Summary: When you are through learning from others you are through! God wants us all to have a teachable spirit!

How Teachable Are You?

Opening Illustration: One child wrote a letter to God.

Dear God,

I read your book and I like it. Did you write any others? I would like to write a book someday with the same kind of stories. Where did you get your ideas? Best Wishes, Sarah

Thesis: When you are through learning from others you are through! God wants us all to have a teachable spirit!

Video Illustration from “Men In Black” Start time 1:11:48 Scene is an old man and a dog at a booth. Jay and Kay are in a desperate race to track down the stolen galaxy. Searching for information, the Men in Black interrogate an alien (disguised as a dog), who is quick to point out just how limited Jay and Kay’s understanding of the universe really is. End time 1:13:19 (From Videos That Teach, Fields)

Profiles in Courage: Copernicus pronounced Ka- pur – nic – us (Information below is quoted from the website Biography of Copernicus)

Nicholas Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who lived between 1473-1543. Before his time, people believed in the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, which maintained that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Copernicus changed this belief when he introduced the heliocentric model, centered around the sun. He claimed that all the planets, including Earth, moved in orbits around the sun, and showed how this new system could accurately calculate the positions of the planets.

Nikolaus Copernicus was one such individual. His work, although not immediately and widely accepted, lead directly to the undermining of centuries of assumption and superstition. In fact, his discoveries carried with them consequences which are even today not fully recognized by many people. Born in 1473, Copernicus began his studies in the fateful year 1492. This is a significant year in European history - it heralded in an age of discovery and the doubling of the size of the known world which helped broaden people’s minds in a variety of ways. The world was not what it was once assumed, allowing many people to more easily accept the idea that other assumptions might be in error.

Forestalling Danger

Copernicus spent a great deal of time working on his famous book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium - distilling a lifetime of thought and effort into it. He was quite aware of his place in history in writing this book, but he was also conscious of the conservative social and religious forces which would oppose his ideas. As a first precaution, he correctly identified the idea that the earth circled the sun not as originating with himself, but as existing among much earlier writers. Thus, the responsibility for suggesting a dangerous heresy was left to those long dead. In the dedication to Pope Paul II, the explained how Cicero reported that Hicetas believed that the "earth was moved" and that Plutarch and others held to the same idea.

He then went on to declare in bold language that

...I myself also began to meditate on the mobility of the earth. And although the opinion seemed absurd, yet because I knew the liberty had been accorded others before me of imagining whatsoever circles they pleased to explain the phenomena of the stars, I thought I might readily be allowed to experiment whether, by supposing the earth to have some motion, stronger demonstration than those of the others could be found as to the revolution of the celestial sphere.

In this dedication, Copernicus achieved several vital goals: he addressed his arguments directly to the Pope, the one man who could likely make or break his efforts; he shifted the responsibility of the original idea to respected ancient thinkers and thus protected himself from the worst consequences of heresy; he appealed to a new principle of intellectual freedom which would allow him and others to pursue these ideas to their logical conclusions; and he indicated that their validity would rest upon the results of their practical application to solving the current confusions over the movement of the heavens, rather than upon any compatibility with holy scripture or church doctrine.

His handling of potential contradiction with scripture and doctrine was done with equal care, diplomacy, and boldness. In contradicting either scripture or the writings of Church Fathers, he faced charges of heresy - which would have meant the end of his work and possibly of him, too. He faced down scripture by stating that no person should make the mistake of depending upon "wicked distortions to suit their purpose." Thus, he indirectly challenges traditional interpretations of scripture that might conflict with his ideas - something that could also be taken as a challenge to the Church which reserved sole authority in scriptural interpretation. Copernicus was more circumspect in this challenge than Galileo was later on.

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