The Bible and Inaccurate Science

The Bible is always cultural as God speaks to people in their culture and not in the vacuum of it. And so when we read it, we need to keep in mind that the Bible was written “for us,” but not “to us.” It was written for us to read, but not directly to the 21st century world. And so we can expect to find plenty of inaccurate scientific thoughts in the Bible as older cultures were generally not “scientific.”

God’s word relates to people in the scientific way they see the world, not in the way that accurate science is. For example, the world is not flat, there is no watery dome over the earth called a firmament, mountains do not hold the firmament in place, stars are not animate beings, snow is not kept in storehouses, dew is not caused by the stars, the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on the planet, and so on. But regardless of the way one sees science, the Bible authors know God is the creator of science and they see the implications. Who has control over the world? Who made the world? Who sees to the storehouses and holds the firmament and mountains and all things in place? God.

Does it matter that Jesus was scientifically wrong when he said the mustard seed is the smallest seed? No, of course not. No one he was talking to would have known anything smaller anyways. His actual point about “the kingdom of Heaven” was still made in his unscientific statement about a mustard seed. God was working within the culture and scientific thought of the people he was speaking to.

Was Paul wrong about the scientific thought about how sex and hair works (read more here)? Yes. But does that make the passage void? I’d say no. Paul’s point remains that there are still appropriate ways for men and women to dress when we gather. We just know that hair is not a sexual organ and therefore is not in need of a head covering. God cares about the point of Paul’s statement, not about Greek medical thought.

Yes, the Bible is the Spirit-inspired Word of God. And God expects us to study it with deep discernment to better understand what it actually means to say. What is cultural and what is not? And if something is only cultural, then what is its spiritual takeaway? What did God actually mean to relate to us today when speaking to an ancient culture?

Sometimes it helps to imagine the ridiculousness of God trying to explain actual science to someone in an ancient culture. It’s irrational to think of God telling someone thousands of years ago, “Look, I know the world looks flat to you, but it’s actually this thing called a globe that’s rotating in a huge expanse called space, causing the illusion that the sun is rising and going down, which is actually a ball of gas you are revolving around about every 365 days, which also causes seasons to start based on your distance from it, which—by the way—also causes the stars to appear like animate objects that are moving around in the sky, when in fact you’re the one who’s moving…” and so on. God has never worked with anyone in any culture that way. He doesn’t just download into us all actual science. And if he would have done that to someone, people would have labeled them a heretic, just like people have done to scientists throughout the years when they discover a new huge scientific truth.

Long story short, the Bible is God’s sacred word, meant to relate everything that God intends it to relate to us. And science, if I may, is generally not one of the things God cared for His sacred word to communicate.

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