The Bible and Science

Title: The Bible and Science

Text: Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Time: March 8th, 2010

For the past few months I’ve talked a lot about the Genesis creation account and the modern scientific theory of evolution, but I haven’t talked much about the general relationship between the Bible and science. I don’t have to tell anyone that there obviously are points of tension between the biblical Christian faith and modern science. I say “points of tension” because I don’t want to state that all of modern science is at odds with the Christian faith, or that even most of science is at war with the Bible, it isn’t. For example, probably most areas of modern science today are completely compatible and pose no problem for Christians working in these areas. I think, for example, in the field of physics, most Christians working in this field would find themselves completely at home with the other scientists, say for example working at NASA in the space program, to mention a well known area. Only the most radical and speculative fields within physics might cause a Christian any problems. And it’s probably that way in most areas of science. But then, on the other hand, there are fields of science that are filled with controversy and conflicts for Christians, biology being the most specific example. If Darwinian evolution is the heart and soul of most biology programs – and it is – then it would be difficult for a true Bible-believing Christian to function in that environment without great conflict, unless he or she were working in some narrowly-defined specific area of biology that didn’t require assent and affirmation of Darwin’s theory. In that case it would work. But unfortunately in our modern world today, it’s almost impossible to live and work in any field today without running into evolution. It’s hard to simply live in the 21st century without running in Darwin in big and small ways all the time. For example, for myself, I like to watch television documentaries on the History Channel or Discovery Channel or National Geographic, but it’s difficult to watch these cable channels for any period of time without being presented with the theory of evolution in one form or another. PBS is another television network committed to propagating the teachings of evolution, along with all the other major networks like ABC, NBC and CBS. And these outlets don’t seem to mind that they run roughshod right over the teachings and sensibilities of Christians. So there can be no getting around it – the modern world and its many communications outlets are at odds with biblical Christian faith much of the time. Modern science, in this particular area, is at odds with Christianity. So then how does a Christian come to terms with science today? Can a true Christian come to terms with science? How are we to relate our Christian faith to science? I’d like to try to answer these and other questions today, so that we can approach this important aspect of our modern world with confidence and conviction. I’ll use Proverbs 3:5-6 as my text, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path.”

First, for Christians, biblical theology comes first. Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” I shouldn’t have to remind Christian of this, but unfortunately I must – God’s Word and God’s Will come first before anything else. It should be that way for all Christians, those working in field of science and those working in some other field. Always and in every way, God comes first. That’s what the passage means when it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Our first and foremost loyalty is to the Lord, not our career, not our education, not our hobbies, not the honor and recognition of our friends or colleagues. We are not first and foremost committed to our work, or in the case of scientists, to science or to the scientific method. Yes, there can and should be dedication to one’s profession, but our dedication to God, to God’s Word the Bible, and to the Christian faith comes before anything else. If anything else comes before God, then that something is an idol – that’s what the Bible calls it. It’s a kind of god-substitute, and the Bible is clear in the Ten Commandments, “Thou shall have no other gods before me,” says the Lord. So we are to trust in God and God’s Word above everything else. I’m sad that I even have to remind us all of this, but it’s so easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of life. Even Christians forget it – and often. For example, I remember talking to a woman from Pennsylvania who was a sex education teacher in a public jr. high school. I was really curious how that was working especially given the government’s departure from sponsoring traditional biblical Christian morality in the last 20 to 30 years. I asked about teaching the use of contraception and condoms. She told me that she did teach these subjects. I then asked why she is teaching teenagers about birth control; she told me that it was here job, that if she didn’t she’d be fired, and if she didn’t they’d hire someone else to do it. I guess it never occurred to her that she might just think about taking a stand for right and wrong by refusing to promote premarital sex by encouraging teens to use condemns! Now I don’t want to judge this woman too harshly because we all have to face those times in life between doing the easy thing versus standing for principle and doing the right thing, but the problem is I got the idea she hadn’t thought it through very much at all. Christians need to be willing to suffer for Christ if need be. If you are in some field of science that requires you to compromise your Christian faith, doctrines or behaviors, you need to think about leaving it – seriously. If you don’t, you are putting your career or work above God, above your faith, above Christian truth. Thankfully, most people are not asked to choose between God and their career, but for most of us, we must choose how we will believe about certain things; that’s where we are called to choose. Will we believe in evolution or not? We must remember that our loyalty must be with the Bible, not science or the observations or reasoning that comes with the scientific method. That’s what it means to have Jesus as Lord, that’s what it means to follow Christ by faith.

Second, for most modern science and scientists, human reason comes first. Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” My last point was faith in God is the Christian’s first priority; practically speaking, that means trusting God’s Word, the Bible. My point now is that modern science’s priority is human observation and reasoning, not revelation from God’s Word. Modern science takes its priority from the Enlightenment, which laid emphasis on human reasoning over biblical revelation. Starting with human reason alone and disregarding all revelation from God – or at the very least, placing God’s revelation in a secondary position – Enlightenment thinkers tried to build a system of thought relying on natural explanations. This is in direct contradiction with the passage above, “Lean not on your own understanding.” Not all scientists are totally committed to naturalistic explanations, in fact, many are dedicated Christians who leave room in their thinking for revelation from God, from the Bible, but the drift is more and more shutting out all ideas except those that can be reasoned out using only natural explanations. But the problem with this kind of thinking is that it fails to take into consideration the Fall into sin of the human race beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing on throughout all generations of man, including our own. Scientists and academics who rely solely on natural and human reasoning ability fail to realize that according to God’s Word man is fallen, original sin has corrupted not only the physical world of nature, but also the will, intellect and emotions of all persons. Starting from un-aided reason and continuing on without reference to divine revelation is doomed to failure in producing an accurate picture of reality, which is why the whole Enlightenment project of explaining everything solely through reason and logic and observation will lead ultimately to failure. That’s not to say that some worthwhile things cannot be discovered and utilized for the benefit of mankind; this is possible, certainly, but the prideful goal of producing the so-called “theory of everything” is doomed from the start. I’m afraid when it comes to really great Enlightenment projects such as the theory of evolution grave error is bound to occur; and so it has. Starting from the premise, “Everything shall be explained naturally with human reason alone,” immediately puts one at odds with biblical reality. Why? Because there is a God, he has acted in the world, first at Creation and then continuously at different times in different ways, for example, in the resurrection of Christ. These are things that cannot be explained by natural explanation. To explain a supernatural miracle in natural human terms is not to explain anything, but rather to construct an utterly false and misleading false explanation. The really scary thing is that it’s really possible to construct a pretty plausible theory that is utterly false; it’s been done before, it’s presently being done, and it shall be done in the future. Reason without revelation has no way of checking itself from grave error.

Third, only when we look to revelation first can we venture out with reason accurately. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path.” Here is the solution how as Christians we are to think about our faith and science. First, we determine what is and what isn’t revelation. In other words, we examine the Bible and try to find out to the best of our ability what is in fact the revelation of God. I don’t have to remind you that not everything we think the Bible says is exactly what the Bible is saying. It’s possible to misinterpret God’s Word. In fact, I bet you’ve misinterpreted it before, just as I have. So our first priority is to find out what God has said, and what he hasn’t said. Sometimes we error in our interpretation of the Bible in thinking that God has said something which he has not; other times, we don’t think God has said something which he in reality has said. Both are errors just as bad as the other. So our first priority is to get revelation right. That requires serious reflection and prayer. Second, then after we’ve got the revelation of God right, then and only then do we venture out with our human reason and observation. Now with revelation firmly established we build upon that base with human reason little by little. Why so much caution about rushing ahead with our minds? Because God’s Word, revelation, teaches us that our minds our fallen and we are prone to distortions and errors in reasoning because of it. Also, just as the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “We see through a glass darkly” and “We know in part.” The real error of the Enlightenment project is in arrogantly assuming that raw, un-aided human reason and observation is all we need to arrive at correct conclusions about reality. But if the Bible is correct – and as Christians we assume it is, that is one of our fundamental assumptions, our first principles – then human reason alone is inadequate in arriving at correct conclusions, especially the more complex the theories become. I think the most arrogant and prideful utterance I’ve ever heard came from a French physicist during the early Enlightenment, but which also summarizes much of scholarship and science today – when asked where was God in his theory, he replied, “God? I have no need for that hypothesis.” If you want to understand most academic theory and most science today realize that it’s full of human pride and arrogance in not taking serious God’s revelation or purposefully ignoring it with the attitude of, “God? I have no need of that hypothesis.”

Now this brings us to the question of science in general and the theory of evolution in particular. As I’ve already explained, much of science today is captured by Enlightenment thinking that excludes all revelation from God and relies solely on un-aided human reason and observation. Scientists and scholars may reply, “Well, the thing that keeps us from error is that we check each other’s work; it’s not the product of one person who is prone to error, but of a community all checking each other’s work, and thus we can describe reality accurately without revelation from God.” My response to that is, “You haven’t yet escaped the curse of the Fall because it doesn’t matter how many people check each other’s work, you still have fallen sinners with fallen mind’s and whether it is one person in error or many or a whole community, you can’t escape the curse of the Fall through numbers.” Now don’t get me wrong, checking each other’s work is better than not checking, and it is correct that one person alone is more prone to make mistakes than a group; two heads are better than one. But there’s also a sinful downside to group activity – the whole group can be self-deceived and prolong error. Now let me get specific about Darwin’s theory of evolution. There is no question that it is the established doctrine in science today; from a human perspective it makes sense, even though there are problems with it, even scientific problems, still it is the best that un-aided human reason and observation can come up with; it is the reigning theory in science. But the problem is, if we approach it, as we must all scientific claims, by first going to God’s revelation and doing our homework there, we find that evolution doesn’t even pass our first test – the theological test, the Bible. The Apostle Paul teaches, “Test all things, cling to that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. We are to test all things first by God’s Word, which again underscores the importance of getting our theology right first. Unfortunately, modern scholarship and science has cut itself off from divine revelation and ignores all warnings about the corruption of the mind through sin and the pride of life apart from God. Therefore, it is especially prone to errors, especially in respect to grand, sweeping theories of everything, which unfortunately, is the theory of evolution. As Christians, from the perspective of God’s Word, the Bible, we can affirm the limited theory of evolution and agree with science in those instances where measurable changes are observed in limited species populations. But the grand, sweeping evolutionary theory of everything we can’t agree with because it directly contradicts God’s revelation. It doesn’t mean we can’t do science or academic research, it just means we must constantly be informed by biblical theology – “In all your ways acknowledge Him” – in order than we aren’t deceived by our fallen minds by coming up with faulty and foolish conclusions. If we put biblical theology first, and test all things, reasoning and observations included, then the promise is, “He will direct our path.”

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2 Responses to “The Bible and Science”

  1. Tom Padgett Says:

    Jeff
    I read your article “Each According to Its Kind” and wish to quote you, but I need to know who you are (what education, what world view,and so on.) I tried to reach your home page but failed. Can you help with the web address?

  2. jeffshort Says:

    Sorry about not putting enough information on my sermon blog page, it’s something I need to correct. As my blog heading says, I’m Jeff Short, a pastor in Jamestown, New York. But what I need to add is I was educated at Wheaton College (B.A.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MDiv) and Fuller Seminary (Doctor of Ministry). I’m an Evangelical Christian who holds to the historic, biblical Christian faith. I hope that helps. Feel free to quote any part of the article. God bless.

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