The Bible and Science

Today and tomorrow, Heart of America is hosting Rick Khol who is presenting on How We Got the Bible. Why is a science resource center focusing on the Bible? Do we think that the Bible is a science textbook that must be read in order to understand science?

The short answer to that question is, no, the Bible is not a science textbook. There are many different literary styles in the Bible, such as poetry, historical narrative, expository explanation, and so forth, but science textbook is not one of them. However, if we accept the Bible as the Word of God, and thus consider it the inspired Word of God (II Timothy 3:16) and thus foundational to our thinking as Christians (Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10), then the Bible does occupy a special place in our understanding of science. Consider Jesus’s first miracle: turning water into wine, which is described for us in John 2:1-11. From a viewpoint of science, we might be able to claim that water naturally turns into wine, in the sense that water is needed for a vine to grow, then grapes grow on the vine, and wine is made from fermented grape juice. However, what Jesus did was miraculous because he turned water into wine instantaneously. Do we claim that what Jesus did was impossible, or that the record of John is faulty, because science tells us that it is impossible for water to be turned into wine instantaneously? No, we say that it is a miracle, that Jesus superseded the laws of nature to turn the water into wine.

In a similar fashion, we can think of Joshua and the long day, recorded for us in Joshua 10:12-14. Based on what we know about the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth and their orbits and rotations, it is no mere feat to simply stop the Sun (which amounts to stopping the rotation of the Earth) and to stop the Moon (which amounts to stopping the Moon in its orbit). Both of these actions would take an enormous amount of energy and disrupt the laws of physics, yet because it is recorded for us as an event that God performed in order to give Joshua a victory against his enemies, we accept that it happened, regardless of how impossible it would be according to science.

Both Jesus’s miracle and Joshua’s long day have certain things in common: they are records of historical events described for us in the Bible that violate our understanding of nature. Yet, if we accept the Bible as the Word of God, we must accept that these things actually happened. We end up calling them miracles because God superseded the very natural laws that He created, but note that we accept these events in spite of what science tells us because God told us they happened.

The one chapter of the Bible that has the biggest impact on our understanding of science is Genesis 1. It tells us the order and time frame in which God created the heavens, Earth, and everything in them. How these things came to be and the order in which they came to be may be contrary to what we expect from science. We expect living things to come from previously living things (this is called the Law of Biogenesis) runs contrary to what verses 11-12, 20-21, and 24-25 tell us about the origin of plants and animals, all of which God created out of the earth or water. Similarly, we may expect the Sun to precede the Earth, since the Earth is in orbit around the Sun, yet according to verses 1 and 14-19, the Earth was created before the Sun. Since Genesis 1 is written as historical narrative, we accept the events as described in the passage as true regardless of whether of not they make sense based on our knowledge of science.

Ultimately, that is why we as a science resource center focus on the Bible. As the Word of God, it is the final authority on any subject that it describes: it provides the ultimate lens through which we must look at the world. While it may not be a science textbook, it is so much more, and ultimately trumps anything that we may think we understand in science.