How old is our universe? Can it be reliably dated? Did God use evolution as a means to bring about our world? Does the Bible contain any reliable scientific information about the origination of our planet? It is important for us to understand if these questions, and others like them, can be answered from a study of Scripture.
Where To Find Answers
The following illustration should help shed light on where we should look for answers in the Bible/science debate.
One afternoon a young girl comes home from school and finds that her mother has made a bath for her. A thermometer in the bathtub records the temperature at ninety degrees Fahrenheit - exactly the temperature she likes. The happy young lady wonders aloud, How long has the water been in the tub? There are several possibilities.
1)The water came out of the tap boiling hot and has been cooling for a long period of time.
2)The water came out of the tap at 100 degrees and has been cooling for only a short time.
3)The water has been in the bath tub for only a couple of minutes because the girl's mother knew what time she would come home from school and made it at just the right temperature.
Which of the three possibilities is correct? None of them can be proven scientifically. How can the young girl know how long the water has been in the tub? Simple, she should ask her mother who put it there!
In like manner, scientists have generated theories as to the age of the earth and how it came about to be the right temperature for humanity, animals and plants. Some scientists believe the earth was originally boiling hot and has been cooling for millions of years. Other scientists believe that God made the earth similar to what it is today and that it has not been cooling for millions of years.
It is impossible to scientifically prove which theory is right because no one was there to observe what happened in the beginning. So how do we answer the questions as to the makeup of the universe. Simple, ask God because He made it!
Where To Find Answers
Therefore to find the answer to the questions concerning the origin of the universe we need to go to the One who made it and find out what He has to tell us. Unless we have a clear Word from God on the matter, any theory regarding the origin of the universe, or the process by which it came about, is merely guesswork and cannot be scientifically proven.
There are two extremes we must avoid when we consider questions concerning the Bible and science. First, we must be careful not to read into to the text more than is there. We do not want to overstate the purpose of Scripture by making it some scientific account - it was not written with that intent.
God And Humanity
The Bible was written mainly to give us the record of God's dealings with humanity. It explains how the world has ended up in this sinful position. We must be careful not to read too much into the Scriptural account. Well-meaning people have made mistakes by making the Bible speak too specifically on some issues of science when the Bible did not intend to speak that specifically.
The first chapter of Genesis is not written as a twenty-first century science book. God has given us a timeless account of the creation of the universe and the earth. It is written in timeless, non-scientific language. When Moses wrote Genesis the existence of other planets was unknown as were the other continents on the earth. Therefore God gave a timeless, non-scientific description of His creation in language ordinary people, in all ages, could understand. It would have been impossible to give a description of the creation in scientific language, for the language would soon become outdated. The Genesis creation account tells us, in non-scientific language, where we came from, how we relate to the rest of creation, and why humanity experiences so much pain and suffering. It also describes the only God who exists, the One who created all things very good in the beginning. He did this in language that would never become outdated.
Disastrous results have occurred when people have tried to read too much into the simple Genesis account of creation. For example, in the past, many in the church took the position that the earth was the physical center of the universe. Proof texts were quoted about the sun rising and setting. It was the sun, not the earth that moved, because the Bible said so. Thus the earth was the center of the universe.
Earth-Centered Vantage Point
Of course, no one believes this today. The mistake was in assuming Scripture was giving a scientific explanation of the universe when it was only describing the sun, moon, and stars from the vantage point of an observer here on the earth.
The how of creation is left unsaid. Scripture says that God spoke and then the universe came into existence. Beyond that there is no explanation or mention of the mechanism that He used. Therefore it is fruitless for us to speculate the how of creation. If God thought it were important that we know, He would have told us. Evidently the method which He used was not necessary for us to know. Hence we should avoid supporting, from the text of Scripture, some current scientific theory as to the origin or functioning of the universe. The Bible simply does not comment on these matters.
Age Of Earth Not Stated
Nowhere do we find in the Old or New Testament that one's view on the age of the earth was a test of a believers' spiritual maturity. As we have seen, the age of the earth is not an issue with the biblical writers.
Nothing To Say?
The other extreme is to say that the Bible has nothing to say with regard to scientific issues. This view avoids the problems of the Bible and science by saying the Bible does not intend to be understood as saying anything scientifically correct. The Bible, however, contains over one hundred references to the creation of the universe. It passes the bounds of credibility that we are to assume that God did not intend for us to take these references seriously. The Bible places no restrictions upon itself concerning the subjects it will speak upon. The Bible does make statements about our world - where it came from, its present purpose, and its ultimate destiny.
The Bible says that some scientific facts are understood by faith.
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:3).
We must emphasize that there are areas in which Christians can have legitimate differences of opinion. These include:
The meaning of the word day in Genesis 1
The extent of the Flood.
The possibility that God created the universe fully mature.
The age of the earth and universe.
There is no Christian answer to any one of these problem areas.
Remember The Purpose
We should, however, always remember that the purpose of Scripture is to bring humanity into a relationship with God. According to Jesus, the central theme of the Old Testament is Himself:
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).
Likewise Paul's central theme was Christ. The primary purpose of the Scriptures is explained to us by the Apostle Paul:
And from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15).
Again, we emphasize, the main purpose of the Bible is to make its readers wise for salvation. This thought must always be kept in mind when reading any statement in Scripture.
Several things must be kept in mind when we look at the issue of the Bible and science.
To find ultimate answers to any question we go first to the God who made the universe, who is the God of truth.
We must avoid the extremes of making the Bible say too little or too much with regard to science. We should not overstep the purpose of the Bible by attempting to make it some treatise on science but neither should we ignore the clear statements that God is the creator.
When all the facts are finally in, there will be no final conflict between the truth of the Bible and the facts of science.
4.There are areas where Christians can have legitimate differences.
We must always remember that the ultimate purpose of Scripture is to bring humanity into a relationship with Christ. This is what the message of the Bible is all about.