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Science in the Bible
One of the most amazing evidences of the divine inspiration of the Bible is its scientific accuracy. There are many unexpected scientific truths that have lain hidden within its pages for thousands of years, only to be recognized and appreciated in recent times. These principles are not expressed in modern technical jargon, of course, but nevertheless are presented accurately and beautifully, indicating remarkable understanding of nature by these ancient authors far in advance of their "discovery" by modern scientists. Let us look at a few of these.
Consider the field of astronomy, for example. Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the stars, and many astronomers have tried to count them. Ptolemy counted 1,056. Tycho Brahe cataloged 777, and Johannes Kepler counted 1,005. The total number of stars visible to the naked eye is perhaps 4,000, counting all that are visible from every point on earth.
Yet the Bible had said that "the host of heaven cannot be numbered" (Jeremiah 33:22), while also comparing "the sand which is upon the sea shore" to "the stars of the heaven" in multitude (Genesis 22:17). Before the invention of the telescope, this must have seemed like a serious scientific mistake in the Bible. Now, however, it must be recognized as a supernatural scientific insight. Astronomers estimate that there are at least 1026 stars (that is, a hundred-million-billion-billion stars), which reflects the same order of magnitude as the number of grains of sand on the earth. Truly, the stars cannot be numbered. If one could count 10 numbers per second, it would take him at least a thousand-million-billion years to count up to 1026.
Look also at 1 Corinthians 15:41: "One star differeth from another star in glory." This must also have once seemed like a mistake, since every star (except the sun) looks just like a point of light, even through a telescope. Now, of course, it is known that there are many different types of stars, and no two stars are alike.
As far as our solar system is concerned, consider Psalm 19, which is often cited as an example of the Bible's "prescientific" perspective. In speaking of the sun, the psalmist says: "His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof" (Psalm 19:6). It is claimed by critics that the writer of this verse must have believed in the unscientific notion that the sun revolves around the earth.
This claim is both unjust and unscientific itself, however. We still use words and phrases like "sunrise" and "sunset" simply because from our natural viewpoint, the sun does rise in the morning, move across the sky, and set in the evening. Navigators, surveyors, and astronomers commonly base their calculations on the assumption that the earth is the center of a great celestial sphere, along the surface of which, in ordered paths, move the sun, moon, planets, and stars. And as far as any practical usage is concerned, that is true. On this assumption, courses can be plotted, positions can be determined, and scores of other practical applications can be made.
As a matter of fact, however, the words of the psalmist may be even more scientific than he could have known. Studies of modern galactic astronomy have indicated that the sun is indeed moving around a center in the Milky Way galaxy in a gigantic orbit that would require two million centuries to complete, even at the tremendous tangential speed of 600,000 miles per hour. Furthermore, it is well known that our own galaxy is moving with respect to other galaxies. The sun's circuit is from one end of the heavens to the other.
In fact, no one knows where the center of the universe is. For all we know to the contrary, it could even be the earth. Every object is moving with respect to this unknown center, so that all motions must be measured in terms of "relative" motion, measured with respect to some assumed point of zero motion. This arbitrary reference point normally should be the point that makes the calculation easiest; and, in most cases, that would be on the earth's surface at the location of the observer. Consequently, the psalmist—instead of using prescientific language—was using the most scientific language he could have used in describing the motion of the sun relative to the earth.
It is wonderful to realize that the great Astronomer and Mathematician who created the heavens, setting all the stars and galaxies in their appointed courses and who "calleth them all by their names" (Psalm 147:4), is the same loving God who calls you and me to eternal life in Jesus Christ.
The science of geophysics ("physics of the earth") deals with the earth's shape, structure, and force systems. In this field also the biblical perspective is surprisingly modern.
It has been only a few centuries since the scientists and teachers all believed in a flat earth, and those intellectuals may well have thought the Bible was unscientific when it described a spherical earth. Isaiah, speaking of God, said: "it is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth" (Isaiah 40:22). The word translated "circle" is the Hebrew khug, a more exact connotation of which is "sphericity" or "roundness." It is also used in Proverbs 8:27: "He set a compass upon the face of the depth [or 'deep']." The same word is here translated "compass," referring to the surface of the ocean taking on a spherical shape (the so-called "sea level") when God created it.
Today, of course, scientists all agree with the Bible in its teaching of a round earth. Sometimes critics claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth, but there is no such verse in the Bible.
Consider also Job 26:7: "[God] ... hangeth the earth upon nothing." This is another example of twentieth-century science in the Bible. Even the existence of the hypothetical space substance called ether is rejected by most physicists and astronomers today. The force called gravity is invoked to account for the earth's affinity to the sun, but that doesn't explain anything, since no one knows what gravity is or why it works. How such a mysterious "action at a distance" could keep the earth attached to the sun, 93 million miles away, is quite unknown. There is no better explanation than that of Scripture: "He ... hangeth the earth upon nothing."
The field of hydrology ("science of water") is one with many biblical contacts, because of the major importance of water in the life of mankind. The most important and fundamental principle of this field is the water cycle—the remarkable mechanism by which water vapor is condensed and precipitated as rain or snow, then drained off through the groundwater and river system into the ocean, from which it is raised into the skies by evaporation and carried back over the continents by great atmospheric wind circulations.
The water cycle and its accompanying global atmospheric circulation have only been demonstrated scientifically in recent centuries, but they were set forth in the Bible ages ago. There are many relevant Bible references, all of which are fully in accord with scientific concepts, but one passage is especially comprehensive. This is Ecclesiastes 1:6–7, set down by Solomon three thousand years ago: "The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again." No wonder we speak of the wisdom of Solomon! This is a succinct yet comprehensive outline of the water cycle of the earth.
As an example of the many other references to one or another phase of the hydrologic cycle, look at the words of Elihu in Job 36:27–29: "For he draweth up the drops of water, which distil in rain from his vapor, which the skies pour down and drop upon man abundantly. Yea, can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?" (ASV)
There is still much for man to learn concerning the details of the water cycle. Each phase of the cycle is absolutely necessary for life to exist on the earth and offers abundant testimony to its origin at the hands of an infinitely wise and beneficent Creator. With so many references in the Bible to water in all its aspects, it is significant that there are none that conflict with modern hydrologic science.
The great truth revealed in Leviticus 17:11 and a number of other Scripture verses concerning the preeminent importance of blood in the biological mechanism was written thousands of years in advance of the discovery of the circulation of the blood by William Harvey in 1616: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood."
Continuance of life is now known to depend upon the continued supply of oxygen, water, and food to the cells of the body. This essential function is accomplished in a marvelous manner by the blood as it circulates constantly throughout the body, year after year. The role of blood in combating disease-producing organisms and in repairing injured tissues is one of the most significant discoveries of medical science, and the use of blood transfusions as one of the most beneficial treatments for many medical needs further testifies to the supreme importance of the blood in the life of the flesh.
The Word of God was scientifically accurate in this great biological truth long before scientists discovered and elaborated it. Yet it was given primarily to teach an even greater spiritual truth—the necessity of the shedding of blood in sacrifice for the remission of sins. The blood, which is the channel of life, becomes also the carrier of disease and infection through the body when they gain the upper hand in the system. Physical life and death symbolize spiritual life and death, just as physical disease and injury symbolize the spiritual disease of sin.
As the infection of sin spreads throughout the soul, it will eventually, "when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15), and this is spiritual death, eternal separation from God in hell. If spiritual life is to be created and maintained, it must come from outside. It must be life untainted with sin and containing the power to combat the sin-disease in the spiritually dying soul. Figuratively speaking, a blood transfusion is essential from a qualified donor whose blood possesses the purity and efficacy required for the cleansing and healing of the mortally sin-sick soul.
This is just a glimpse of the tremendous spiritual (and even biological) meaning in the biblical doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). This was the symbolism of the animal sacrifices in the Mosaic law. Its ultimate fulfillment was in the sacrificial death of the Son of God for the sins of the world. Jesus said, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
By virtue of the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ, each one who receives by faith His life—poured out unto death but raised up again by the power of God—receives forgiveness and cleansing of all sin and, in fact, receives Christ Himself. All this is portrayed by the shed blood of Christ. Christ said, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.... He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (John 6:54, 56).
The Basic Laws of Science
Even more significant than the many specific facts of science in the Bible is the remarkable truth that the most universal principles of science are also there. These are the laws of energy conservation and deterioration. The law of energy conservation states that in a closed system, in any transformation of energy from one form of energy into another (and everything that happens involves such energy transformations), the total amount of energy in the system remains unchanged. No energy is either created or destroyed. A similar law is the law of mass conservation, which states that although matter may be changed in state, density, or form, its total mass is unchanged. In other words, these basic laws teach that no creation or destruction of matter or energy is now being accomplished anywhere in the physical universe. Since matter and energy are themselves interchangeable under certain conditions, the two laws can be combined into the principle that the total of mass-plus-energy is conserved.
These conservation laws were not demonstrated quantitatively by scientists until the nineteenth century. However, the Bible has taught for thousands of years the same great truth—that genuine creation is no longer taking place, contrary to the evolutionary philosophy of continuing creation. For example, Hebrews 4:3 says, "The works were finished from the foundation of the world." The account of creation concludes with the summary statement: "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made" (Genesis 2:1–2).
This law of mass-and-energy conservation, also known as the first law of thermodynamics, is generally recognized as the most important and basic law of science.
The second law of thermodynamics, almost as great in significance as the first, states the corollary principle of mass/energy deterioration. In any energy conversion, although the total amount of energy remains unchanged (Hebrews 1:3 says that Christ is "upholding all things by the word of his power"), the amount of usefulness and availability that the energy possesses is always decreased. This principle is also called the law of entropy increase; entropy being a sort of mathematical abstraction that is actually a measure of the nonavailability of the energy of a system.
Thus, in any isolated system (that is, a system from which all external sources of energy are shut off), the energy of the system is conserved in quantity but is continually being degraded in quality as long as any energy change is taking place in the system. Some of the available energy is always dissipated in nonrecoverable friction or heat energy. Since all activities of nature (including biological activities) involve such energy transfers, there must be an ever-decreasing supply of usable energy for maintaining all natural processes in the universe as a whole.
This law of entropy increase is responsible for the fact that no machine can be constructed to 100 percent efficiency and for the fact that a perpetual motion machine is impossible. Practically all the earth's energy comes, or has come, from the sun, but most of the tremendous energy output of the sun is dissipatedin space in the form of unrecoverable heat energy. This prodigious waste of energy cannot last forever. Eventually, barring supernatural intervention, the sun must burn itself out, and then all activity on the earth must cease as well. The same principle applies to all the stars of the universe, so that the physical universe is, beyond any question, growing old, wearing out, and running down.
But this in turn means that the universe had a definite beginning. If it is growing old, it must once have been young; if it is wearing out, it must first have been new; if it is running down, it must originally have been "wound up." In short, this law of energy degeneration conveys us inexorably back to the necessary truth of the existence of a Creator and a definite creation, which must have been taken place in the past but which, according to the conservation principle, is not continuing in the present.
Scripture frequently refers to this principle of universal deterioration. For example, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end" (Psalm 102:25–27).
There are many other similar passages in the Bible (e.g., Romans 8:20–22). Thus, the Scriptures teach what science has only discovered in the past hundred years or so—namely, that in spite of an original completed creation, the universe is aging and heading inexorably toward ultimate physical death.
However, the Bible also reveals something that science could never predict: a future supernatural intervention of the Creator in His creation, destruction of the present system, and creation of a "new heaven and a new earth," which "shall remain" and "wherein dwelleth righteousness" (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13).
Excerpted from Science and the Bible by Henry M. Mooris. Copyright © 1979 Henry M. Morris. Excerpted by permission of Moody Press.
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