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How the Reformers’ Beliefs Affected Early Modern Science

Curiosity is a fundamental part of God’s design for humanity. That curiosity is strongest when we are children since we have so much to learn about life and the world. As we get older, we tend to lose much of that curiosity as we settle into daily routines and busy schedules. However, some people stay curious, continuing to ask questions. A lot of these perpetually curious individuals turn to the realm of science, which constantly seeks to understand how the world operates.

Though forms of science have existed since the creation of the world, modern science as we think of it today began in the 1500s, most notably with Nicolaus Copernicus’ 1543 De Revolutionibus, which argued for a heliocentric view of the universe rather than a geocentric one. While Copernicus’ book spurred the rise of modern science as other men began questioning traditionally held, but not tested, scientific thought, his views were eventually declared heretical by the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, many modern scholars point to this incident as proof that science is fundamentally opposed to religion (especially Christianity) and is even superior to it. However, these claims fail to understand the context surrounding the publication of De Revolutionibus, which occurred in the midst of the Protestant Reformation. The birth of modern science does not demonstrate the failure of Christianity or the inaccuracy of Scripture. Instead, the revival of true Christianity by means of the Protestant Reformation was a major influence on both the founding and proliferation of modern science.

The Protestant Reformation began a couple decades before Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church in 1517. The Reformation sparked by Luther stretched beyond religious practices, also influencing many aspects of European culture, including science. This influence was wrapped up in what is known as the “Five Solas of the Reformation.”

The Latin word solus means “alone,” which is where we get English words such as solo and sole. The five solas refer to the Reformers’ core Christian beliefs: Sola Christus, Christ alone is head of the church; Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone is authoritative; Sola Gratia, salvation is by grace alone; Sola Fide, justification is by faith alone; and Soli Deo Gloria, everything is done for God’s glory alone. These solas are generally considered to be the foundational beliefs proclaimed during the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers held to these five solas and with them reshaped Western Civilization, including Europe’s understanding of science. Two of these solas in particular, Sola Scriptura and Soli Deo Gloria, strongly influenced both the rise of modern science and the budding scientists of this scientific revolution.

Sola Scriptura: An Attack on Science?

When discussing the Reformation and the rise of modern science, many contemporary historians argue that the Reformers used Sola Scriptura not only to reject scientific advancement but also to attack it. In particular, these historians point out that the Reformers stood against Copernicus’ assertion that the earth was not the center of the universe. Since Copernicus’ 1543 De Revolutionibus traditionally marks the beginning of modern science, these contemporary historians claim that the Reformers held back science rather than encouraging its growth. However, these claims are largely erroneous and not based on thorough research. Let’s take a look at two prominent Reformers who are often accused of opposing modern science: Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon.

Luther and Science

There is only one quotation from Luther that seems to oppose Copernicus’ heliocentric views. This comment was made in 1539, four years before De Revolutionibus was published. When a friend mentioned Copernicus’ ideas, Luther responded, “Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth.”1

From this one comment, history of science professor I. Bernhard Cohen infers in The Birth of a New Physics that Sola Scriptura caused the Reformers to oppose science because “even before the publication of De Revolutionibus, Martin Luther heard about Copernicus’ ideas and condemned them violently for contradicting the Bible.”2 However, Cohen does not accurately represent Luther’s comment. Rather than arguing against the progress of science, Luther merely agreed with the science of his day and refused to permit an unproven and untested idea to supersede the Bible. There are numerous accounts of Luther opposing astrology and understanding the importance of medical advancement, and there are no other known quotations of Luther rejecting either Copernicus or other scientific ideas. Thus, it is certainly a stretch to say that Martin Luther opposed scientific advancement.

Melanchthon and Science

Besides Luther, historians often accuse the Reformer Philip Melanchthon of opposing advances in science. For example, history and science philosopher Thomas Kuhn asserts in The Copernican Revolution that Melanchthon wrote against Copernicus’ theory in his 1549 Initia Doctrinae Physicae, including in this writing “a number of anti-Copernican Biblical passages” and even a suggestion “that severe measures be taken to restrain the Copernicans.”3 Kuhn thus indicates that Melanchthon’s devotion to Sola Scriptura hindered modern science. However, though Melanchthon did disagree with the specific theories of Copernicus, he was not opposed to science; instead, Melanchthon’s belief in Sola Scriptura actually strengthened his pursuit of science. Much of this can be seen in Melanchthon’s works included in Corpus Reformatorum, a large collection of writings by Reformers. Unfortunately, no English translation of this compendium currently exists; however, historians who have perused it have noted that Melanchthon did not oppose science.

According to science historian Bruce Moran in “The Universe of Philip Melanchthon,” while the Catholic Church stressed a threefold nature of knowledge, Melanchthon declared that Christians had “a fourth precept of certainty, namely, divine revelation,” which was a part of the natural light of knowledge. Therefore, since divine revelation was a part of knowledge, Melanchthon believed that philosophy and science were “legitimate instruments in the pursuit of divine knowledge.”4

Not only did Sola Scriptura encourage Melanchthon’s support of science, but it also strengthened his support of science’s growth. Because Melanchthon believed that Sola Scriptura emphasized verifying truth rather than merely assuming it to be true, he held a deep interest in astronomy and other sciences. Melanchthon’s attachment to science was so great that he was even willing to support ideas opposed to his own. For example, he actively supported the Wittenberg professors Erasmus Reinhold and Georg Joachim Rheticus, who both agreed with Copernican views of the universe. Melanchthon helped Reinhold publish his Copernican-based Tabulae Prutenicae in 1551, while Rheticus included the Copernican system in his 1540 Narration Prima, which finally persuaded Copernicus to publish De Revolutionibus the next year. Since De Revolutionibus is traditionally accepted as the spark of the scientific revolution, Melanchthon, by supporting Rheticus, indirectly helped usher in this great revolution. Clearly, Melanchthon’s belief in Sola Scriptura encouraged him to support science and aid in its growth.

Soli Deo Gloria: Science for the Glory of God

While Sola Scriptura emphasized trust in the Bible, Soli Deo Gloria emphasized that everything can and should be done for God’s glory. Up until that point, the Roman Catholic Church emphasized that science should only be studied to know more about God. While this approach to science has honorable intentions, science can also reveal many things about ourselves and the world around us. By limiting scientific study to only learning about God, the Catholic Church unintentionally hindered scientific advancement.

With the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers began to see science in a new light. As they studied the Scriptures, the Reformers read Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” From this verse came Soli Deo Gloria, that everything should be done for God’s glory. This statement did not mean that everything a man did was solely to discover more of God’s glory; instead, it meant that everything a man did should bring glory to God. Not only did Soli Deo Gloria change how men lived their lives, but it also changed how they viewed science. From this new perspective, science did not have to be studied solely to learn about God; instead, someone could study pure experimental science and glorify God with his work.

This shift in scientific philosophy completely changed the study of science, for men did not just study it for theological reasons. Instead, true scientists began performing pure scientific experiments. One of the Reformers who emphasized that science should be studied to praise God was Philip Melanchthon. According to science historian Robert Westman, Melanchthon “links the study of nature with praise of the Creator” in one of his astronomy speeches. In this speech, Melanchthon states, “To recognize God the Creator from the order of the heavenly motions and of His entire work, that is true and useful divination, for which reason God wanted us also to behold His works. Let us therefore cherish the subject which demonstrates the order of the motions . . . and let us not be deterred by harmful opinions, since there are some who . . . always hate the pursuit of knowledge.”5 This enthusiasm Melanchthon had for praising God through scientific study eventually spread to more scientists over the next century. Crucially, Melanchthon trained the theologian Jacob Heerbrand, who eventually taught one of the most influential scientists of the seventeenth century.

Part two coming next Sunday.

by Cory Von Eiff on May 14, 2024
ArcAngel · 61-69, M
How do you interpret these Scriptures?

WATERS ABOVE GEN 1:7 PS 104:3 PS 148:4

Gen 1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

Psa 104:3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

Psa 148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.

FIRMAMENT GEN 1:6-8, 14-19 JOB 37:18 PS 19:1

Gen 1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Gen 1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Gen 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Gen 1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
Gen 1:15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
Gen 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
Gen 1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
Gen 1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
Gen 1:19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Job 37:18 Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?

Psa 19:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

SUN MOVES ECCL 1:5 PS 19:5,6 JOSH 10:13

Ecc 1:5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

Psa 19:5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

Psa 19:6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

Jos 10:12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.

Jos 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.


Isa 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:


Isa 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.

Mat 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

Rev 6:13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.


Gen 1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

Gen 1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

EARTH IMMOVABLE 1 CHR 16:30 PS 93:1 PS 104:5

1Ch 16:30 Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.

Psa 93:1 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

Psa 104:5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.


Isa 41:9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.

Dan 4:11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:


1Sa 2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.

Job 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Psa 75:3 The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.

Psa 104:5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
GodSpeed63 · 61-69, M
How do you interpret these Scriptures?

The way God wrote them, why?
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