Alister McGrath assesses the power dynamic between the church and early modern science.
I think the church responded to the Scientific Revolution in Western Europe in a number of ways. One was that it clearly welcomed this new engagement of the natural order which it regarded as enhancing this fundamental belief in God as Creator. So, in effect, to study the beauty of the creation was to gain an enhanced appreciation of the beauty of the Creator.
But like any institution in a position of power, the church felt threatened by some of these developments. Scientists were people over whom it had no control. I think, therefore, it tried to direct, it tried to in effect influence the course of the Scientific Revolution. And I think that was a mistake, I think it shouldn’t have done that. I can understand why it happened.
So we have this very interesting situation that there is no warfare between science and faith, but there is a complex dynamic of power between the church and science. And that seems to me to be something that we now understand far better than we did at the time. If history replayed itself I think we might get this one right this time round.