By Mike Willis
In recent weeks, I have heard several charges made which imply that the Bible cannot be considered the Word of God because it teaches an out-dated set of facts about science. One of the examples of the kind of science one finds in the Bible, according to the one who made this charge, was that the Bible teaches that the universe is geocentric (earth-centered) instead of heliocentric (sun-centered). The one who made this charge has yet to produce the verse which teaches this false science. However, this is an example of some of the kinds of charges that are being made about the Bible. Hence, it is appropriate that we raise the question, “Is the Bible scientifically accurate?”
The Bible Is Not A Book Of Science
Before going into this matter any further, let me hasten to point out that the Bible was never intended to be a science book. It does not describe things in the technological vocabulary of the scientist; rather, it describes things from the standpoint of man (for example, we read in the Bible, and speak of today, sunrise and sunset though neither of these terms is technically accurate). The Bible was never designed to be a revealed textbook on science. It is God’s revelation to man pertaining to salvation.
Yet, the claim that the Bible is verbally inspired cannot be sustained if the passing comments which it makes regarding the universe are in conflict with the facts of science. Hence, in order for the Bible to be inspired of God, it must be a book which harmonizes with the known facts of science. When I say that the Bible is scientifically accurate, I am making a statement regarding God’s superintendence over the writing of the Bible to keep it from making scientific blunders. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry stated this as follows:
“No claim is made that the sacred writers, as Individuals, were personally exempt from the naive world-view of their own day, nor that their writings articulate a classified and systematized science involving general laws. What is claimed is that, as the messengers of holy revelation, they were lifted beyond their own capacities, and that their declarations bearing upon nature and upon man are as reliable as their teaching about God and His activity” (Contemporary Evangelical Thought, “Science and Religion;” p. 269).
That is a good statement of what I believe happened with reference to the science which is in the Bible.
The superintendence of God in the writing of the Bible is seen by the absence of contemporary sciences of the various writers of the Bible. Although Moses was schooled in all the knowledge of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22), he did not incorporate into his writings the science of the Egyptians. Though Daniel was “skillful in all wisdom. endued with knowledge and understanding science” (Dan. 1:4), he did not record any of that Babylonian science in the Bible. Why? Because God superintended the writing of the Scriptures to prevent the “sciences” of the ancients from being placed in the Bible.
Conflicts Between The Bible And Science
There are a number of conflicts between the science of 1977 and the Bible. I am personally thankful to God that there are such conflicts. For the Bible to totally agree with the science of 1977 would be disastrous for this simple reason: the science of 1980 will be in conflict with the science of 1977. Hence, we should be thrilled to see the conflicts which presently exist between science and the Bible. When conflict occurs between the Bible and modern science, I am personally very willing to believe the Bible. The philosophies of science will change with each new generation but the word of God will endure forever.
The real conflicts occur between science and the Bible “whenever a scholar makes a pronouncement outside his own field of learning. When science becomes a religion, or religion dictates scientific thought, there is trouble” (Edson R. Peck, “Does Science Contradict The Bible?”, Can I Trust The Bible?, Howard F. Vos. editor, p. 51). I have witnessed these kinds of conflicts on a number of occasions. I have set in classes in English under a man who had a doctorate degree in that field. On some occasion, he would pronounce that the Bible was in conflict with modern science. Here was a man who had a degree in neither science nor the Bible but was making pronouncements about both. I saw no evidence that he had studied either science or the Bible. Yet, the fact that he was a Ph.D. gave weight to what he had said.
Other conflicts occur between the Bible and science when the theories of science are brought against the Bible. For example, the theory of evolution is definitely in conflict with the Bible. Yet evolution is not scientific; it cannot be proven or tested by the techniques of science. Rather, it is a philosophy of how the world came to be. The Bible is in conflict with that unproven philosophy.
Sometimes faulty Bible exegesis causes conflict between the Bible and science. Some understood the phrase “the four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:12) to be biblical proof that the world was flat during the days when the explorers were first trying to sail around the world. Yet the phrase is still used to refer to the four points of the compass (north, south, east and west). Here was a case in which faulty Bible exegesis conflicted with the facts of science.
However, when the Bible is correctly interpreted, it is not in conflict with proven facts of science. The God who created this universe is the same God who wrote the Bible. We should not be surprised, therefore, to see a remarkable harmony between His creation and His revelation.
Biblical Comments About Nature
To read some of the comments which the Bible makes about nature will show God’s superintendence over the writers of the Bible. The writers of the Bible made comments about things which they could not possibly have known without divine revelation having guided them to make those statements. Consider some of these statements:
1. “He . . . hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). That statement does not sound strange to those of us who live in 1977. We have been privileged to watch the pictures which those in the space ships have sent back to the earth. As the men in the space ship traveled toward the moon, they would get about halfway there and turn to show us a picture of the earth. There the earth was, sitting in space, and resting on nothing. But, tell me how Job knew that. This statement was written thousands of years ago. Some think that the book of Job is one of the earliest writings in the Bible. He was living during the time that men, thought that the earth was on a turtle’s back or that Atlas was holding it up. (Why those men never questioned regarding what the turtle or Atlas was resting on puzzles me.) Yet, Job did not reproduce the “science” of his day; instead, he wrote the radically different statement which has later been confirmed by modern science that God “hangs the earth on nothing.” This is a wonderful example of the scientific accuracy of the Bible.
2. “He made from one (blood-KJV) every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26). (The reading “one blood” of the KJV adds nothing to the statement as its reads in the NASB. If all men descended from one man, they would all have the same blood.) Today, we know that there is no difference in the blood of the black, red, white, etc. men. Their blood is interchangeable. Transfusions can be given from one race of men to another without trouble. But, how did Paul know that hundreds of years before the microscope was invented? We see, again, the wonderful superintendence of God in the writing of the Bible which caused this statement which harmonizes with the known facts of science to be placed in the Scriptures rather than the thoughts of scientists who were contemporary with Paul.
We could cite other instances of the harmony between the known facts of science and the Bible (such as 1 Cor. 15:39-“all flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish”) if given the time and space. These, however, suffice to show that the facts of science and the revelation of God are not in conflict.
That the scholarly world is still discussing whether or not the Bible is scientifically accurate is a wonder in itself. The science which is mentioned in the Bible is 2000 years old, at the least. Most books have a life-span of 20 years. Any book which survives that length of time is extraordinary. Most of the books which discuss science are out-dated by the time they go to the press. Yet, here is the Bible, a book which is over 2000 years old and still considered to be scientifically accurate by a large number of educated men and by the large majority of the populace. Though no one discusses whether or not the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Homer, and other early writers are scientifically accurate because the answer is so blatantly obvious, men are still discussing whether or not the Bible is scientifically accurate which is a tribute to the Book of books in itself.
Truth Magazine XXI: 37, pp. 579-581
September 22, 1977