Science as an Aid to Interpreting Scripture


Several years ago, I received a book through the mail that argued a startling thesis.

The book—two books in one, actually—is A Geocentricity Primer by Gerardus D. Bouw and The Geocentric Bible 3 by Gordon Bane. It argues that the Bible teaches geocentricity: “the earth is fixed motionless at the center of the universe.” By contrast, modern science teaches heliocentrism: Earth revolves around the sun and rotates on its axis. Since the Bible is God’s Word, the authors argue, geocentricity is true and heliocentrism false.

The authors believe that acceptance of geocentricity is theologically and spiritually momentous. “At issue,” writes Bouw, “is the inerrancy and preservation of Scripture, especially in the light of the pronouncements of science. At stake is the authority of the Bible in all realms, starting in the realm of science.”

I find it odd that anyone would stake the inerrancy and authority of Scripture on a particular scientific theory, especially a disproved scientific theory. Actually, I find it blasphemous, as it makes God out to be an incompetent astronomer. But I also find the authors’ error instructive. So let’s consider their argument.

Stated as a syllogism, the geocentrists’ argument looks something like this:

  1. Geocentricity is a biblical doctrine.
  2. Whatever the Bible teaches is true.
  3. Therefore, geocentricity is true.

This is a deductive argument. If its conclusion follows logically from its premises, then it is valid. If its premises are true, then it is also sound.

Clearly, the geocentrists’ argument is valid. The question, then, is whether the argument is also sound. Since Premise 2 is true, the question must be whether Premise 1 is true. In support of Premise 1, Bouw cites Psalm 93:1 (KJV), “the world also is established, that it cannot be moved”; 1 Chronicles 16:30 (KJV), “the world also shall be stable, that it not be moved”; and Psalm 96:10 (KJV), “the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved.” These are not the only Scriptures he cites, but they are representative.

Quoting Scripture is not enough to prove Premise 1, however. For example, I could quote Proverbs 14:30 (KJV) to prove that envy is the cause of osteoporosis: “envy [is] the rottenness to the bones.”[1] In fact, however, “Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone.” Envy has nothing to do with it.[2] The proverb writer is not speaking literally here, but figuratively. This is an important point. To prove Premise 1, geocentrists cannot simply quote biblical verses. They need to demonstrate that those verses should be interpreted literally, rather than, for example, figuratively, idiomatically, phenomenologically, or by some other non-literal means of interpretation.

Unfortunately, Scripture doesn’t usually hold up a sign saying, “You should interpret this passage literally (or non-literally).” Rather, it requires that we use our best judgment, employing a variety of hermeneutical tools:

  • Analogy of Scripture (“Scripture interprets Scripture”)
  • Textual criticism (to determine which reading is most likely original)
  • Literary genre (because history isn’t interpreted the same way as law or poetry)
  • Vocabulary and idiom, grammar and syntax
  • Comparative history and culture
  • Logic (because God doesn’t contradict Himself)

Given that many of these tools come from outside the Bible—the Bible doesn’t teach its own grammar, for example, nor does it provide a systematic treatise on logic—I don’t see why science itself can’t be used as a tool of interpretation. If we know, from medical science, that envy is not the cause of osteoporosis, why can’t we know, from astronomy, that Sun does not revolve around Earth? And if we know that, interpret the Bible accordingly?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that science corrects Scripture. Scripture is God’s Word, His personal revelation. Science is a human interpretation of God’s world. Because humans cannot correct God, science can never correct Scripture.

But good science—as opposed to “junk science” or “the latest scientific study”—can correct bad interpretations of Scripture, can’t it? Can’t it be an aid to interpretation of Scripture? I see no reason why not.

Your thoughts?


[1] The website of Whole Person Counseling quotes Scripture in precisely this way, showing that envy and a variety of other spiritual conditions are “factors which produce unhealthy bones” (http://www.wholeperson-counseling.org/health/bones.html).

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39 thoughts on “Science as an Aid to Interpreting Scripture

  1. DonS says:

    Careful, pretty soon you’ll start claiming that science provides a corrective aid to the interpretation of Scriptures that holds the Bible requires a universe 6,000 years old. It is a slippery slope.

    Once you start saying that scientific facts can provide a corrective to people’s interpretation of scripture, you start tossing out everything: geocentrism, a young earth, Adam and Eve, the Flood, God’s miracles, Jesus’ virgin birth, Jesus’ resurrection, and finally the existence of God at all.

    No. Science may in no way affect our interpretation of Scripture. The Bible interprets itself and we can tell from the Bible which parts are to be understood literally and which are figurative.

    The Earth is immovable.

    Even the organizations which have partially corrupted the Bible with “science”, like Answers in Genesis, accept this. They clearly accept that Psalm 104 describes God’s expansion of the universe like spreading out a tent. Even such a corrupted organization as they recognize that when the Bible speaks, it is true and must not be “reinterpreted” by “science”. Such a view is a denial of all that the Bible holds and almost certainly points to a rejection of Christ.

      • DonS says:

        If you reject geocentrism because you think science trumps the Bible, then yes, it is a slippery slope.

        Most Christians have bought into the idea that the Bible doesn’t really talk about a stationary earth, probably never think about it, and so don’t start tossing the Bible under the bus of “science”. The original violence done to the interpretation of the Bible happened long enough in the past that most people just assume the Bible is just talking “poetically” or something like that, and dismiss it without further thought.

        But, if you start rejecting what the Bible clearly teaches about geocentrism because you think “science” should tell us how to interpret the Bible, then there is no consistent reason to say science no longer tells us how to interpret the Bible when it comes to Creation, the Flood, the Ten Plagues, the Virgin Birth, etc.

        Not everyone follows the path all the way because we are inconsistent, operating off of “gut feeling” more often than logic and true consistency. They decide science rules their interpretation of the Bible when it comes to geocentrism but not when it comes to Creation. Or wherever they decide to stop. Maybe they let “science” rule over the Bible when it comes to Creation and the Flood, but not over the Virgin Birth and Resurrection.

        But, that’s a stop-gap measure, and people often feel the hidden tension, and unfortunately some/many respond by throwing out their Faith as well.

        Letting “science” rule how we interpret the Bible is indeed a very slippery slope that leads some people to slide right out of Christianity altogether.

      • Ian O says:

        It seems to me, DonS, that you missed this portion of George’s essay: “Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that science corrects Scripture. Scripture is God’s Word, His personal revelation. Science is a human interpretation of God’s world. Because humans cannot correct God, science can never correct Scripture.” George is not saying that Science trumps scripture, only that it can be used as one of many non-scriptural tools (concordances, lexicons, history books, human logic, etc) that is used to interpret scripture. I agree with him on this point, and I actually believe that, as more and more scientific advances are made, science will eventually begin to prove that what the Bible says is true. No one is talking about putting their trust in Science over the Bible, but rather using Science to better understand the words of our creator. That’s my take.

      • DonS says:

        Ian, while that is what he said at that point, just before that, he denies envy’s role in osteoporosis based on “science”, and uses “science” to once again dismiss the Bible’s clear statement about the earth. Rejecting the clear statement of Scripture in favor of “science”.

        If I deny Scripture’s teaching based on “science”, but then follow it up with a statement saying I’m not actually doing that … well, the actions speak louder than words.

        While he states that he isn’t putting “science” over Scripture, in practice that’s exactly what he’s doing. Few consciously want to admit they put science over Scripture, and so people will say they aren’t even while they are.

  2. Don S:

    Do you believe that envy causes osteoporosis? If not, why not? Because the Bible doesn’t teach the connection between a variety of sins and bone disease (which is the point of the Whole Person Counseling post I linked to), or because science establishes other causes? In other words, I’m trying to determine the scope and consistency of your biblical literalism.

    George

    • DonS says:

      Yes, I do believe envy causes osteoporosis. It’s not the only cause of osteoporosis, but it is one of the things that can cause osteoporosis. The Bible clearly says so.

      Other things can also cause osteoporosis – poor nutrition, disease, etc. The Bible doesn’t claim envy is the only thing that can possibly cause “rottenness to the bones”, but it clearly mentions envy as something which does.

    • DonS says:

      For the exact same reason I don’t think Proverbs 14:29 (“Whoever is patient has great understanding,”) is just some metaphorical statement to be dismissed if some day “science” “proves” that patient people aren’t as smart as impatient people or something like that.

      You need to trust the Bible to be true, not just insofar as the latest piece of “science” published doesn’t disagree with it.

      Yes, I believe Proverbs is all good, solid advice, trustworthy and true. I don’t toss it out just because science finds there are also other causes for osteoporosis. Maybe you do, but I don’t. Neither do I dismiss the Bible just because “science” says dead people can’t come to life, that people can’t walk on water, that water can’t be turned into fine wine, or that the sun can’t be blocked for three days except for the areas where the Israelites lived.

      Hopefully you haven’t slid so far down the path of putting science over scripture that you deny these things either, but you seem to be following that path by denying that the Bible is true where it speaks on things of science (osteoporosis, an unmovable earth, a recent creation, etc).

      • DonS says:

        In re-reading, I’m not sure I answered you clearly. Why don’t I think the Bible is speaking metaphorically here?

        Proverbs 14 is part of a list of advice and warnings to people along with general warnings and common sense – actionable snippets of knowledge along with warnings of what happens to those who disregard the advice. (or benefits to those who heed the advice)

        If the consequence is just metaphorical, then in the proverb is just something like “Peace is nice, and envy is not.” That is just statement and it emasculates everything the Proverbs are saying. The proverbs say “Do A because B is a benefit of doing A, and don’t do X because Y might happen if you do!”

        A primary point of giving the possible consequence in the proverb is that it’s a real thing that could happen. You try to strip the Proverbs of a core function when you twist the clear meaning of Scripture to fit what you think “science” says!

        You can say that you’re only using science like a dictionary to illuminate the Bible, but what you’re doing is warping the Bible to fit the “science”. You deny the reality of the Proverbs, you deny the multitude of statements throughout the Bible of a stationary earth, you deny the recent creation of the universe, all while saying you’re merely illuminating the “true” meaning of Scripture with science.

        You personally may not follow that path all the way to denying the reality of Jesus’ Virgin Birth, Miracles, and Resurrection, but you’re on that path nonetheless.

  3. I’m Pentecostal. I don’t doubt miracles. Nor do I think “science” requires us to doubt that miracles are possible. Indeed, the next issue of the journal I edit is focusing on “Faith & Science” issues. It includes an apologetic for the possibility of miracles.

    The point I am trying to make is that language can appear literal when it is actually metaphorical or idiomatic. For example, we say “The Lord is my shepherd,” “The Lord is my rock,” and “The Lord is my fortress,” but we don’t literally mean that God is out there in fields keeping watch over sheep by night, with a crook and a staff. God is not actually igneous, sedimenatry, or metamorphic, God is not a building. Obviously, these are metaphors. The same might be said of those Scriptures which speak of God’s “hand” or his “wings.”

    Something similar needs to be said about idiomatic language. When, for example, I say, “This new book is gonna knock your socks off,” no one in their right minds interprets that literally. It’s an idiomatic way of saying, “This book is great! You’re gonna love it!” Similarly, we speak of “a chip on your shoulder” when we talk about holding grudges, but not one looks for an actual piece of wood.

    The question, then, is this: Given that metaphorical and idiomatic language look literal, but are not in fact literal, how do you know that Proverbs 14:30 is literal rather than metaphorical or idiomatic? Take Proverbs 14:1, for example: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Is this literally saying that a wise woman pours a foundation, erects a wooden superstructure, lays brick and mortar, but a foolish woman literally pulls bricks out of place, tears down the superstructure, and chips the foundation? Literally? I doubt it.

    • DonS says:

      In that culture people did build their own homes, and if not from scratch, then in smaller ways – the decorations, the care of the home, additions, etc. So yes, a wise woman did build up her own house, and a foolish woman did tear her own house down – neglect, foolish decisions on what to do with the house, etc. I’ve been to mission trips to locations where I’ve seen foolish men (and women) very literally tear their own house down for reasons that seemed good to them but were actually foolishness.

      Why do you keep trying to take away the literal meaning? Of course it may mean more than the strictly literal aspect, and have metaphorical meaning as well, but there is also the solid reality too. Unless there is some blatant impossibility involved, the proverbs should at least have their literal meaning affirmed as well as broader applications acknowledged.

      The desire to have science as the determiner of what the Bible can mean seems to push you toward removing literal meaning from the Bible.

      Perhaps the Flood was just a metaphorical tale to warn people about the danger of disobeying God! “Science” certainly denies that there was a Flood. So we should take the entire Flood and all of its results as merely a metaphor, right?

      It’s “scientifically impossible”, the account is written in an epic format, complete with plenty of patterns for days and events, lots of significant numbers used throughout, and tons of significant imagery. That sounds like it’s a prime candidate for being a metaphorical warning tale, and not a literal event.

      So with all that why would you take the Flood literally even though it has so much “science” against it and textual possibility for being a metaphor, but then reject that Proverbs 14:1 and 14:30 being literal? At least there aren’t any scientific problem Proverbs 14!

  4. Don:

    It would be foolish to try to turn a literally intended word or phrase into a metaphor or non-literal idiom. By the same token, it would be foolish to turn a metaphor or non-literal idiom into a literal word of phrase.

    You ask me why I keep trying to take away the literal meaning. I’m not. I don’t think the words or phrase are literally intended. I think they are intended to be understood as metaphors or idioms. Given that, my question is: Why do you keep trying to insert literal meanings where they are not intended.

    Again, if I say, “Don S. is a pain in the neck,” no native English speaker with his wits about him would understand me as intending that you are C-fibers firing in my cervical region. He would understood it as an idiom. If, however, someone took me as intending that you are C-fibers firing in my cervical region, he would be mistaking me, misinterpreting me, because that’s not what I intend (and not what the idiom conveys).

    Now, I’m assuming you agree that language can be literal, metaphorical, and idiomatic, among other uses. The question is: How do you know that a statement is literal rather than metaphorical or idiomatic? What’s the hermeneutical rule?

    • DonS says:

      Assume it’s literal unless there’s some reason it shouldn’t be taken such a way. A known idiom would be one reason something should not be taken literally. A clear metaphor is another which we’ve mentioned. Unless there’s some reason to know that a statement is a metaphor or an idiom, it should be taken literally.

      Proverbs certainly could contain metaphors, but there’s no reason to assume everything in the proverbs is a metaphor, especially considering the section of which Proverbs 14 is a part. Early Proverbs is clearly a metaphor using a woman to represent wisdom. Other parts of Proverbs are of a different style and so shouldn’t be defaulted to a metaphoric status.

      The default is “literal” and you check to see if it is an idiom or a metaphor or some other literary device. Proverbs 14 – no requirements for metaphors or literary devices.

      So, why do you try to turn it into a non-literal meaning? We read through Genesis and I (maybe you too) take it to be literal even though it is highly poetic in structure. Genesis 1 is extremely poetic in structure, but yet we don’t just assume poetic = non-literal.

      You take Genesis 1 as literal description as the default understanding even though it is extremely poetic, epic in style, and highly structured in nature. Why do you use “literal” as the default for Genesis 1, but then deny the same status to Proverbs?

      Because you have preconceived ideas for which parts of the Bible need to conform to “science”, and which parts don’t. The inconsistency is exposed as you use baseless excuses of idioms and metaphors in Proverbs but don’t apply the exact same standards to Genesis 1.

      • You speak of “known” idioms and “clear” metaphors, but you still haven’t explained how you “know” when statements are idiomatic. You haven’t made “clear” when statements are metaphorical. Your “assume it’s literal unless…” isn’t how language actually works. Native speakers never begin with the assumption that idioms should be taken literally. That’s why they’re idiomatic.

  5. DonS says:

    And you don’t bother answering my questions. I’ve at least tried answering yours.

    I’ve done two years of Hebrew (loved it) and a semester of Greek (hated it), so while I’m far from an expert, I am at least familiar with the translation issues involved. Idioms are pretty straight-forward to identify purely from the text given. There’s not even much need for outside Hebrew sources to identify an idiom when used.

    Metaphors are a bit more subtle, but still quite identifiable, at least the obvious ones such as wisdom pictured as a woman and God as a rock/fortress/shepherd. There are more subtle metaphors utilized in Scripture, but nothing in Proverbs 14:1 or 14:30 suggests that such metaphors are intended.

    Proverbs 14 is a classic type of Hebrew wisdom literature, and there’s nothing about it that would make a metaphoric interpretation the “default” understanding. These types of sayings are very grounded in everyday experience and common knowledge of the time – they use very basic observations and statements without poetic flourishes (though sometimes heavy overstatement to make a point) to give instructions, advice, and warnings.

    They use common facts to instruct. They aren’t the intricate reasoning of the Psalms with complex structures and layered images; they’re straightforward statements of common, everyday things used to give advice and warning. They’re literal observations which can be applied to larger experiences in life.

    You’ve presumably gone through the same sorts of Hebrew and interpretation classes I had and probably far more of them, and this is nothing new to you. I can only assume you’re playing dumb and aren’t actually ignorant of these things. I find it extremely disingenuous of you to keep bringing it up even though you must know the answer.

    Nothing in Proverbs 14 gives a suggestion that metaphor is intended, and so the literal understanding is the default. They are using real-life observations/facts to instruct. Envy can indeed rot the bones and a foolish woman may indeed tear down her own house.

    • DonS says:

      So, with that said, allow me to ask yet again – why do you take the highly patterned and epic structure of Genesis 1, complete with numeric patterns, counter-scientific events, and poetic language as literal?

      Your continued avoidance of answering that question leads me to suspect you don’t.

      That would explain a great deal as to why to continue to take Proverbs 14 as metaphoric statements without literal meaning.

      I suspect much of your dismissal of the Bible (disguised in shoddy rationalizations using literary devices as excuses) could be based on a placement of “science” over Scripture, though, of course, you deny that being the case.

      An excellent example of a slippery slope. Deciding that the Bible doesn’t “really” say the Earth is immovable because “science” shows it isn’t leads to more and more dismissal of the Bible. While I rejoice that you haven’t slid so far as to deny Jesus, your inverted authorities in life do lead to a warped trust in God and his Word. Eve was tempted with “Did God _really_ say ….”

      • I don’t interpret Genesis 1 literally precisely because of “the highly patterned and epic structure of Genesis 1, complete with numeric patterns, counter-scientific events, and poetic language.”

      • Ian O says:

        George, could you elaborate on what you mean by not taking Genesis 1 literally? I am just getting my feet wet when it comes to the depth of theology, and this is a new one to me. Thanks, -Ian

    • Several points about Proverbs 14:30. (a) It employs parallelism, which is the hallmark of Hebrew poetry, a genre that lives and breathes idiom and metaphor. (b) “Heart at rest” in the first half of the verse is not literal, insofar as it stands in apposition to “envy” in the second half. (c) “Life” is parallel to “bones” in the second half, which indicates to me that “bones” is being used as a metonymy. (d) Nothing in the verse gives a specific diagnosis of osteoporosis as opposed to leukemia as opposed to bone cancer as opposed to some other bone ailment. In general, what’s being said is that contentment is physically healthier than envy. No further specific diagnosis beyond that is being offered.

  6. DonS says:

    Ahhh, that does indeed explain a lot George. If you deny that the earth was created along with the rest of the cosmos about 6000 years ago as Genesis says, then I fully understand why you toss out the literal interpretation of the Bible elsewhere.

    Ian – not taking Genesis 1 literally is usually “shortcut language” for saying that he doesn’t believe God created the world in six days about 6000 years ago.

    Evolution is probably how he explains the development of animals to what we see today, complete with billions of years for the age of the earth and universe. He most likely denies the global Flood, though he probably takes it to be a localized Flood.

    However, to George’s credit, he isn’t a hypocrite about it – he tossed out the literal meaning of the Bible all over the place, not just in Proverbs 14. I’m very serious that I respect him a lot more for that stance than for the stances of so many that pick out bits and pieces here and there to be non-literal while taking other areas as literal based on individual whims.

    He’s probably in a tough situation. He’s the son of the president of the Assemblies of God, a pastor in the AoG, and the AoG’s official stance on the topic of Genesis 1 is that it is to be interpreted literally. Good luck George.

    While I disagree with how you are approaching the interpretation of Scripture, our differences are way more fundamental that can be handled in anything less than long treatises. Not the best sort of topic for comments on a blog.

  7. Don S.:

    You’re right that our differences cannot be addressed by anything less than long treatises, but I’m not sure you understand what our differences are.

    For the record, I don’t believe that a passage of Scripture should be interpreted literally when its language is metaphorical or idiomatic or some other non-literal form.

    The question is, how do we know when a form is literal, metaphorical, idiomatic, or something else?

    George

    • DonS says:

      The question is also whether or not God’s word is inerrant today as it was a thousand years ago or two thousand years ago. What is communicated through metaphor and idiom should not change over time. If it was understood to mean X by the writers and readers of the day it was written, and understood as X by the readers of 50 AD, then it should be understood that way today.

      The overwhelming majority of Christians and Jews throughout history have always understood Genesis 1 to mean the literal things it says – six twenty-four hour days. Likewise, the people understood Joshua to refer to the sun revolving around the earth. Likewise people understood the Proverbs to be literal and useful advice.

      It is only now that “science” says something different that people are changing their minds. While the objections are often phrased in the wording of literary styles using metaphor and idiom, the root is that “science” is determining what Scripture means.

      The creation of the world in six days is tossed out because “science” says it’s impossible. Genesis 1 is highly stylized literature, but was still understood to be communicating literal events. But now, it is dismissed of concrete meaning using excuses of metaphor and idiom, leaving an amorphous and barely relevant meaning.

      The global Flood is tossed out because “science” says its impossible. It is highly structured language, but was still understood to be communicating a literal event. But now it is dismissed using excuses of metaphor and idiom, leaving an amorphous and barely relevant meaning.

      Scores of places throughout Scripture describe the immovable nature of the earth, both using metaphor and historic statements, and it was never questioned until suddenly “science” says it is impossible. All the statements describing an immovable earth are dismissed of concrete meaning using excuses of metaphor and idiom, leaving an amorphous and barely relevant meaning.

      A thousand other things in scripture are similarly brushed aside – the ten plagues, parting the Red Sea, the OT miracles, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, sexual standards, etc.

      Metaphor, idiom, transcription error, phenomenological description, ANE worldview, collected oral story, etc. They are all very important things to use when studying Scripture, but they are used as excuses to dismiss the Bible rather than tools to deepen our understanding. Almost universally all these tools are used to dramatically change the meaning of Scripture away from what Scripture has meant for thousands of years.

      Apparently God taught people all sorts of wrong things with the apparently not really inerrant Scripture for thousands of years, but it is just within the last handful of centuries that we’ve suddenly come to understand the “true” intent of Scripture. Just “coincidentally” it happens right when “science” takes primacy in the culture.

      No. God was speaking truly to people three thousand years ago and He hasn’t suddenly changed the meaning of all the metaphors and idioms.

      Scriptures should be taken as literally true and the metaphors, idioms, etc are used from THAT starting point to expand and clarify.

      Scripture is not to be approached with the assumption that everything might be a metaphor or idiom, with meaning to be teased out of that vague cloud of resulting subjective possibility according to the latest whims of “science” and cultural acceptability.

  8. Ian:

    The fall 2012 issue of Enrichment has a debate between a young Earth creationist, a day-age creationist, and a creationist who doesn’t interpret Genesis 1 literally. The issue will be online at enrichmentjournal.ag.org in late July or early August.

    George

  9. Don S:

    “The overwhelming majority of Christians and Jews throughout history have always understood Genesis 1 to mean the literal things it says – six twenty-four hour days. Likewise, the people understood Joshua to refer to the sun revolving around the earth. Likewise people understood the Proverbs to be literal and useful advice.”

    Biblical interpretation does not proceed by majority rule, no matter how longstanding a history the majority interpretation has. If that were the case, all of us Protestants would still be Catholic.

  10. DonS says:

    I am not Catholic because the Catholic church brought in all sorts of extra-Biblical doctrines and still holds many/most of them (though with less fervency these days). If the Catholic church had continued to teach only what the Bible teaches, there wouldn’t have been a Reformation and eventual split. Those doctrines were against (or in some cases ‘merely’ far outside) the clear teaching of Scripture and so should be rejected regardless of how many believed them.

    Genesis 1 to 10(-ish) is a very different situation. There has never been anything in Scripture or history to suggest that fundamental anti-Biblical/Torah error about Creation existed for thousands of years, apparently being taught and confirmed by the VAST majority of extremely highly regarded saints of the faith and even by the earliest Jewish rabbis of which we have records.

    Nothing in Scripture even suggests that Genesis 1 through 10 was not intended to be taken literally, and quite a lot to suggest it IS intended to be understood literally.

    Majority rule doesn’t determine the meaning of Scripture; Scripture determines the meaning of Scripture. And Scripture confirms over and over again that Genesis 1 through 10 is an account that should be taken literally.

    And while the majority doesn’t determine what Scripture means, such a huge and long-lasting majority, gives extremely strong support to the fact that Scripture’s self-supporting teaching that Genesis 1 to 10 is to be taken literally.

    You deny that God made the universe in six days. You deny that there was a global Flood. You deny that God stopped the sun (not the earth). You deny that Scripture itself clearly supports all these things.

    I’ve got to give you props for consistency.

    But then some wonder why so many Christians deny the Bible when it speaks on what is right and wrong. Adultery, serial-divorce, fornication, gluttony, greed, hatred, murder, laziness – I would hope you take those things seriously in spite of how you dismiss so many other things, but can you blame the culture for dismissing the Bible as relativistic, nebulous, and of no concrete authority when you (and many others) have done so much work making it just that way using metaphor, idiom, and a thousand other excuses/tools?

    • Don:

      Has it ever dawned on you that many people reject biblical authority because of your brand of irrational literalism? If the Bible teaches bad astronomy, they reason, why trust its moral guidance?

  11. DonS says:

    George, has it ever dawned on you that you’ve never once actually dealt with what I’m saying. You’ve done nothing but dodge/ignore questions and put up little one or two sentence bits of nothing.

    I suspect that deep down you realize the empty nature of your position and don’t care to delve too deeply lest it be exposed.

    May God bless you in spite of the damage you do to His Word and the Faith you help to tear down with a thousand vague possibilities. Please think on what you’re doing. Satan began his temptation with “Did God really say”.

  12. Don:

    I don’t doubt that Scripture is God’s Word. What I doubt is your literalistic interpretations of some parts of it. That’s what this debate is about.

    • DonS says:

      And so, I check back one last time and sure enough, you still haven’t actually put forward anything in this “debate”. It’s not a debate, it’s me putting forward reasons, explanations, and exposition on the topic, and you just saying “No, you’re wrong.”

      Your resounding silence is all anyone needs to see the truth of this, as you call it, “debate”.

      • Actually, Don, I’ve put forward any number of reasons for thinking language in the Bible can be metaphorical or idiomatic. But whatever. Have a nice day.

  13. Hi George,

    Came this way from the Pyro blog.

    But good science—as opposed to “junk science” or “the latest scientific study”—can correct bad interpretations of Scripture, can’t it? Can’t it be an aid to interpretation of Scripture?

    It’s a question of epistemology. Science never arrives at the truth. That’s not its purpose. My wife was instructed throughout her undergraduate microbiology studies never to say a hypothesis had been proven, only that it had not been disproven, because her teachers knew very well that someone will come along shortly to disprove what you proved, and you don’t want to have egg on your face (this is the history of science, and it is a never ending cycle – see the link below about Karl Popper).

    Here are some articles for your consideration:

    http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/048a-TheScientistasEvangelist.pdf
    http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/170-Archaeology%20and%20the%20Bible.pdf
    http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/018a-ScienceandTruth.pdf
    http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/143a-TheBiblicalViewofScience.pdf
    http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2007/09/29/poppin-with-popper/
    http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/015a-GodandLogic.pdf

    http://www.trinitylectures.org/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=127

    http://www.trinitylectures.org/MP3/The_Hoax_of_Scientific_Creationism,_John_Robbins.mp3
    http://www.trinitylectures.org/MP3/The_Scientist_as_Evangelist,_John_Robbins.mp3
    http://www.trinitylectures.org/MP3_downloads.php

    I hope you find them edifying

    • I believe Adam and Eve were real historical individuals. However, I also believe that our solar system is heliocentric, not geocentric. According to DonS above, my second belief is the first step on a slippery slope to denying the first belief. Do you agree with him?

      • It depends on how you reach that conclusion. Collins and Enns and others at BioLogos have started with the premise that science (“good science”) is true and should/must correct our reading of Scripture. Thankfully you still believe Adam and Eve were real historical individuals, but these men have come up with rather creative ways to explain why your “literalistic” interpretation is wrong on that point and should be corrected by science.

        The long and short of it is that I agree with Popper that “in science there is no ‘knowledge’, in the sense in which Plato and Aristotle understood the word, in the sense which implies finality; in science, we never have sufficient reason for the belief that we have attained the truth.” So it would be backwards to use science to interpret what we know is truth. (I saw your link to critique of Popper, thanks). Perhaps science/observation of the world can spark our minds to look at a text in a new light, but that is as far as I would take it.

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