People often read modern science into the Bible; something that is a problem according to Christian Old Testament professor Peter Enns (1). But that is hugely problematic for the “science” of the biblical writers was ancient; it reflected what they believed in in their time. For example, according to Genesis creatures didn’t evolve but were made by God as we see them, the world was flat (probably a round disk). Even above the Earth was a solid dome held up by pillars (mountains) which held back the “waters above” (the blue sky). And above all of these things was God’s throne. And below these things was the place of the dead called “Sheol.”
Today, however, we understand that the universe is bigger and operates quite differently to how our ancient biblical writers thought it did. Many Christians stumble over this because they think that to show the Bible is God’s word they need to demonstrate that it wholly consistent with modern science or, alternatively, rejecting modern science entirely in favour of their interpretation of God’s word. But, as Enns articulates, there is no need to feel embarrassed or unfaithful by acknowledging that ancient writers wrote from an ancient mind-set. When ancient Israelites wrote as they did about the physical world they were expressing their faith in God in ways that fitted their understanding. If so, then I don’t think that it is an issue if they related pre-scientific ideas for it is not the intention of the Bible and the God who revealed himself within it; a God who met his people at their time in history. Of course this invites some debate, as Richard Bushey explains:
“There is a debate within the body of Christ known as the Inerrantist Vs Infallibilist debate. The inerrantist position suggests that there are absolutely no mistakes in the Bible. It is absolutely consistent in background details, history, science, absolutely everything. On the other side of the debate, the infallibilist position suggests that God’s intention was to communicate certain truths and faith and morals. God succeeded in doing that. In this way, he did not fail. The Bible is infallible because it does not fail in what it attempts to do: teach about faith and morals” (2).
Future posts will focus on these questions.