No, Modern Science is Not “Catching Up” to the Bible


(system) #1
How did we get to a place where it’s an embarrassment for the Bible—written by ancient people for an ancient audience—to reflect the ancient scientific mindset?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/no-modern-science-is-not-catching-up-to-the-bible

(Brad Kramer) #2

Thanks for reading. I’d love to discuss this important topic with you. I’m completely open to hearing dissenting perspectives, as well.


(Greg Carlet) #3

Look forward to reading this series. Agree with what you wrote above. Coming from a similar upbringing, this looks to be another encouragement to me, so thank you!


#4

When we insist that the Bible has good science, we are buying into the falsehood that only scientific knowledge is valuable.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #5

Yes and No.

Bible: The Universe has a Beginning. Modern Science: The Universe has a Beginning.

Bible: The world is Relational. Modern Science: The world is Relational.

Bible: Reality is based on History. Modern Science: Reality is based on History.

Bible: The Universe was created for humankind. Modern Science: Ditto

The problem is not the Bible or old science found in the Bible. The problem is outdated pagan philosophy, which has been adopted by the Culture and the Church.


#6

Just like seeing more clearly with corrective lenses/contacts when we need them, it is appropriate that we grapple with a right understanding of God’s ways, means and methods when we seek to decode biblical information - especially as it relates to creation and science. That seems to be the “Square One” that you are pulling the reader back to in this post - and I think you got it right. From a right Theology of God, and sensitivity to culture will come a clearer tools with which to decode the text and meaning. Thanks!


(sy_garte) #7

I have a hobby of collecting old science books. Its very interesting to read what people thought about physiology, cosmology, medicine and microbiology in the 18th and 19th centuries. Generally they were wrong about almost everything. So if 200 year old science books were full of errors, why should anyone expect a 2-5000 year old book that is not at all about science to be correct? The idea is ludicrous. Even if God wanted to explain how the universe works (there is no evidence that this is true) how could He have done so to an audience who never heard of…well, anything. I have an early blog post about this issue, that might shed some light.


(Mazrocon) #8

There’s a difference between scientific principles: nature follows mostly comprehensible laws that can be observed and studied by humans … And individual scientific claims about reality: a sun that orbits the earth and a stationary earth. But even in these two examples, both are true, in the sense that all available data, at the point of time, pointed to a stationary earth and a sun, moon and stars, that moved through out the sky.

When you compare the PRINCIPLES given in Scripture to the principles in other religions of the day, Christianity, I would argue, is much closer to reality. The idea of nature being nothing but warring Gods in a sorta cosmic conflict is a very different picture. One can’t expect nature to be understandable nor rational if your view of the world is nothing but Gods in conflict with each other. Much of what is spoken of in Scripture, and is voiced by the early church, and is voiced by early Jewish writings in the Second Temple period, can be easily viewed as the seeds of scientific thought.

-Tim


(Brad Kramer) #9

Roger, I see where you’re going here. But I’m not quite sure that the Bible actually says, “the universe has a beginning”, in the way in which we mean it today. Genesis 1 is actually ambiguous on that matter, and the other biblical passages in question (Hebrews 1, John 1) are much more about the relationship between God and all created things.

Interesting that Georges Lemaitre, the Jesuit Priest who discovered the Big Bang, was actually against a concordist reading. He thought it was dangerous for Christians to say, “see, we knew the universe had a beginning all along!” I do think it’s provocative that the universe has a beginning, and clearly this notion has changed the conversation about origins, but I agree with Lemaitre. There’s a lot we don’t know yet about reality, and that we will never know. I just get really nervous about applying the Bible directly to any scientific discovery on a concordist basis.


(Brad Kramer) #10

This is well stated, @TimothyHicks. As you say, there’s good evidence that the cosmological picture given in Genesis 1 is a big part of the worldview that eventually propelled modern science. But, of course, this isn’t at all on the basis of specific scientific pronouncements. It’s interesting that the Judeo-Christian worldview (starting with Genesis) has had such a tremendous impact on science, given that every attempt to match Genesis 1-4 on a literal basis with historical science has been unsuccessful. I think this shows that the revelational value of Genesis 1-4 has little to do with its scientific accuracy. In other words, even as ancient cosmology, Genesis is still so different than anything else in that day that it begs the question of where these differences came from. As a Christian, of course, I see this as divine inspiration.

So basically, I agree with everything you wrote. :smile:


#11

If we follow the route of trying to prove the claims of the Bible by pointing out where it apparently agrees with modern science, we risk using science that may later be overturned. Modern science will one day be old science and we could be surprised about which bits stand the test of time and which bits don’t
The Bible was written to teach about subjects other than science and should be read with that in mind.


(Patrick ) #12

Brad,
Not quite accurate. Lemaitre used Einstein’s General Relativity equations to show that a universe with a beginning fit with GR. But it was Penzias and Wilson measurement of white noise all over the sky here in Holmdel NJ that was the actual discovery of the remnants of the Big Bang. (It is not often mentioned, but Penzias was Greek Orthodox Catholic and Wilson was Mainline Protestant (Methodist I think). Bell Labs never mentioned the religious affiliation of technical staff members as a very high percentage were Jewish.) This was the 1960’s you know.


(Brad Kramer) #13

Ah, thanks Patrick. As people like to joke at BioLogos, I’m bad at science. :smile:


#14

Penzias and Wilson found the evidence for the big bang.

Profile: Georges Lemaître, Father of the Big Bang


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15

@BradKramer
I see where you are going here, and I do not want to argue with you, but you are mistaken.

While it is true that some people question the concept of creation ex nihilo, it is clear especially from John 1:1 that before time, that is in the Beginning there was no time, no space, no matter, no energy.

The argument against Arius was he refused to say that Jesus Christ existed from the beginning or in other words Jesus was part of the created order, the universe. The theologians have who have a problem with ex nihilo want to find a reason to question it, but it is clear that the difference between God and the universe is that the universe has a Beginning, and God does not. That is the relationship between God and all created things.

This is not a question of saying the Biblical concordance, this is a matter of accuracy. This is not a matter of arrogance, this a matter of truth.

Here is the issue. BioLogos claims to go by the Two Books, the Bible and Science, theory of revelation. That means that God revealed Jesus Christ both through the Bible and the universe.

Now there is a small problem with this is most evangelicals see the Bible as God’s Word or direct revelation of God, while the universe is not. However ever if we see that the Bible is God’s indirect revelation of Jesus Christ and the universe is also God’s indirect revelation of Jesus Christ, then we have parity.

There is a solid theological basis for this when we read John 1:1-3 (NIV2011)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

Thus God’s Rational Word, the Logos, shaped the universe so that it can be discovered by science. This is the basis for science and natural law.

The is issue is not theology vs science. The issue is how do theology and science work together. Scientism says that they are enemies. BioLogos says that they are allies and I agree, but one cannot say that they are allies unless one is willing to discuss their similarities and differences.

This is the task of philosophy which is not in evidence. This is another thing which I am trying to work on, if someone is willing to help.

The issue is do we live in one universe or two. The Bible says we live in one, which has physical, rational, and spiritual dimensions. This means we need to understand how science, philosophy, and theology work together to understand who we are as humans and the world in which we live.

This is not dualism, us vs them, Bible vs Science. This is reconciliation, the bringing together of Science and Christianity to solve the world’s problems.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #16

@Patrick et al.

It should be noted that the “red shift” theory of Edwin Hubble that indicates that stars are moving away from each other set the stage for Lemaitre use of Einstein’s Theory.

Wilson and Penzias discovered the background radiation that gave tangible evidence to confirm the idea.

We have ample evidence to establish the Big Bang Theory, although a few are trying to deny it. We in science and theology need to go with the best evidence we have knowing that nothing is written in stone. We live by faith, and not by sight.

The problem today is that many are acting and claiming that things, which are plausible, but not confirmed by solid evidence, are actually real, such as the multiverse.


#17

I appreciate the discussion in this thread. It’s great to be able to see how others articulate these issues and several of you have helped me to think through how I can better express these concepts to others.

It has long bothered me that some believers think it necessary to somehow “help out” the Bible by trying to extract some great scientific truth from the ancient text, as if that would thereby make the Bible much more trustworthy or impressive than it would otherwise be. (If that were true, than before the development of modern science, the Bible would have been unable to show its most impressive merits.)

Now that’s not to say that God’s Torah Law, for example, did not provide some excellent and practical health regulations worth obeying long before The Germ Theory of Disease was first published in a science textbook. Yet, I just hate to see someone evaluating the Bible on a scientific basis, as if its scientific merits matter more than all others or as if science is the ultimate test of all truth.

I’m always looking for new and better analogies to help me communicate to students and readers and this crude idea just popped into my mind: Evaluating the Bible on its scientific merits is like evaluating a great work of art (e.g., the Mona Lisa) by submitting its paint dust for chemical analysis and saying something like, “Da Vinci’s paint mixtures had lower trace levels of rare earth elements and obscure heavy metals than modern day, factory-produced paints. Isn’t that impressive?” That is, that would be completely missing the point of why the artist painted it and it ignores the beauty of the art. Isn’t looking for “science facts” in the Bible just as irrelevant?

I’ve seen a lot of breathless articles at Answers in Genesis and Creation.com where somebody has perhaps worked very hard to find some illogical and/or downright erroneous “The Bible was the very first to publish this scientific fact!” and give readers something that they can supposedly use to impress their non-Christian friends or their Sunday School class. Some of those articles remind me of the old Moody Science films: truly sincere in wanting to honor the creator but cringe-worthy for anybody who actually knows the science. (Remember when it was popular to claim that the Bible said that Jesus was the force which kept the positively-charge protons in the nucleus of atoms from flying apart?)

I’ve had students who were obsessed with this “Science proves God/Jesus” fad. One wore a T-shirt promoting the silly “The protein laminin is shaped like a cross–and it is found in all of our bodies!” Jesus certainly didn’t speak approvingly of those who are always looking for a sign from God—and yet the “Let’s find in the Bible science predictions ahead of their time!” quest seems to be motivated by “sight” rather than by faith.


#18

I really like this post. Would I be correct in saying that in order to combine modern science and a faith in the bible one would need to think that God was reaching people where they were in the time of writing the bible? I can see this as a possible scenario but to me it just seems like a desperate attempt to make the two things fit together. I want to emphasize that I ‘am not saying this to be insulting but I am a former Christian believer that lost their faith because I couldn’t make sense out of these two things. For me it was particularly troubling in understanding how Adam and Eve, and sin, fit into our evolutionary history. Whenever I read the bible as a Christian the whole sin narrative was essential to make sense of the need for Jesus. I am intrigued by people who understand science and the bible, and maintain faith, because I was not able to do it. I would welcome any insights or recommended readings for a better understanding. I have read a couple already Peter Enns, “the evolution of Adam and Eve” and “The Language of God” by Francis Collins. This is my first post so if I did something wrong, or offended anyone, I apologize and please let me know.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19

@Mr.Molinist
@tfrancis

Today “scientific” truth is more highly regarded than Christian truth. Therefore some are tempted to validate the Bible using “scientific” truth. As you point out this is a mistake.

In the other hand scientific truth and Christian truth are both truth, even though they are different. It should be noted that Christians do not believe in the Bible, they believe in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Logos, the Rational Word of God, through Whom all things were created. John 1:1-3. Therefore the rationale for modern science is found in the Bible and Jesus Christ. There is no inherent conflict between Christianity and science according to Christian theology.

Therefore what Dawkins and Hawking say is wrong and as the saying goes, Tell the truth and shame the Devil. The Truth is the truth and we must not be intimidated by many who want us to believe that good Christianity and good science are at odds.

My goal is not to disprove Creationism. My goal is to establish a valid theology of science.


(Jon Garvey) #20

Nice analogy Mr Molinist.

There are always two sides to the same coin, it seems to me - it’s also true that to read Genesis and say, "look, the science is wrong is like analaysing Da Vinci’s pigments and saying “Look how obsolete and toxic they are - how can we take the painting seriously as art?”