Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at the important role that prophesy plays in determining what Christians accept as Scripture. We’ve learned about “Testing a Prophet” and have discussed both “The Test of Uniqueness” and “The Test of Detail”. This week, we’re going to look at another test applied to texts to determine whether they merit a place among our Holy writ: the test of value.
The test of value can be broken down into three primary subheadings: accuracy, authenticity, and applicability. Of all the tests of Scripture, the first of these (accuracy) is one of the most important. After all, if a writer can’t get basic verifiable facts about science, history, and geography correct – why should we believe his explanation of spiritual things? It’s a valid question and one with which Christians (and others) throughout the ages have struggled. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at these “factual” questions, beginning today with the issue of science.
It doesn’t take most of us long to recognize that what we learn in science class doesn’t always mesh with the claims of Scripture. For example, according to Genesis 1:27, God created man in His own image – with intention and purpose. According to our science text books, however, man is the result of random mutations which have taken place over the course of millennia – an accident. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that both can’t be true. So which one is? And what role does information like this play in determining whether any book should or shouldn’t be included in Scripture?
To begin with, as Christians, we need to approach anything bearing the label of “science” (whether or not it confirms our original beliefs) with a certain level of skepticism and, perhaps, even agnosticism (a willingness to openly admit that we just don’t know). Instead of jumping to conclusions about what can or can’t be true (conclusions often based upon our upbringing, system of belief, or the pressure applied by those around us), we need to be willing to do a bit of research and be open to the results.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, “science” is “a knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” The key elements of this scientific method are observation and repeatability, i.e., the person performing an experiment must be able to witness an event taking place and, through recreation of identical circumstances, reproduce that event multiple times. We see this method in action when we consider the laws of gravity. Drop an apple while standing on this planet and it will fall to the ground… over and over and over again. The result? Scientific fact.
Science is an excellent method for determining truth, but it is important to note that it isn’t the only way to determine what is or isn’t true. There are many “facts” (those surrounding historical events, for example) which cannot be either proven or disproven through scientific investigation. Whether life came in existence through evolution is an excellent example. While we do observe minor adaptive changes (micro-evolution) throughout creation, no scientist has yet been able to actually “create” living, breathing organisms out of chemicals in a laboratory. Nor has anyone witnessed reptiles actively transforming into birds or apes becoming human (though they can be trained to interact in human-like ways). The initial creation of life, like other historical events, is beyond the realm of science.
1 Timothy 6:20 warns that we should avoid, “…worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”.” The old King James Version puts it, “… keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” This doesn’t mean that Christians ought to reject scientific findings (quite the opposite!), but it does mean that we need to be careful to ensure that what we accept as science actually is science.
So what happens if genuine science does contradict the claims of a book which declares itself to be Scripture? Then the answer is simple: the book of Scripture must be discarded. It has been discredited as the Word of God. And this is one of the reasons that the Bible stands as it does today.