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Considering Peter Harrison: A Science Major Weighs In

Published on Mar 02, 2016.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.” –Pope Francis

During our science versus religion portion of the semester, our honors class briefly studied the Peter Harrison essay concerning the conflict of the two biggest conflicting Christian views: Protestantism and Catholicism. In his text, Peter Harrison describes the Protestant Reformation as the “great divide” between the literal intellectuals and the scientists. Prior to the Reformation, the Catholic Church had only let learned scholars study the Bible because they believed that much of the Bible was written in an allegorical sense and was not meant to be taken literally. However, once the Bible had gotten into the hands of the common people it was interpreted in a much more literal sense. Does this difference in interpretation still separate Protestants and Catholics today? As I have been raised in a Protestant family all of my life, going into this semester I honestly knew little about the beliefs of Catholics. However, after trolling random comment forums and doing some research I found that most Catholics believe the Gospels, Acts, and some of the Old Testament books such as Exodus are literal. However, they also believe that books such as Genesis and Revelation are not trying to convey historical accuracy but still have a meaning that the author is trying to convey. I found this very interesting, especially regarding the creation account. Any Protestant church that I have ever attended has always maintained that God created the earth in six days. However, as the Genesis account does not go into any detail as to how God created the earth, most Protestants just accept the fact that God “spoke” the earth into existence. Because Protestants believe that the earth was created in such a short time, they also believe that the earth is only six to ten thousand years old. As most modern scientists today believe that the earth is several billion years old, this has put many Protestant scientists at war with the “evolutionists.” However, Catholics do not have this problem because they do not believe that Genesis was a historical account but rather an allegorical account on how God is responsible for all creation. Although I by no means consider myself a Catholic, I do not think that the Protestant churches should so blindly accept Genesis passages to be literal when they were written thousands of years ago and very well could have been allegorical. If Protestant churches would even accept the possibility that the Genesis account of creation is allegorical, they would spend so much less time contradicting modern scientists and more time spreading the gospel. As a science major here at NNU, I think that attempting to take all scripture literally is one of the biggest reasons people believe that science and religion conflict.


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