It is the 12th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1600.
It was the last year of the 16th century. The century of Reformations would give way to a century of technology and science. What Luther and Calvin were to the 16th century, Rene Descartes and John Locke were to the 17th century. The reforming initiatives undertaken in the 16th century, however, did not disappear. And thus, new technology, science, and their theological implications would be under the microscope.
One curious marriage of confessional identity and technological advancement took place in the science of keeping time. It could be a calendar for the keeping of holy days, a public clock tower devoted to chiming on the hour, or for an invitation to prayer, or during the consecration of the Eucharist. Christians fought over calendar reform and control of the clock towers. Simultaneously, personal clocks were being sold, and personalization of such clocks could indicate status, wealth, or something else. In the "something else" category, in 1600, a clock was built in Augsburg that depicted a king riding an elephant while being pulled by a chariot. The clock itself was embedded in the king's girthy midsection, and when the hour struck, the king rolls his eyes, licks his lips, and took a swig from a stein.
But science and technology were not limited to novelty clocks. The study of optics, microscopes, and telescopes opened up new fields of inquiry. In 1600, the famed scientist Tycho Brahe met Johannes Kepler in Prague for the first time. Both men belonged to the Lutheran church and saw their work as an outgrowth of Luther's theological revolution set in place in the last century. A recent book written on the two meeting and working in Prague was called "The Nobleman and His Housedog: The Strange Partnership that Revolutionized Science." The big payoff from their work together was Kepler's eventual laws involving planetary motion. Despite their fidelity to the church, they were both held in suspicion for questioning authority.
In 1600, the Catholic mathematician and astronomer Giordano Bruno was arrested and burned for doing similar work to develop the Copernican system. Bruno had been a Dominican, but his philosophical speculations got him into trouble. He eventually fled for Geneva, where he became a Calvinist but soon learned that they were just as rigid as his old tribe. He went back to the Catholic church, but not for long. He was arrested and killed.
The very problem of the Reformation century, for both Protestants and Catholics alike, was the question of confessional control. To what extent could one flout the church's teachings and remain still a citizen in good standing? How precisely does the church need its adherents to follow the confession? Is there still a place for disagreement once official positions are struck? Those mentioned above ran into this problem as did a Spanish Jesuit, Luis de Molina. Molina, whose name would give rise to Molinism, died on this, the 12th of October, in 1600.
Molina became a Jesuit while at school and remained in school as a professor for most of this life. He was known for his commentary on Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica," and his work on Augustinian conceptions of the will. Molina's most famous contribution to theology would be his middle way between both St. Thomas and St. Augustine on the doctrine of the freedom of the will. The starting points for the two giants were well known. Thomas began with efficacious grace and Augustine with the reality of the fall. Thus, free will would be a non-starter for Augustine but an open question with Thomas. Molinism would offer a middle way. In this system, God foreknows and foreordains, but only because he has infinite knowledge of all the possible situations one person could be in and what their choices could be. This way, Molina can affirm God's sovereignty and hold up humankind's free will. This passed the Catholic censors but caused a rift with the Dominicans and later Jansenists, the Dominicans being team Thomas and the Jansenists team Gus. One of Molina's last publications was attempting to present a way for concord between the opposing positions. While this work was under Papal scrutiny, Molina died. Nonetheless, his position was deemed not heretical in 1607. Born in Spain in 1535, Luis De Molina died on this, the 12th of October, in 1600.
The reading for today on the theme of Christianity and Science is the last section of Walt Hearn's "The Scientist's Psalm."
Earth we live on, merely one
Planet of a minor sun:
Join this entire galaxy,
Showing forth His majesty!
Beyond our own galactic rim,
Billions more are praising Him.
Ten to some gigantic power
Times the height of Babel's tower.
Past the range of telescope:
God of faith and love and hope.
Praise Him every tongue and race!
Even those in outer space!
However far space does extend
From beginning unto end,
Praise the God who does transcend!
Every knee before Him bend!
God of whom these words are penned:
Against Thee only have we sinned.
Almighty Author of creation:
Visit us with Thy salvation.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 12th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, whose favorite Molinas include actor Alfred and all three of the catching Molina brothers in professional baseball. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis, whose favorite Molina is still Bengie. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.