“Ten Things I Learned Wrong from a Conservative Church”
by John Killinger
Eighth wrong teaching:
Faith Is Always Truer Than Science
I’m sure that every generation since the time of Moses has dealt with issue of the harmonization of Scripture with science. People have always questioned the reality of miracles, and have struggled with the natural descriptions found in Scripture. (Consider the Athenians in Acts 17 who refused to accept the idea of a “resurrection” spoken of by Paul.) In fact it seems that people in Bible times had an easier time believing in miracles than we do today. Is this because we live in such an “advanced” society? Or is it simply because miracles don’t happen as often as they did then? How often do you recall reading about those who were skeptic of miracles in the Bible? Nothing like what we find today. The problem of helping people recognize the harmony between Scripture and science has become one of the great challenges for the Church in our post-modern era. As we consider this chapter we will look at some of the assertions made against Scripture in this regard, and ponder the weight of evidence that demonstrates its reliability.
The two main claims that are most often leveled against Scripture in order to assert that it is nothing more than a human book are:
• The Bible and science contradict each other.
• There are scientific errors in the Bible. It is not a scientific textbook, so we wouldn’t expect it to be accurate in such matters.
Both of these assertions strive to undermine the authority of God’s Word by the faulty and ever-changing “standard” of scientific knowledge. If these assertions are true, then the authority of the Bible as a whole has been destroyed, for, if there are errors of any kind in the Bible, then its claims to inspiration and divine authority are proved false. Killinger shows that he completely misses this all-important point when he says: “God doesn’t need an inerrant Bible to be God. True believers shouldn’t need it either” (p. 138). If there are parts of Scripture that are unreliable, it calls into question the whole of Scripture. For this reason it is necessary that we consider this subject and be prepared to answer such claims.
Killinger begins this chapter by listing thirteen specific miracles from the Old and New Testament and then concludes: “The Bible is packed with incredible material, and conservatives insist that we believe every word of it” (p. 130). What is his reason for not believing in these miracles of the Bible? He says: “I gradually came to an accommodation between my old literalist views of Scripture and an acceptance of certain scientific facts.... I was merely content to accept the possibility that the writers of the Bible inhabited a more primitive culture in which fanciful explanations of events were more acceptable than they would be today” (p. 133). What is so interesting about Killinger’s denial of these miracles is the fact that he later goes on to tell us that he readily accepts other miracles in the life of Jesus because he is “dealing somehow with different levels of plausibility.” So, he says, “I cannot dismiss it [the resurrection of Jesus] the way I do the other ‘tall tales’” (p. 139). Isn’t that ironic? Killinger admits that the resurrection of Jesus and other miracles He did during His ministry are just as far-fetched scientifically as the others, but finds these more important and thus can accept them. Is that a scientific approach? Why not consider the miracles of the Bible from a different perspective: If the resurrection of Jesus is a fact, demonstrating the power of God over the natural laws of this world, then what keeps one from recognizing this same truth in all the other miracles in Scripture?
Creation vs. Evolution
But for many people the rejection of God’s Word goes beyond the miracles of the Bible. It also reaches into the way in which the Bible describes other scientific points. One prime example is the denial of the literal interpretation of the creation of the world in Genesis 1-2. Killinger writes: “As for the creation of the world, the story in Genesis was undoubtedly a beautiful, mythical response of some father or grandfather to his children when they said, ‘Grandpa, where did the world come from?’” (p. 133). Once again Killinger doesn’t present any reasons for why the Biblical account of creation should be rejected (scientific or other). He just explains it away.
As we consider the topic of science and Scripture we will find that many people prefer to base their decision more on the evidence of science than the understanding of Scripture. The problem with this is that Science is changing all the time, while Scripture remains the same. Science textbooks must be replaced every ten years, but the Bible has remained unchanged for centuries. If your verdict is based on science, which is constantly changing, then your verdict will have to change as well. H. Rimmer wrote: “There have been men in other generations who have thought that the Bible should be re-written to conform to their conclusions. Had the men of that generation, however, tampered with the sacred Word of God to bring it to harmony with what the fondly believed to be undisputed fact, the Bible today would be useless to our generation. In that same manner, if we did re-write the Bible today to suit the learned professors in those same institutions, within twenty-five years the world would be laughing at the Bible which we had re-written.” Only a science free from error will agree with the truth of the Bible.
First, it is helpful to recognize that the Bible contains scientific truth though stated in non-scientific language. The language that we use to explain the world as we understand it is of human origin. Think for example of the classification of animals. Science places animals into related classifications such as species, phyla, etc. Scripture does something similar by dividing all life into specific categories and sub-categories. While these are not exactly the same there are many similarities. We should be thankful that the Bible does not read as a Science textbook. Its purpose is not to explain matters of this world but to point us to the problem of sin and God’s solution to sin in the person of Jesus Christ.
Second, in response to the assertion that the Bible was a product of “primitive cultures” is it important to notice that the Bible does not contain errors and fallacies common to the age of its production. For example we are told that Moses “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22) so we would expect that he would incorporate Egyptian cosmology, astronomy, and anthropology. But his writings in the Pentateuch show no such influence at all! Likewise Daniel, who was taught the “language and literature of the Chaldeans” so he might serve in the kings palace (Daniel 1:4) shows no Chaldean or Babylonian bias. The same is true of the other Biblical writers. In spite of the strange scientific beliefs of the cultures that could have influenced Biblical writers, we find a firm consistency which spans both time and culture to bring us the truth of God’s own revelation in these areas.
Finally, the Bible has anticipated many of the discoveries of recent centuries. Scripture describes – The earth as a circle (Isaiah 40:22) which hangs on nothing (Job 26:7). It takes note of the result of the process of evaporation and precipitation (Ecclesiastes 1:7). The creation account in Genesis chapter one demonstrated the pattern of the creation of simple to more complex organisms. One could even say that the writer to the Hebrews reveals Atomic theory (Hebrews 11:3)!
We should not fear having Scripture “tested” by anything that is honest. True science will reveal the truthfulness of Scripture which has remained unchanged and unanimous for thousands of years. Surely, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville,
Georgia by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew.
If you would like more information about this study,
please contact Pastor Mayhew