Thomas finds a prophecy of this cosmic shut-down in Job 14:12: "So
man when he is fallen asleep shall not rise again; till the
heavens be broken, he shall not awake, nor rise up out of his sleep."
(Job 14:12, Douay-Rheims Challoner; 18:6); "sic homo cum dormierit non
resurget donec adteratur caelum non evigilabit nec consurget de somno suo."
(Vulgate). This is deicide by pagan lights. The pagans commonly deified
major constituents of the world-system; Poseidon is the sea, Demeter the
wheat crop, etc. They did the same with their astronomy. Christian
theology of course can have none of this, because God is a spirit: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit
and in truth." (John 4:26). There is only one God, and He is not
identified with any constituent of the world-system.
Pagan theology kept pace with the advances of pagan astronomy.
The pagans had always deified the planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars et al are all, of
course, gods. They deified also the celestial spheres when they were invented.
Seneca, making fun of the deification of Claudius (Roman emperors
were routinely deified upon their decease if not sooner), finds the
portly Claudius already suited to god-status, because he was built
for comfort, not for speed, and gods, according to the Stoics, are
supposed to be "globular:" "Only do say what species of god
you want the fellow to be made. An Epicurean god he cannot be: for they
have no troubles and cause none. A Stoic, then? How can he be
globular, as Varro says, without a head or any other projection?
There is in him something of the Stoic god, as I can see now: he has
neither heart nor head." (Seneca,
Claudius); sphericity is next to godliness. Thomas goes very far to demythologize Ptolemy's system,
but the fact remains the system was 'not invented here;' it is not a
system of Christian astronomy as the atheists imagine. Further
demythologization is desirable, all the way to heliocentrism and
By contrast with the geocentric pagan philosophers, Philo Judaeus, a
monotheist, kept an open mind to the possibility of heliocentrism, finding a
'fit' in the seven-branched candlestick:
"This much alone we must remind our readers of at this moment, that the sacred
candlestick and the seven lights upon it are an imitation of the wandering of the seven planets
through the heaven. How so? some one will say. Because, we will reply, in the same
manner as the lights, so also does every one of the planets shed its rays. They therefore, being
more brilliant, do transmit more brilliant beams to the earth, and brilliant beyond them all is he who
is the center one of the seven, the sun. And I call him the center, not merely because he has
the central position, as some have thought, but also because he has on many other accounts a right
to be ministered unto and attended by the others accompanying him as bodyguards on each side, by
reason of his dignity and his magnitude, and the great benefits which he pours upon all earthly
things." (Who is the Heir of Divine Things, XLV, 221-223).
Admittedly Philo elsewhere takes for granted the common Ptolemaic
understanding, that the earth is at the center: "But perhaps we ought
to look on these things as spoken in an allegorical sense; for some say
the tree of life belongs to the earth, inasmuch as it is the earth
which produces everything which is of use for life, whether it be the
life of mankind or of any other animal; since God has appointed the
situation in the center for this plant, and the center of the universe
is the earth." (Philo Judaeus, Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book
1, Question 10). But his mind remains open, and why shouldn't it?
The 'Scientific Revolution' dethroned Aristotle. Why
Christian folk should feel solicitude for this pagan philosopher's declining fortunes is
unclear. Some of the ideas that animated men like Isaac Newton, a Bible
student, were Biblical. To pagan Greek ears, the phrase 'natural law' would have
sounded like an oxymoron; 'law' rules men, not nature, in Greek philosophy. But in the
Bible, God's command is law equally for nature as for man:
"He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath
hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Which
removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in
his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the
pillars thereof tremble. Which commandeth the sun, and it
riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. Which alone spreadeth out
the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which
maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders
without number.' (Job 9:4-10).
Since modern science's foundation stones are laid closer to Christianity
than those of Aristotle, why should Christian folk long for that old pagan? And if by
chance they did want him back, then bring him back, spheres and all, not some
mixed-up modern production which has nothing to do with him. . .or Thomas,
or anyone else.
As an aside, notice the familiar pattern of the quoted verse: "Which shaketh
the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble." The earth, Biblically,
does both: it moves and does not move. God does both: He shakes the earth from its foundations when He
comes in judgment, and He also preserves the earth in peace and stability by His gracious pardon and blessing. The
disastrous deflection of the earth associated with God's wrath and judgment is the earthquake, where the surface crust moves
relative to its foundations deep within the earth, not relative to other
planets or heavenly bodies. Sequestering one set of verses
(move/doesn't move) from the other can mislead the reader into mistaking
the topic in view.
The earth is like a picture-book, ordained by God to show forth
His wonders, and the earth-quake, though not always accompanying His
theophany nor assigned as the instrument of His judgment, is a perfect picture
of it. This God-ordained imagery is blotted out by a fanciful
reconstruction which assigns these verses a meaning pertaining to 'orbits.' What
have orbits to do with God's judgment? Quite whimsically and arbitrarily,
our modern-day neo-geocentrists think that all the 'totter' and 'shake'
verses are talking about something different than the 'stable'
verses: “Here the 'tottering' refers to the Earth’s land mass, not the
Earth’s position in space. . .Similar to all the other Psalms that speak
in this same way, the movement attributed to the Earth refers to its
internal structure, not its spatial position in the cosmos.” (Robert
Bennett and Robert Sungenis, Galileo Was Wrong, the Church Was Right,
Volume 11, page 76). This way of reading the Bible is just whimsical,
not 'literal.' Literally, shaking and not-shaking are two sides of the
There is something backwards about elevating the pagan Aristotle
above an earnest, even if misguided, Bible student like Isaac
Newton. Messrs. Sungenis and Bennett's thesis discredits the
Christian testimony of professing Christian astronomers of the
sixteenth and seventeenth century, including the heliocentric pioneer,
Copernicus, with no evidence beyond guilt by association and animadversion. To be sure these men were
not Aristotelians. Atheists offer a warped and biased interpretation
of this history for their own reasons. No case can be made for
Christians to adopt the atheist story as if it were factual.
Not to be unduly suspicious, but one must wonder at the
motivation of those who wish to revive the old idea of the
luminiferous aether, discredited since Michelson and Morley's
ground-breaking experiment. This elastic, tenuous, universal medium
was important for a wide variety of not-necessarily-Christian folk,
including the theosophists. Madame Blavatsky, it will be recalled, was
entranced with the stuff, believing it an integral element of the
Ancient Wisdom world-view she cultivated: ". . .the anima mundi proper
was considered as composed of a fine, igneous, and ethereal nature
spread throughout the universe, in short— ether." (Helena P.
Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated
Edition, Kindle location 10954, p. 317):