Christ and Modern Science
March 29th, 1972 @ 12:00 PM
CHRIST AND MODERN SCIENCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:21
3-29-72 12:00 p.m.
The theme for our pre-Easter services this year is “Christ and Contemporary Crises.” On Monday it was Christ and the State, Christ in political government. Yesterday it was Christ and War, Christ and martial conflict. Tomorrow it is Christ and Communism. And Friday, the day that He was crucified, it will be Christ and Our Last Enemy, Death. Today it is Christ and Modern Science. Our Lord is identified with His Word. The three are one: the incarnate Word, the spoken Word, and the written Word. To dishonor the incarnate Word we have but to disparage the written Word; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. “And I saw Him, as He appeared in heaven; and He had on His vesture a name written, The Word of God” [Revelation 19:11, 13].
When we therefore find the mind of Christ in the written Word, we find the mind of the Lord Himself. The revelation of Christ is fully disclosed in the Book, the Bible that I hold in my hands. Therefore, when we shall see the attitude of men and the response of the Bible to our scientific world today, we shall find in it the full revealed mind of our Lord.
In the third verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, there is a verse that expresses the atomic theory of the molecular structure of the world beyond anything that any man has ever written in any book of physics: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, and that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” [Hebrews 11:3]. And that last clause, in the Greek language in which the author of the Hebrews words it, is one of the finest statements of the molecular atomic theory of the composition of matter to be found in any book of physics.
Now the modern attack against the revelation of God in the Scriptures is incessant and furious, and it has swept away most of our academic and theological world. I have in my hands a quotation that I copied from an eminent theologian who, apologizing for the Bible, said, and I quote from him: “Of course, there are scientific errors in the Bible. However, we can excuse such mistakes on the ground that the Bible is not a textbook of science, and therefore we do not expect it to be scientifically accurate.” Now, to him, that may be a part of an acceptable faith, but to me, if there are scientific errors in this Bible, then it is not the infallible Word of God; it is rather the speculations of men. For God knew these scientific truths from the beginning, and if God is the author of the Book [2 Timothy 3:16], and if holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:20-21], if in the revelation of God there are scientific errors in the Bible, then it is a fallible human book, and it is not the infallible revelation of the mind of God.
Now, before we agree with our eminent theologian who said that the Bible is filled with scientific errors, let us be sure about two things. One: let us be sure about our scriptural facts. There was a great lecturer who recently died who, whenever he went into a city, would publish in the newspapers a little ad saying that he’d give to anyone a thousand dollars who could point out to him any fact in the Scripture that contradicted a fact of science. Well, in Detroit, Michigan there was a school teacher who wrote to the professor—the lecturer, the Bible teacher—and claimed the thousand dollars, “for,” she said, “it is scientifically proved that apples cannot grow in the Mesopotamian Valley. Now, it is a scriptural fact that the paradise of Eden was located in the Mesopotamian Valley. Therefore, this is a contradiction of science, for Adam and Eve, the Bible says, ate an apple, and no apples can grow in the Mesopotamian Valley.”
Well, the professor wrote back, the teacher wrote back and said, “The Bible does not say that Adam and Eve ate an apple.” There was a long period of time, and she finally replied and said, “I cannot find it in the Bible where it says Adam and Eve ate an apple, but I know it is so because my teacher in college said that they ate an apple.” Let’s be sure first of our scriptural facts.
Let us be, second, let us be certain of our scientific facts. Now science changes. It changes every day. Science is like a chicken: it is always molting. Last Sunday night in our pulpit, a young preacher stood there and said that he had read a book in which the author had avowed that a man today, who has a PhD in science, in three years the thing is obsolete. And I can understand that. Science changes so furiously and so rapidly that nobody would teach a book on science in any school today that has any age to it at all.
I read one time where in the library in the Louvre, in Paris, there are three and one-half miles of book shelves that are obsolete, and made so by scientific discoveries in the last half a century. What if the Bible had been updated to the scientific discoveries and knowledge of the day, say, in 1000 BC? Or what if it had been updated to, say, 500 AD? Or what if it had been brought up to the latest discoveries of science in, say, 1500 AD? Or what if they had rewritten it to conform to the finest science even at the beginning of our century? Had that been done any time through the ages, this Book I hold in my hand would now be a useless specimen of obsolete absurdities. But the marvel and the miracle of the Bible is this: though written by forty men over a period of a thousand five hundred years, and though having been written something like two thousand years ago—the last volume in it—yet today it is abreast of every scientific discovery and is as fresh and as new as today’s newspaper’s headline.
For example, look at the background against which the Holy Scriptures were written, and the weird, monstrous ideas that obtained in that day, but none of which you will find in the immutable Word of God. Moses, for example, the Bible says, was trained and educated in all of the science and arts and wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. Now through archaeological discoveries, we can read the actual textbooks that Moses studied. The ancient Egyptians had a cosmogony, a science of the beginning of the world. And in that cosmogony of those textbooks that Moses studied, there, the ancient Egyptian was taught that the beginning of the world was like this: there the great winged egg that was flying through space, and after the process of mitosis was complete, the world hatched out of that winged egg. So I pick up the Bible and I expect to read from its sacred pages all about that flying ovoid. But instead from the pen of Moses, I read the ten most comprehensive words in human speech: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. Against the background of the superstition of his day, the Bible being written has none of those monstrous ideas reflected in its pages.
Take again, much of the Bible was written against the background of the culture and science of the Babylonian kingdom. Now, the Babylonians had a cosmogony and an anthropology. The Babylonians taught in the finest science of their day, the Babylonians taught that there was a chaos monster by the name of Tiamat, and there was a great god by the name of Marduk. And in the battle between Tiamat and Marduk, Marduk was victorious, and Marduk flattened out the body of Tiamat—according to the finest scientific speculations and hypotheses of the Babylonians—Marduk flattened out the body of Tiamat, and that became the earth. Then the science of Babylon said, “And Marduk spit, and where he spat, men sprang up. And then the men spit, and where they spat, women sprang up. And then the women spit, and where they spat, animals sprang up.” When I read that, I thought of that old, hackneyed story about the sign in the warehouse: “Don’t smoke, remember the Chicago fire,” and a wag wrote underneath, “Don’t spit, remember the Johnstown flood.”
None of that do you find in the Holy Word of God. Those weird and monstrous and superstitious teachings of the ancient day, not a syllable of it do you find reflected on the pages of the sacred Scriptures. Rather, rather, according to the latest, finest scientific knowledge will you find the Word of God revealed.
Look at some of it. Here in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Job it says, “God hangeth the earth upon nothing” [Job 26:7]. When that was written, and a thousand years before and a thousand years after, there was not a scientist in the earth that believed but that the earth was somehow held up by some solid kind of a foundation. The Egyptians, for example, in their cosmogony, believed that the earth was sustained by five great pillars: one at each corner of the earth and one in the middle. And I can kind of understand how they think they could crawl to the end of the earth and spot those four poles at each of the corners, but I tell you, that one in the middle is a sheer speculation. What did the Greeks teach about the upholding of the earth? Why, your finest Greek scientist taught that the earth was held up on the shoulders of a gigantic giant named Atlas. But the Hindus had the best speculative theory of all: they said that the earth was held up on the back of a giant elephant who was standing on the back of a giant turtle that was swimming in a cosmic sea, and when the turtle moved, that caused the earthquakes in the earth. Sounds pretty good, but that’s not in the Bible, for in the Scriptures it says, “God hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7].
Take again: I turn one page of this sacred Book; it says, “God makes the weight for the winds” [Job 28:25]. Why, it was not until 1643 that Torricelli, inventing the barometer, found out that air had weight. Until then no one ever dreamed of such a thing. But here in the Bible, centuries and centuries before Torricelli, “God giveth weight to the wind.”
Or I turn the page again, here to the fortieth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, and it refers to the Lord God as “seated above the circle of the earth” [Isaiah 40:22]. No one believed in that day, nor for centuries after, that the earth was round, and yet the Bible refers to the great Lord God who “sits above the circle of the earth,” abreast of the latest, finest scientific knowledge.
We had an astronaut—and by the way, his picture is in the paper this morning; he was here speaking in Dallas—he spoke in our pulpit a few months ago, and he was describing his walk on the moon. He is the eighth man to walk on the surface of our satellite up there in the sky. And as all eight of those men from time to time visited the moon, it was intensely interesting to me to read the scientific discoveries that they brought back to the earth as they analyzed the rocks and as they described the typography of the moon. And they said things like this: to their amazement, the moon dust is little glass beads, little tiny glass beads. To their amazement, the rocks of the moon are, in many instances, splattered with glass, and that there is a great amount of titanium—a chemical in the structure of the rocks of the moon—and, of course, finding there’s no vegetation and no atmosphere, and that the moon surface is very rough and channeled, now you put all those things together. Look at that: glass, glass beads, the rocks splashed with glass. If you have a movie screen in your home, if you have a movie screen in your home, there are little glass beads stuck against that screen in order to reflect the image, the light. Titanium is a chemical that will reflect light better than a diamond, and there’s no vegetation, there’s no atmosphere to hinder the reflection of the light, and the rough surface of the moon acts in the same way as the channel does, the channeled glass on the headlight of your automobile. In other words, the moon is nothing other than one great vast, giant reflector! That is exactly what the first chapter of Genesis and the seventeenth verse says. God put it up there in the sky to be a giant reflector, “to give light on the earth by night” [Genesis 1:16-17]. Did you know, if I had nerve, I would write to the government of the United States and say, “Had you asked me, I could have saved the American taxpayers seven billion dollars.” Just exactly what God’s Book says.
There will never be a scientific discovery that contradicts the Word of God, for the Lord who wrote it knew all of those scientific facts in the beginning, just as there has never been a spade of earth turned by an archaeologist that denies the historical facts of the Word of God, nor will there ever be a spade of earth that is turned that interdicts the revelation of this Holy Book. For the mind of God that inspired it [2 Timothy 3:16] is infallible, and the men who wrote it under the Holy Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:20-21] wrote infallibly. It is our eternal guide of truth and safety to the world that is yet to come.
And that leads me to a final observation. I realize, as do you, that when I hold the Book in my hand I am not holding a textbook of science as such. I do not look upon it as a textbook of physics or of chemistry, nor even of anthropology or cosmogony. It never occurs to me in those terms. When I think of the Bible I think of the goodness and mercy of God in revealing to us how someday we can see His face and live [Revelation 22:3-5].
Last year, Pat Zondervan, who comes to our church every year to make an appeal for the Gideons, buying Bibles to place in all of these motel rooms and hotel rooms, classrooms in school, Pat Zondervan came last year. And in his little talk to our people he held up a New Testament. When he held it up I could see a big aperture through the middle of it. As he held it up he said, “This is a Gideon New Testament that was taken off of the fallen dead body of a boy from Georgia, a marine who was killed in Vietnam, and the chaplain found the boy, the Bible bathed in blood. And the chaplain gave it to me.” When Pat had finished his little talk about the Bible, he came and sat down in the pulpit by my side, and I turned to him and said, “Sir, if you don’t mind, could I hold that little Book in my hands?” He put it in my hands, and I looked again at the big bullet hole through the middle of it that had pierced the heart of that boy from Georgia. I looked at its pages; they were literally stained with blood. The blood of the boy had poured through all over that little Bible. I turned to the last page, and there in his own handwriting the lad had penned these words: “Today I, Wilton Thomas, take Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.” He had dated it and then signed it with his name. That’s why God gave us the Book.
When Sir Walter Scott was dying he said to his son-in-law Lockhart, “Bring me the Book.” And Lockhart said, “Father, what book?” In the great library of the Scottish bard, “What book?” And Sir Walter Scott replied, “Son, there’s just one Book.” And the son-in-law brought the dying poet the Bible.
“There’s just one Book,” cried the dying sage.
“Read me the old, old, story,”
And the winged words that can never fade
Wafted his soul to glory.
There’s just one Book. And our Lord, in the persuasion and the assurance that when we read the Bible, the Word of God, we’re reading the Word and the mind of God, that in this holy and sacred volume we have the assurance that here is God’s revealed will for us, its hope, its comfort, its assurance is ours now and forever.
Bless us, Master, as in faith we look up to Thee. In Thy dear name, amen.