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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Answering Bible Difficulties

Don Stewart :: Have the Discoveries of Modern Science Shown That the Bible Contains Scientific Errors?

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Question 26

Have the Discoveries of Modern Science Shown That the Bible Contains Scientific Errors?

It is often claimed that modern science has rendered the idea of an inerrant Bible as something that is impossible. Indeed, we hear reports of the discovery of skulls of creatures who were half-human, half-ape which supposedly show that humans had a common ancestor with the ape. There are also the confident assertions that the theory of evolution has been proven beyond any doubt.

Indeed, we are told that every educated person is aware of this. Statements such as these have led some people to abandon the idea of an inerrant Bible because of the discoveries of modern science. They assume that the scientific statements found in the Bible are nothing but mythical ideas of a pre-scientific age. Do modern scientific findings refute the idea of an inerrant Scripture?

There are several responses to these charges.

  • Science Is Not the Main Topic of Scripture

    To begin with, the Bible is not a book that was primarily written to deal with subjects relating to science. Rather, it is God’s revelation of Himself, and His plan to the human race. Science and scientific issues are not the main topics. When they are dealt with in Scripture, it is always incidental to the main story. They only occur when they have something to do with God’s dealings with humanity. We never find scientific statements given merely for the purpose of teaching humanity something about science or nature. Therefore, it is wrong to overemphasize the place of science in Scripture. The Bible is not trying to give us detailed explanations of scientific issues.

  • The Bible Speaks Reliably about Science

    However, while the main interest in Scripture is not that of science and nature, whenever Scripture does speaks on areas pertaining to science, it speaks reliably. God’s character would not allow Him to accurately reveal information about Himself on one level, the spiritual issues, but inaccurately reveal information in other areas; such as matters pertaining to science and nature. God is the God of truth; no matter what the subject.

    Therefore, any statement that the Bible makes about science or nature will be accurate. Yet, it will only be accurate to the degree that God is intending to teach us something about the nature of the universe. In other words, we should not try to read too much into some of the scientific statements, neither should we try to read too little into them. The key is to let the Scripture tell us what it is trying to teach us about science in any given context.

  • Science Has Not Proven Any Errors in Scripture

    Contrary to the claims of some, scientific research has not proven anything that would refute Scripture. The theory of evolution, for example, is exactly that; a theory. The so-called missing links between humans and apes are not clear examples of some transitional creature between apes and humans. The missing links are still missing. Modern scientific discoveries have not refuted the teaching of Scripture.

  • The Bible Uses Common, or Non-Scientific, Modes of Expression

    There is something else that should be remembered. The Bible does not speak unscientifically—it speaks non-scientifically. The Bible uses common modes of expression such as the sun rising, and the sun standing still. In Joshua, we read of the sun rising:

    Until the LORD gives rest to your kindred as well as to you, and they too take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land and take possession of it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan to the sunrise. (Joshua 1:15 NIV)

    However, we should note that the word translated “sunrise” can also be translated “east.” The New English Translation says:

    “Until the LORD gives your brothers a place like yours to settle and they conquer the land the LORD your God is ready to hand over to them. Then you may go back to your allotted land and occupy the land Moses the LORD’s servant assigned you east of the Jordan.” (Joshua 1:15 NET)

    There is also the famous incident of the sun “standing still.” We read about this in the Book of Joshua:

    So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. (Joshua 10:13 NET)

    These expressions were, and still are, the common ways of explaining things that are observable—they are not meant to be precise scientific statements. The technical term for this practice is phenomenal language. Therefore, it is often said that the biblical writers spoke and wrote phenomenally. They describe things from the viewpoint of an observer. They are not attempting to provide a scientific explanation of what is occurring.

  • The Bible Speaks of Things as They Appear to an Observer on the Earth

    Scripture speaks of things as they appear to an observer on the earth. If the Bible taught that things actually appeared a certain way to an observer, but they did not appear that way, then the Bible would be wrong.

    Also, if the Bible taught that things were a certain way, such as the earth was indeed the center of the solar system, then the Bible would be in error.

    However, if the Bible teaches that things appear a certain way, such as the sun rises and sets, this is not an error. Describing things as they appear is not the same as stating the way things actually are. All of us do this. The authors of Scripture should have the right to do the same.

Conclusion: There Is No Conflict When Properly Understood

There is no conflict between science and Scripture when both are properly understood. The key is to understand exactly what the Bible says and what exactly science has proven. When this is done, there will be no conflict between the two.

While there have been some well-meaning Christians who have tried to make the Bible more precise than it attempts to be in the area of science, a proper interpretation of what science and the Scripture are saying will not try to say more than the Bible is saying. The issue is not trying to make the Bible conform to 21st century norms of scientific precision. The issue is: did the writers of Scripture speak accurately in what they were trying to convey to their readers? The answer is, “Yes.”

Summary - Question 26
Have the Discoveries of Modern Science Shown that the Bible Contains Scientific Errors?

Modern science has supposedly made the doctrine of inerrancy obsolete. With the advent of the discoveries of modern science, the view of the world that was held in biblical time is now seen to have been wrong. Yet, this is not the case. Science and Scripture are not at odds with each other when there is a correct interpretation of what each of them are saying.

The Bible speaks non-scientifically. Yet what it does say matches up with scientific reality. (For further information on this subject see our book, The Bible and Science)

What about the Mistakes in the Various Copies of the Bible? ← Prior Section
Why Don’t the New Testament Writers Quote the Old Testament Word-for-Word? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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