(Read the series so far.)
In the last installment of this series we were looking at a motto which is often misused by the Christian community, and which could mislead young people if not carefully explained. That motto was “All truth is God’s truth.” This time round I want to take a look at another slogan; a slogan which should not be adopted by Bible believers, even though some prominent and respected authorities use it.
The phrase I have in mind is this: “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven; science tells us how the heavens go.”
On the face of it, this legend might seem non-objectionable. We are all aware of the fact that the Bible is not, nor does it ever claim to be, a textbook on Science. It doesn’t inform us about botany or biology or chemistry or physics. Science does—so what’s the problem?
To put it simply, the trouble is that this slogan says far too much about the competence of science, and far too little about the scope and authority of Scripture. It is quite subtle, yet the problem is acute. As it sits, saying “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven” is like saying “Jesus teaches us how to be nice.” A gospel tract can tell you how to get to heaven! But the Bible is the Word of God. It is the only “word” from the outside. That is to say, it is the only word which is not fashioned by the finite and fallen ingenuity of man. As such, the Bible is the final court of appeal on God-made reality. To confine it within the bounds of a rather thoughtless jingle is to treat it with dishonor.
Yet that is just one part of the problem. The catchphrase goes on to assert that “science tells us how the heavens go.” To this we may reply, “Only if that science agrees with the Bible!” To create an artificial divide between the Bible and science like this is disastrous. In point of fact, the Word of God tells us how the heavens go (to the extent that they speak of the heavens), and we would be well advised to accept no “scientific” statement which contradicts the Bible’s teaching on this or any bother subject.
If “science” tells us we evolved from cosmic dust, or we came from apes, or that there is no God (or no way to know there is a God), and a thousand other pronouncements besides, then “science” isn’t true knowledge (which is the meaning of the Latin term scientia). In fact, it isn’t even science. It is “science (or “knowledge”) falsely so-called” (1 Tim. 6:20).
Do the problems end there? I wish they did, but there is more to say, because this way of putting things leads to thinking that the Bible only touches upon the thin aspects of living which we call “spiritual”; all the rest of reality is then thought to be open to independent reasoning virtually unrelated to the pronouncements of Scripture. Once this thought enters the Christian’s mind it acts like a cancer, and very soon what we proudly call “the Christian worldview” becomes a small timid thing, with little relevance for most of the “non-spiritual” spheres of life. It is not surprising that our youth are leaving the faith in droves if they are being fed such a paltry diet of the biblical viewpoint.
So why do some respected Christian leaders (like Norman Geisler and Bruce Waltke) make use of this slogan? There is a clear reason, and it highlights the problem of what I might call “intellectual schizophrenia.” This problem comes about when a person does not have both eyes and ears on the text of Scripture, but has one ear open to another authority—usually if not always the pronouncements of modern science.
Of course, these leaders do not sense any competition between these two authorities. But that is because they have accepted the forced interpretations of the Bible in order to include statements from scientists which would otherwise contradict the clear statements of the Word of God. When defending their embrace of “scientific” opinions seemingly at variance with the Bible these writers are often led into affirming positions which neither the Bible nor secular science agree with. This is what we will look at next time.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.