I’ve no interest in questioning Lennox’s conclusion that “the ‘Galileo affair’ really does nothing to confirm a simplistic conflict view of the relationship of science to religion” (26). I agree, because just as he says that “statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science” (19) it is likewise true that conflicts between scientists and religionists are not necessarily conflicts between science and religion.
What I’m interested in are three of the four lessons that Lennox says are to be learned from the affair. He writes about these only in reference to the Galileo affair and heliocentrism, but I see no reason why they can’t be given a wider application. These are found on pages 25 and 26, but I’ve paraphrased them here:
1. Don’t always read the Bible literally,
2. Take a more sophisticated and nuanced view of the Bible, and
3. Avoid using the Bible to support ideas that it never intended to teach.
Now I find these lessons fascinating because of the tension revelation has with evidence and the reader. Depending on the reader and the revelation it is fact or fiction. Yet that revelation also retains properties of the other literary form; facts are presented as fiction, the fiction comes with the authority of god and so lending it fact. Revelation is quasi-fact and quasi-fiction. It is its own genre, for no other writing can combine the authority of an omniscient being with mistakes about the observable natural world or miraculous occurrences and still be treated as literal truth, metaphor or even both at the same time.
And so to question or debate revelation is a different beast as opposed to other texts where the author claims authority over the information. In general, error correction of a revelation’s claim is more internal than external; one examines one’s own interpretation of the text (or seeks advice from trusted others) rather than comparing it’s claims against the observable world. IMHO 2 YMMV.
And so to return to Lennox’s lessons, I’d like to know how he chooses to interpret:
1. what is literal and what is not,
2. what is sophisticated and nuanced, and what is to be taken at face, and
3. what the Bible has authority to teach and what it doesn’t.