Science in Church and Bible Study
“And this proves the Bible was right all along!” said my youth pastor. “Here we go again,” I thought. Too often science is used inappropriately in sermons and Bible studies to prove God knew what he was talking about. We have to be careful not to over-emphasize scientific theories that seem to confirm or coincide with the Bible. This borders on making the Bible say what we want instead of letting the Bible speak for itself. The nature of science is change and progress. It is constantly developing and changing–sometimes drastically! Most true scientists are fairly certain about their theories. But they’re rarely 100% sure of theories or even facts. As Bible educators, we should take the same view. Science and the Bible are not mutually exclusive. They can inform and benefit one another. The Bible is not solely dependent on scientific evidence for its truth or validity. So, we should be careful not to communicate this idea or allow our hearers to assume it.
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Some types of scientific evidence do continually validate the Bible and its truthfulness, such as archaeology. Other areas of scientific evidence seem to confirm what the Bible has said. I like to call this category convergent evidence. It is great when this type of evidence seems to support the Bible, but new evidence may invalidate old scientific theories and ideas. So we should not tie the Bible’s validity so tightly to this type of evidence. When we do, non-believers who are looking for reasons to invalidate the Bible will point to this. We must remember that the Bible is not a science textbook. Scientific theories are man’s ideas. The Bible warns us to be wary of man’s ideas. Some scientific ideas and theories may indeed be accurate about how God did things, or they may not. So, we must be careful not to hinge the Bible to heavily on the framework of man’s ideas.
A good example is the Big Bang. For decades this has been a staple theory that Bible believers point to as proof for the Bible. But now this theory is losing its footing in the scientific community. It is being questioned and challenged. (See this) That’s OK, it’s the nature of science. The Big Bang should not be a pillar in the foundation of our belief in the Bible. If that is how we convince people of the truth of the Bible, then when that theory is discarded or proven false, the Bible comes crashing down with it. Instead, the theory of the Big Bang can be convergent evidence that helps us understand how God may have created the universe. The Big Bang offers a rational, logical means by which God could have spoken the universe into existence. It offers a lens through which we can see how God may have accomplished the wonderful mysteries chronicled in Scripture.
The Choice to Doubt
God has chosen to reveal himself in a way that allows humans to choose to believe that he does not exist and we must respect God’s method. We cannot prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that God exists through scientific means. God leaves us the choice to doubt and we should respect this choice. God can choose to reveal himself to anyone as he did the Paul on the road to Damascus, but he often does not. Even if he did, we know that people could still choose to doubt. As Jesus himself pointed out in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, God has given signs and, even if he gave more spectacular ones, some people could still choose not to believe. (Luke 16:19-31)
It is important that youth leaders be aware of and educated on philosophy and science. The view that science and religion are at odds and that scientists are the enemy or instruments of Satan undermines the work of the Gospel. Likewise, an approach that seeks to fit everything in the Bible into modern scientific theory or fact is not helpful as it can undermine the Bible and a believer’s faith in God. Moderation and wisdom are needed when grappling with these tasks, especially by youth leaders as we influence the future generations of the Church! We must continually pray that God directs us in dealing with these issues.
What can you as a youth leader do to help your students see science and the Bible properly? Here are 5 tips:
1. Avoid presenting one particular scientific study as evidence for the Bible.
One study alone does not prove a thing. Neither does one verse alone prove a Bible truth. It is necessary to find the results of many studies before assuming something is fact or claiming it corroborates the Bible.
2. Look for resources produced by people actually trained in science and in specific fields.
There are numerous sincere Christians who are also great scientists. It is wise to rely primarily on experts in a field for accurate scientific principles that support the Bible. There are numerous books, tracts and websites that try to prove the Bible with various ‘scientific’ theories and facts. Many of these are developed and written by people who are neither trained in science nor experts in any scientific field.
Isaac Newton was trained in science and math and contributed great things in these areas! He was certainly an expert. He also wrote extensively on the Bible and Christian doctrine. (See This) Much of this writing was never published as he chose to keep it mostly to himself. It was probably wise as it was anti-Trinitarian.1 He was not an expert in theology. So to rely primarily on his writings for deciding the truthfulness of the Trinity would be unwise. It’s important to avoid spreading concepts from inexpert sources as truth or proof of the Bible.
3. Find two to three key trustworthy resources that you can use and point curious students to.
I like to use videos in my lessons from time to time. And occasionally, I have a student who is interested in researching things for themselves (always a hurray moment!). I find the following two websites highly useful for both purposes. The Institute for Creation Research www.icr.org; and Answers in Genesis www.answersingenesis.org.
4. Invite a practicing scientist or science teacher who follows the Bible to come and talk or present to your students.
5. Take your students to a presentation or museum on Creation.
The key to remember is this: It’s good when a scientific theory aligns with the Bible. But we must not try to squeeze the Bible into man’s scientific theories because they are always changing.
1 Stokes, Mitch. “Isaac Newton on the Trinity ‘Hypothesis’ Theology.” Credenda Agenda. Canon Press, 05 Apr. 2010. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://www.credenda.org/index.php/Theology/isaac-newton-on-the-trinity- hypothesis.html>.
David F. Garner is a youth ministry worker in Nashville, Tennessee. He loves to use the outdoors as a medium for teaching biblical principles just as Jesus did. He has worked in youth ministry for over nine years and especially enjoys summer camp ministry.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.