You have exalted above all things your name and your word.Psalm 138:2
- Scripture’s authority ALWAYS trumps any so-called “scientific discovery”.
- True scientific discoveries that overlap Scripture will supplement and reinforce the claims of Scripture.
- Any true scientific discovery that Scripture is truly silent about is not ultimately essential or important for our obedience to the Lord.
Now here’s some rationale for all that…
God Speaks Through Nature
The natural world gives wonderful testimony to God. The first part of Psalm 19 shows this plainly:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge…Psalm 19:1-6
Notice that the natural world is said to:
- “pour out speech”
- “reveal knowledge”
And thus science and scientific discoveries can give wonderful insights about God and His ways.
In fact, Christianity was the mother of modern science (even atheists must admit this), because Christians recognized that God is a God of order and principles, and sought to study his world as a way of studying Him.
God Speaks Clearer Through Scripture
Though God definitely speaks through nature in general ways, He speaks more clearly and specifically through Scripture–especially where it concerns, “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” (2 Pet. 1:3).
Consider the rest of Psalm 19. After describing nature as a sort of mouthpiece for God (Psalm 19:1-6), the Psalmist goes on to show Scripture as a greater mouthpiece:
The law of the LORD is perfect…the testimony of the LORD is sure…the precepts of the LORD are right…the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.Psalm 19:7-9
Notice here that Scripture (i.e. “God’s law”) goes beyond natural revelation. It doesn’t merely declare God’s ways, it declares God’s ways as a truer and purer authority, being called things like:
Paul via the Holy Spirit shows something similar in the book of Romans.
Romans 1-2: Nature Speaks
Romans 1-2 begins by showing all the general revelation that nature gives concerning God.
- God’s “invisible attributes” (via the created world)–see Romans 1:18-23
- general morality (via the heart and conscience)–see Romans 2:12-16
Romans 3 and Following: Scripture Speaks Clearer
However, if we only had God’s voice via the natural world described in Romans 1-2, we would have (at best) a murky picture of God and his judgment. But no clarity on any of these details or ability to know the gospel truly without Scripture’s revelation.
I compare it to the blind man touched by Jesus who saw people that looked only like trees (Mark 8:24). Scientific discovery and natural observation gives something like that outside of going to Scripture. Thus, we need to see more clearly than nature alone (cf. Mark 8:25).
So the rest of Romans points to Scripture as the clearest explanation of the gospel.
Along these lines, consider the full book of Romans and how it compares and contrasts Scripture revelation to revelation from the natural world:
|The Source?||The natural world is flawed|
Though man is still said to be, “in the image of God” (James 3:9), we are flawed and subject to sin (“none is righteous,” Rom. 3:10). Likewise, though creation helps us see the attributes of God (Romans 1), “the creation was subjected to futility…bondage to corruption…groaning…” (Rom. 8:20-22). This can all be traced back to the curse in Gen. 3 (as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin) which applied to, “all livestock…the woman…Adam [humanity]…the ground” (Gen. 3:14-19).
|Scripture itself is flawless.|
Throughout Romans, Paul treats Scripture as God’s trustworthy word in everything it declares: “Let God be true though every one [person] were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words.'” (Rom. 3:4).
|Interpreting?||Human understanding is flawed.|
Unless we are dealing with natural observations that Scripture itself speaks on (and thus Scripture interprets and evaluates these claims properly), we are dependent on humans to interpret the meaning of these natural discoveries. Unfortunately, “by their unrighteousness [humans] suppress the truth,” (Rom. 1:18). Romans 1 shows how we pervert the truth because we love to sin. Thus our interpretations inevitably are prone to error.
|Infallible Scripture interprets infallible Scripture.|
It’s true that flawed human understanding also misinterprets Scripture as well. However, Scripture is written in such a way that God wants us to use the Bible to interpret the Bible–at least the main points. Jesus shows us this in Matt. 4:7. Romans 3 and following show this when Paul quotes the Old Testament (i.e. “the law”) to help the Jews understand the nature of the Old Testament Law and humanity. Thus he corrects their flawed interpretation by pointing to Scripture itself for the best interpretation. When Scripture is it’s own interpreter it is flawless. And thus God gives us an objective guide for flawed humans to properly interpret the Bible (all is subject to and under the Holy Spirit–see 1 Cor. 2).
|Clarity?||The natural world only gives generic revelation.||Scripture gives the clearest revelation.|
The natural world declares some general things about the gospel (Rom. 1-2), but it is Scripture that declares with precision what the gospel is. Thus Paul writes, “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:14-17). And elsewhere, “I am eager to preach the gospel,” (Rom. 1:15). Such statements show Paul clearly believes natural revelation is insufficient on its own to declare the gospel to people. But he never says it the other way around. That is, after quoting Scripture and preaching the gospel, he never says you NEED to also observe the natural world in order before you can understand it. Instead, the natural world supplements and reinforces the Scripture declaration, but never adds to it. Whereas natural revelation on its own is not sufficient.
Again, like Psalm 19, Scripture is held up as the superior revelation in Romans.
This is the consistent position of Scripture, even beyond Psalm 19 and Romans:
- The natural world gives general revelation
- Scripture gives specific revelation
What happens when Scripture and science speak on the same thing?
With the above considerations firmly in place, whenever Scripture and “scientific discoveries” are in conflict, we should always trust Scripture’s authority alone on that matter: “Guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge [or “science”].” (1 Tim. 6:20).
This would mean the full and consistent Scriptural interpretation is authoritative, not a Scripture here or there out of context.
What happens when science speaks on things not found in Scripture?
Legitimate scientific discoveries happen routinely that Scripture is silent about. Think, for instance, about all the amazing technologies in the last century that are found nowhere in the Bible!
However, 0 of these discoveries will ever be essential knowledge to our life and godliness in Christ.
This is because God tells us things like:
- “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Notice the sufficiency of Scripture for training us in every good work. There can’t be a “good work” you are called to that Scripture is silent about. Or even a facet of a good work you are called to that Scripture is silent about. “Every good work” should have some principles rooted in Scripture for it to be truly God’s calling on your life.
- “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us…he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…we have the prophetic word…prophecy of Scripture.” (2 Pet. 1:3-21). The sense of this full passage seems to be that God’s promises (which stem from His Scripture) are the source of “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Again, if it is a thing essential to life and godliness, we should find something of it in Scripture itself.
- “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). Notice that there are “secret” and “revealed” things. God wants us to focus on the revealed things. Why? Because it is the revealed things that are necessary for us to walk in God’s ways. And where do they come from? “all the words of this law”. The message is consistent: the things revealed in Scripture are the things to focus on and pass on to the next generation.
- “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.'” (1 Pet. 1:23-25). In context, again, this is talking about Scripture (equating Old Testament Scripture with New Testament revelation). Here, Scripture is compared to a seed that is imperishable–lasting forever. In contrast, there are perishable seeds that are compared to humanity and nature (“all flesh is like grass”). Only 1 origin/”seed” of revelation actually endures. Again, consider the source of the revelation or insight you are holding. Even a mixture of partial Scripture and partial other-source will not endure: “you shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited,” (Deut. 22:6). God wants your life in Him to be built squarely on the principles and precepts found in Scripture (though it might be amplified through things like scientific discoveries).
Finally, consider the charge we are given through Paul’s last letter, shortly before he would pass:
“As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…how from childhood you have been acquainted with…Scripture…that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work…I charge you…preach the word;” (2 Tim. 3:14-4:2)
In other words:
- continue in Scripture
- it will completely equip you
- pass this on to others (“preach the word”)
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