Do We Distill Science Through the Bible or the Bible Through Science?

In a lectureship recently I was asked the question that appears in our title. There are two kinds of people that are likely to ask the question. One is the religionist who is afraid that the Bible and its message are being distorted because the Bible is being twisted to fit the current best guess in science. The second is the scientist who feels that religious bias is going to cause us to twist science to fit what we believe the Bible teaches. Both concerns are valid. In the past there have been those who refused to accept scientific evidence that the earth was round because they thought that Biblical passages like Revelation 7:1 taught it was flat. There have also been those who justified slavery on false scientific data suggesting whites were superior to blacks and then interpreted the Bible from that assumption to teach that blacks were the descendants of Cain and the "mark" on Cain in Genesis 4:15 was that he was turned into a black man.

The problem with the question posed in the title of this article is that it does not provide a correct choice. The question is worded like the old example "Have you finally quit beating your wife?" If you say "no" you are apparently still beating her, and if you say "yes" you are admitting you did beat her in the past. Science should not be distilled through the Bible and the Bible should not be distilled through science. The kind of mixing of science and faith suggested by our question is terribly destructive to both. Anyone using science to understand the Bible is going to make mistakes because science changes, and even if one's knowledge of science is perfect there will be major errors that will occur because scientists make major errors. There are numerous examples that can be given--the belief that space is full of a substance called ether is a classic example. To interpret science through the Bible one not only has to assume that they understand the Bible perfectly, but also that the passage they are using does in fact have a scientific fact stated in it and not a local figure of speech. Is the statement "The sun is rising" supposed to tell us that the sun moves around a stationary earth? Or is that usage in the Bible the same as our usage of the same phrase?

When Jesus was asked about serving God or serving Caesar, his response was "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and unto God the things that are God's." The principle involved in this statement does not just involve church and state, but involves the separation of the spiritual from the temporal. It is detrimental to both government and the Church for the two to be united in a marriage of any kind. Similarly it is unhealthy for Scripture and science to be married.

Does this mean that our religious beliefs have no connections of any kind with such things as science or government? The answer is an emphatic "no!" The teachings of Jesus provide a basis of knowledge that allow order to exist in a society. Absolute moral truths are given and teachings about how we should treat each other are presented in the Bible in a clear way. This information provides a data bank that political leaders can use to make laws and order society. How these principles are expressed and how the real world with its imperfections will be handled is a whole different matter. Mandating religious acts is very much different than having data and information available to help make judgments.

In the same way, the Bible provides guidelines and basic understandings which are important to science. How science should use its discoveries is a vital subject, and science cannot provide an answer to this question.

The fact still remains however, that there are some factual areas that both science and the Bible address. The Bible does address facts of history that can be checked. It also conveys certain scientific truths that can be examined. Some areas of the social sciences are discussed in the Bible. How do we handle these cases? We do not use one to interpret the other is the answer. What we must do is lay the two side by side for comparison. To do the comparing one must raise some critical questions. Are the two really addressing the same question? Is the science theory or fact? Is the religious view tradition or what the Bible really teaches? Are we understanding the scientific view correctly and do the facts really fit the question?

The lesson of history has been that when there was a perceived conflict between science and the Bible, there was either bad science, bad theology ,or both. If in fact God created the cosmos, and if in fact He told us about what He did in the Bible there cannot be a contradiction. We have had a lot of bad science and a lot of bad theology. It may take time and study, but any long term intense study of science and faith will show their amazing agreement

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec98.