Experience and the Bible

As someone who has taken a lot of flack from my fellow believers for questioning the literal reading of Genesis 1, I often wonder about how our experience shape how we read Scripture.

The number one accusation, which by the way has lead to me being called a heretic by some, is always that “you read your science into the Bible”. In other words, some kind of experience that I had, not necessarily a spiritual, theological or Biblical event or learning, has made me blind to what the Word really says.

Now while I deeply respect the faith of others, I do think that to call someone else a heretic, or a sinner, or blind, or any other name, just because they refuse to accept a particular reading and interpretation of the text is hypocritical. It shows a shallow and mean approach to Christian fellowship, especially in the online environment where one does not even know the other person.

In any event, the truth is that all of us allow our experience, yes, even that of science, to help us read and understand the Bible. For example, who still believes that this: “Psa 104:5  He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.” means that the earth does not and cannot move? Yet this was one of the major early contentions when Christian scientists first proposed that the earth is not the center of the universe, and then that the earth spins on it’s own axis, and then that it orbits the sun while spinning, and then that our own solar system and galaxy are moving through the universe. The early scientists were called the same names that those who question the 24/6 reading of Genesis 1. Yet I am still to find anyone who believes that the earth literally does not move.

That means that even those who are accusing me, and others who are looking to reconcile the Gen 1 account with scientific evidence, are without even so much as a whimper accepting that we did learn something from science that does not agree with a simple reading of the Scripture.

See, the problem is not “science”, but the presuppositions that go along with science. When, as a scientist, I set out to discover how the universe that God created functions, in all its splendor and precise intricacies, that should not be held against me. However, should my starting point be that there MUST be a natural explanation for everything, in lieu of God, then it is a problem.

But there are also more important reasons why we as Christians should not be ashamed to accept science to shape how we see the world. Firstly, it gives us insight into the wonder of Creation, the very precise rational universe in which we are allowed to exist by the grace of God. It gives us a feeling of awe, and wonder and reverence for how God made and maintains our earth and universe, and helps us to obey, by understanding how we can better rule over, and make use of the resources that He gave us.

And secondly, exactly because we learn more and more about the created order, the very fixed and precise teleology of the universe, can we appreciate the miraculous for all that it is. It demonstrates to us that the natural order is not immutable, that our God can suspend the natural order if He so wishes, and perform miracles, even one that leads to our eternal salvation.

And that is exactly what He did for our salvation. He sent us a Savior that suspends the natural order, that very natural evil state of man, and allows us to exist in what is an unnatural state, that of being morally justified before God in this life, and then to share an eternity by His side. All that while eternity is an unnatural occurrence that can be described mathematically, but not shown to exist. He raised Christ from bodily death, a natural state of affairs, to testify on our behalf, an unnatural gift, after being made alive, the miracle of the empty tomb.

So how much more do we appreciate resurrection, both that of Christ and our own, given that we know that it is truly supernatural? Dead people do not get up and walk around, they cannot do a thing to help themselves. And despite all efforts of science, it remains that way. Science cannot suspend the natural order, just describe it.

But the point remains, a miracle would not seem like a miracle if we did not know what science tells us, that there is a created order that cannot naturally be suspended. By acknowledging miracles, one is implicitly acknowledging what science has to say.

So when it comes to the creation account, I know that there are those who take the position that God is not needed for creation as their starting point, and proceed to speculate about all-natural causes. I have written about that before, and it is utterly implausible. But why would a fellow Christian think that all who argue that God stands outside of time, and that there are logical inconsistencies in the Gen 1 creation account, and that the simple evidence of science tells us that the earth is older than 10,000 years, take that atheistic starting point?

If science was all evil, then why are there those that try to prove a young earth using science? Unfortunately, they will only allow science to go as far as their own exegetical boundaries, and retreat into name-calling and quoting Scripture when their theories are laid to waste. After all, everybody accepts that the earth is moving, and does not “never move”, but when it comes to 6/24 creation, the earth is still standing still.

Our God is sovereign. He made us as moral and inquisitive beings, who can appreciate beauty, who can do mathematics, who can preach, sing, paint, sculpt and do science, all for His glory and  can come under a deep impression of sin and salvation through His grace. Why should we think that His sovereignty stops at the entrance to the science lab? It doesn’t, the rich history of great Christians who were also scientists tells us that.

So yes, I allow science to influence how I read Scripture. But my starting point is that God reveals Himself in both His creation and His Word, and the one shall not contradict the other. If it seems to, we are misunderstanding one or the other.

But don’t be a hypocrite, and claim literal reading of the Word when it suits you, but meekly accept what science tells you in other places. Rather pray for insight and wisdom to understand ALL that our God has given us to get to know Him.

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