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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2002-03-03

Text: Psalm 8:1-9

Our topic this morning is 'Do Science and Scripture Conflict with each other?' Why is there a need to consider this at all? Because, with all the great scientific discoveries and achievements that have been made in the last century and especially the last few decades, and all the benefits that modern science has brought to man, science has acquired tremendous esteem in the eyes of man - and quite often, much greater esteem than it deserves. And this may especially be true here in our own country. We have already heard that two billion dollars have been budgeted for developing the life sciences, and plans are being made to attract the most eminent scientists from all over the world to come and make Singapore their base for research work, with the hope of developing our island into a prominent centre for scientific research, particularly in the life sciences.

Such is the high esteem that science has acquired in the world today. Some people even think that scientists will provide solutions to every ailment, every problem in life. They believe that with the decoding of the DNA code now underway, we are close to discovering the secret of immortality - and those who have the means to afford the treatment will be able to prolong their own life indefinitely. Babies may soon be born with built-in immunity to all kinds of diseases, and hence will not need to go through the tedious and painful immunization process we all had to go through! It is claimed that diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer will be eliminated in time to come. As we live in such an environment, some are bound to wonder whether God and His Word will still be relevant to us. Who needs the Bible, and who needs God, when science can do everything for us!

But the truth of the matter is that, like all things in this Universe, science is really meant to serve God and bring glory to Him. Science is not man's own invention. It is merely the product of man's obedience to God's commands to subdue the earth, and to exercise dominion over creation. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2 that soon after Adam was created, the Lord brought the various animals and birds to him to see what he would call them. And Adam gave names to all of them, probably according to what he learned about them through his own observations. This is the beginning of science. It is man's attempt to observe, classify, analyse, understand, and explain in detail the operation of the universe and its inhabitants.

This knowledge is then employed by man to improve himself and to harness all the potential and properties of creation for his own benefit, and the ultimate purpose is to bring glory to God. One of the best passages of Scripture that highlights this truth is Psalm 8.

I. The Scriptures Provides Man With The Basis of Science

Verse 6 of this psalm is where the basis of all science can be found, since it brings out the divine mandate that God gave to man when He created him: 'Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet' This psalm therefore provides us with the beginning point to understand the real role of science. Science is meant to make us praise the Creator of all things. It is meant to make us marvel at how wonderfully great God is! You will notice that the psalm begins and ends in the same way 'O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!' In Psalm 139, the psalmist as he pondered deeply on the marvel of his own bodily functions, exclaimed, 'I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.'

At the same time, science should make man realise how small he is. This is described in vv.3,4 of our text in Psalm 8 'When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?' This shows us something very significant. A true knowledge of science will therefore tend to produce humility in man, and not produce pride of scientific knowledge.

This result of science has been amply demonstrated in the lives and testimonies of many godly scientists. Do you know that many if not most of the major branches of science were founded by Bible-believing Christians?

Johann Kepler (1571-1630) was the founder of physical astronomy. Kepler wrote "Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.' Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is credited with being the father of modern chemistry. He also was active in financially supporting the spread of Christianity through missions and Bible translations.

John Ray (1627-1705) was the father of English natural history, considered the greatest zoologist and botanist of his day. He also wrote a book, "The wisdom of God Manifested In The Works of Creation." Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the father of biological taxonomy. His system of classification is still in use today. One of his main goals in systematizing the varieties of living creatures was an attempt to delineate the original Genesis "kinds." He firmly believed in the Genesis account as literal history.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was one of the greatest physicists of all time, developed foundational concepts in electricity and magnetism, invented the electrical generator, and made many contributions to the field of chemistry. He was active in the various ministries of his church, both private and public, and had an abiding faith in the Bible and in prayer. Charles Babbage (1792-1871) was the founder of computer science. He developed information storage and retrieval systems, and used punched cards for instruction sets and data sets in automated industrial controls. He was also a Christian with strong convictions and wrote an important book defending the Bible and miracles. John Dalton (1766-1844) was the father of atomic theory, which revolutionized chemistry. He was an orthodox, Bible-believing Christian.

James Simpson (1811-1879) discovered chloroform and laid the foundation for anesthesiology. He said his motivation to perform the research leading to this discovery was a fascination in the book of Genesis with Adam's deep sleep during the time in which Eve was fashioned from his side. He said his biggest discovery was finding Jesus Christ as Savior. Joseph Lister (1827-1912) founded antiseptic surgical methods (cf. 'Listerine'). Lister's contributions have probably led to millions of lives being saved through modern medicine. Lister wrote, 'I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.'

Werner Von Braun (1912-1977) was the father of space science. He wrote, '..the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.'

If you would like to know about more about these scientists and others like them, you can obtain the book Men of Science, Men of God by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. It presents 101 biographies and testimonies of eminent scientists who believed in the Bible and in the Living God.

And so we have established the first important principle of our message. The principle that the Scriptures provide man with the very basis of Science - which is: To glorify God and to humble man. Without the scriptures, all scientific knowledge and applications would have no sound basis. This helps us to answer the question in our sermon title 'Do Science and Scripture conflict with each other?' The answer is: How can they be in conflict with one another, when the very basis of science in found in the Scriptures?

There are some who insist however that there is a conflict between Science and the Scriptures. They allege that there are scientific mistakes in the Bible, especially in the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

II. The Scriptures Speak Accurately Whenever It Deals With Science

Now, our answer to that is although the Bible is not a textbook of science (nor was it meant to be one) it does speak accurately and authoritatively on science. There are no mistakes in the Bible at all, even with regard to science. In fact, there is much evidence that the Scriptures are totally consistent with science. Job 26:7 'He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.' This was written at least 3,500 years ago. The ancients at that time thought that the world was supported by a turtle, other's, on Atlas's broad back. The foundation of the earth is now known to be nothing, just as God revealed in this book!

Job 38:31 'Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?' This refers to the constellation of stars called Pleiades but was does the 'binding' refer to? Photographs taken with the use of powerful modern telescopes show the principal stars of this constellation as enveloped and 'bound' together by delicate streams of nebulous matter!

Job 28:24,25 'For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and He weigheth the waters by measure.' Air weight and water weight are accepted facts today. The weight of air is 101,325 pascals, or newtons of force per square metre.

The amount of water in this world was carefully measured by God. Today it is known that the earth's water content could be appreciably increased or decreased without destroying life.

Psalm 19:6 'His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.' This tells of the movement of the sun in the heavens. It goes forth 'as a strong man to run a race.' 'His circuit is unto the ends of it.' Some people would say, 'Here is a glaring scientific error. We know today that the earth moves round the sun!' But now we know that the sun is actually 'running' through the heavens at the speed of about 20 km per second in our galaxy!

Psalm 135:7 'He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.' This describes the water cycle: the evaporation of water from the sea into clouds which are blown over land by wind, and then its precipitation into rain. The psalmist, inspired by God, stated accurately what scientists discovered later on!

These are only a few passages of scripture which demonstrate the fact that the Scriptures are consistent with pure science. However when unbelievers calim that there are scientific mistakes in the Bible, what they are referring to is not pure science at all, but rather, speculative science. E.g. the Big Bang theory is what some scientists have speculated about the origin of the universe. Evolution theory is what some scientists have speculated about the origin of Life on earth. These theories are not science at all, but false science (1 Timothy 6:20). They are based on one very unscientific and unreasonable assumption - the assumption that miracles can never happen. Unbelieving scientists base all their theories and speculations on this single assumption. This assumption leads to their rejection of anything supernatural or miraculous in the Bible, anything that cannot be explained without God's intervention, like Creation, the Universal Flood, and the Miracles of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, the Virgin birth of Christ and even His resurrection from the dead.

III. The Miracles of Scripture Do Not Violate But Transcend Science

Unfortunately there are many theologians today who have followed the unsound speculations of these scientists. They do not believe that the miracles in the Bible were authentic.

One American bishop even said, 'If You Believe the Whale Swallowed Jonah, then Jonah Can Also Swallow the Whale' Today, there are many Church leaders and theologians who openly ridicule the story of Jonah, and even the resurrection of Jesus. Such people, who deny the miracles of the Bible sometimes think of ways to rationalise or explain them away as exagerrated accounts of normal occurences. One of them said that the miracle of Jesus walking on water was actually Jesus walking on a sand bar that was hidden just beneath the surface of the sea.

How do we then prove to these unbelieving scientists and theologians that this assumption is wrong - the assumption that miracles can never happen? This seems to be a difficult challenge to Christians, because miracles are historical events that can never be repeated. It is impossible to re-enact or replay them to study how they took place. The only thing we can do is to examine the existing evidence of these miracles, as recorded in the Bible.

One writer who claimed very boldly that Bible miracles cannot be proved was David Hume, an eighteenth century Scottish philosopher and historian. Some consider him to be the greatest philosopher to have written in the English language. He was a skeptic who wrote several essays attempting to disprove religion and in one of them, he dealt specifically with the subject of miracles. In most debates and discussions on this subject, David Hume's essay on miracles has been cited as indisputable proof that the miracles of the Bible did not take place. Hume's main argument is that, 'There is more likelihood that the witnesses of a supposed miracle were deceived, than that such a 'violation of the laws of nature' in contradiction to universal experience, should have taken place.' Now, there are at least two things that are wrong with this argument. The first is his definition of a miracle as a violation of the laws of nature.

We would rather say, that miracles transcend the range of natural forces. It is just like what happens when I raise my arm like this - I am not violating the law of gravity in any way when I do this. The law of gravity is still at work, but now a greater force controlled by my will is overcoming gravity. In the same manner, when the miracles of the Bible took place, all the laws of science were all still at work, but they were simply overcome by a force greater than nature, which is the Will of God.

The second thing that is wrong with Hume's argument is that he labels miracles as being in contradiction to universal experience. This begs the question - What is universal experience? Is it limited only to the experience of skeptics like Hume? If that is the case, how can it be called 'universal' anymore? To be fair, the term 'universal experience' must also include all the witnesses who testify to miraculous events. In any court of law, the decision made by a judge must always be based on the testimony of all available witnesses. No testimony can be dismissed from consideration just because the judge is prejudiced against some witnesses. And as long as the witnesses are of good character, their testimony cannot be rejected.

Now, because miracles are such rare events in history, the number of human eyewitnesses who saw them is understandably small. But when we say 'a small number' we do not mean that just 1 or 2 of them experienced each Bible miracle - it may be possible for 1 or 2 witnesses to be deceived by what they saw, but this is most unlikely for the witnesses of Bible miracles, who numbered from several tens to several thousands! E.g. The ten plagues of Egypt were witnessed by the whole nation of Egypt and the Israelites. The miracle of the multiplying of 5 loaves and 2 fishes by our Lord Jesus was witnessed by more than 5,000 people (Matthew 14:21). The resurrected Christ was seen on one occasion by more than 500 brethren at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). But when all these witnessed are added up, they are still few in number compared with the rest of humanity who did not witness these miracles.

And the millions or billions of humanity who do not have the privilege to witness miracles in their lifetime, must be content to depend entirely on the testimony of these 'few' witnesses, and accept them on the basis of the reliable character of the witnesses. That is something like what we do everyday when we read the newspapers about an event that goes on in some part of the world - e.g. the conflict in the Middle East.

We who do not have the opportunity to have first-hand experience of the events, rely entirely on the testimony of a few reporters at the scene, and yet we fully accept what they have written on the basis of their reputation as truthful reporters. And when the reports from different reporters are consistent with each other, then we have even more confidence to trust them.

This is in fact, the way that every court of law in the world verifies the facts of a case - it is all based on the strength of the unified testimony of some credible witnesses. If the court refuses to accept this, then it is no longer possible to make fair judgments on any matter!

Hence, the proof of miracles in the Bible lies in the character of their witnesses, and the quality of their testimony. If the witnesses are of doubtful character, then the miracles are also doubtful. And if their testimony is inconsistent, then there is also good reason to doubt that the miracles really happened.

Now, it is impossible for those who witnessed the Bible miracles to be present here with us to give us a full first hand report of the miracles they saw, or to be cross-examined by us. They have all passed away a long time ago. But we do have the next best thing, that will be accepted in any court of law - their affidavits. The witnesses have left behind their sworn written declarations, and you can read them all for yourself in the Bible.

Take, for example what the apostle John wrote at the end of his written record 'This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.' (John 21:24) John also wrote in his first epistle 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you' (1 John 1:1-3)

Since we now possess the affidavits or written testimonies of those who witnessed the miracles, we can scrutinize them thoroughly and compare them one with another. For instance, the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - give parallel accounts of Christ's miracles, and can be used to verify the accuracy of their witness. And we can go even further than that - to compare them with extra-biblical records and evidences from geography, archaeology and history (such as the writings of Josephus, a Jewish historian, and of Roman historians such as Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger).

It is striking to note that many who have actually taken the time and effort to do this, have emerged from it fully satisfied with the reliability of the biblical records of the miracles, and they have reached the same conclusion - the conclusion that the witnesses of the miracles are reliable and sound and that there is no reason at all to doubt the authenticity of the miracles of the Bible!

Now, how does all this relate to our topic of the Scriptures and Science? It shows us that there is no conflict between them. The phenomena of science are established in the exact same way as the miracles of the Bible - by reliable witnesses. The conclusions of science are founded on eye-witness observations of things that still happen. The teachings of scripture are also founded on eye-witness observations of things that have already happened. The fact is - both witnesses are reliable and trustworthy. The only difference is that the phenomena of science can still be observed today, while the miracles of the Bible cannot.

And what we must remember now as we conclude this study, is that both of them have the same origin, and the same purpose. They all come from God, the creator of heaven and earth, and they are designed to direct us all to look to God, praise Him and know Him! May we always respond to science and scripture by glorifying the Lord 'O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!' Let us Pray.

Bibliography

Men of Science, Men of God - by Henry M. Morris, California: Master Books, 1982.

The Biblical Basis for Modern Science - by Henry M. Morris, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984.

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To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25