Why do people try to make scripture talk science?

I thought about asking, “Why do people try to force their own worldviews onto scripture?” but decided to make it pertain to today; people have tried to force the scriptures to fit Greek philosophy, humanism, and other worldviews down the centuries, which has always led to error – some of it extreme – but the important one for us today is the modern scientific worldview.

One problem with this is that not once when people have tried this have they been able to point to anyplace in the scriptures that says scripture even cares about the worldview they are championing, which leads me to wonder why they are trying it. In this case, the problem is that just as nothing in scripture said to impose Aristotle onto any part of scripture, nothing in scripture suggests that science be forced onto scripture . . . . so why do people try it?

I’m not sure it’s always a conscious thing. While it may be easy to notice aspects of others’ cultures, our own cultural elements can be harder to pick up on because they’re so ingrained – they’re the water we’re swimming in. We in the West tend to have a built-in respect for science and assumptions about its place in our lives even if we aren’t aware of that. It affects how we think of things like what the word “true” even means.

If we’re already applying standards of truth to journalism, scientific inquiry, medical processes, etc., it may feel like we’re seeing the Bible as “lesser than” by not applying those same standards to it. There is this idea that nonfiction is “true” and fiction is “not true” (and sometimes little more than escapism), and everything is either one or the other, therefore if we believe the Bible is “true,” we have to treat it like any other nonfiction report or we’re letting it down. At least that seems to be the attitude in some fundamentalist cultures I’ve seen, even if it’s not articulated that way.


I have to wonder how I made the jump, given how I’ve always loved science – but then I’ve always loved everything I could study, which is why I took something like 25% more than the usual course load in college and pushed the limits in grad school as well. Taking different languages helped – French, ancient Greek, Latin, German, Hebrew, Spanish, plus wading in various ancient near eastern ones – because each language actually entails a somewhat different way of looking at the world (which hit me perhaps hardest when I realized while working in Miami that I could understand Italian and Portugese with a bit of concentration due to the similarity with Spanish, but tripped over concepts that just didn’t carry over even between languages so close). Reading Xenophon and Aristotle and Aesop and Aristophanes and Plato, Augustine and Plutarch and even Cicero, along with Cervantes and the Biblia Reina-Valera, and more (including translating Jacques Cousteau TV specials for the family) tugged my mind from one worldview to another before I even realized that was what was happening.

So I was content to let each kind of literature in its own language – and science to me was in a way another language – be itself and not try to force it to be anything else. Realizing that ancient Hebrew had its own literary types was no big deal since most languages have their own, plus I’d learned in the required English literature courses including of course the standard Chaucer and Shakespeare and Milton and on into Dickens, etc., had shown me that even within a given language there are differences in genre over time.

Yeah, how a culture defines “truth” is a big piece. I think it was in a Greek philosophy course (in the original language) that I recognized that there is more than one way of defining truth, and more than one way of portraying it. In that course we also hit heavily the idea that the only valid definition of truth for any given system of thought is the one it holds for itself. Maybe I take for granted that people should be able to recognize that? and need to remember that I’ve waded heavily into realms most people don’t even know exist.

That said, I hope we get to hear from people who think the Bible’s definition of truth includes science!


why do people say
“Science tells us…”
and why do we think that scripture does not care about peoples worldviews.

Science is a worldview like not stamp collecting is a hobby. Science is a tool to systematically investigate reality. it is scientists who say, not science unless you personify it as God. If you do you peddle materialism that leads to claims like “rocks are atheists”

Scripture is all about caring for peoples worldview and repairing it as in helping people to achieve a meaningful relationship with reality. Using science to better understand the reality is part of that, The society that is without scripture is the basis of our current meaning crisis were everything becomes meaningless.

I would not say that science is a worldview. Science studies the creation around us systematically and forms possible explanations for observable phenomena within the cosmos. It uses a set of tools, methodologies and rules in this process. Scientists may adapt the methodology so strongly that they analyze everything through the same set of methodologies and rules (I have noted a tendency towards that even in myself) but science as such does not provide a worldview. We usually interpret the observations through our worldview. This is true for all, including scientists, but the worldview comes from outside of science.

I would say that there are much false beliefs and false teaching about science among Christian groups and that may explain the negative attitudes against science and scientists. It seems that Christian groups within USA is an extreme example of that, although this comment does not apply to all groups and churches.

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I guess I thought he was saying science is not a worldview just like choosing to not collect stamps is not a hobby. The act of stamp collecting is a hobby, not doing it is just not doing it.

But I agree science is not a worldview and is a tool just like math is not a worldview. Those the data we collect can shape out worldview.

As for why people do that I think it’s just normal. We look for patterns and we look for ways to better relate to something. Like so singer has probably written a song about many of us, but many see aspects of themselves and memories in those songs. Human experience. Same as a mother may see herself in the mother bear walking with her cubs. Rarely, someone may see themselves metaphorically and jokingly in a jellyfish as if they are just both seemingly floating through life at the will of the way it moves around us.

For many the Bible is a form of truth and they also believe that reality and science is all truth as well. So they want it to harmonize. Like from our perspective it looks like the sun is tiny and moves around us at a consistent speed. But science shows us that it’s actually earth moving around the sun and rotating. So when we see the story in Joshua is the sun standing still, as if it moves, what many have tried to do is say that well from Joshua’s perspective the sun moves and he was writing about it like we say sunsetting and sunrising. That it’s not literal. That way all of it is aligned together.

The issue is people not realizing how accommodation is better than concordism. That’s it’s ok that ancient people thought the sun was tiny and moving. That it’s ok the Holy Spirit worked in that way in however it operates in how someone wrote scripture.

For them it’s a door they rather put a drawer in front of them go down. To say that sometimes God allowed people to believe something not true, and even inspire it being written down, and that Jesus and Paul did not understand reality through science like we do scares them. After all if Genesis contains stories not real, and their was no flood, or no Babel, there was no giant and a stone or no Moses with a staff or a reed sea splitting and so on then maybe there was no Jesus walking on water or turning water into wine. If those stories are not literal, then maybe neither is the resurrection.

So instead they rather connect bizarre dots like Jesus was able to make the water ferment really fast. That perhaps grape juice was in it a little bit. But Jesus caused it to age really fast and likewise, maybe God made the earth and universe age supernaturally fast in that first week, and it’s all just true.!

For many the opposite is true. Slowly over time I went from things like the flood being literally globally as a child to the flood being a much smaller flood but equally deviating to some small Mesopotamian village to maybe it never happened at all. I went from Moses being a real person, and that story of the exodus was literal, including the magic to maybe it was just a man named Moses and a handful of slaves that escaped and that the magic was real to most likely none of it ever happened at all.

I am now finding myself more and more moving towards things like Jesus was probably the byproduct of a SA and that he probably never actually walked on water and that perhaps the resurrection is not meant to be taken any more literally than the parting of the sea, flying invisible evil spirits or Adam. For me I guess it’s just not that big of deal since I already don’t believe in the supernatural in general, or the majority of claims. I’m more to the point where I enjoy the Bible like I enjoy the Iliad.

Scripture makes many specific statements about reality and human nature that are also addressed via science. The overlap is inevitable.

When the Bible said there was a beginning, this conflicted with a prevailing view that the universe was eternally pre-existent. The Bible ended up being correct.

Since Biologos is almost entirely focused on origins, the conversations here always seem to revolve around that. But if you consider psychology and sociology to also be “science”, they overlap and speak to the same issues that are spoken of in Scripture. Crudely put, one could say at that point Scripture is “talking science”, though it might be more properly understood as the overlap of special revelation and general revelation.

In the areas in which I am more interested, Scripture anticipated much of what present-day science has affirmed. Much of the nonsense psychology that prevailed in the 20th century (and contradicting the Biblical understanding of personality) has been debunked, while the Biblical portrayal of the human psyche has been vindicated. (See my book, “Superbia: The Perils of Pride. The Power of Humility.”).

Likewise, the Biblical paradigm for human sexuality has equally been vindicated (The Top Ten Myths of the Sexual Revolution).

Yes, people go too far with finding science in scripture, such as young-earth creationism. But when science and scripture speak to the same issues with precise terminology, what else are you going to call it?

Not just young earth, but intelligent design in general is something we just don’t see in nature. The supernatural seems to have no clear connection to anything in nature.

I’ve seen this as well.

One interesting anomaly is CS Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. When I was a young pre-teen in my church there were several copies that were passed around our youth group. I remember enjoying them, and also noticing the obvious parallels between Aslan and Jesus.

Obviously, people in the church thought this fiction was worthwhile from a spiritual point of view. I think people still understand that myth and fiction can be perfectly valid teaching tools. However, there is also an “us vs. them” and modern apologetics outlook that sees fiction as a weakness.


Newton demonstrated that, once you develop the math, there are some simple formulas for how objects move. This provided significant inspiration for the “Enlightenment” trust in one’s own reasoning and the idea of simple formulas for everything. However, most fields are not as simple as rocket science. Similarly, the radical Reformation made personal interpretation supreme, unlike the Lutheran and Calvinist approaches that sought to reform without rejecting past wisdom. As has already been noted, the claim that the Bible must be scientific to be true is imposing the culture’s valuing of science, rather than properly seeing science as a way of physically investigating creation.

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Yes, I am sometimes surprised at how broad of an influence C. S. Lewis has amongst Christians, even those on the more literalist side of things, considering his use of “pagan imagery” also. It might help that the allegory in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is very obvious, such as “Aslan = Jesus.” There really aren’t alternate ways to read that piece of it at least. Whereas with a series like Lord of the Rings, there may be some “Christ figures,” but the story itself is more open to interpretation.


He’s also a great “bridging” figure, in that he’s still widely enough respected even across political lines that he can be one of those writers celebrated in common. But not by everybody! There are some (maybe from among the more stringently conservative within their denomination) that have apparently written off Lewis. At least that’s my impression. The reason I think so is that one popular Christian university still makes prodigious use of Lewis’ literature - and has taken heat for it from some of its (more conservative Baptist) constituency because Lewis is entirely too ‘compromised’ for them.


I have seen where Lewis is disparaged by more fundamentalist segments. And, I think his embrace by evangelicals is something of a more recent phenomenon, perhaps brought on by his popular fictional writings. In any case, it is a bit of a mystery, in a culture that tend to reject intellectual writing. Here is a an unlocked link to a CT article that discusses it, hopefully the unlocking works:



I’d call that a worldview. The idea that we can learn things by proposing hypotheses and testing them is at the very least a worldview element, and probably a strong one given that so few cultures ever recognized this.

That there is a difference indicates a clash of worldviews. The worldview difference is in how truth is defined: science says truth is defined by the correspondence of propositions about the material word with how that world actually functions, and that is incompatible with pretty much every prior way of viewing the world.

So having to learn a different way of looking at the world is scary – that’s been what has happened every time two different cultures meet.

This statement includes the “domino” idea that if one story is “wrong” so is the next, and the next, and so on. It’s a lazy idea that avoids having to examine each individual portion of scripture.

But that puts the cart before the horse: the foundation is Christ; out trust in Christ doesn’t come from every single thing in the Old Testament fitting a modern concept of truth, our trust starts with Christ and extends to the Old Testament because He trusted it.

Overlap, yes, but that doesn’t mean using one to interpret the other.

Definitely the latter.

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Something I noticed in this connection was people saying that Narnia was fine because it was ‘myth’ written by Christians. What strikes me as odd is that the same justification should apply to myth in the Old Testament: it was written by believers!

And not surprisingly, it’s the heirs if the radical reformation that tend to want the Bible to speak science. I find it not surprising because at its core the radical reformation was not Biblicist but humanist, thus imposing a then-current worldview on the scriptures; their heirs just impose today’s worldview.

Thus I always ask where in the scriptures it says to treat the Bible as teaching science.

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It goes back farther than that! Ever since I was first in college I’ve meet Christians who either kept their faith thanks to Lewis or had come to faith due to something he’d written. Mere Christianity led the pack, but The Great Divorce, Miracles, and the space trilogy made the list.
One that surprised me was Voyage of the Dawn Treader, due to its treatment of stars as heavenly beings. The guy who related this to me was encouraged by Lewis’ penchant for taking what is widely regarded as metaphor and treating it seriously if not literally.
Then there was a professor whose faith was revitalized by A Grief Observed, and another by the poem No Beauty We Could Desire.

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It worked! Thanks for that article, Phil. I’m almost finished reading it, 25 year old article that it is - and I don’t think I’d ever read it before! I wonder if Packer would stand today behind all that he wrote back then?


Not to quibble too much, but I’m not sure who or what denomination you two are defining as the “radical reformers” and was hoping to clarify some statements. As a Mennonite-Anabaptist, I am a direct descendant (both biologically and theologically) from the “radical” branch of the reformation. The Mennonite tradition is NOT that one’s individual, personal interpretations are supreme, rather Mennonites stressed the “community hermeneutic”…i.e., reading and interpreting scripture in the community of believers (there was no distinction between laity and priestly classes among Anabaptist Christians in contrast to the Magisterial Reformers). Neither has it ever been the Mennonite focus to try to make the Bible “speak to science”, so I’m not sure what you are referring to here.

But the term “radical reformer” and “Anabaptist” are both hugely broad umbrella terms for a whole range of folks, often with little theology in common…so perhaps you two are referring to a different subset of people?


Nothing is lazy about realizing that science disproves a literal creation and that history disproves 600 million Hebrew men plus another million or so of women and kids being slaves in Egypt and then wandering around in any wilderness around there for decades. So if all of that is not real, the sea splitting by a magical wand probably is not either. That there are two separate accounts of David and Saul meeting and two separate accounts of who killed Goliath also seems to indicate that’s all fictional. The fact giants never existed and there was not a land of giant fruits and so on with men so big regular men were like ants before them kind of undermines the conquests of Joshua and so on.

Not sharing the same faith as Paul, or thinking Paul was no more magically endowed with wisdom than the earlier prophets does not mean I don’t have faith in Jesus and pointing out that my faith in Jesus does not rest in the supernatural aspects of the stories does not undermine it either. Paul mentions if Christ did not resurrect it was all in vain, but I don’t feel that way.

So nothing is lazy about my argument. It’s the opposite. It’s the byproduct of well over a decade of being active in the discussions around these debates through forums, podcasts, books, conventions, and so on. It’s the opposite of laziness. It’s years and years of hours a week dedicated to studying this in my free time and drawing conclusions after much discussion by scientists, historians, theologians and scholars.

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Also my faith died not start with Jesus but with God. Because I believe in God I believe in Jesus. Because. Believe in God I choose to believe in the Bible. Because I believe in the Bible, I choose to believe that the Old Testament points towards a savior and because I believe that, I accept Jesus.

If there was no Bible and I did not believe in God and some random dude showed up claiming he was a god incarnate I would dismiss him just like a do several homeless drug addicts I’ve met who stated they were God or the second coming and so on.

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