Monday, October 13, 2014

Science and Scripture: Methods Determine Findings

Our lens determines what we see. If we approach life with a grey lens, everything will have a grey tint. An up-side-downs lens will make the world appear up-side-down. So too our investigative lenses. To a great extent, our methods will determine our findings.

The physical world is objective, but the ways we interpret it reflect a lot of subjective seeing. Our interpretations of the fossil record vary, largely depending upon the lens through which we regard it. While some believe that this record supports evolution, others strongly contend that the huge gaps disqualify macro-evolution.

Biblical interpretation is also vulnerable to our differing lenses. We tend to interpret the text differently. This doesn’t mean that the text lacks an objective message but simply that there often exists a great gap between our subjective impressions and the objective meaning of the text.

In light of the interpretative problems in both areas – scientific inquiry and the Bible – what then should be our starting point? Should we strive to bring the findings of science into conformity with our interpretation of the Bible or to bring our interpretation of the Bible into conformity with our interpretation of the scientific findings?

Does science claim that everything, namely the Bible, must be brought into conformity with its findings? No! In fact, many scientists confess that science is merely an attempt to understand reality and that it must continually re-examine its theories.

Does the Bible claim to be the starting point unto which more uncertain forms of knowledge must conform? Yes:

  • When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Isaiah 8:19-20)
  • The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
The Christian is therefore mandated to bring other forms of revelation into conformity with Scripture. We are not free, in this regard, to bring Scripture into conformity with the present scientific consensus.

This doesn’t mean that we are science deniers. Rather, it was Christians who brought about this latest and greatest budding of science. However, we recognize, along with the scientific community, that our theories are not absolute, especially in the softer sciences, and are therefore expected to change. Why then bring what is the unchanging Revelation of Scripture into conformity with what admittedly is subject to change? If we truly receive Scripture as God’s unchanging Word, then we must resist compromise.

This also doesn’t mean that we cannot use our experience – and this includes science – to help us better interpret Scripture. However, it does mean that we cannot allow experience to override Scripture.

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