The abuses and discontent that led to the Protestant Reformation instigated the formation of various splinter denominations within, and without, the Catholic Church. In many ways, it was a direct challenge to the traditions, dogma, hierarchy, and protocol fomented by the Church, an institution which the populations of Europe felt had lost touch with its laity. As a consequence, dissenters gravitated to the movements forged by the reformers John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwigli, and others. The revolutionary spirit also inspired a search for truth through other outlets of society. Some intellectuals reinvested their faith in empirical pursuits, searching for God in the workings and majesty of nature. Until the onset of the Scientific Revolution, the disciplines of ‘Science’ and ‘Religion’ existed homogenously, married in the pursuit of truth. The Reformation, however, with its break from convention, enabled a diversity of thought and exploration that led the way to a revolution: the divorce of science and theology. Disillusioned with the Church and inspired by the insurrectionary spirit of the Reformation, Man looked to the sky in search of the divine and found science.
When Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Wittenberg Cathedral doors on October 31st of 1517, he unknowingly catalyzed a movement that changed the spiritual and political hegemony of the Catholic Church in the West forever. This marked what most historians deem the birth of the Protestant Reformation, although its antecedents reach farther back in time. His treatise on the corruptions of the Church was a direct response to the scurrilous sale of indulgences, and other nefarious practices. Others soon followed Luther’s example, however, derision erupted between the factions of Protestant philosophy shortly thereafter.
The chronological coincidence of the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648) and the Scientific Revolution (1543-1687) suggests a correlation between the two. Although a direct causal relationship may be impossible to ascertain, the two movements share similar directives and directions. Both stem from a revolutionary freedom of thought that steer their disciplines on different courses (though much of the time, the two heading in the same direction).
Francis Bacon, the English philosopher, statesman, and author is commonly attributed with catalyzing the Scientific Revolution and establishing some of the basic tenets of modern science. His conception of an empirical based scientific method-a rejection of the Aristotelian deductive approach-helped to revolutionize the discipline. Bacon believed that the Protestant Reformation created an atmosphere conducive to the reformation of the empirical disciplines as well:
When it pleased God to call the Church of Rome to account for their degenerate manners and ceremonies, and sundry doctrines obnoxious and framed to uphold the same abuses; at one and the same time was ordained by the Divine Providence that there should attend withal a renovation and new spring of all other knowledges.
Notice that Bacon, although speaking of the pursuit of knowledge, refers to “God” and a “Divine Providence.” This illustrates the relationship that existed between science and religion at the time. The environment created by the Reformation enabled the development of modern science by moving theology away from a reliance on authorities for religious guidance towards a more self-exploratory experience.
The church of science was not a new entity in the 17th Century, or distinct for that matter, from the pursuit of divine truth. In the secular context of contemporary Western society, science and religion play roles of almost complete opposition: the first consisting of empirical knowledge gathered to prove or disprove; the latter defined by a collective set of beliefs and ritual commitments centered on a common faith. The evolution of the two bodies share greater similarities than differences, commonalities that have significant influence over the Middle and late Middle Ages. The dual categories of ‘Science’ and ‘Religion’ coexisted as a homogenous entity (although in much different evolutionary forms), instigated by religious motives, used to pursue theological investigation.
The contemporary relationship between science and religion as two independent, often adversarial mechanisms is a relatively young phenomenon. Similarly, the modern forms of the two disciplines little resemble their genealogical ancestors. Historiography plays a significant role in framing this debate. The definitions of the terms “Science,” “Religion,” and “Natural Philosophy,” their evolution over time, and the context in which each respective term exists, are vital to understanding the significance of their variable and contrasting genealogies.
The dynamic etymology of the term “science” creates difficulty in establishing a uniform standard of science. The constant nature of change complicates the relationship of different periods in time, perpetuating the “anachronistic assumption that the study of nature in earlier historical periods was prosecuted more or less along the same lines as those adopted by modern scientists.” This potential source of confusion illustrates the difficulty in assigning science an identity. An ambiguity exists between the modern definition and that used during the middle ages. The origins of the term science stem from the Latin, scientia. Scholars used scientia to represent the highest form of knowledge. During Renaissance times, scholars also used scientia to describe the study of theology and natural philosophy, deeming them ‘sciences.’ The term, when used in this context, obviously cannot be understood to relate to modern definitions of science. This universal application of scientia only helps to obfuscate its meaning. This illustrates the confusion this debate conjures.
Conventional histories of science attribute the Greeks with its conception, and the Scientific Revolution (the later stages), in the nineteenth century, with the origins of the “modern” discipline. The science historian G. E. R. Lloyd contests, however, that, “science is a modern category, not an ancient one: there is no one term that is exactly equivalent to our ‘science’ in Greek.” Identifying a ubiquitous, uniform definition of science suggests an anachronism. The history of the term implies its tortuous evolution.
Although scholars often overlook the interim (between the Greek Hellenistic period and the Scientific Revolution), or consider science of the Middle and Late Middle Ages inert, this period illustrates a crucial stage in the relationship between science and religion. Between the 1200s and the 1800s, natural philosophy nominally embodied the general practice of science (or the hiatus thereof). Natural philosophy, however, differed in essence from modern science, and existed as a unique apparatus.
Scholars believe current perceptions of science originated in the nineteenth century (William Whewell initially coined the term scientist in 1833). Prior to that, men of science (often synonymous with ‘men of faith’) considered themselves students of ‘natural philosophy’ or ‘natural history,’ and practiced a much different form of investigation then their twenty-first-century counterparts. Examining the relationship between science and religion during the Renaissance then leads to a complex conclusion, as Peter Harrison of Bond University illustrates: “This claim has obvious ramifications for those whose concern lies with the past relationship between science and religion, for if it is true, such a relationship cannot be older than the nineteenth century.” With its relatively recent classification as well-during the European Enlightenment-religion, concurrently, provides the same concerns.
Recent debate among science historians over this difference stands to change the conventional view of the history of science. Traditional views pit natural philosophy in line with the direct succession of science, claiming distinctions only in the periods of time, and stages of scientific development. New interpretations dissent from this view, realigning natural philosophy outside of the confines of science. Andrew Cunningham of the University of Cambridge argues that “As a result, we have no histories of natural philosophy as such, only histories of ‘medieval science’ and of ‘early modern science.'” This presumed continuity ignores the existence of natural philosophy as a distinct discipline, independent of science. In fact, a demarcation existed between the two models. Simon Schaffer posited “The end of natural philosophy was accompanied by the appearance of models of discovery which appealed to discipline and to genius, and which have dominated theories of science ever since.” Similarly, William Whewell argued that the emergence of trained scientists signaled the close of natural philosophy.
Philisophia naturalis, or natural philosophy, as demonstrated, differed from science in a multitude of ways. Extant prior to the modern development of science, natural philosophy applied to the objective study of nature and the universe. First constructed by Robert Boyle in 1686, natural philosophy only gained connotation as an entity distinct from science after his death, although modern historians apply it to earlier historical figures. Considered the forerunner of natural science, natural philosophy often operated in conjunction with theology and other philosophical tools. Cunningham characterized it as the study of “God’s achievements, God’s intentions, God’s purposes, God’s messages to man.” The divine-humanity of Christ-the simultaneous activity of the two natures-nicely embodies the cognitive juxtaposition evident during this time. Frequently, theological or spiritual questions fueled natural investigation. For example, Charlotte Methuen claims that, “certain formulations of the doctrine of providence, with its assumption that God both created and sustained the world for the good of its human inhabitants; could provide an impulse towards the study of the natural world.” In terms of logic: God created the natural world. A greater understanding of nature provided a greater understanding of God’s creation; thus a greater understanding of God.
An important distinction between the contemporary concept of science and its progenitors reflects science’s symbiotic relationship with theology (devoid of course in today’s concept). In fact, during the Renaissance, science and theology operated homogeneously (represented by the term natural philosophy), espoused under the genre of natural sciences. The study of natural philosophy incorporated intellectual and philosophical conventions instigated by theological concerns, much in contrast to the modern, secular definition as a systematic arrangement of knowledge of the physical or material world, gained through observation and experimentation, and exhibiting the operation of general laws. The inextricable connection between theology and nature in Renaissance philosophy made it impossible to study either independently. Historians tend to draw on a contemporary base of knowledge when studying science’s history. Historian Charles Webster explains that, “Conclusions about the independence of scientific activity…are based not on the impartial and exhaustive examination of evidence, but are rather dictated by the requirements of current ideology, and describe not the relationship which actually existed, but the relationship which it is felt ought to have existed on the basis of present-day opinion about the methodology of science.”
The ability to classify the methods of earlier practitioners as incongruent with modern conventions provides the opportunity to fruitfully explore the relationship between natural philosophy and theology.
The nineteenth century witnessed science’s emergence as a discipline free of theology or religion. This split enabled the relationship between science and religion to exist, although some boundaries tended to blur. But, for the first time, institutions of science employed scientific practitioners independent of clerical influences. Science, as an independent entity espoused a professionalism. The British Association for the Advancement of Science appeared in the 1830s, followed by others. As science professionalized, encompassing the various disciplines of empirical thought, a new set of professional commitments and responsibilities materialized. Increasingly, the clergy reluctantly relinquished the hegemony they held over the wonders of nature. A.W. Benn noted, “A great part of the reverence once given to priests and to their stories of an unseen universe has been transformed to the astronomer, the geologist, the physician, and the engineer.” By the start of the twentieth century, science stood devoid of its former ethical and theological partners. The “wonders of nature” became the “wonders of science.” 
Similar to the discourse on the history of science, scholars approximate the foundation of religion, in its modern understanding, to the relatively recent period of the European Enlightenment. Wilfred Cantwell Smith describes the origination, writing, “The concept ‘religion,’ then, in the West has evolved. Its evolution has included a long-range development that we may term a process of reification: mentally making religion into a thing, gradually coming to conceive it as an objective systematic entity.” This ‘systematic entity’ shifted focus from devotion to the search for truth. The characterization also allowed for the comparison of religions, and consequently instigated the science of comparative religion. This practice, which involved the categorization of people and their beliefs, provided a frame of reference for Western securitization. Subsequent to the Age of Discovery, and to the fabrication of ‘religion,’ Western thought in the nineteenth century recognized the “birth” of other religions: Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism; all of which existed much earlier. But the ‘creation’ of religion allowed for the distinguishment of unique bodies of faith.
The nineteenth century, as it represented the emergence of science as an independent entity, also recognized religion as an institution free of science. With science and religion both autonomous entities, the urge to perpetuate the existence of conflict between the two became attractive. Advocates of the nascent scientific movement saw the political benefit of pitting their cause against the hegemonic institution of the Church, giving birth to the science-religion apposition myth. This myth claims that a fundamental rift between the institutions existed and has fomented over the course of this tenuous relationship. Whether extant during the nascent stages of the relationship or not, the two institutions clearly evolved into separate entities, independent of the other, and sometimes occupying positions of opposition.
The development of theology, neglected so far, also played an important role in the science/religion discussion. As with these previous terms, the relatively young “theology” appeared as a new discipline during the Renaissance. First appearing in Plato’s Republic, the term is a combination of theos, meaning god, and logos, meaning rational utterance, and defined as reasoned discourse about God. Modern theologians study the history of religion, religious thought, or religious traditions; defend doctrines or compare religious traditions. During the Renaissance, in the burgeoning university system, theology too fell under the auspice of science. It produced firm knowledge (science), prompting scholars to consider it a rational object (obviously a contradiction in today’s terms, but which makes sense when considering this developmental stage of theology relied on reason rather than on faith). This sense still, however, conflicts with the modern usage of the term.
Histories of science scholars often use theology interchangeable with religion. The terms, however, are not synonymous. The first espouses the characteristics of a discipline, or mechanism. The latter, a term which comes along much later and that describes an objective systematic entity. The birth of theology as a discipline signaled an interest in the objective study of God in the state of scientific discovery during this time. This context provided a nonbelligerent atmosphere for theology to achieve its purpose.
Mirroring the evolution of the relationship between science and religion, theology transformed from a scientific discipline involved in the investigation of God and nature to one completely devoid of science, preoccupied with the pursuit of truth through scripture and the study of religion. Theology’s function coincided with that of the relationship of science and religion in natural philosophy. The trinity of these concepts comprised the unique confluence of this period.
The Renaissance distinguished itself by creating an atmosphere amicable to the confluence of religion, science, and theology. This harmony of these three ideas, although short lived, made possible the growth and emergence of each as independent entities. This harmony, the product of an intersection of classical thought and Christian hegemony-altogether impossible in contemporary Western society-becomes unsurprising when considered in the context of an epoch dominated by the Catholic Church. The picture becomes clearer also with the understanding of the evolution of these three entities. The push towards recognition of natural philosophy, its importance, and its distinction from the modern concept of science may provide a demystification of the conflict between science and religion and the ambiguous nature of scientific history.
The Protestant Reformation, in relation, created an intellectually freeing environment allowing for new and different scientific pursuits. Although still couched with theological investigation, some believed Protestantism gave direct and positive stimulus to scientific research. The encouragement of independent thought and valuing of practical forms of science (i.e. agriculture, medicine, etc.) were direct byproducts of this revolutionary thinking.
The Reformation created an atmosphere of incredulousness that extended to an expansion of interest in scientific endeavors. In a study conducted by Kenneth Thibodeau, the German city of Strasbourg, during the Reformation “witnessed a considerable expansion of both the scientific community and scientific publications,” adding that “both contracted” at the same time. He attributed this correlation to the fact that “The cultural disorientation and the demographic and social dislocation produced by the Reformation combined with the openness and excitement of Strasbourg as an intellectual center to create an environment favorable to science.”
Men of faith increasingly delved into scientific pursuits. John Wilkins, for example, served both as a Bishop, founding a Protestant friendly denomination of the Church of England, and as a founding member of the Royal Society of London, the first scientific society of its kind. His aim was to combine the two pursuits, hoping to create a religion founded on natural philosophies.
The Protestant Reformation signaled a break from conventional thinking and traditionally held beliefs, not only from the teachings of the Church, but from the confines of pre-modern deduction. The break from the Church opened avenues of intellectual investigation once prohibited by the Church and its doctrine. Scientists had the freedom to pursue controversial hypotheses that previously conjured heretical restrictions. It also attracted interest in new areas of research. Indeed, in the Protestant revolution, science found an ally with whom a reciprocal relationship formed. The Protestant mindset closely resembled the free thought of modern science. Although the advances made in the areas of science and math during this time were quite different than contemporary thought and scientific practices, they allowed for the evolution of these disciplines, forming the foundation of what is known as modern science.
The new Baconian empiricism also signaled the first cracks in a break between science and religion. A relatively new phenomenon, the separation of God and the pursuit of knowledge emerged as a result of, or at least influenced by, Protestant thinking. This will eventually lead to the mutual exclusion of faith and science; god and truth; assumption and fact. Man’s desire to understand the world and his place in it will never cease. During the Reformation, the realization of the irrelevancy of Church practices started a process of questioning and disillusionment. With this awakening, Man embarked on a bad religion; instead of looking out towards the sky in search of God, he started to look to nature itself for answers.
 Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu. The Works of Francis Bacon (Philadelphia: A. Hart, Late Carey & Hart, 1852), 176.
 Peter Rüst. “Dimensions of the Human Being and of Divine Action” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Volume 57, Number 3, (September 2005), 192.
 Peter Harrison, “‘Science’ and ‘Religion’: Constructing the Boundaries,” Journal of Religion, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Jan. 2006): 82.
 Andrew Cunningham, “The Identity of Natural Philosophy. A Response to Edward Grant,” Early Science and Medicine, Vol. 5, No. 3. (2000): 260.
 G. E. R. Lloyd, Early Greek Science (New York: Norton, 1970), iv.
 Harrison, 82.
 Harrison, 81.
 Harrison, 86.
 Cunningham, 260.
 Simon Schaffer, “Scientific Discoveries and the End of Natural Philosophy,” Social Studies of Science, Vol. 16, No. 3. (Aug., 1986): 407.
 Whewell, William, History of the Inductive Sciences from the Earliest to the Present Time V2 (London: 2006): 16.
 Andrew Cunningham, “Getting the Game Right: Some Plain Words on the Identity and
Invention of Science,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 19 (1988): 365.
 Methuen, Charlotte, “Lex Naturae And Ordo Naturae in the Thought of Philip Melanchthon,” Reformation & Renaissance Review: Journal of the Society for Reformation Studies, Iss. 3 (2000): 111.
 Charles Webster, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine, and Reform, 1626-1660 (London: 1975), 494; The discussion on the term scientia are taken from: Cunningham, “The Identity of Natural Philosophy. A Response to Edward Grant,”260-261.
 A. W. Benn, A History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century, 2 vols. (London:
Longmans, Green, & Todd, 1906), 1:198. Cited in: Harrison, 88.
 Harrison, 87.
 Harrison, 91.
 Harrison, 92-93.
 Cunningham, 260-261.
 Kenneth F. Thibodeau, “Science and the Reformation: The Case of Strasbourg.” Sixteenth Century Journal VII, 1 (April 1976), 50.
 Stephen F. Mason, R.R.S. “Bishop John Wilkins, R.R.S. (1614-72): Analogies of Thought-Style in the Protestant Reformation and Early Modern Science.” Wilkins Lecture, University of Oxford, 1991.