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I miss Pluto

February 21, 2012

It’s been quite a few years now since the scientific community decided that Pluto was no longer a planet and I have to admit I am not over that yet, I still miss it.  I grew up in the 1950s and was a fan of both science and science fiction, the latter to the dismay of some of my more conservative Sunday School teachers.  Back then Pluto was a relatively new addition to the Solar System and there was still a hope there were yet more planets out there.  But now it has been demoted and I miss it.

Science and the Bible have been portrayed as being at war for a long time.  Church history has a fair number of embarrassing confrontations with science, most notably Galileo’s conflict as to whether the earth is the center of the universe.  With each scientific advance, new controversies pop up and, as always the church weighs in with pronouncements on them.  Birth control is the most recent debate.

I’ve noticed over the years that there are three basic reactions we as a church have to scientific pronouncements.  The first is denial.  We simply say that “science is wrong.”  This has tended to not work out well for us, just ask Galileo.  My advice to such people is to hold your fire.  Many “advances” of science and technology have been decried as existential threats to our faith but have proven to be no such thing.  Current ones are no more threatening.

The second is abandonment of the Bible’s accuracy.  Some churchmen, feeling threatened by teaching such as evolution and the like, say that the Bible is not accurate about this, that it “reflects the bias of the times in which it was written”, and more or less give up and give in.  My advice here is be careful what you throw away because you might want it back.

The third is to attempt to reconcile new science to the Bible.  Proponents of this theory accept the new science and then seek ways to demonstrate that the Bible has always taught this but that we had not heretofore understood it.  Followers of this trend want to appear hip and accepting but, at the same time, cling to the truth of Scripture.  To this group, poor Pluto stands in warning.

Let’s assume (fancifully) that you were a member of this reconciliation group back in 1930 when Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto.  You would respond by going to your Bible, engaging in a little Biblical numerology, and “proving” that the Bible has always known Pluto was out there.  Some people actually did this.  But now where would you be?  Perhaps you could join the denial crowd now and say that science is wrong.  If that is your plan I have good news.  It seems that the “Bring back Pluto” movement has a Facebook page.

The grace answer is this:  Everything the Bible teaches is true, but the Bible does not teach everything true.  Scientific beliefs and theories come and go.  There is simply no need to try and reconcile the latest ones to the Bible.  If someone tries to goad you into an argument just smile and say “I still miss Pluto.”

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