A False Choice

Published by DonDavidson on

In 1633, sixty-eight-year-old astronomer Galileo Galilei was tried and condemned by the Inquisition for advocating the “heresy” that the Earth was not the center of the universe, but that it instead rotated around the Sun. The Church forced Galileo to recant. The Church grounded its position in scripture.[1]

The 17th century Church obviously didn’t understand that science and the Bible have different purposes and different limitations. Both are all about “truth,” but in entirely different contexts.

Science tries to decipher how the universe works—from the tiniest part of an atom to the largest galaxies. But science is limited because it seeks “truth” through experimentation, testing, observation, and verification. Science has nothing to say about anything which cannot be tested, observed, and verified by other scientists. For example, scientists have been trying for decades to figure out how life originated on Earth, so far without success because no one has been able to create life from chemicals in a laboratory.[2] So while scientists have theories about how life may have happened, they have nothing which science accepts as “truth.”

Now think of God’s purpose in giving us the Bible. It is not a history textbook or a scientific treatise, and the authors were not writing for astronomers, chemists, or physicists. The Bible reveals God to his people, often in language, stories, and metaphors that they can understand. Explaining how the physical universe works was completely irrelevant to the authors’ purposes. They were trying to tell us who God is and how he wants us to respond to him. The New Testament goes a step further by showing us God in the person of Jesus Christ.

But the Bible is limited by our own imperfect human understanding—do we really know which parts should be taken literally and which parts were intended to be parables or metaphors? The 17th century Roman Catholic Church was sure that scripture proved Galileo wrong. But we now know that Galileo was right and the Church was wrong. We all need to embrace a little humility when interpreting God’s word, because none of us have all the answers.

In John 14:6, Jesus said “I am the truth.” And in John 18:37 he said he had come into the world “to testify to the truth.” If we believe that Jesus Christ embodies Truth, then we have nothing to fear from science, for science cannot disprove the Truth. In its own way science is searching for “truth,” but science seeks scientific truths, while the Bible is primarily concerned with spiritual truths.

Asking us to choose between science and the Bible is a false choice. It’s like asking us to choose between a slice of pizza and an apple. We can have both.

[1]. The Church argued that Galileo’s concept of the universe was contrary to Psalm 93:1 and Joshua 10:12-13.

[2]. I discuss this and similar topics in Chapter Ten of my first book, Beyond Blind Faith, entitled “Does Evolution Disprove Christianity?” You can find a description of that book here, and a list of chapters along with chapter excerpts here. Or you can click on “Don’s Books,” above, to find information about all five of my books.


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