By Keith Ward
Sometimes the connection between a scientific discovery and the Bible verse that foreknew it requires such a stretching of the understanding that credulity snaps and recoils to skepticism. We would do well to remember the rule we apply to alleged discrepancies in the Bible: “Here is a hypothesis which serves to explain and reconcile the disagreement. Now, unless our hypothesis can be proven untrue or irrational it stands and the objection (discrepancy-kw) is effectually met” (Haley, p. 53). In the same vein, if there are other rational explanations of a scripture, it is unwise and possibly wrong to assert that it points to a modern scientific discovery. Also, one hole in the rationale of the scientific foreknowledge hypothesis for a particular passage makes that interpretation untenable.
Some say that the gathering of the waters under the heavens into one place so the dry land would appear corresponds to the discovery that all oceans have one bed. If so, what of the Dead Sea, Galilee, lakes, etc. which are of the class “waters under the heavens” but are not in the one bed? Another fact is that antediluvian geography is unknowable.
Certainly, microscopic life is included in the swarms of creatures that populated the waters at God’s command (Gen 1:20). However, to inject “minute” into verse 20 as a modifier of “creatures” on etymological grounds in order to manufacture a reference for the discovery of these organisms at the invention of the microscope is, at best, questionable. Keil and Delitzsch never knew of these etymological grounds for “minute” as they say the term applies without regard to size. Weightier evidence is found in the context (v. 21) which specifically places “sea monsters and every living creature” in the waters as those that responded to God’s command to “Let the waters swarm.” Unless one is willing to affirm that sea monsters are microscopic, he should avoid this case of “Bible foreknowledge of science.”
The discovery that the universe expands is not seen in the fact that “firmament” derives from a root that means a spreading action (Gen 1:8). First, no derivation carries exactly the meaning of the root, else there would have been no need for the new word. In what way has the root meaning been modified in the derivation? Being linguistically unqualified to determine for ourselves, we are led to believe that it refers to an expanding universe. Will those who propose this use of the root meaning of a word with its derivatives apply the same logic to psallo? (It originally meant to pluck a literal instrument, but later was made figurative and primarily laying emotions, heart, etc. If I carry the root for “expand” to its derivation to interpret Gen 1:8 by what standard of fairness will I deny this priviledge to the instrumentalist who takes the root meaning of psallo to Eph 5:19?) Second, the firmament specified in v. 8 is the atmosphere and one should refer to vs. 14-17 for the use of “firmament” in relation to the universe. Since the same term “firmament is used with both universe and atmosphere, if it means one is expanding, the other must also be expanding in the same manner. Is the atmosphere expanding? No! Finally, could we not all read Genesis I all year and never exclaim. “Viola!” Since firmament of expanse derives in such and such a manner, the universe must be expanding (see key). Most of us, like the commentators, merely conclude that the firmament is a huge expanse of sky and stars, and that God expanded it over the earth. The scientific foreknowledge hypothesis in not a necessary conclusion. In fact, it has several problems. The rational thing to do is not to use this passage for evidence of this nature.
Gross Misrepresentation of Scripture
Sometimes I am dumbfounded at some of the uses made of scripture to prove foreknowledge of modern scientific discoveries. Even a casual reading of the passages should cause one to reject such an interpretation.
“By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear.” Can one who reverences God’s word fail to be indignant when he sees this verse used to foreshadow the discovery of atomic particles? Are we not to hold the original, intended meaning as sanctified? Or, may we just select the right string of words to fit our hobby without regard to fair interpretation?
Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom 10:17). If a man understands something by faith, he understands it because he believes what he reads in God’s word. Thus, then, and therefore, when one reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” he understands that the world and all things seen were made from nothing. Not one word in the faith gives me to understand anything about atomic particles.
If atomic particles are in view here, we must shift our faith from those verses (unknown), that caused this understanding and place it in the scientist and his instruments. Faith has become fact. I no longer need Heb. 11:3 as these things are no longer faith but sight (2 Cor 5:7). And are these evidences promoters not missing a good bit by not making 2 Cor. 4:18 refer to the scientist and his atom-smasher as he looks “at the things which are not seen.” Proof-texting is no prettier when done by a brother for evidences than when done by a denominationalist to support his favorite doctrine.
God gave hope to the woman when he promised that her seed would bruise Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15). Also, Abraham was promised, “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever” (Gen. 13:15). The first refers to Christ; the second to the nation Israel.
Until 1880 scholars argued which sex possessed the seed for procreation and which provided fertilizer. Now we know that each provides seed of procreation-man the sperm, woman the egg. But wonder of wonders, Moses knew this all along, by inspiration and this is an additional fact we can glean from the references to the seed of Eve and of Abraham. Believe it? Who can? Brethren, if science had discovered that only one sex carried the seed of procreation and the other was “only” the fertilizer, Christ would still be both Eve and Abraham’s seed and Israel, would still be Abraham’s seed (no matter which sex carried the seed) according to the sense these terms have in ‘Genesis and we would so argue in debate. From the context, there is no indication that God had the seed of procreation in mind. Rather, every indication is that he did not, but specifically (remember the exclusion principle which we gleefully point out to institutional and instrumental brethren) meant a person(s) of another generation(s). Furthermore, inspiration later shows their fulfillment respectively in Christ and in Israel’s conquering Canaan which should prevent any from coming to another interpretation about seed of procreation.
Just For Emphasis
Already science has discovered what the Bible told us long ago, plants utter sounds (Psa. 96:12; Isa. 44:23). The identification of death sounds and other noises from plants has made some hopeful of finding a meaning in science for the Biblical statements that the mountains sing, fields sing and the world will not be moved.
I think none among us intends to preach false doctrine, to publish lies and to re-publish the wresting of scripture in this matter of scientific foreknowledge. Instead, I believe (and hope fervently) that these duplications of error have been inadvertent and will be corrected. Let us not be sloppy in repeating all we hear, but search the scriptures and gird up the loins of our minds. (Note: I have learned that some of the cases I accepted as valid are disputed by others. I was unable to discover any contextual basis for rejecting them. Those who have should publish their reasons that we may avoid repeating error.)
Truth Magazine XXIII: 3, pp. 57-58
January 18, 1979