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:
- Geocentricity is a biblical doctrine.
- Whatever the Bible teaches is true.
- 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.” 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. 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.
 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).