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Don Stewart :: Why Do Some Scientific Theories Contradict the Bible?

Don Stewart
As we examine the origin and development of the universe we will be discussing both modern science and the Bible. Though many times they will agree there are times they will not. The author of the Bible is the God of truth but scientists are not so infallible. Scientific truth can never contradict biblical truth but scientific theories do contradict the Bible in numerous ways. Why is this the case? If the Bible is Gods Word and contains accurate science why do we find scientific theories at odds with Scripture?

Assumptions

The problem is not with the evidence that science discovers, rather it boils down to ones assumptions. All of us have our own biases and assumptions concerning the world around us. If a person assumes the theory of mindless evolution is true, then he will interpret the facts a different way than one who believes in divine creation. While all scientists deal with the same facts, the difference lies in the interpretation of the facts. The difference in interpretation can usually be traced back to the difference in assumptions.

Same Facts, Different Conclusions

Two people who look at the same facts with different assumptions will come to different conclusions. We find an example of this in the New Testament when Jesus was speaking to the multitude. He said:

Father, glorify Your name. Then a voice came from heaven saying, I have both glorified it and will glorify it again. Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, An angel has spoken to Him (John 12:28,29).

All the people had the same facts (hearing the voice of God the Father). Yet some would not believe what they clearly heard. They attributed it to thunder. Why? Because of their assumptions. They did not believe Jesus was the promised Messiah, therefore, they assumed God the Father would not approve of His ministry. When the Father spoke His approval of Jesus certain people chose not to believe it. The voice was not rejected because of the evidence; it was rejected because of their previous assumptions. This illustrates how people can have the same facts before them and come up with different interpretations of those facts based upon their assumptions.

Scientific theories fit into the same category. The assumptions the scientist brings to the data he discovers will influence the way the data is interpreted. The difference lies not in the facts, but in the interpretation of the facts. This is the reason why we have some scientific theories that contradict the Bible.

Wrong Interpretation

A further cause of the conflict lies with believers and their interpretation of the Bible. Sometimes the conflict between science and the Bible lies with a mistaken interpretation of Scripture. Theologian Eric Sauer notes:

We must not a priori equate Scripture with our exposition of it. The so-called contradictions between faith in the Bible and science are in fact not a conflict between the Bible and assured scientific knowledge, but between interpretations of the Bible and scientific theories; they offer a collision between popular traditions and philosophical speculations, which have been simply accepted from others without being tested (Eric Sauer, The King of the Earth, Palm Springs: Ronald N. Haynes Publishers, 1981, p. 202).

Christians must be careful not to assign blame to a scientific theory that contradicts Scripture until they are assured that their interpretation is what the Bible actually says.

No Contradiction

We emphasize that there is no contradiction between what is written in the Bible and the evidence of science. The Bible says,

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

Biblical faith is confirmed by the evidence we find in the world around us.

New Testament Message

The Apostle Paul defined the New Testament message as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believe in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

He declared that faith and evidence were so closely related that "if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17).

The tomb was empty and many eyewitnesses testified that Jesus had risen. That was the consistent theme of the New Testament writers as they proclaimed the Christian message and intelligently defended their faith.

Evidence For Faith

In the first recorded message after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter based his argument upon objective evidence. He pointed to the world of reality to confirm the resurrection, appealing to the knowledge of his listeners:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know . . . This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses (Acts 2:22,32).

In his letter to believers, Peter emphasized the value of attesting evidence:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty (2 Peter 1:16).

He tells his readers that the evidence should cause them to believe in Jesus.

Written To Create Belief

The Apostle John, wrote his gospel for the purpose of creating belief:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name (John 20:30,31).

John pointed to the visible signs performed by Jesus to substantiate that belief.

The Use Of Reason

The Apostle Paul emphasized the use of reason, evidence and common sense in testing and understanding reality. When Paul came to the synagogue of the Jews in Thessalonica, the Scripture records that,

Paul . . . went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ (Acts 17:2,3).

The same chapter records Pauls dealings in Athens:

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there (Acts 17:16,17).

Scripture testifies that Christianity unites faith and evidence.

Bible Is Not Anti-Scientific

In addition, the Bible is not anti-scientific. Jesus Christ, for example, taught exact observation. In Luke 7:22 Jesus said, "Go tell John what you see and hear" (emphasis added).

The Gospel of John refers to testifying to what is known. The writer speaks of things, "which we know and testify" (John 3:31, emphasis added).

We are encouraged to observe nature. Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air . . . Consider the lilies of the field" (Matthew 6:26,28, emphasis added).

John the Apostle wrote, "that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon . . . we declare to you" (1 John 1:1,3, emphasis added).

The early Christians based their faith upon what they knew, what they had heard and what they had seen.

Fits The Evidence

Finally, the biblical concept of God fits modern scientific evidence. Paul said:

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with mens hands, as though He needed anything since He gives life to all, breath, and all things (Acts 17:24,25).

The God of the Bible, the God proclaimed by and revealed fully in Jesus Christ, has a far better explanation of the origin of the universe than does modern unbelieving science. God "upholds all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). This is the God who produced the universe and who sustains it today. He explains the whys and hows of our existence in the person of Jesus Christ.

Since the first explorations into space, our knowledge of the universe has multiplied a thousand times, yet we still cannot explain scientifically the origin of the universe. Living in an age of advanced science is not necessarily being closer to the truth of science. All secular theories are built upon an underlying philosophy: man is the master of his own fate, the captain of his own salvation, and is capable of being his own god.

The question of origins or the purpose of our existence is unanswered by the advanced, complicated, science of the twentieth century. It is the Bible, the Word of the living God, that provides answers to these questions. Scientific evidence, as we shall see, does not contradict the Bible. It does, in fact, support it.

Summary

It is not the facts of science that are in conflict with Scripture but rather the interpretation of the facts. Interpretations are based upon assumptions and the wrong assumptions can lead to the wrong conclusions. E.H. Andrews writes:

Scientific theories represent interpretations of the facts rather than the facts themselves. This distinction is frequently overlooked and historical evolution is presented as a fact rather than a particular interpretation of certain facts . . . There are alternative interpretations of these facts which are just as respectable scientifically as (some would claim, more so than) the theory of evolution (E.H. Andrews, God, Science Evolution, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1980, pp. 89,90).

Christians can also be guilty of making the Bible say something that it does not. Therefore, we must strive to find a proper interpretation of both science and Scripture.

Long ago, Jesus pointed out the main reason for the conflict between the Bible and unbelieving science. He told the religious leaders of His day that they were ignorant of two basic things. He said, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29).

A proper understanding of what the Scriptures actually say, and of the power of the God of the Bible, would go a long way to solve the apparent conflicts between science and the Bible.
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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