cosmological thought and biblical interpretation in the emerging astronomy of the Scientific Revolution by analyzing new texts and offering interpretations that cast old materials in a new light.The central argument of this compelling book is that the use of the Bible in early modern cosmology is considerably more complex and subtle than has previously been recognized. Drawing on the writings of Lutheran and Calvinist astronomers, natural philosophers, and theologians, Howell analyzes several underlying patterns of interpretation which affected how these historical figures viewed the mutual interaction of the books of nature and Scripture. He argues that while they differed on how the disciplines of astronomy, physics, and theology should relate to one another, most thinkers shared the common goal of finding and explaining the true system of the universe.Howell introduces the notion of a convergent realism to describe Protestant intellectuals' approach to incorporating empirical and theological perspectives into a holistic version of the universe. They believed the sacred page was relevant to cosmology but denied that the Bible had scientific content. At the same time, these thinkers argued that the theological truths expressed in the Bible were interwoven into nature in subtle, yet revealing, ways. Their resulting interpretations show continuity with Catholic thinkers and discard oversimplifications such as literal versus figurative hermeneutics or Copernican versus anti-Copernican cosmologies.Among Howell's many original contributions in this cogent study is a distinctive approach to Kepler's exegesis of nature and an introduction to the debate of many Calvinist thinkers who have previously received little attention.
Publisher: Notre Dame, Ind. : University of Notre Dame Press, c2002.
ISBN: 9780268010454
Characteristics: viii, 319 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


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