Modern Sciences & the Bible

Interpreting Two Sources of Truth

God's revelation in nature helps us interpret God's revelation in the Bible, and the Bible shows us the meaning that science can't reveal.

Mainstream scientific insights often testify striking agreement with the actual literal Bible text. Modern knowledge about nature also helps discern between competing interpretations of problematic Bible texts.  

Biblical studies and the various branches of science are all striving for knowledge. Co-operation is beneficial when accompanied by mutual respect. So, instead of seeking to promote one or disprove the other, we can explore how they work together. The result is often harmonious, though sometimes there are irreconcilable differences.

When new facts break the current theory, a scientist is thrilled because this can lead to a better theory. Theories are forever refined by the facts, and this is how science progresses. In contrast, theologians are apt to dig in their heels and defend whatever theory or interpretation they already hold. We should instead recognise that our interpretations are there to be refined by the facts and by the text itself. Otherwise we are promoting our interpretations over the revelation of God in scripture and in nature.

Sometimes the Bible can give a deeper perspective on the reason for things in nature. And sometimes a knowledge of how the creation works can give us a better understanding of what the Bible means. Of course the world of science and the world of the Bible are answering different questions using different methods. But when they do meet, they often help each other, and this normally results in harmony.

One-week creation, the global flood and the origin of languages at Babel are problematic for many scientific disciplines. However, these interpretations are also problematic for those who take the Bible text seriously. A strictly literal study of Genesis coheres remarkably well with a consensus view of scientific theories.

I don't attempt to correct science using the Bible, or to correct the Bible using science, because I regard both as sources of truth. However, science may help to correct our interpretation! Personally I prefer literal interpretations rather than mythical or metaphorical meanings. I've been pleasantly surprised how often mainstream science agrees with the actual literal text.       
 David Instone-Brewer


• Introduction

There are many books about the Bible and science, but this one is different. In this book I assume that both the Bible and science are sources of knowledge. I won’t be seeking either to “correct” the Bible by using science or to “correct” science by using the Bible. My aim is to use science to provide additional insights that will help us choose between different ways of understanding various Bible texts.

The Universe

• God Works by Miracles, not Magic

In the Bible, God’s miracles aren’t like magic tricks – he doesn’t suddenly produce things out of thin air or make something disappear in a puff of smoke – though presumably he could. The way that he does work tells us a lot about what he is like.
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• God Does Work in the Gaps

We tend to ascribe to God only the things we don’t yet understand, such as how life began – i.e. the gaps in our knowledge. But there’s a different kind of gap that would allow him to do anything he wished, without breaking any of the observable laws of physics.
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• What Are the Stars For?

The stars aren’t gods (as pagans thought in Bible times), or holes in the dome of heaven (as the medieval church thought). We know they are suns, and we now know why God created so many.
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• Multiverses Prove God’s Existence

Our finely-tuned universe provides a valid proof for God’s existence – unless there are infinite multiverses which contain everything that can possibly exist. However, these multiverses also provide a proof for God – so either way, a creator exists.
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• Mathematics of Infinity and Eternity

Infinity is an important concept in mathematics. Strangely, unlike most other branches of mathematics, it doesn’t represent anything in the natural world – unless it tells us about God himself.
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• Where Does God Live?

String theory describes an 11th dimension termed “M”, which is equally close to every physical point. This can help us understand God's omniscience and omnipresence.
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The Earth

• The Problem with Galileo

The church rejected Galileo because he contradicted the Bible – though actually he only rejected its interpretation of the Bible. How can we tell when the Bible is speaking metaphorically and when it is trying to teach us scientific facts?
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• Six Snapshots of Creation

If you were God, how would you describe geological history to the author of Genesis? One way is to present it as six days in the life of the Earth. When we examine the text, this interpretation actually fits more literally than one-week creation.
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• Everyone Believes in Evolution

Young-earth interpretations say that the thousands of species rescued by Noah became the millions we see now. They say that species changed much faster at that time, while others say they always change slowly. Can we conclude which theory is wrong?
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• How Long Did Creation Take?

Does it matter whether God took billions of years or one week? Do fossils and genetic family trees point to real history or an apparent history that God hid for us to find? The answer affects how we think about God.
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• How Big Was the Flood?

Did the waters cover all the “mountains” of the “earth” or all the “hills” of the “land”. Interpreting the text very literally resolves these ambiguities and produces a surprising conclusion.
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• Babel Rediscovered

Were languages ‘created’ or ‘confused’ at Babel? The actual tower was rediscovered a few decades ago, thanks to a deciphered Babylonian tablet. Its Sumerian name suggests why it was so dangerous.
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• Joshua’s Long Day

The lengthened day was accompanied by another miracle: hailstones that killed the enemy. Meteorologists know a phenomenon that links these two events and helps us to understand how one miracle gave rise to both of these wonders.
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• Ecology and the New Earth

Ecologists warn us to look after the world, but the Bible says there will be a ‘new Earth’, so why bother? Details in the Bible text suggest that the Earth will be renewed, not replaced.
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Adam and Eve

• Made from Dust, like Adam

The Bible tells us we are made of dust, and science tells us this dust was made in stars. Did God make Adam from dust in an afternoon or over billions of years? Science has a lot to say about this, but the best clue is in the Bible text.
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• Animals Have Souls in the Bible

Some animals can use tools, show emotions, and communicate with words, so are humans merely clever animals? The Bible and psychologists use different language but agree on the difference: humans are spiritual while animals only have souls.
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• What Does the Human Spirit Do?

What is the difference between the human ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’? Neurologists and philosophers ask a similar question about the ‘mind’ and ‘brain’.
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• Adam's Apple in Literal Language

When the account of Eden’s ribs, snakes and trees are expressed in modern concepts, it agrees surprisingly well with the literal text. Gerontologists would love to know what grew on the tree of life!
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• When and Where Did Adam Live?

Paleoanthropologists trace humans back three million years, so where does Adam fit in? Details in the text of Genesis reveal some intriguing possibilities that correspond with what archeologists and geneticists have discovered.
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• Where did Cain’s Wife Come From?

If Cain married someone living outside Eden, this would explain some strange details in Genesis. It would also explain how our gene pool contains so much variation.
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• What Is Male and Female?

A surprising proportion of babies are born physically intersex – that is, not identifiably male or female. The Bible only condemns those who live contrary to their nature, which implies that God accepts us as we are – however we are born.
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• Where Does Altruism Come From?

Acts of kindness and self-sacrificial heroism occur in all populations. Are they signs of divine action in someone’s life, or are they simply normal traits that we should expect to find in humans?
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• Can God Become a Real Human?

Jesus was fully man, with a limited human mind, so how could he know everything that God knows? One solution lies in analogies with computers and especially within some popular computer games.
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• The World Is Improving – Statistically

Statisticians say the world is getting better in most ways, but doesn’t the Bible predict the opposite? Jesus said that when disasters happen, the end is “not yet”, and Paul expected Jesus’ return when everyone says “Peace, peace”.
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• Human Resurrection by Backup?

Computer science presents us with a vocabulary for understanding resurrection: our DNA and body can be reconstructed like hardware, and our memory can be backed up like software. Of course, the backup drive would be huge!
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• Miracles that Employ Nature

God doesn’t materialize things like a fictional wizard might. He tends to enhance or speed up nature when working miracles, as if he likes using the natural world that he has created.
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• Sodom’s Natural Disaster

Seismologists can’t make accurate predictions yet, though God predicted Sodom’s destruction. This is described like a natural process because it couldn’t be delayed when Lot dawdled.
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• Explaining the Exodus Miracles

Attempts to explain these miracles don’t work very well, but we aren’t wrong to try – the Bible itself explains how the Jordan dried up (in a way that was understandable at the time). The most spectacular element in these miracles is their exact timing.
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• Food in the Wilderness

The Israelites lived in the wilderness for forty years. This clearly involved miracles, but these did not include providing all their food and water – because other nations were managing to live there too.
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• Predicting the Future by the Stars

Astronomers can predict heavenly signs foretold by the Bible, such as blood moons, and the Wise Men predicted Christ’s birth. Can we predict the future using the Bible or the stars?
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• Can a Virgin Birth Produce a Real Man?

Spontaneous virgin birth is scientifically very unlikely – although not impossible. Theologically it is more problematic: How can Jesus be a natural man if he is born by this unnatural means? One proposal helps to solve both sets of difficulties.
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• Conclusions: surprise

I’ve have been excited, surprised, and depressed by the findings in this book. But ultimately, I’m hopeful. We have found that biblical studies and the sciences really can help each other. After all, they both explore a revelation from God.