“Six Ways Christianity Supported the Growth of Science” by Saints and Sceptics

1) The pioneers of the scientific method had to wait some time before they could demonstrate the practical benefits of their studies. Until then, they pursued knowledge of the natural world simply because such knowledge was considered to be a good in itself. This particular pursuit of knowledge makes sense if we are “thinking God’s thoughts after him” by studying his creation. Intellectuals would have been less inclined to study a world produced by the random movement of meaningless atoms in the infinite void

…today almost all historians agree that Christianity (Catholicism as well as Protestantism) moved early-modern intellectuals to study nature systematically.” Noah J Effron in “Galileo Goes to Jail”

2) Notions borrowed from Christian belief found their way into scientific discourse. Christians believed that God was both rational and sovereign: a rather different world-view from the ancient’s belief that the world sprang out of chaos and was governed by Fortune. A rational, personal God would create an orderly, regular universe . This led to the belief that nature would be governed by laws.

The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it; to speak properly a law is but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior” Robert Boyle, Notion of Nature

3) To have knowledge of the natural world, the laws of nature must not be too deep or complex for us to follow.Christians believed that we were made in God’s image. We were also made to know and worship God. It follows that were created with the intellectual ability to understand God’s creation. This belief gave intellectuals confidence that they could truly grasp and understand the natural world.

Those laws are within the grasp of the human mind. God wanted us to recognise them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts…” Kepler, Letter to Johannes George Hewart von Hohenburg

4) Unlike the ancient Greeks, who believed that the physical world was inferior to the intellectual and the spiritual, the Juadeo-Christian scriptures taught that the created realm was good. It was not shameful to get one’s hands dirty through physical labour; the physical world was also worthy of contemplation.

The enthusiasm for the new empiricism is equally well illustrated by John Wilkins, an Anglican Bishop with Puritan sympathies, a founding member of the Royal Society …’We should not be ‘so superstitiously devoted to Antiquity’, wrote Wilkins in the carefully chosen words of a 17th century Bishop, ‘as for to take up everything as Canonical which drops from the pen of a Father, …We must labour to find out what things are in themselves by our own experience…not what another says of them.’ Obvious to us now – revolutionary at the time: a good example of theological stimulation being provided to assist the emergence of the empirical method. Denis Alexander

5) God is free and sovereign. Some Ancient Greeks, like Aristotle, thought that we could discover the principles that governed the world simply through rational reflection. However, Christians believed …

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