The Catholic Approach to Bible and Science -- By: Bernard Ramm

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 111:443 (Jul 1954)
Article: The Catholic Approach to Bible and Science
Author: Bernard Ramm


The Catholic Approach to Bible and Science

Bernard Ramm

[Editor’s Note: The following article by Dr. Ramm was presented as a paper at the annual meeting of The Evangelical Theological Society in Chicago, Illinois, December 30–31, 1953. Formerly associated with The Bible Institute of Los Angeles and Bethel College and Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, Dr. Ramm is now Professor of Religion and Director of Graduate Studies in Religion at Baylor University, Waco, Texas.]

Due to the Roman Catholic view of the authority of the church and its right to interpret Scripture, the Catholic doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures has been obscured. Roman Catholicism believes in the divine inspiration and infallibility of the Bible as forcefully as Protestant orthodoxy. For this reason Roman Catholicism is faced with the identical problem Protestant orthodoxy is in reference to the Bible and science. It is the purpose of this study to see how the Roman Catholic Church has handled this question which has been so troublesome in Protestant orthodoxy.

Historical Events of Significance

Galileo. The Roman Catholic Church had its first real clash with modern science when it tried Galileo, the founder of modern physics. The details and interpretation of the trial form an intricate history as charge and counter-charge have served to confuse the details.1

The issue is this: Did the pope actually condemn the heliocentric theory of the universe using his right as infallible vicar of Christ, or was some other serious but secondary condemnation passed upon the theory and Galileo? If it were the first, we have a clear example of papal infallibility being involved in fallibility; and if the second, it was a serious mistake but no involvement of papal infallibility. White makes a strong case for the former, and the

Catholic Encyclopedia is frank to admit that in condemning the theory of Copernicus which Galileo advocated “it is undeniable that the ecclesiastical authorities committed a grave and deplorable error, and sanctioned an altogether false principle as to the proper use of Scripture.”2

Our purpose is not to settle the Galileo case but to make this observation: the Catholic Church so burned its fingers in the Galileo case that it has never again taken such a stand against fundamental scientific theory. Morren remarks that the Galileo episode has been for the Catholics the source of much “salutory prudence and has contributed to the better delineation of the respective domains” of theology and science.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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