Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 6
(March 1954): 21-23.
Karl Turekian (7) has made the statement that correlation of Scriptural details with the physical Sciences has not been universally convincing. This is an important viewpoint which merits further comment, both con and pro. But in dealing with this matter, it is worth-while to start out by discussing the slightly different but still related topic, namely, the widespread belief that the correlation is negative.
A very recently published apparent belief in negative correlation is by a scientist, N. T. Gridgeman (2). In his article on circumetrics he says that Solomon used an "unwisdomly three" value for the transcendental ratio pi. The Scriptural passage he quotes is 2 Chronicles 4:2. (It also occurs in 1 Kings 7:23.)
"Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about."
Now to the unbeliever this passage seems to mean that Solomon lived in an unscientific age and the Bible is incorrect, since the circumference should be a little more than 31 cubits, instead of only 30. This verse reminds one of the remark of Peter concerning Paul's epistles, "in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16) But as members of the American Scientific Affiliation we believe that there can be no discrepancies between Biblical statements and scientific observations when both are properly interpreted.
This passage is no exception and the dimensions given for Solomon's molten sea can be harmonized with the correct value of pi very easily. In the first place the value of pi is a never ending fraction and therefore the dimensions of either the diameter or of the circumference must of mathematical necessity be rounded off to a convenient number of decimal places. Since all the other dimensions in this passage are given in even cubits, one can expect the dimensions of the molten sea to be rounded off to even cubits. Assuming the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures and using the correct value of pi, it follows that the circumference in cubits was between 29.8451 and 30.5000, and the diameter between
Other examples, some claiming negative and some claiming positive correlations between the Bible and physical science are found in a recent series of letters in the magazine Science. (5, 8, 4, 3, 1 respectively). Rockie (5) started the debate by giving a description of a strong religious leader who believed the earth was flat. Though not directly stated, the inference was that the flatness of the earth was Biblical teaching. Wise (8) replied with the comment that the Bible itself nowhere states that the world is flat. He also quoted a number of passages concerning the shapes and physical conditions of the world, past, present and future, including Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away". Wise forgot to include Proverbs 8:27 as one of the Biblical references to the spherocity (6, 5, 8, 8a, 4, 3, 1, 7) of the earth. "When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the fact of the depth:" The word "Compass" here, as well as the word "circle" in Isaiah 40:22 ("It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth,") are both translations of the Hebrew word "chuwg" which means circle or roundness, (8, 8a, 3)
This apparently was interesting to the editors of the magazine Science Digest because they came out in May 1951 with a quote of the Wise article under the heading, "Bible Doesn't Support Flat Earth Theory". (8a) The entire article was quoted with the exception of the last paragraph: "The earth will be destroyed, but some of the inhabitants will be saved (Matt. 24:35-'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away'; John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life')."
Still later Science published a letter from Ray (4) which asserted that Wise had overlooked Revelation 7:1 "And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four comers of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree." Therefore according to Ray, the Scriptures taught that the earth was like a rectangular-shaped pancake. He apparently was ignorant of the fact that the word "corners" in Revelation 7:1 is from the Greek "gonias" which also means angles or quarters.* For example, we call an instrument for measuring angles a "goniometer". We still describe the winds as coming from four angles or directions, North, East, West, and South. A similar criticism of Ray's twisting of the Scriptures was published by the physician and scientist Macht. (3) He rebuked Ray and said that the passage in Revelation 7:1 was a repetition of similar expressions in the Hebrew Bible and "In each case the Hebrew term Kanaf is employed (pl., Kanfoth), which etymologically denotes 'wing or wings,' and the expression arba Kanfoth ha-aretz refers not to the shape of the earth but to the f our points or directions of the compass. By 'four corners of the earth' is meant, as the Authorized Version (in Isaiah 24:16) correctly puts it, the 'uttermost part of the earth'."
The latest letter in the series was from de RohanBarondes (1). He suggested that some of the passages previously quoted from the Bible were partly taken from the Epic of Izdubar, written on tablets of a Babylonian library some 3950 years ago. His opinion of the Hebrew Bible is apparently rather low, judging by his statement concerning the Babylonian stone tablets, "These are in their original form, unglossed, unaltered, and ungarbled, and in this respect Chaldean character records are actually superior to those of the Hebrews, the Greeks, or the Romans."
From the above publications we see that the viewpoints concerning the Scriptures and science are quite varied. The correlations have been considered to be negative, zero, and positive. In addition we have the viewpoint of de Rohan-Barondes that the Scriptures are at least in part garbled plagiarisms, from earlier works. Let us consider for the moment the possibility that the correlation is zero.
A born-again Christian might conceivably reason that since the Bible was written for people of many different centuries, those in earlier times would be confused by any inclusion of modem scientific data. There is probably a certain amount of truth in this viewpoint. Another likely possibility is that inclusion of universally recognized data would be tantamount to a "sign" and Christ has promised that "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah:" (Matthew 12:39, 16:4).
The position which I believe to be the correct one is that there are many correlations of a positive nature but some of them, at least, are of such a nature that only the true believer can see them. Even true believers not familiar with modern science could also overlook them. I think there are several Scriptural passages
As an example of a very definite positive -correla
tion between the Bible and physical science, let us
consider Jeremiah 31:37, "Thus saith the Lord; If
heaven above can be measured, and the foundations
of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off
all the seed of Israel for all that they have done,
saith the Lord." Now obviously this verse tells of
God's loving care for the remnant of Israel. But
since Hebrews 4:12 tells us that "the word of God is
Another passage concerning the support of the
earth is job 38:4-7, "Where wast thou when I laid
the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast
understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof,
if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line
upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof
fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When
the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of
God shouted for joy?"
quick, and powerful", it appears reasonable to believe that Jeremiah was also in harmony with the results of modern physical research, in this case the Michelson-Morley ether-drift experiment. It will be recalled that in this famous experiment Michelson and Morley tried to measure the drift of the earth through an ether, and were unable to detect such a drift, or even an ether itself. If there is no ether for the earth to float in or through, then the earth has no support. This agrees with job 26:7, which says, "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the
earth upon nothing." To say that "He hangeth the earth upon nothing" is in agreement with modern science does not in the least deny the alternate mean ing as a poetic expression of the power and majesty of God. In fact it emphasizes it, and makes it more real.
Another passage concerning the support of the earth is job 38:4-7, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
At this point we, like Job, must admit that we
cannot answer these questions. However, because the
Comforter is come (John 15:26), we can answer the
question of Agur the son of Jakeh (Proverbs 30:4),
"Who hath established all the ends of the earth?
what is his name, and what is his son's name, if
thou canst tell ? We can tell with the utmost joy that
"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and
his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The
mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince
of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
In conclusion, the main points of this paper are:
1. Since the Bible was written for people of many different centuries, probably not very much material concerning modern physical science has been included.
2. However, the Bible never is in conflict with any provable fact of modern science. The modernists' contention that the Bible is full of scientific error is likely to be an example of wresting the Scriptures unto their own destruction. Several examples of such twisting of the Scriptures have been pointed out from the recent scientific literature.
3. Furthermore, there do seem to be several instances of remarkable correlation between the Bible and physical research. Some new ones have been pointed out in this paper.
4. Most of the scientific passages include spiritual truth in addition to scientific truth, and so they had precious meaning even to people living in pre-scientific ages.
(2) Gridgeman, N. T., Scientific Monthly, 77, 31 (July 1953).
(3) Macht, D. I., Science, 114, 505 (1951).
(4) Ray, C. N., Science, 113, 610 (1951).
(5) Rockie, W. A., Science, 112, 283 (1950).
(6) Scofield, C. I., The Scofield Reference Bible. Footnote on Isaiah 40:22.
(7) Turekian, K., Jour. Am. Sci. Affiliation, 5, 21 (June, 1953).
(8) Wise, C. S., Science, 113, 128 (1951). (8a) Quotation from ibid., Science Digest, 29, 91 (May 1951).
(9) Wise, C. S., Scientific Monthly, 77, 172 (Sept. 1953).