Scientific Consistency in the Bible Is More Important Than Scientific Revelation
by J Warner Wallace
As a skeptic, I never personally expected the Biblical prophets (or Jesus Himself) to proclaim scientific truths still inaccessible (and unintelligible) to their audiences. As I read the Bible for the first time, its purpose seemed clear enough: Explain the nature of God, outline the fallen condition of man, and describe the overarching plan to reunite God to the rebellious beings originally created in His image. There are good reasons, in the context of the ancient audience described in the Bible, for God to limit any discussion of science. For this reason, I didn’t expect the Bible to be scientifically insightful or prophetic. I did, however, expect the Bible to be scientifically consistent. In other words, I expected the Biblical text to reflect the truth about the world around me, even if it didn’t explain minute scientific details to an audience clearly incapable of understanding such claims. Scientific consistency was far more important to me than scientific revelation.
This was important to me because I observed the scientific inaccuracy of other ancient religious worldviews. As A.A. MacDonell observes in “Vedic Mythology”, the Hindu scriptures (the Vedas and Uparushads) considered “all the objects and phenomena of nature which man is surrounded, (were) animate and divine.” This included the sun, moon, earth, clouds, rain, rivers, seas and even rocks. According to these ancient religious documents, these objects were alive. Writers of the Buddhist canon also ascribed life to non-living objects like the sun, moon, lightning, rainbows, and mountains. The Taoist and Confucian writings of China contained similar claims. The Quran, the scripture of Islam, written 1,500 years after the
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Hindu scripture, did not (to its credit) contain many of these ancient superstitions. But its observations of the universe were also questionable at many points. The Quran spoke of seven literal heavens, and these heavens were described as material. These heavens were also said to contain lamps or stars whose main purpose was to be “darted at the devils.” In addition to this, Mohammed said “the sun sets in a sea of black mud.” The descriptions and observations of other religious books are also filled with similar mythologies. It is striking, however, that the ancient contemporary of these mythologies, the Bible, is scientifically consistent (if not always scientifically revelatory). Here are just a few examples:
What is the Shape of the Earth?
While the Bible does describe the “four corners of the Earth,” it uses this expression to describe the expanse of directions available (north, south east and west) rather than to claim the Earth is flat. In fact, while other primitive cultures described the Earth to be flat, the Bible consistently described the Earth as spherical…