Reforming the Dogma

Reforming the Dogma

I’ve been leading a Thursday evening group study for some members of First Christian Church, Frankfort.  Our former associate minister here at Jeffersontown Christian Church, John Opsata, caught me in a really weak moment and I agreed to lead a study on “Understanding the Reformation.”  I actually didn’t know much of anything about the Reformation, a period in church history covering about 150 years.  In researching the subject, I decided to look at the causes/events/issues that preceded the religious reformation.  Empires from the Persians to the Greeks to the Romans to the Franks to the Holy Roman led to changes politically, socially and economically.  At the same time as the Franks and Germans (Holy Roman Empire) were ruling much of Western Europe, artisans in Italy and elsewhere were exploring and expanding their artwork in what we call the Renaissance.  “Scientists” were also discovering new and stunning facts about the world and the universe around them. 

Of course, the Church didn’t always appreciate what the scientists were discovering as it tended to call the Biblical accounts of creation into question.  Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, and Galileo, an Italian, both observed that the earth was round and rotated around the sun.  The reaction from the church was immediate in both cases: either retract your conclusions or be excommunicated/tried as a heretic.  Both men did as requested, but later Galileo did restate his claims of a heliocentric solar system as well as other controversial findings.  Part of the Inquisitions in Spain, Italy and France were aimed specifically at the scientists and artists who challenged the status quo of church doctrine. 

One would think that the controversy was/is over, that the evidence for the sun as the center of our solar system with eight planets (Pluto is no longer considered a planet) revolving around it in elliptical orbits is overwhelming.  Sure.  Yet there are people in the 21st Century who still would claim otherwise, as though the evidence was manufactured.  We find ourselves living in a modern “country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are ‘lies straight from the pit of hell,’ where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president” and where a museum claims that the earth is at most 7,000 years old with dinosaurs and humans living simultaneously.  It is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value.  Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price and is a detriment to our world.  How many years or generations will be required to reform another entrenched set of dogma remains to be seen.

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