How the Bible Does (and Doesn’t) Work I
Imagine that you live in a place where people think the world is flat. Part of their evidence for believing this is that the Bible says that the world is flat.
Well, actually, that’s NOT what the Bible says. In a few places, it refers to “the four corners” of the earth: Ezekiel 7.2, Revelation 7.1 and 20.8.
I’ve never actually met any Christian who wants to argue that the earth is flat, but if one exists, I imagine that these passages are part of his argument. “The Bible says the world has four corners. It can’t be a globe, because globes don’t have four corners. Gotta be flat.”
So: you’re part of the “the Bible says that the earth is flat” club, and you win a ticket to ride on the space shuttle. What’s going to happen when you see with your own eyes that the earth isn’t flat?
You can react in several different ways.
- The Bible is obviously wrong. I can see with my own eyes that the earth isn’t flat.
- My eyes are obviously wrong. My own eyes seem to be telling me that the earth isn’t flat, but the Bible says that it is, so my eyes must be wrong.
- My understanding of what the Bible was saying on the topic must adjust. Maybe the passages that I thought were teaching that the earth was flat aren’t teaching that at all. (As Inigo Montoya says: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”)
Obviously, I think that the third option–circular as it is–is the best.
The application to the Genesis debate is clear. Many loud voices in our culture say that there’s only ONE WAY TO READ Genesis 1, and if you read it in any other way you are not respecting the authority & supernatural nature of the Bible.
My response: I do not think it means what you think it means.
My position: the Bible and science don’t contradict, except insofar as the Bible is from prescientific cultures. (That’s a faith statement. I can’t prove it.)
An example of the prescientific-ness of the Bible is the “firmament” in Genesis 1, the barrier that separated the waters above the earth from the waters on the earth.
When Genesis 1 talks about God placing a barrier there, it’s using a primitive, pre-scientific description of the precipitation cycle, the fact that there are waters above and waters below. It’s not making a scientific statement; quit looking for some canopy that covered the earth until the flood, that’s not the point.