You are hereThe Problem of Science and Scripture

The Problem of Science and Scripture

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By Ransom - Posted on 12 February 2010

by Kenton Sparks
First, regarding the scientific evidence, both Augustine and Calvin regarded the cosmos as an important source of revelation from God. Following Psalm 19, they understood that the “heavens declare the glory of God. Day by day they pour forth speech. There is no language in which their word is not heard.” When the cosmos is understood in this way—as divine speech to humanity—then it is no longer possible to characterize Christian debates about science as a conflict that pits “God’s inerrant word in Scripture” against “errant human science.” Rather, any conflict between Scripture and science should be understood as a conflict between “human interpretations of God’s word in Scripture” and “human interpretations of God’s word in nature.”

When we understand the situation in this way, then in any apparent conflict between Scripture and science it is just as likely that we’ve misunderstood the biblical evidence as that we’ve misunderstood the science … in fact, one could make the theological argument that we’re more likely to misunderstand the Bible, as an instance of special revelation, than to misunderstand the general revelation available to everyone in creation.

Secondly, regarding Scripture itself, although Augustine and Calvin deeply trusted the Bible as a witness to Christ and the Gospel message, they did not feel any deep need for Scripture to provide dependable insights on everything in human experience. In particular, both theologians averred that the Bible is not a science book. This is why Augustine was so comfortable reading problematic biblical texts as allegories and why Calvin was able to say, rather nonchalantly, that one could not depend on Scripture as a guide to the structure of the cosmos.

Their temperament towards Scripture was very different from what prevails nowadays in pop Christian culture, where it is casually assumed that the Bible is a fool-proof guide for everything … not only for leading us to Christ and right living but also for elucidating the scholarly facts of astronomy, biology, chemistry, economics, psychology, and sociology as well as the practical facts of success in marriage, parenting, health, and personal finances.

I think we should follow the lead of Augustine and Calvin. It is time for the Evangelical tradition (of which I am a part) to take scientists more seriously and the Bible somewhat less seriously, with respect to Science.


Sam's picture

I guess that's why Calvin was a young earther......The Bible simply gets reduced to moral aphorisms and "salvation" issues. Let the real scientists gives us the "facts." I love the old, "the bible ain't a textbook on science" line. It's not a textbook on history, psychology, metaphysics or mathematics, either. The problem between "science" and "faith" is removed when it is seen that inductive reasoning cannot ever give us "truth" that is not first preconditioned by revelation. That's Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Beveridge, page 66).

Ransom's picture

When you clearly distinguish "revelation" from "Sam's opinion about what Scripture says", we'll have something to talk about.

Inductive reasoning is certainly limited (no one claims it isn't), but blind confidence in one's own tradition does not revelation make, and it's a heck of a lot more shady than acknowledging those limitations and trying to compensate by taking every bit of available data into account before deciding on a lens to view everything through.

Sam's picture

If we cannot distinguish between revelation and what my opinion, or your opinion, is, then we simply end up at relativism, or worse, solipsism. Either way, skepticism results. This is the inescapable trap. The prison house of language. Because Postmodernism is on the move, folks like Obama can be elected, because it is not about "truth"'s against the very idea of "truth" found in the conservative tide. There is no "American way" only an "imperialism" that has "oppressed" its people and waged war on the earth. We should all live and let live (as long as the rich are taxed to death and free-market squashed). The very one shouting liberty the loudest have been the very fascists oppressing the most. Even "sceince" is now being captivated to a narrative of socialism in the name of "global warming." Never mind the "facts". Never mind the limits of induction, as you say. Anything goes as long as it isn't "free" long as it isn't anything that confronts me with self responsibility.

In the world of relativism, evil becomes good, and good becomes evil.....and why not? Who running the show here, anyways?

Ransom's picture

For all you just said, I can't find anything more substantive than an argumentum ad consequentiam. I didn't think ol' Gordie was so fond of logical fallacies. ;-)

Seriously, I've seen this twice in your writing lately: "I can't accept that because it would mean..." Please correct me if I've mischaracterized you.

Sam's picture

so we can't argue conclusions? all men are mortal, socrates is man, therefore, socarates is an idiot? I am not using an hypothetical syllogism, "If P, then Q..." It is a syllogism: based on the consideration that we cannot know truth. If we cannot know truth (distinguish truth from opinion), then skepticsm results of logical necessity. This is not "wishful thinking". It's a logical consequence.

Ransom's picture

Sure skepticism is a result. Of course! But you can't then rule in favor of presuppositionalism just because you find skepticism an undesirable outcome. That's the appeal to consequences.

And you still haven't laid out criteria for determining what's revelation and what's opinion about that revelation.

Sam's picture

Okay, then, skepticism is a logical consequence, not appeal to my desires. The appeal to my desires would be that I cannot live with skepticism (no truth). Maybe you can, I can't. I can't because Jesus flatly said: You shall KNOW the TRUTH....This tiny bit of "revelation" (Scriptures) assures me, apart from any "interpretation" that Jesus taught that we can "know truth." That means, I cannot live with Skepticism.

Now, of course, this argument is based on the "revalation" that Jesus is Lord (not my opininion, but Paul's). It's is also based on the fact that the Word (Jesus) is God. Ofcourse, this rests on the assumption that the Bible is "correct" in what it asserts. I "assent" to those propositions. They are not "interpretations." But, when I further read in the Bible that the "natural man cannot accept (assent) to the things of God, nor is he able" - that tells me that I didn't come to understand or believe that Jesus is Lord because I read an English Bible. The Lord must have "opened my heart" in order to believe "Jesus is Lord." Credo ut intelligum. Is the proposition, "Jesus is Lord" an interpretation and opinion of Sam Frost, or is it a Truth? Is, "and God raised Him from the dead on the third day" and interpretation or opinion of Sam Frost? How about, "David was a king in Israel and ruled for forty years"? Interpretation? "Thou shalt not steal"? Opinion? I could "interpret" this maxim as ancient near eastern law based on suzerainty-vassal covenantal structure emphasizing the sovereignty of the King over his subjects, and since the new covenant has come, I am no longer under the command not to steal. THAT would be "interpretation" and "opinion". That can be challenged. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" - "what that means is that God made a covenant with Moses pictured in a prophetic framework proleptically looking forward to the new covenant through the genre of cosmogeny." Interpretation? Opinion? Fact?

"This generation shall not pass...." I read that straigtforward....others don't. If it's all "interpretation", Preterism has nothing to really, significantly argue. It's merely just another eschatological view in the sea of eschatological more, no less, and no more "important" at all. We are wasting our time. Is this where you are driving at? Or, do you believe that the Bible can be RIGHTLY interpreted?

Oh....don't read into, Ransom, any animosity....there is no "tone" here. I will respectfully assume that you are writing in the same way :). I have enough "arguments" going on right now....

I am away on business for the next couple of days, too. Be back Tuesday.

JL's picture


Jesus said, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jesus also said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

Did Jesus "flatly" say that we can "know Truth" or that we can "know Jesus?"

If Jesus really meant truth in an epistemological sense, how can you be certain Jesus' statement implies the same epistemology that you've assumed? The verse immediately before is, "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.'" If you believe Jesus and do what Jesus commanded, then you will know... Nothing about heavy study of strange languages and reading arcane texts.

Jesus has a very limited view of truth in this "flatly stated" passage. The truth is believe Jesus, act, and you will not die in your sins. Refuse to believe or refuse to act, and you will suffer the same fate as your father, who is known variously as the accuser, the father of murder (Cain), and the father of lies (the serpent in the garden).

This is not epistemology. This is salvation.


JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

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