How should we interpret Scripture and what should we use to do it? Should we use science to help better understand the Bible or should theology help us better understand science?
I think it is necessary to start with a very important point. There is a difference between data and interpretations. God has revealed two “books” to us. He has given us the book of nature and the book of the Bible. The words of the Bible and the record of nature is the data. This data does not change. However, our interpretation of this data, which is theology and science, might change and may be wrong.
So I want to suggest that it is possible to reinterpret Scripture without changing the words of the Bible. Instead of reinterpretation changing the Bible, it is us correcting our theology and something we misunderstood about Scripture.
But isn’t science man’s knowledge and the Bible is God’s word? Doesn’t this mean that God’s word is always right and science is the one that is wrong?
It is common for people to raise objections to the record of nature and the words of the Bible being in agreement. They say that these two records are contradictory because at the surface we see two different messages. Two reasons are generally given as to why these two records seem to contradict. First is the fact that Genesis 3:17-19 and Romans 8:20-22 teach that the ground has been cursed. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, the world has been broken, groaning, and corrupted. The second reason is that man is fallen. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful and wicked. We also see in Ecclesiastes 7:20 that there is no righteous man who never sins and always does good. So, the argument is made that sinful, deceitful, and fallen men cannot correctly understand a broken world. The Bible is the uncorrupted, true, and eternal word of God. Therefore, the record of nature cannot compare to the perfect, inspired word of God.
3 Ways Science and Theology Relate
The first view called compartmentalism. This view teaches that science and theology are completely different areas of knowledge and that they need to stay separate.
A second view is called Biblicism. This view teaches that the only source of reliable knowledge is the Bible. This is usually argued for based on what I mentioned before about the world being broken and man being corrupt. In this view, we have to study the world through the lens of the Bible.
The third view is dual revelationsim. This view teaches that both God’s word and God’s world are consistent and complementary revelations when properly interpreted. These two revelations are also referred to as general and special revelation.
When we recognize that both nature and the Bible are revelations from God, then we need to understand that each one should be taken with equal weight. By equal I mean
that we have to recognize that the two revelations are different and that we have to understand each one the best that we can. Both revelations are used to understand God more because they are two different ways that God has revealed himself to us.
There are many things about nature that the Bible doesn’t speak about and there are theological issues that we could never discover in nature. We will never learn that Jesus is the Messiah or the doctrine of sanctification from nature. Also, the Bible doesn’t speak about other planets or scientific discoveries like atoms. God didn’t reveal everything to us in the Bible. Therefore, it is important to understand where each revelations is limited. So if general revelation gives us insight into special revelation, then it should be considered and inform our interpretation Scripture. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about how creation took place. So if we know things from general revelation that align with Scripture, then we should be able to us it to correct our interpretation.
Understand that we are not changing God’s word with general revelation but only our interpretation of God’s word. If fallen man can get correct interpretations of Scripture, then we should be able to get correct interpretations of nature.
Which view do you hold to when it comes to God’s revelations and our interpretations?