The heavens declare the glory of God...The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. Psalm 19:1,7 (NIV)

In Christian belief, God reveals himself in both the written book of the Bible and the created “book” of the natural world. Because of the consistent character of God, these two cannot conflict. Yet at times they seem to say contradictory things to us about the origin and shape of God’s creation. What do we do when the results of science disagree with common biblical interpretations?

One response is to say that the Bible is right and science is wrong, but this often elevates a particular biblical interpretation to the authority of the Bible itself. Scripture is always given and received within a cultural context. As we attempt to understand the Bible in today’s context, Christians sometimes disagree on the meaning of particular passages. Some scriptural teachings, like the accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, have clear meanings that have been affirmed by the church throughout the centuries and around the world. Other teachings, like the baptism of adults vs. infants, are ambiguous and their interpretation has been debated for centuries. Some interpretations have been challenged and changed as Christians re-evaluated them in light of the whole of Scripture (the ownership of slaves serves as a dramatic example). Church tradition has also been appropriately challenged as new historical or scientific evidence presents itself. Consider the scientific work of Galileo, which overturned an earth-centered worldview and thus irrevocably affected our interpretation of passages like Psalm 93:1.

Just as the Bible is always interpreted by fallible humans, so too science is the human interpretation of nature. Thus, its theories are subject to critique and revision. A good example is the racist ideas of “eugenics” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which were rightly questioned by many Bible-believing Christians. But science also has internal methods for reviewing evidence and weeding out errors (eugenics was eventually rejected by mainstream science). After theories are tested and refined by many scientists all over the world, they give an ever more reliable interpretation of physical reality. This is true of many aspects of evolutionary theory, which have been tested and confirmed by numerous scientists in many fields over a long period of time.

Scientific data can sometimes serve as God’s way of warning us when we are standing too close to the scriptural “picture,” or at the wrong angle, or with the wrong expectations. The purpose of science is not to verify nor to add to inspired Scripture, but science can help us eliminate improper ways of reading it. Likewise, Christians should thoughtfully and appropriately encourage science to rigorously test its own theories and question its own assumptions, especially when science appears to contradict Scripture. Yet because they are both means of God’s revelation of himself to us, they must work together towards an ultimate harmony.


References & Credits

Further reading

Science and the Bible: Concordism, Part 1

By Ted Davis
God has written two “books” for our instruction, the book of nature and the book of scripture. Since God is the author of both “books,” they must agree when properly interpreted.

What Do You Mean by ‘Literal’?

By N.T. Wright
In this video Conversation, Rev. N.T. Wright responds to the question, “If you take Genesis in a non-literal fashion, especially the creation stories, why take anything in the Bible literally—such as the Gospels? Do you take the Gospels literally?”

Is that all?: Reflecting on a Christian Reading of Genesis

By Craig D. Allert
It is important to know what we should not expect from the Bible. But my fear is that we leave it at that and neglect the role that the Bible plays in the lives of Christians here and now.

The Reliability of Historical Science

By Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma
But science is more than a body of knowledge. Science is better described as a process by which people gain that knowledge. Let’s examine three methods used in the process of gaining scientific knowledge: experimental, observational, and historical.

Are Scientists Biased by Their Worldviews?

By Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma
The competing models and arguments may have originated in differing worldview beliefs, but eventually the experiments and observations push the scientific community toward a consensus shared by scientists of many different worldviews.

Should Christians Trust Scientific Experts?

By Josh Reeves
Because reliance upon experts cannot be eliminated, the central question for Christians today is not “should I believe scientific experts?” but “which scientific experts should I believe?”
Jeff Hardin, Chair of the Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin

By providing books, online resources, and digital media of high quality, BioLogos is an invaluable resource in my work with both Christian students and those investigating Christianity. In BioLogos, students see modeled before them a Psalm 19 way of thinking: that both God’s world and his word declare his glory.

- Jeff Hardin, Chair of the Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin