Does the "clear meaning" of the scriptures trump science?

In a now closed thread, @T_aquaticus provided a great quote from Cardinal Bellarmine’s famous 1615 letter to the heliocentrist Paolo Foscarini. Bellarmine emphasized the clear meaning of the scriptures—as interpreted by the Council of Trent, the Holy Fathers, and the approved commentaries of his day—over everything the heliocentrists were publishing at the time.

If one were to edit the following excerpts from Bellarmine’s letter with the appropriate modern analogues and references to CMI, AIG, and ICR in place of the authorities of Bellarmine’s day, would the arguments not sound very familiar to us?

The Council [of Trent] prohibits interpreting Scripture against the common consensus of the Holy Fathers; and if Your Paternity wants to read not only the Holy Fathers, but also the modern commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Joshua, you will find all agreeing in the literal interpretation that the sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed, and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits motionless at the center of the world.

I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary, and say rather that we do not understand them, than that what is demonstrated is false. But I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown me. Nor is it the same to demonstrate that by supposing the sun to be at the center and the earth in heaven one can [save the appearances], and to demonstrate that in truth the sun is at the center and the earth in heaven; for I believe the first demonstration may be available, but I have very great doubts about the second, and in case of doubt one must not abandon the Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Holy Fathers.

I appreciated yet another succinct characterization from @T_aquaticus’ comments:

I agree—but many would not. Why? Are there crucial differences between the scripture-citing heliocentrism-denials of Cardinal Bellarmine et al in 1615 and the scripture-citing evolution-denials (not to mention the geology denials, physics denials, and astronomy denials) of modern day Young Earth Creationist ministries?


Modern day science deniers have less excuse, for one. Most of them are literate, and there are a lot more books for them to read.


The crucial difference is that Bellarmine had incorrectly understood scripture, while YECs are 100% for sure correct about what it means. Or so I’m told.


The scientific YEC movement, started by the Seventh Day Adventists in the early 1930’s and modernized by Henry Morris in the 1960’s, is an important part of the question posed by the title of this thread. If the clear meaning of scripture truly does trump science, then why all the effort to justify YEC with science? The articles at nearly all the major YEC websites try to make scientific arguments for a young Earth and a recent global flood, so obviously science does matter. Most YEC’s see the problem with a theology that is starkly contradicted by mountains of scientific facts.

YEC theology forces believers to doubt the accuracy of scripture. They are told that if science is correct then the Bible is false. Dr. Francis Collins had this to say:


I don’t agree. I was never told that growing up. The emphasis was what the Bible itself teaches.

I agree with this.

You don’t have to abandon logic and reason at all, neither does God ask that of anyone.

Great quote from Francis Collins. I’m particularly interested in how @PDPrice and others respond to this statement:

The tragedy of young-earth creationism is that it takes a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis, applies to it an unjustified scientific gloss, and then asks sincere and well-meaning seekers to swallow this whole, despite the massive discordance with decades of scientific evidence from multiple disciplines.

I assume that most YECs will deny the “relatively recent” and “extreme view” descriptions of their interpretations of Genesis—and I will agree that some aspects of their interpretations can be traced back many centuries—but I am eager to understand their best defenses of what Collins is criticizing.


I grew up in a fundamentalist church and I was certainly taught exactly that. (I’m not doubting @thoughtful’s experience in the church. I can only speak of my own.)

And though the following view was not emphasized in my church, I well remember some pastors in the 1950’s and 1960’s saying something like this: “God has allowed scientists to contradict the Bible in order to test our faith. Science can be a great threat to our faith if we allow it to be.”

In my youth there were some pastors preaching that logic and reason was the enemy of faith. There were various trends and fads in this regard, including “Let go and let God.” It implied “the less thinking the better.”

And a criticism of Francis Schaeffer by many Roman Catholic theologians when his book and film “How Should We Then Live” came out was that Schaeffer blamed Aquinas for bringing Greek logic and reason into Christian thought.


But don’t you also agree with young earth creationism? That would mean that you think all those sciences have collapsed. Assuming you’re being at all consistent. Are you?


Many YEC children are taught this.

The vast majority of people disagree. You have to abandon logic and reason if you are going to conclude that the Earth is young.


And many will naturally wonder if the creator has placed deceptive records in the earth’s crust of a history which never happened.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned in the past in these forums, I’ve met YECs who believe that God has intentionally used the deceptive evidence as a test of faith—and that God also has obliterated some historical evidence (such as geologic evidence of a global flood) because of other aspects of his character. (For example, I’ve been told that God forgives and puts the memory of sins behind him, and that is why global flood evidence was erased from the geologic record.)

I’m not at all saying that all YECs hold those positions but I’ve certainly encountered them over the years.

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I grew up in a pretty fundamentalist church too and this is not what I was taught. Perhaps because it was Calvinist and is a very thinking faith.

This is the college I went to. Dordt ranked #1 in student engagement by Wall Street Journal | Dordt University There’s a reason why they’ve gotten this award since WSJ began it. I doubt many faculty there are YEC but nonetheless I still came to my own conclusion it is correct because of logic and reason regarding biblical exegesis.

The deception is not coming from God.

But not because of logic and reason regarding the scientific evidence?


I agree with that 100%.


More recently, some YECs (I think, it’s been a while) were trying to get Set Theory removed from a grade school math curriculum. The reasons why were not stated, but Set theory is the basis for mathematical logic.

Abandon doesn’t seem like the right word. It presumes a person had an understand and left it behind. In practice I think a lot of people never acquire that understanding, and get along just fine without it.


Do you then agree that there are deceptive record in he earth’s crust? And if so, who do they come from?


10 posts were split to a new topic: Flood Geology, Again

Shout it from the rooftops!

ETA I have asoft spot for Darrel R. Falk

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No I don’t agree with that at all. I think the record is very indicative of biblical history.

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In keeping with the opening post, Galileo, and clear meanings of scripture: