Pastor Paul Mizzi

Confusion of Categories: Science, Bible

Interactions between science and the Christian faith are often mistakenly described under the heading “Science and the Bible.”

Little progress can be made, however, until one realizes that such a comparison results from a confusion of categories. Science is the result of human interpretation of God’s original and continuing work in creation, that is, the universe in which man is placed.

The Bible is God’s revelation given to human beings through the words of the biblical writers. Thus the category comparable to “science” is “theology,” which is the result of human interpretation of God’s Word. The category comparable to “the Bible” is “the universe,” which is given to us by God’s creative activity.

Wrong Interpretation of the Bible

A failure to grasp these categories has historically resulted in silly errors, the most renowned perhaps being the condemnation of Galileo in teaching (correctly) that the earth revolves round the sun (heliocentric system) rather than the sun, moon and planets revolving round the earth (geocentric system). Because the church of his day assumed (that is, wrongly interpreted) the Bible to teach that the earth is the physical centre of the universe (and therefore everything else revolved around it), she piously (but erroneously) condemned a scientific discovery, which in actual fact in no way contradicts what the Bible says.

Resolution of Conflicts: Two Kinds of Interpretation

Many others examples may be cited, which are all resolved when we discover and admit that either science is wrong (as in the case of the various theories of evolution) or else our understanding of the Bible is imprecise. When the necessary correction is made on one side or the other, or perhaps on both, then it will be apparent that in no way does science (the human understanding of God’s universe) contradict theology (the human understanding of God’s special revelation). They don’t negate each other; they cannot contradict each other, for creation and Scripture come from the same true and living God who cannot lie.

So if conflicts appear to arise, they can arise of necessity only between the two kinds of interpretation, between science and theology. We may take as a guiding principle that authentic science, that is, science faithfully carried out in accordance with its guiding principles of interpretation, cannot be in ultimate conflict with authentic theology, that is, theology faithfully carried out in accordance with its guiding principles of interpretation.

Any apparent conflict must therefore be the result of an incorrect scientific interpretation, an incorrect theological interpretation, or conceivably incorrect interpretations of both. Such apparent conflicts should therefore drive us back to re-examine the interpretation we have made and to be as sure as we can that we have followed the guidelines of authentic science and theology.

Guidelines in Theology Called Hermeneutics

Within theology these guidelines have been called hermeneutics, and they comprise a variety of principles that we should follow in determining the content of the biblical revelation. Failure to follow these principles necessarily results in faulty interpretations, heresy, and apostasy.

Guidelines in Science Called Scientific Method

Within science the corresponding guidelines have been called the scientific method. They likewise comprise a variety of principles that we should follow in determining the scientific nature of reality. Failure to follow these principles results in faulty interpretations, eccentric ideas, and pseudoscience.

So these distinctions must be kept in mind. When the call is made for a choice between science (seen as fallible human speculation) and the Bible (seen as God’s infallible Word), the Christian must not be confused. Yet he often is. No less confusing is the call often heard from non-Christian sectors to choose between science (seen as the only rational approach to life) and the Bible (seen as the subjective speculations of an ancient people).

Bible evidences Ethological facts

1. The Bible speaks about one common origin of the human race; it narrates the creation not only of the existing order but also of a first man and a first woman, taken from the man. This presentation is contradicted and even ridiculed by a number of world religions but established scientific (biological) evidence only points too clearly to the fact of the common ancestry of man, a truth found not only in Genesis (so brutally attacked by infidels) but also in the New Testament: “(God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” Acts 17:26). 

2. Again the question of the races: Caucasians, Negroes, and so on. Actually there is only one human race, one genus, called man (both male and female, Genesis). The different characteristics, such as skin pigmentation, facial differences, etc. arose in the post-diluvian world, from the sons of Noah, who survived the Flood. This is the picture the Bible presents, and it is in full accord with the facts as they stand today. 

3. The biological make-up of man, as described by modern science, is confirmed to be but (animated) dust. The human body, for all its marvellous complexities (Psalms 139), is taken from the ground.

The accuracy of the Bible

The Bible is inherently authoritative and strictly speaking does not need external evidences. The Bible confirms science whereas science can never confirm the Bible. If the latter were so, then we would be admitting that we are unsure of what the unlying God has said. True, science can help the faithful to better interpret the Scripture, but it so happened that the church more commonly twisted the plain testimony of Scripture to accommodate to unbelieving so-called scientists (vide the evolution controversy following the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species in the mid-nineteenth century).

Having said this, we are not to conclude that we become obscurantists. On the contrary, Scripture is the starting point for a truly God-honouring scientific endeavour. Following the Reformation, many scientists (Newton, Linneaus, Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Boyle, Kelvin, Pasteur, Faraday, were all believers in God). The believed that God is the author of intelligent design, not of caprice and confusion; thus they were encouraged in the scientific pursuits.

Among the more common disciplines, we find investigative scholarship in the following fields:

1. The study of Wind. The air moves from the equator to the poles and back again. They are influenced by the earth’s rotation, the topography, and other factors. However, the major air motions of the world are always of the same kind and follow the same circuits. How could Solomon or Jeremiah so describe them? Living in ancient times, when science was so crude and undeveloped, the wisdom and truth of their assertions is thus shown to be from above (see Ecclesiastes 1:6; Jeremiah 10:13). 

2. The starry heavens, seen through a modern giant telescope, pictorially emphasises the Biblical teaching of the tremendous number of stars, anticipating modern astronomy by 3,000 years. Ptolemy of ancient Greece believed that there were about four thousand stars. That was the established science of his day. If only he had listened to their Maker (cf. Genesis 15:5; 13:16). Today astronomers have statistically estimated that there are about 10 million billion billion stars in the known universe, virtually numberless as the Scripture declares with ease and absolute accuracy. 

3. In God’s address to his servant Job, many “laws of nature” are mentioned, only they are all referred to as “the laws of God,” the God who created is the same God who sustains and preserves his universe. Using poetic language (which incidentally is more meaningful than literal language), the Lord challenges Job by saying, among other things, “Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?” (38:35). There is more to it than it first appears, as science is discovering continuously.

4. A mind-boggling declaration is given in Job 26:7 to the effect that the earth is spherical, a ball that hangs in empty space. It seems that up to the end of the Middle Ages, no one seriously considered this fact: virtually all people believed that the earth was flat. How could the biblical authors have known the truth except that God revealed it to them? 

5. “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). A simple geographical fact today, known by every schoolchild. But not so when the Bible was being given. Looking back we should realise that the idea of a round earth could come from no-one but from Him who fashioned it himself. If the Bible failed in any one of these (verifiable) areas, how could we trust it in metaphysical areas? But it has never been contradicted, and it never will.

From Truth for Today

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