My friend Steve has a ministry helping college kids in their relationship with God. In a recent conversation, he told me about a survey which stated that 2 out of 3 church attending college students stop attending church, and seriously question their faith after beginning college. It seems, that being submersed in a purely secular view of the world (in college), and being removed from their former home life (which had supported their faith), many begin to question their faith. This is not surprising, because those 2 out of 3, mentioned above, were likely not prepared for the assault on their received biblical teachings.
I’ve spent much time lately thinking about that chat, and wondering…How can a Christian (young or old) deal with scientific evidence that disagrees with religious teaching? I say religious teaching because I believe that scientific evidence and the Bible will always agree (when they are BOTH interpreted correctly), but religious teaching is not always a correct interpretation of the scriptures. Jesus revealed this when he said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (religious teachers).” This leaven was later defined as “teachings”, oftentimes hypocritical ones (Mat 16:12, Luk 12:1). I believe some religious teachers have done a disservice to fellow believers. They have clung to teachings that worked in a past world. Teachings that worked fine in a world devoid of archeology, biology, geology, astronomy, etc…, but no longer hold water in our modern era. At a glance, it seems that the Bible and science can not agree, but in reality, it is archaic religious teachings that disagree with science — not the Bible itself.
A Christian in modern times would do well to ask if what they’ve been taught about the Bible does not agree with scientific interpretations, then perhaps their received doctrines are not 100% accurate. Of course, the scientific interpretations are not always 100% accurate either. We must be willing to question both the scientist and the theologian in our search for truth. Today far too many Christians are only willing to question new ideas but not their theologian’s “leaven”, which is exactly what Jesus warned us against (Mat 16:12, Luk 12:1; Mat 9:17, Mark 2:22). In the end, truth will agree with truth. Jesus promised, if we seek the truth, we will find it!
Scientific teachers can also hold to outdated and flawed teachings. Holding to a flawed or unproven hypothesis can blind a scientist to the real truth. Jesus’ warning, to beware of the teachings of the religious leaders, can easily be extended to the teachings of scientific leaders. As students, we should always challenge our teachers. As teachers, we should always question what we “know”.
I intend (in this and other articles) to make a foundation on which, those who are skeptics of the Bible and only believe scientific teachings or those who are skeptics of science and only believe biblical teachings, can build on a new paradigm. A paradigm that believes both scientific evidence and the Biblical text, but does not automatically believe “accepted” biblical or scientific teachings.
I wholeheartedly believe the Bible and science agree, but to come to this realization I’ve had to abandon some things which I formerly believed to be true. Oftentimes, it’s the things we “know” that make us blind to the actual truth. I’m saying that we may need to look at the Bible differently than what we’ve been taught, and we may need to look at science differently than what we have been taught. Some of our received teachings are incorrect or unproven (both biblical and scientific).
Sadly, biblical teachers have used wrong scientific teachings to discredit science as a whole, and scientific teachers have used wrong biblical teachings to discredit the Bible as a whole. What we should be doing is discrediting the wrong teachings of both, and coming together with the correct interpretations or, at least, plausible ones.
A topic where rejecting false teachings in order to find a common ground between science and the Bible would be the creation of the universe.
- It is common for biblical teachers to insist the Bible says the universe was created in six literal days by an intelligent creator.
- It is common for scientific teachers to insist the universe came into existence billions of years ago, and that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. They believe this happened without intelligence.
- What the Bible says is that the universe (including the Earth) was created “in the beginning”. Following that, during six of God’s days, began the preparing of the Earth and then the filling of Earth with life, through the will of an intelligent creator.
Statement 1 and statement 2 are irreconcilable and can never agree. This is because each contains inaccuracies. Most of the blame lay with the biblical teachers misinterpretation of the scriptures. Their insistence that the Earth is only about 6000 years old disagrees with geological, biological and astrophysical sciences, as well with what the Bible actually says. The chronological and genealogical records in the Bible can be used to show that Adam was an ancestor of Jesus who lived approximately 6000 years ago, but that is much different than insisting the earth and the cosmos are only that old. Some of the blame lay with the scientific teachers for insisting there has been no intelligence behind the formation of the heavens and Earth. It’s like dismantling a machine to discover how it is made, but denying there is a designer.
Statement 3 agrees with what the Bible says and does not disagree with what science says about the age of the Earth and Universe. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) There is nothing in the Bible that teaches this couldn’t have been billions of years ago. It then says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Gen 1:2) This indicates before God turned his attention towards Earth that it was formless and waste. It is not until Gen 1:3 that God began his work week (the one that deals with Earth) by speaking, “Let there be light” . In fact, each of HIS work days began with the words “And God said”.
There is no reason why each of God’s work days could not have been thousands or millions of years long, and it is silly to think that God runs his week on a 24 hour Earth clock. Being open to a slightly different interpretation of scripture allows us to believe what the Bible says, without being in disagreement with scientific evidence. Truth should always agree with truth. If they don’t agree, then one or both are untrue!
Not Promoting An Evolutionary Origin Of Life
Let me be clear. I am not promoting a chance beginning of life. I believe the Bible when it says that Elohim (God) made living things. I see intelligence, wisdom, love and even humor when I look at living things on earth. I agree with Paul when he said to the Romans, “The unseen things from the foundation of the world are clearly seen and understood, by observing the seen (things made), even his eternal power and divinity, so that they [those who deny a creator] are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). I believe there is a high degree of intelligence in the structure and design of DNA, and the methods by which it is reproduced. What intelligence there was to create a system of information storage that would allow for creatures to adapt to changing environments. When creatures adapt to changing environments they are evolving, but they are still reproducing “according to their kind”. Evolution is certainly a word we can use to describe adaptation, diversity and survival of the fittest, but it is not (in my opinion) an explanation for the origin, the original design of life. I believe that an intelligent Elohim designed many different kinds of living creatures, but did it in a way that they could adapt to changing environments and conditions. I believe that creatures do evolve, as scientific evidence suggests, but I also believe that these evolving creatures were intelligently given this ability to adapt.
This has been one example of how we can be willing to adjust our thinking in order to find a common ground with the scientifically minded. Many scientists want to believe in God, but the version presented by conventional biblical teachers is incompatible with reality.
It is my desire to build a bridge between the Bible and science and help others to find a common ground between the two. Watch for more articles on this subject to be posted in the future.