Here’s the latest “infographic” video from Shaun. I think this audience will appreciate it a lot and find it useful for helping others to think through this issue. I’ve written (and commented in podcast episodes) that the Bible was not intended (by God) to teach modern science. This video illustrates that perspective. Underneath the video are my comments about the issue drawn from the FAQ on this website.
From Mike’s FAQ:
You have written about your belief that the Genesis creation accounts were not intended to put forth science. If we are not to understand Genesis 1-2 literally (i.e., as a scientific sequence of events), how is it that you advocate taking other passages about supernatural beings as literal?
A non-literal view of Gen 1-2 creation accounts isn’t a non-literal view of creation. God created. How he did it is the issue of disagreement. His creative acts are literal — they happened in real time. The Gen 1-2 description of those acts is something different. I’d argue that God prompted the writer to inform readers that he was the creator — a literal truth. The means to that end (how the writer conveyed the reality of God’s creative work) shouldn’t be conflated with the end itself, the fact of creation.
God picked the writers and knew what he was getting — and didn’t care that the writers weren’t omniscient. The act of producing Scripture doesn’t require God transfer his omniscience about the natural world to the writers. Had God put modern scientific knowledge into the head of the writer for the purpose of satisfying later readers, the original readers wouldn’t have known what the writer was talking about. That defeats the enterprise and purpose of communication.
Since we have such information in the Bible, and that informative isn’t scientific, that tells us the purpose of God prompting people to write wasn’t to produce science — else we would have science. And so the authority of Scripture needs to be assessed in accord with God’s intent (not what we wish was his intent). That means we let the Bible be what it is and not criticize it for not being what it was never intended to be. Atheists do that all the time – criticize the Bible for not being scientific, but in so doing, they criticize it for not being what God intended it to be. That makes as much sense as criticizing your dog for not being a cat. And I tell that to atheists, asking them to justify their approach, since it makes little sense to me. So, if God didn’t care to produce science (and that’s evident in terms of what we have and who he picked to write), we shouldn’t judge God’s decisions. We don’t know better than God.
This was actually very wise on God’s part. Why? because if God inspired Scripture today and the writers wrote with the scientific precision of today, in a thousand years the product would still be criticized — because science changes. By not typing the content to science, God had people produce something that transcends science, and always will.
This was also wise on God’s part because he knew that, as time went on, humanity (in accord with the Edenic mandate to subdue/steward the earth) would discover more and more about the natural world. Knowledge of nature is EXPERIENCED and OBSERVED in the normal course of human life and generations. God knew that. And so his aim wasn’t to tie his revelation to nature, as that would create discord and tension within it. It would be leashed to time and the change of human knowledge and experience.
Two more things in light of all this.
1) The above applies to knowledge gained through experience and observation, made knowable by human endeavor (technology — the tools of science). Knowledge of God and the spiritual world, by definition, is not gained through the tools of science. Therefore we CAN look to Scripture for such information and must judge its validity by its coherence — the coherence of ideas like there’s a God, that God could give information about himself, is capable of doing things (like create other things, become a man, influence people to write books, etc.). These ideas are completely coherent and have been defended logically for millennia (by believers and unbelievers alike). So non-scientific thinking in the Bible on the part of the writers doesn’t damage information about the knowledge that cannot be know via the tools of science.
2) The biblical writers were quite capable of dispensing true, inerrant statements about God and his plan (or historical events) without being scientists. Since when must we know science perfectly (or even well) to be able to say something true? In other words, I can articulate an idea that is completely true by means of using an illustration from the natural world that might not reflect good science. The illustration or argument is a trajectory or conduit leading to the assertion or proposition. The thing claimed and the means of making the claim are not the same things. So a biblical writer can say something unscientific on the way to making a completely true statement about something. We do that all the time because we’re human. I can tell my five year old that God made them because helped mommy and daddy know how to do that. I’m not being scientific, but the truth proposition (God made you) is still true because God is the source of all life, and our bodies are functioning as God designed them to function when we have sex and mommy becomes pregnant. It’s not a scientifically provable articulation, but the proposition I used it to defend is completely coherent and true. The means of telling can have a flaw but the proposition we’ve uttered can still be completely true. This is how, for instance, I take Hebrews 7 — distinguishing the claim / proposition about the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood to that of Levi despite an unscientific argument used to defend it (that we have whole human persons [Levi] in the loins of a male — that isn’t possible, as we know how human persons are formed — we can do it in a test tube — they are not formed inside a man, only a woman — or a test tube, using my dated language).
One final note. This question and its answer is related to another question I get from time to time: Do I believe the earth is flat? No, I don’t. I think modern belief in a flat earth is willfully ignorant and based on nonsensical conspiratorial thinking. It is also deeply flawed thinking to believe the earth must be flat since Israelite cosmology describes a round, flat earth (for reasons noted above). It’s tragic that anyone in modern times would believe something so stupid and then tie that to biblical faith. That drives people away from the gospel, which has eternal consequences.