After Galileo was confronted by the church about his scientific theories, he was told he could publish his opinions provided he presented them in a manner that was non-committal; he also had to come to the conclusion given to him—that being we cannot know how creation unfolded because God could have done so in manners we cannot imagine.
While I don’t completely agree with it, there is a bit of wisdom in the church’s fore-drawn conclusion. Much of science is based on ideas people dream up and later prove or disprove. It’s conceivable that some of the conclusions we have drawn are wrong and could have been brought about in another manner. The truth, however, is that science actually helps us better understand the Bible.
The discovery of ancient texts—Biblical and otherwise—helps us better understand the language and culture. Archaeological digs unearth artifacts that also augment our knowledge of how people in Biblical times lived. A better understanding of how life took place during and around the time the texts were written provides a more cohesive foundation upon which we can interpret Scripture.
We cannot say we want to benefit from archeology but reject physics because one makes sense to us but the other challenges our paradigm. If we reject specific fields of science because they don’t align with our preconceived ideas we take science out of context. This is no different than selectively choosing specific Bible verses to make a point, while simultaneously ignoring other verses that may be contrary. The field of science is run by humans; humans make mistakes so it will never be perfect, but it still has all the answers if we’re willing to work at it.
Therefore we need to give people the opportunity to excel in their field of study. Whether that’s science or religion, and the Bible is exhaustive when it talks about God imparting gifts to people:
- 1 Corinthians 12:5-6;
- Romans 12:3-8;
- 1 Peter 4:10-11.
These passages are specific to followers of Christ, but it doesn’t take a genius to look around and see gifts in others—even those whose trajectory might not be pointing toward God. When a person decides that another’s work is ill-founded for no other reason than it doesn’t align with their own, we call that bigotry. It happens both ways. It’s not a behaviour that facilitates God’s purpose of restoration.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)
Before David was born, before he knew God, before he became a man after God’s heart1; God knew him, not just his mere existence, but a complete and comprehensive understanding of his entire life2, including all of David’s potential.
When a person decides that another’s work is ill-founded for no other reason than it doesn’t align with their own, they are rejecting the gift of God that is that individual person. A person that God knew in a complete and comprehensive way before he or she was ever born. In dismissing the contribution that the person makes we are dismissing God’s gift.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17 (ESV)
I’m convinced God spends more time working through people versus direct intervention—we can expect a hungry person will be fed by the generous act of another than by a sandwich miraculously appearing in his or her hand, because God uses people3. Look at what Paul tells the church:
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (ESV)
When speaking to the church about prophecy, he says to test everything and ignore all of it if they find something doesn’t align with their understanding. No, that’s not what he says at all. He says test everything and hold fast what is good. Paul was more concerned that the church get something from God’s Spirit than nothing. Even if portions of the message were distorted by human prejudice, they were to keep the good. What’s more, the word despise in the original language is a word that means to despise someone or something on the basis that is it worthless or has no value. Paul uses the very same word in Romans 14:3 when speaking to the church about respecting one another’s different beliefs. God works through people who make mistakes, He works through people who believe differently than we do; that in itself tells us something of His nature.
We shouldn’t expect any different when it comes to a person gifted in explaining the Bible—he or she will be used by God to instruct. We shouldn’t expect any less when it comes to a person gifted in studying science—he or she will be used to discover. The key takeaway is that each person has value and the ability to contribute. We accept the works of others within the complete context of science and the complete context of the Bible. This provides a comprehensive interpretation. Remember, God invented science; if we understand science we better understand His nature.
The only real enemy is ourself. Not science. Not religion. The enemy to God’s truth is us—you and me—our inability to recognize truth or our unwillingness to accept it.