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The Bible and Science
Are They in Conflict?

The Bible and its potential conflict with modern science is, believe it or not, the topic that generates the most heated discussion on this site's forum. In note after note, people return to the ongoing discussion of the Bible: it's authority (or lack thereof) and it's relevance to the problems people face today, either in their personal lives or in the public arena. One of the things that makes this conversation so vital is that people hold radically different views of the Bible. 

At one extreme are the fundamentalist Christians who view the Bible as being a totally accurate document, authoritative and reliable in every respect.  When a biblical text implies that the world was created in just seven days, these Christians believe that is exactly what happened. You can tell it's a fundamentalist Christian talking when he or she begins nearly every sentence with, "The Bible says......"

At the other end of the spectrum are those who may or may not identify themselves as Christians, but quite clearly do not regard the Bible as authoritative. To be sure, it may contain some good poetry, some profound ethical instruction, myth and legend, but when faced with a conflict between something affirmed in the Bible, and a lesson drawn from science, for example, then the science prevails. If the prevailing view in the scientific community is that the world began with a "big bang" millions and millions of years ago, then that is exactly what happened. After all, "Science says....." Such persons seldom quote from the Bible, either because they do not view its content as being reliable, or because they are unaware of what its content is.

But in searching for the truth is it necessary to choose between the Bible and modern science?

As a Presbyterian minister with a deep commitment to both Scripture and modern Science, neither of these positions is particularly appealing. On the one hand, I do not believe that the Bible contains a completely accurate account of the how this universe was created, the origin of the species, or the laws that govern the natural world. Biblical writers appear to know very little about the cause or cure of important diseases, for example. When I'm sick, the first thing I think of doing is calling my doctor. On the other hand, there are many things on which science is largely silent. What is the chief end and purpose of human life? Why was this world created in the first place? And what is our ultimate destiny as a people? Science can assist in the development of ever more effective means of birth control, but it doesn't have very much to say about the value of having a child. Or how many children you may want to have. And these are questions on which a great many of us would like to have some illumination. To such questions, the content of the Bible is pertinent indeed, for it is a document written by people who wrestled with them just as we do today.

My own view is that the greatest wisdom comes not in choosing the Bible over and against the discoveries of modern science, but rather in taking the insights of both science and the Scriptures with equal seriousness.

Rather than lifting up one source of wisdom and knowledge and putting the other down, why not draw upon both? Test one against the other, and arrive at an answer utilizing the latest scientific research and the deepest insights of the sacred Scriptures.

Still, while many of us are introduced to what science teaches in years of schooling, most Americans are woefully ignorant of the Bible. For this reason, I've assembled a collection of articles, sermons, and other resources pertaining to the Bible for your study and enjoyment. I also recommend taking a look as the special issue of Cross Currents magazine, "Returning to Scripture," which features a number of articles in which some very insightful writers draw upon the deepest resources of the scriptures to address problems of this day and time. Finally, if your are interested in the wider question of the relationship between science and religion, you might want to take a look at the book I have written: "God and Science." First published in 1986, I now working on the second edition; several updated chapters are available online now.

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.