Consider, for ex- ample, Joshua 10:13, which reveals how the Lord intervened for Israel in battle:
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. . . . And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. (Joshua 10:13, NAS)
To the biblical reader ignorant of the earths orbit around the sun as we understand it today, to say that the earth stood still would have made no sense whatsoever. The point of the passage was not to identify the sun as the center of the universe, but God. The event demonstrated that an all-powerful God intervened over natural forces on behalf of His people.
However, seventeenth-century church authorities interpreted such biblical references to physical phenomena as unequivocal statements of scientific fact, rather than as expressing concepts in terms the biblical audience would understand. The Churchs dogmatism produced an historic conflict with Galileo, a brilliant scientist and mathematician who held to Copernican theories of astronomy. The church hierarchy ultimately tried Galileo for heresy and burned one of his key works.
The churchs defensive reaction to scientific study and freedom of inquiry marked a deep and lasting split between science and religion. Instead of science developing alongside religion, it developed along a separate and often hostile track. Instead of ecclesiastical leaders realizing that all truth is Gods truth, they attempted to retain authority through ignorance. As a result, the Church lost credibility and science lost its moral moorings and holistic perspective.
However, it was individual men and women of faith who understood that a creator God formed our world based on order and scientific principles. That perspective provided the motivation to discover those principles. Christian scientists provided manpower for the Enlightenment.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the rationalist religious philosophy of Deism suggested that God had put certain natural principles in charge of the world. Correctly understanding and applying
these natural laws would lead to health and progress. English philosopher John Locke (16321704) stated the new enlightened view of health: A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this World: he that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be little the better for anything else.8
By exclusively emphasizing experience, the philosophy of empiricists like John Locke led scientists even further away from religious and spiritual matters. Rationalists like René Descartes argued that the mind could rationally understand things apart from experi- ence. Finally, Immanuel Kant attempted a synthesis of the two competing philosophies by propounding tran- scendentalism, which taught that God was outside the realm of human experience and therefore unknowable. Hegels development of Kants teachings provided a foundation for communism. Each of these philosophies elevated mans knowledge over Gods and His revela- tion.
Modern medicine (1800 AD - present)
With contemplative philosophy playing the background music, a series of remarkable discoveries launched medicine into a brave new world. German pathologist Rudolf Virchow uncovered the cell as the seat of disease. Ignaz Semmelweis traced mothers mortality after childbirth to infectious agents carried by unwashed hands during examinations. Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch launched tremendous advances in bacteriology.
Discoveries such as these helped stop the spread of leprosy, tuber- culosis, and the plagueeach long-standing enemies. In the 20th century, vaccines, antibiotics and more healthful living conditions helped vanquish many infectious diseases. In addition, the Christian churchs involvement in interna- tional medical missions not only greatly improved world health, it began a revival that continues today. Progress in areas of genet- ics, transplants, and drug therapies, coupled with technological advances including the CAT scan and ultrasound, injected new optimism in the battle to free humanity from disease.
Then, in the early 1980s, a new plagueautoimmune deficiency virus (AIDS)quelled the optimism. West Nile, SARS, Legionairres disease and others still leave scientists baffled. Some healthcare consumers, disen- chanted with the rigidity and limitations of scientific medicine, turned elsewhere for answers about health. The spiritual side of existence, for so long neglected, attracted new attention.