Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A current creationist (like you Ken Ham) could learn from John Calvin

John Calvin acknowledged divine accommodation in scientific matters.

It is easy to see that this revered Reformation theologian did not ascribe to a view that the Bible is verbally accurate even in matters of astronomy and therefore can be used as a scientific textbook. Instead he candidly recognized that Moses did not offer scientific description. Possibly even more crucial he did NOT assert that astronomers had to make their own discoveries conform to the level of understanding found in the Bible. Calvin wrote in his Genesis commentary concerning chaper one, verse sixteen:

16. The greater light I have said, that Moses does not here subtilely descant, as a philosopher,

on the secrets of nature, as may be seen in these words. First, he assigns a place in the expanse of

heaven to the planets and stars; but astronomers make a distinction of spheres, and, at the same

time, teach that the fixed stars have their proper place in the firmament. Moses makes two great

luminaries; but astronomers prove, by conclusive reasons that the star of Saturn, which on account

of its great distance, appears the least of all, is greater than the moon. Here lies the difference;

Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with

common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the

sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor

this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is

unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot

be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God. Wherefore, as ingenious men are to

be honored who have expended useful labor on this subject, so they who have leisure and capacity

ought not to neglect this kind of exercise. Nor did Moses truly wish to withdraw us from this pursuit

in omitting such things as are peculiar to the art; but because he was ordained a teacher as well of

the unlearned and rude as of the learned, he could not otherwise fulfill his office than by descending

to this grosser method of instruction. Had he spoken of things generally unknown, the uneducated

might have pleaded in excuse that such subjects were beyond their capacity. Lastly since the Spirit

of God here opens a common school for all, it is not surprising that he should chiefly choose those

subjects which would be intelligible to all. If the astronomer inquires respecting the actual dimensions

of the stars, he will find the moon to be less than Saturn; but this is something abstruse, for to the
sight it appears differently. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his discourse to common usage. For

since the Lord stretches forth, as it were, his hand to us in causing us to enjoy the brightness of the

sun and moon, how great would be our ingratitude were we to close our eyes against our own

experience? There is therefore no reason why janglers should deride the unskillfulness of Moses in

making the moon the second luminary; for he does not call us up into heaven, he only proposes

things which lie open before our eyes. Let the astronomers possess their more exalted knowledge;

but, in the meantime, they who perceive by the moon the splendor of night, are convicted by its

use of perverse ingratitude unless they acknowledge the beneficence of God.

71 “Great lights;” that is, in our eyes, “to which the sun and moon are nearer than the fixed stars and the greater planets.” —

Johannes Clericus in Genesin, p.10. — Ed.

72 The reader will be in no danger of being misled by the defective natural philosophy of the age in which this was written.

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