Old Testament Study – Science – Some General Comments
We will bring to a close this section on science and the creation with the following comments:
To begin, it must be always remembered that the goals, subject matter and points of view of science and the Bible differ completely. The natural sciences study the universe and its physical laws in the attempt to understand the environment, to control it, and ultimately to alter man's relationship to it. Science begins with the universe. The Bible, conversely, begins with God and with God's revelation of himself. It discusses the universe only in terms of its relationship to God, and its goal is to help mankind better fulfill the purposes for which God has created it.
Natural science, then, begins with the universe and with natural processes. Its methodology is scientific, insisting that one must begin from that which can be observed and study only that. Its presuppositions are that the universe is orderly and consistent, that certain predictions can be made about it and its behavior, that our minds and our abilities can give us a trustworthy picture of the universe, and that the only truth which is to be considered reliable scientifically is that which can be reproduced and tested by independent observation. This is precisely, then, the nature of the scientist's beef with creation: it cannot be reproduced or independently observed. The same is true of the miraculous and of religious experience in general: one can't study it in a laboratory setting or reproduce it at will.
What are the limitations of science? Its knowledge of truth is limited to the identification of that which either cannot be proven or disproven. Natural science cannot prove the existence of anything, though it can disprove some things. Even though it can demonstrate that perhaps certain hypotheses or occurrences must be false because it is known that they can't work that way, it has not necessarily proven what will work. In addition, science cannot deal with aesthetics, distinguishing between a beautiful sunrise and an ugly one; this lies beyond the bounds of science. And it cannot study phenomena which lie outside the universe. Since God, then, lies outside the universe as we know it, science can have nothing to say about him. Since science cannot deal with that which cannot be reproduced, it must remain silent on questions of morality and ethics and of ultimate causes. It may go so far as to discover evidence reflecting a plan or a purpose for the universe, but it cannot by itself discover what that plan or purpose may be.
The Bible, on the other hand, starts with the presupposition of the knowability of God, and assumes that the universe is dependent on God for both its initial and continued existence. What can we say about the Bible? First, it is not a textbook on science, and does not take a scientific point of view. It lacks both the scientist's precise terminology and his goals. Its accounts are religious in nature, and they are presented in the language which God chose: the language of revelation, of a distinct people in a specific time and place. It is the everyday language of the observer, and is general rather than technical. What is important in the biblical records is not what scientific data may be gleaned from it, but the truths contained in it. These include the following:
God exists, and he is sovereign over all. The universe exists only as a result of the will and the action of God, who created it ex nihilo and ad extra. There is an orderliness and a sequence to creation (though we don't necessarily know what that sequence is). In the beginning, everything was pronounced good; pain, evil, et al, were not inherent to creation but were introduced from a source outside it. There is something unique about man – namely, that he was created 'in the image of God'. And, finally, man's purpose is to glorify God, and to exercise dominion over the universe God created.
Computers for Christ – Chicago