We certainly have waded into some deep waters here, Karl, but I do believe our postings have enabled each of us to more fully understand our respective positions.
First, I want to clarify one thing in case there might be a misunderstanding: I love science. In fact, AiG employs a number of scientists (and works with others), all of which obtained their doctorates from secular institutions. Across the hall from me, for example, is Dr. David Menton, who earned a PhD in biology from an Ivy League school (Brown University).
As we both know, the etymology of the word “science” has the basic meaning of “knowledge.” Today, when the word “science” is used, we are usually referring to observational science–such as the example you gave concerning medical science.
Science is a wonderful tool that God has given us. But because science is imperfect, and changing, and because different scientists disagree on what the evidence really means, science cannot serve as an ultimate, infallible standard. It can certainly be a secondary standard by which certain types of claims are evaluated. But science is not the limit of possibility, and thus is not in a position to judge the Bible upon which it depends.
You say that there are, “some passages in the Bible–like the story of Joshua’s long day–that were misunderstood until after they were illuminated by science.” However, this approach, if applied consistently, leads to the logically inevitable conclusion that we cannot know that any of the Bible is true. If a certain level of scientific knowledge is necessary in order to understand some scriptural passages, then how can we ever know that even today we’ve obtained a sufficient level of knowledge? In other words, how do you know that passages that you do take in a natural way (such as the Resurrection of Christ) are not currently misunderstood, and will only be correctly understood after future scientific illumination?
Regarding Joshua’s long day, there is nothing wrong with stating that the sun really did stand still in the sky. It is perfectly appropriate to use the Earth as a reference frame. Astronomers today write about “sunrise” and “sunset,” yet no one accuses them of denying heliocentrism.
The Bible, as a revelation from God, gives us many things, among them:
1. The foundation for science
Although the Bible does not give the details on how to build a microscope or develop antibiotics, it does give us the foundational framework that makes such things possible. As I mentioned in my last post, science presupposes a Christian worldview – in particular, a worldview that takes the Bible as written. It is therefore inconsistent (i.e. irrational) to believe in the procedures of science while simultaneously denying the straightforward reading of the Bible – the foundation of science.
Most secular scientists have not given much thought to the presuppositions necessary for science (and the fact that such foundational truths stem from the Bible). The fact that they are able to do science is not in question. Of course they can – because the Bible is true! This it not a moot point. Science is possible because biblical creation is true.
2. The historical information concerning how the universe and life came into existence.
The Bible presents other events of history besides creation (e.g., the Global Flood and Tower of Babel) that enable us to have the correct way of thinking to connect what we see in the present with the past.
The point I will make again is that observational or operational science, which we all agree upon, enables us to use the things of the present to develop medicines, technology, etc.
On the other hand, origins science (knowledge about how the universe and life came to be) involves understanding the evidence of the present in the context of history (we were not there).
As you rightly point out in your response, “Science is not equipped to assess miracles like the resurrection of Christ, for example. The resurrection, of course, cannot be explained by natural science since it is by definition, supernatural. Ditto for eternal life and other mysteries of the faith that transcend human understanding and experience.”
And I would add: ditto for the supernatural creation events. Both the Resurrection of Christ and the creation of the universe are recorded in Scripture as historic, supernatural events. It is inconsistent to take one as myth, and the other as literal. In fact, the Gospel message itself links back to the literal history of Genesis. It is because Adam literally sinned that death entered the world, and is why we all possess a sin nature, will die physically, and are in need of salvation. The apostle Paul makes the connection between Adam and Christ clear in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. If Paul is mistaken about Adam (“For as in Adam all die”), then how can we have confidence in the future resurrection (“so also in Christ all shall be made alive”)? If Genesis was just a story, then there would be no rational reason for the death and Resurrection of Christ. So, although a person may believe in both the Gospel and evolution, he or she, I submit, must do so at the expense of rationality.
The tools of science are well-suited to describing the way that God consistently upholds the universe today. But this is different than explaining how the world came into being. Let me explain further: Observing changes (e.g., mutations) that have occurred in bacteria to result in resistance (H pylori becoming resistant to antibiotics) involves observational science. The origin of the bacteria in the first place is in the realm of origins science.
In regards to Bible interpretation, it is true there are passages that are hard for us to understand. Even Peter comments on this in 2 Peter 3:15-16 — “… as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand …”
And we are told to study diligently (2 Timothy 2:15). Nonetheless, the basic doctrines of Christianity are very clear.
Concerning the passage you cite from 1 Corinthians 15:29, it is true that some commentators state that this is the hardest passage in the New Testament to understand. However, there is agreement that the basic meaning concerns the truth of the Resurrection–a central tenet of Christian doctrine.
And no, Karl, I really don’t believe the biblical authors were mere “secretaries.” God used them to write His truth, but allowed them to use their own styles, and even figures of speech that were common in the day. At the same time, God is omnipotent, and is certainly able to ensure that the authors wrote only what He wanted without error. Remember, Jesus took the Scriptures as absolutely authoritative (“it is written”; “have you not read?” and so on), and therefore so do I.
You keep mentioning that Christians in the past (and today for that matter) have misunderstood passages in the Bible. While quite true, of course, I think it actually supports my position rather than yours. Many of the misunderstandings of the Bible were caused by people “reading into” the passages based on the secular science of the day. The Galileo incident to which you refer is a prime example, as shown here. The belief that the Earth was immovable and the center of the solar system was the prevailing secular scientific view of the day, and many people interpreted the Bible to match – although as I showed previously, the Bible does not really teach such a cosmology. Nor does the Bible really teach a solid dome view of the sky, as shown here.
In any case, the fact that people have misunderstood biblical passages does not in any way refute my position that the Bible is to be read in a natural way. After all, if someone misunderstood a statement in your latest article, would that mean that your article is not meant to be read in a natural way? Really, all language must be taken in a natural way (e.g., poetry as poetic, history as literal, figures of speech as such, etc.) in order for communication to be meaningful. This very debate would be impossible if you and I had not already presupposed that we would read the other’s comments in a natural, straightforward way.
Karl, I still ask the question of you from my last posting: “What is the ultimate standard by which you decide when the word of secular scientists is to be taken in place of the Bible, and when to do the reverse?” I recognize you explained how you view science and the Bible–but it still doesn’t answer for me at least this specific question.
As I get to my final point in this posting in relation to how I take the Bible, I note that you stated:
“I am puzzled by your comment: ‘The only way we can be absolutely certain about anything is if we have a basis in an absolute authority–which is what the Bible claims for itself.’ I don’t see how you can say this. I will set aside the obvious circularity in accepting a claim that the Bible makes about itself. Instead, I will point out that the Bible does not even make such a claim about itself.”
I am sure you are familiar with biblical passages (and other similar ones) such as:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness …” 2 Timothy 3:16
“… to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3
Really, any worldview that does not start with an ultimate standard will inevitably – if applied consistently – lead to radical skepticism. We could not even say that things are “likely” to be true without an ultimate and certain standard, because we would have no standard by which to evaluate how likely or unlikely anything is. The reason I speak with authority (even if an unsettling authority to many) is because I do accept God’s Word for what it claims to be. Yes, God used different people against different backgrounds, but the timeless truths are obvious regardless when one takes a natural reading of the Word of the Lord that “endures forever.”
That is also why I know without a doubt I will spend eternity with the Lord: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).
Ultimately, it’s not really an issue of faith vs. science. All worldviews are based on some kind of faith. They all presuppose a standard, be it the Bible, naturalism, empiricism, probability, or even the scientific method. But only a faith in the Bible will lead to a rational worldview – one that is self-consistent, non-arbitrary, and provides the foundation for science and knowledge. So, it is really an issue of which faith system we should choose as our ultimate standard – our starting point. I contend that faith in the biblical God as revealed in a natural reading of the Bible is the key to preserving rationality and science, as well as ethics and Christian doctrines.
The Bible states, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him …” (Hebrews 11:6). I admire the great apostle Paul and his statement in 2 Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith….” May that be the position of each one of us as we prepare for eternity and stand before a Holy God to give account of our lives. My sincere prayer is that I do not in any way want to lead anyone astray (Mark 9:42), but I yearn for people to be saved through the preaching of the gospel from the Word of God. After all, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”