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Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Make Unscientific Statements?

Don Stewart
The Bible was written in what is termed the pre-scientific era, before the rise of modern science. Many books and articles have been written that accuse the Bible of giving scientifically inaccurate statements. Yet the Bible, if it is the Word of God, should be accurate when it touches upon the areas of science. Joseph Dillows writes:

It is obvious that the Bible is not a scientific textbook in the sense of giving detailed technical descriptions and mathematical formulations of natural phenomena. But this is not an adequate reason for questioning the objective accuracy of the numerous portions of Scripture which do deal with natural phenomena and historical events. The Bible is not a mathematic text either, but we expect that Daniel understands sixty-nine weeks by the phrase, "seven weeks and sixty-two weeks" (Dan 9:25). The Bible is not, strictly speaking, a historical textbook either, but we expect that when it alludes to things that can be historically verified, it should be accurate. Likewise, the Bible is not technically a textbook of modern science, but when it refers to things that can be measured or checked by modern science, it should be accurate (Joseph Dillow, The Waters Above, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981, p. 2).

Certain statements made in Scripture seem to be unscientific at first glance. A closer inspection of the evidence, however, will reveal that these supposed errors come from either a lack of understanding of what the Bible says or what science has proven. The following are some of the most often-raised scientific difficulties in the Bible.

Earth Center Of Solar System

One of the most common objections is that the Bible portrays the earth as the center of the solar system. Henry Morris writes:

This charge is most unjust since, we still use words and phrases of the same sort, simply because from our natural viewpoint the sun does rise in the morning, move across the sky and set in the evening. The whole science of nautical and engineering astronomy is based on the assumption, made purely for convenience, that the earth is the center of a great celestial sphere, moving along the surface of which in ordered paths are the sun, moon, planets, and stars. And as far as any practical usage is concerned, this is so. On this assumption, courses can be plotted, positions determined, and scores of other applications made (Henry Morris, The Bible and Modern Science, Chicago: Moody Press, 1968, pp. 6,7).

As we have mentioned, the biblical writers spoke of things as they appear from the vantage point of an observer. From that point of view the earth does revolve around the sun. There is an unfortunate tendency to accuse the Bible of being unscientific because it uses non-scientific language. How many of us hear our local television weather report state that "the rotation of the earth on its axis will move out of our area and out of direct sunlight at 6:30 this evening?" On the contrary, the common report is that "Sunset tonight will be at 6:30." The critic has a tendency to place greater restrictions on the language of the Bible than he does on himself and those around him. To do so is unfair and ultimately, unscientific.

However, there is another truth that the Scripture makes. The Bible makes it clear that the earth is the central heavenly body. This is not due to its position in space, but rather to its place in Gods creative purpose. It is on this planet where God has chosen to work out His plan for time and eternity. Therefore, the earth does have a special place in the universe.

Primitive View Of The World

Another criticism leveled at Scripture is that it has a primitive view of the earth and the heavens. The Bible speaks of such things as the "four corners of the earth" and the earth "resting on pillars." These phrases supposedly show its unscientific character.
The Bible does speak of the four corners of the earth:

And will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12).

Does this teach that the earth is a quadrangle? Not at all. It is a figure of speech referring to the four points of the horizon. The same prophet in another place shows properly that the earth is round:

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22).

Scripture also says:

For the pillars of the earth are the Lords (1 Samuel 2:8).

Does this mean that the biblical world view is that the earth is supported by pillars? Again, what we have here is a figurative statement. Elsewhere the Bible says the earth rests upon nothing:

He hangs the earth on nothing (Job 26:7).

Even today a better scientific description of the earth could not be given.

There are other statements of this sort that Scripture makes, many of them found in the book of Genesis. When examined closely they are not found to be unscientific.
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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