In the Standard Bearer, Volume 86, pages 272, 320, 324, the clash between science and the biblical accounts is evident. Being a person for whom science was easier to grasp than history and politics, I like to defend the integrity of scientists. Take the laws of kinematics and gravitational pull for example, the understanding of which has enabled humanity to visit the moon. Take the laws of electronics and magnetism, the understanding of which has provided communication media and data processing. Nobody will deny the law of mathematics that one plus two equals three.
A clash between science and the biblical presentation of the shape of the earth occurred in the time of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. Nobody thinks anymore that the earth is a flat surface with four corners, but a sphere instead.
What to think of this clash? What must a Christian, specifically a Christian scientist, think of this clash? In my university years there was a course devoted to this question.
In the course of life I have come to see that there are two Bible texts that are of fundamental importance. One is in Romans 8: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” The other is in Hebrews 11: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which doappear.”
Now, without any controversy, science is based onobservation. Thus there are two kinds of reality. The one kind of reality is based on what we as finite human beings can see or observe, and is scientific; and the other kind of reality is beyond the scope of science, and includes hope, faith, immortality, etc.
Very well known is the astronaut who was in awe of God’s creation and read Psalm 8, and the cosmonaut who was disappointed not to have encountered God in space. Only one knew of a reality beyond what he observed, beyond science.
In passing, I like to mention something that should befuddle any human being. We live in a universe that is infinite. Even if scientists would be correct that the universe would be limited, then one would immediately ask what is beyond the boundaries. For the human understanding, it is impossible to grasp this infinity that yet is incontestable, but created by God.
In my opinion the common mistake is to insist that science has to agree with biblical revelation. Thus the biblical revelation is forced upon science, or in unbelief the biblical account is adjusted to suit the scientific model. But as the quoted Scripture passages indicate, by doing this, we force two realities upon each other, namely the scientific reality that is based on finite human understanding and observation, and the reality that is beyond science.
And the plain truth is that these two kinds of realities often do not agree. Let me mention a few instances. The shape of the earth, mentioned above, is one. Another one is that three nights and three days comprise a time span of 72 hours mathematically; but likely Jesus was in the grave for 60 hours, which would translate into three nights and two days. Scientifically it is impossible to conceive how Jonah survived this time span within the whale without oxygen, submersed in digestive fluids. Scientific questions would arise how Noah could be with all of the world’s species in a single boat, with one small, closed window at the top, having food supply and waste disposal facilities for a whole year. And yes, how can it be that there is night and day, evening and morning, darkness and light since the first day of creation, whereas scientifically this is dependent on the orbital position of the light-giving sun that was not created until the fourth day?
Therefore it is best, not to discredit science, but to acknowledge that science is limited to what finite human beings can see and observe. This implies that a scientist who makes statements of a religious or irreligious nature, such as Darwin did, is exceeding the boundaries of his scholarship.
Only in faith can we accept that the earth has four corners; that Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights; that God, who created the infinite universe, can sustain Jonah in a whale, can sustain the ark for a year, can change the laws of gravitational pull to make the sun stand still at will, can change the speed of light at will, can make one plus two to equal one, and can change a mortal, corruptible being, sown as a seed, into immortality and incorruption. And, yes, this almighty God created in six days, but does this have to be scientifically proven? Were these six days scientific days?
I find it remarkable that the fourth, fifth, and sixth day provide populations for what was created three days earlier. The sun, moon, stars of the fourth day populate the entity of light of the first day. The fowl and fish of the fifth day populate the firmament and waters of the second day. The land animals and insects of the sixth day populate the dry land of the third day. And man of the sixth day may eat of the vegetation of the third day. Thus there is definitely a structure in the Genesis account, but it is not the structure of science.
Thank you for reading the Standard Bearer and for your letter regarding the important issue of the relationship between Scripture and science.
First, I wish to point out that none of the three articles you refer to attack the integrity of science as a field of study. Science is indeed a legitimate and often very exciting field of study and discovery, as you suggest. Therefore science is taught in our Christian schools, and children of the covenant are heartily encouraged to pursue various callings in the scientific realm if they display an aptitude for that field of study. I believe that you and I would be in agreement in our positive assessment of science.
The integrity of scientists, however, is another matter. The integrity of a scientist cannot be judged on the basis of brilliance displayed in his particular field. Albert Einstein was no doubt a brilliant physicist, evident in his theory of relativity. There is also no doubt about his lack of integrity, or better, his depravity, evident in his rejection of Scripture as the standard of truth. Scientists are, like everyone else, by nature totally depraved and lack integrity. The only scientists who have integrity are those who have been washed from their sins by the blood of Christ and have been regenerated by His Spirit. Through the life of Christ working in them, regenerated scientists display their integrity by submitting to the Word of God as the revelation of infallible truth, even if in their scientific endeavors they find evidence that seems to contradict the truth of Scripture.
This leads me to your assertion that there are two realities: one reality that unbelieving scientists are able to perceive, and another reality they are unable to perceive. There is actually only one reality—the reality of Jehovah, the living God, who created and who sustains the heavens and the earth. This reality is known to all men. It is not true that Darwin and other unregenerated scientists (including the one astronaut to whom you refer) are simply ignorant of the reality of God’s existence. They know God exists (Rom. 1:20). Their denial of God and of the truth of Scripture is not rooted in ignorance but in stubborn, wicked unbelief. Unless unbelieving scientists are regenerated and given faith they will never understand the reality of all things as it is revealed in Scripture.
Faith is necessary for understanding the relationship between Scripture and science. Those who have faith see no “clash” between the two. The Bible alone is the infallible Word of God, and the Bible alone is the standard for faith and life. Therefore, in answer to one of your questions, no, the Bible does not need to be substantiated by science. What the Bible says must be accepted as the truth. By faith believers accept, as you point out, all the miracles of Scripture, including the creation of the world in six 24-hour days on the basis of Genesis 1, without the least bit of concern that such faith cannot be substantiated by science and will even come under the attack of unbelieving scientists. Therein lies the age-old clash, not between the Bible and science, but between faith and unbelief.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Clayton Spronk