The Bible and Modern Science
December 28th, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
THE BIBLE AND MODERN SCIENCE
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:21
12-28-80 10:50 a.m.
The title of message is Modern Science and The Bible. It is next to the last in the long series of doctrinal messages that the pastor is delivering on bibliology. After one more message entitled The Famine for the Word of God, we will begin the series on “Theology, The Doctrine Of God”—the existence, the being of God. This one on the Bible, Modern Science And The Bible. In the passage that you read:
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some avowing have erred concerning the faith.
[1 Timothy 6:20-21]
That is a good translation, “the oppositions of science falsely so called” [1 Timothy 6:20]. The Greek word for “false” is pseudo. And we take it into the English language exactly spelled as it is in Greek: pseudo. And then nomos is the word for “name” or “calling.”
So pseudonomos, falsely named, falsely called, and then the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis; a gnostic, one who proposes to know.
So pseudonomos gnosis is the word he uses there—falsely named, falsely called knowledge, “which some avowing have erred concerning the faith” [1 Timothy 6:21].
I suppose it would be almost universal that any student and anyone who reads comes across the declaration that the Bible is full of scientific errors. One of the most unusual comments that I ever read is by Dr. Samuel Elder. He is a research physicist at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. And this is a quote out of an address that he made:
If you have intellectual problems about the Bible or about the Person of the Lord Jesus, the chances are it is because you know too little of God’s Word and not because you know too much science. The man who asseverates that there is a conflict between true science, true knowledge, and the revelation of the Word of God has a difficult—I mean an inordinate, mountainous, difficult assignment. On the other hand, the man who says that the Bible corroborates all of the true findings of science, and that science corroborates all the revelations of God, that man has an easy task.
It is like defending the truth. You don’t even have to remember it. You just do. If it is true, it is easily presented and easily defended. So the truth that the Bible corroborates true science and true science corroborates the Bible, that’s easy. But the other, I say, is very difficult. If you ever set yourself to show or to prove or to demonstrate that there is an error in the Bible or that there is a conflict between the discoveries of true science and the revelation of God, you have an enormous assignment.
Now to illustrate it: on the thirty-first day of October in 1939, the following notice appeared in the Herald Tribune, the daily newspaper at that time in New York City. Here’s the advertisement:
Reverend Harry Rimmer speaks nightly this week and Sunday at Central Baptist Church, 92nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, on the harmony of science and Scripture. He offers one thousand dollars for a scientific error in the Bible.
In New York, there was a man by the name of William Floyd who read this and demanded the money, alleging a number of scientific errors in the Bible. He could not prove it to the satisfaction of the preacher or of the Baptist congregation, so he entered suit in the courts of New York against both the evangelist, Harry Rimmer, and the Central Baptist Church.
Now the trial was held on February 15, 1940, in the court of New York City. Mr. William Floyd, the plaintiff, brought in four chief witnesses besides himself, to establish his case. One was Rabbi Baruch Braunstein of an ultraliberal Hebrew temple. A second was Reverend John Haynes Holmes, who was—when I was growing up—was a household word, pastor of the First Community Church. The third was Reverend Charles Francis Potter, who was pastor of the First Humanist Church. And the last, the fourth, was Mr. Woolsey Teller, who was vice-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism—all of them of the city of New York.
So the trial begins, and the first to appear was William Floyd, the plaintiff. The large part of his testimony and his case was an elaborate argument that the Bible makes absurd statements on the number of quail referred to in Numbers 11:31-32. And this is the passage:
There went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side—
about twenty-five miles on this side—
and as it were a day’s journey on this side—
about twenty-five miles on that side—
round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth—
now that’s the passage—
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails.
Now he says that this means a deposit of quail about four feet deep covering all the surface of the earth for three thousand, one hundred thirty-six square miles. And in his brief, item F: A, B, C, D, E, F—the F of this part of the complaint reads, and I quote from it:
The cubical contents of this mass of quails would be approximately three hundred five billion, two hundred fifty-eight million, five hundred fifty-two thousand, four hundred forty-eight cubic feet of quails, estimating that each quail pressed in the mass would occupy about three inches by three inches of space, thus displacing some twenty-seven cubic inches of space per quail in the pile. And the total number of quails, therefore, in this mass or mess of quails would be nineteen trillion, five hundred thirty-eight billion, four hundred sixty-seven million, three hundred fifty-six thousand, six hundred seventy-two quails presented to the eye of the fundamentalist faith.
Now that was one of the things that he alleged in the Bible. Well, it just happens to be that the Bible was printed in, was written in Hebrew and not in English. And what the Hebrew says was that the quail—blowing in from Egypt and lost and confused across the Red Sea in that wilderness—that they were there in the camp about two cubits high above the face of the earth [Numbers 11:31]. That is, the coveys of quail were flying lost without form. They were flying about two cubits high above the earth, and the people could easily catch them with their hands or knock them down with a stick. The last thing the Bible would suggest is what this Mr. Floyd was avowing, that the birds were killed and they were plucked and they were dressed and they were packed together like sardines in a can. They were rather just flying low so the people could easily catch them and find them.
Well, the second witness was Rabbi Braunstein. He started off by admitting he knew nothing, practically, about science, but he was a member of the liberal wing of Hebrew scholarship and knew a great deal. And he alleged that the Bible contradicts itself as to the animals in the ark saying there were two of each kind in one place and seven of each kind in another.
Now when the counsel for the defense, the Mr. Honorable James E. Bennett, cross examined the rabbi, he changed his testimony when asked to read Genesis 7:1 and 2, which says, “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of the beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” And this rabbi then declared he was very positive that the Bible was correct. So he turned out to be a witness for the defense.
Now the next witness was this famous Reverend John Haynes Holmes, pastor of the First Community Church. He admitted he was not qualified to speak as an expert in any branch of science, and his ideas concerning the biblical account of creation were merely his own opinions, and he could not qualify to speak for anyone else. And all of this did not constitute legal evidence according to the judge, so he was dismissed.
Now the next one was Reverend Charles Francis Potter, who was pastor of the First Humanist Church. He admitted that he could not qualify as an expert on the various branches of science which the judge considered necessary for a witness to know, so he could not speak with any authority. But he went ahead and testified, and he stated his case—namely, that there was no flood as described in Genesis. The judge then asked him if he was there, and if not, where did he get his information. These courts are something. The preacher said he did get his information from reading and studying and finally admitted his opinions were merely his own.
Then the Honorable James E. Bennett, counsel for the defense, cross-examined him, and the pastor of the First Humanist Church admitted he did not know whether there is a God, since he was an agnostic and ignorant on that subject. He admitted he never prayed, and that he thought God was just an idea.
Then the next day, Friday, February 16, 1940, the vice-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism was a witness, Woolsey Teller. He was very positive and confident in repeating the atheistic slurs and insults against the Bible made familiar by the long line of atheists from Celsus to Voltaire to Ingersoll. He claimed to be an accredited scientist, but admitted he had never graduated from any college and was entirely self-educated by reading books and magazines and newspapers, presumably majoring on all the literature published by the atheists.
When the counsel for the defense, the Honorable James E. Bennett, cross-examined that atheist, he made him admit that he had misunderstood and misread Darwin. Practically everybody does that. Darwin is not nearly so sure about what he says concerning the origin of the species as you might think. He compelled him to admit that he knew nothing of Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin; then also compelled him to admit that the scientists that he was quoting had made grievous blunders and scientific errors and mistakes.
And in the court, they illustrated the point. And you cannot imagine how proud I was in reading of this case when I found that one of the scientific errors that they pointed out in the court was one that you’ll find and read in my little book, Did Man Just Happen? on the chapter entitled, “The Hoaxes of Anthropology.” And that’s this: the scientist that was quoted and pointed out was Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, America’s greatest paleontologist.
The Greek word for “old” or “ancient” is palaios, ontos is “being,” and then logos is “study of.” So a man who was learned in the study of ancient things—and this man especially in vertebrates, he was the head of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and also head of the Department of Research Zoology in Columbia University; now this man, along with other anthropologists with him, had identified a tooth discovered by a Mr. Harold Cook in Nebraska as belonging to a man who lived on this continent over one million years ago. They named the human anthropoid, this half ape, half man; they named the human anthropoid Hesperopithecus haroldcookii, for Harold Cook. Hespero—the Greek word for “evening” is hesperos, and came to be referred to anything western. So hesperopithecus—pithekos is the Greek word for ape. So this is the Western ape-man who lived here on this continent according to that great paleontologist a million years ago. Now the scientists built up a vast literature about this Nebraska Man, and I saw a demonstration of it in the Field Museum when I was a young man. There they were, in full life size, all of these apes, ape-men—they were in their habitats, they were in their houses, they were in their whole life, all of them living there—and they were supposed to have inhabited this North American continent one million years ago, all of it built upon a tooth. The entire evolutionary theory that you’ll ever read about is on a jawbone or on a tooth or a piece of a skull about that big.
All right, at the Scopes evolution trial in Dayton, Tennessee—and I’m old enough to remember that. And I remember this one: William Jennings Bryan was confronted with this evidence of that tooth, this, this Hesperopithecus haroldcookii and he was confronted with that evidence. And the great scientist, Dr. Harry Fairfield Osborn, was one of the authorities there to prove the antiquity of this million year old ape-man that inhabited the North American continent.
Now, the answer of William Jennings Bryan at that time was, “I have no reply except to say that the evidence was too scanty.” Good night, a tooth? It was too scanty to base upon such far-reaching conclusions. And Bryan pleaded for more time and more data, but they laughed in his face. Do you remember that? Are you old enough to remember that? Had not the greatest paleontologist in the world—and by the way, you can read a long story about him in the Encyclopedia Britannica—had not the greatest paleontologist in the world, Dr. Fairfield Osborn, along with other anthropologists, dated the Nebraska Man Hesperopithecus over one million years?
Now listen to this. In the years since the Scopes trial, the skeleton of the entire animal to which that tooth belonged has been discovered. That tooth belonged to a peccary, a species of a pig now extinct in the United States, but at one time, found all over the continent in large number, and with that, the judge threw the case out of court and dismissed it. I repeat, anytime you ever set out to prove a scientific error in the Bible, you’re going to have a hard, hard, hard, difficult time.
Now let’s take the other part. Anytime a man stands up to asseverate, as I’m doing right now, to avow that all true science corroborates the Word of God and that God’s Word will always corroborate all true science, you have an easy time. I mean most easy, for the same hand that wrote the book up there in the sky and in the earth is the same omnipotent hand that wrote the Book that I hold in my hand. The same Author wrote both of them.
Now we’re going to take some of these things as God will give us the time—until twelve—concerning what is found in scientific discovery and observation and what is written here in the Bible.
First, we shall take archaeology. To me, there’s no greater miracle to be found in the earth than this: that there never has been a spade of dirt turned by the archaeologist but that confirms the Word of God. They’ve been digging over there in those mounds and tells and ancient sites in that Fertile Crescent from over there in Babylonia clear down to Egypt, they’ve been digging in those mounds and tells for centuries, for hundreds of years. And every artifact they’ve ever dug up, every potsherd, every piece, every inscription, every cuneiform, every piece of hieroglyphic—the whole world of it confirms the Word of God without exception.
Why, it hasn’t been long when they said, “When the Bible said, ‘Moses wrote,’ that’s impossible because at that time writing was not invented!” Then the archaeologist began to dig up, in the hermetically sealed sands in Egypt they dug up the Tell el Amarna tablets; and then over there in northwestern Syria, the Ugaritic literature at Ras Shamra; then recently, in the last little while, the vast library of cuneiform tablets in Ebla. And we now know that writing was employed by man thousands of years before Moses.
Even I can remember when they said, “Hittite?” All through the Old Testament you will read about Hittites. “There never lived anybody named of a family, or race, or nation of Hittite,” said the critics. “Hittites? That’s just somebody’s imagination writing in the Bible.” Then the archaeologists began to dig, and they discovered a vast Hittite Empire. Preceding the Egyptian Empire, you have the great Hittite Empire, then the Egyptian, then the Babylonian, then the Assyrian, then the Babylonian, then the Persian, then the Alexandrian, then the Roman.
But the first great empire was Hittite. I can remember also when they scoffed and laughed at such a king as Belshazzar, who was the last king of Babylon according to the Book of Daniel. They had a sure, sealed proof that that was a vast historical error. There never lived anybody by the name of Belshazzar. And they had the cylinder of Cyrus they dug up out of those heaps. They had it to prove it; Cyrus lists all the kings of Babylon. The last one is Nabonidus.
Did you know that when Herodotus—the first historian, the father of history—when the Greek Herodotus visited Babylon only seventy years after Cyrus conquered it, the name of “Belshazzar had fallen out of human history? Then they began to dig in the mounds of Babylon, and they dug up all of those tablets written in cuneiform, in wedge writing. And did you know, dear people, I could write you a biography about Belshazzar. His father Nabonidus disliked the court, and he lived on an oasis in the Arabian Desert, and his son Belshazzar ruled in the kingdom.
The Bible, the Bible—well, let’s just take one other in passing. When I was in school, all of the scholars scoffed at the idea that John could have written the Fourth Gospel. It was too far developed theologically to have been written in the first century. It could not have been written until at least two hundred fifty years after Christ. And while all of those infidel academicians and false theologians were mouthing that, while they were doing it, in the hermetically sand sealed areas of Egypt, they dug up a papyri that quotes the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of John that had to have been written about 95 AD. Archaeology will always confirm the Word of God. When that archaeologist is digging and turning that dirt, just know he’s confirming what God says in His Book.
Take again [cosmogony]: in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, we are told that Moses was learned in all the arts and sciences of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22]. Here again, the archaeological spade has uncovered for us the textbooks that Moses studied. And we can read the science of that day. Well, the latest science of the day in which Moses lived went like this: they had a cosmogony, a study of where the world came from, the creation of this universe, and this was it. According to the scientific cosmogony of the ancient Egyptians, there was a great egg, a big egg, and it flew around and around and around and around. And when the process of mitosis was completed, it burst open and the world was born! That was the latest, newest, scientific studies that Moses was learned in.
So I pick up the Bible, and I expect to read about that flying ovoid. That’s what I expect to read. Instead, I read the ten greatest words that begins any book in human literature: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. That’s the Bible. That’s the Bible.
In the world of cosmogony, one of the things that is amazing to me, there is a book by Sir James Jeans entitled, The Wider Aspects of Cosmogony, and in that book, he avows that the universe is like a great clock wound up, and it is gradually running down. In that book, he says, “The release of energy is the destruction of complex units into simpler units, and it releases energy and being broken down into the simpler components, like gasoline, or uranium, or radium.” That’s what the finest science says today. And that identical thing is said in Psalm 102:25-26, which is quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12: that the universe is created by God, but it shall perish:
And these things shall wax old like a garment, and as a vesture, God shall change them, and they shall be changed:
But Thou, O God, art the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
Thou dost not change.
That’s what the Bible says. That’s what the latest book of science says.
In anthropology, and I must hasten, in anthropology, everything that we actually learn about the origin of man is just exactly as it is written here in the Bible. God made these different species, and they don’t cross. You’ll never see a thorn bush turn into an orange tree. You never will. And you’ll never see a horse turn into a cow, or a cat into a dog. Each one was made according to his species [Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24], and there’s no evidence ever, or ever shall be, that they ever transmute one into the other. They all stay in their kind, according to the Bible, and one of those kinds is anthropological.
Last night, I had a beautiful wedding here where we’re now worshiping the Lord. And every wedding that I ever have, I do the same thing. When God made the first man and placed him in the garden of Eden, He said: “It is not good that the man live alone” [Genesis 2:18]. When He made the starry firmament, He said: “It is good” [Genesis 1:18]. When He made the verdant and beautiful earth, He said: “It is very good” [Genesis 1:31]. But when He saw the man living alone, even in the paradise of Eden, He said: “It is not good” [Genesis 2:18]. And He made for him a woman, the last and the final and climactic creation of God. And He brought her to the man, and the man said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” [Genesis 2:21-23] because she was taken from his side, from near his heart. And the Lord God said: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]. That’ll stand forever! All of the confirmations of real, true science will be just like that. Beautiful! God made it that way.
Well, again, I say, we must hasten. Take the world of astronomy. When I look at the reading of the Bible and compare it with the latest discoveries of science, I’m overwhelmed! In Job 26:7, it says: “God hangeth the earth upon nothing.” Now, Job was written: oh, the Lord only knows how many centuries before Christ. And it says here: “God hangeth the earth upon nothing.” For all of the thousands and thousands and thousands of years, wherever the beginning is, all of mankind believed that the earth was held up on some kind of a firm base. The Egyptians said the earth is balanced upon–upon four pillars, one at each corner and one in the middle. There’s not a child in the world but that’s been taught Greek mythology. They said the world is balanced on the back of a great giant named Atlas. That was Greek. The Hindu said that the earth is balanced on the back of a great elephant that itself is balanced on the back of an immense turtle that is swimming in a cosmic sea. That’s what the–that’s what the scientists said for thousands of years. But God said, “He hangeth the earth upon nothing!” [Job 26:7]. And we’re just now learning what God did when He flung the earth out into space.
Let’s take again: everybody felt in all the centuries past that the world was flat, but in Isaiah 40:22, it speaks of God who sits upon the circle of the earth, that the earth is round, the earth is round. Why, nobody believed the earth was round until these last centuries, but God’s Word said so! The circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22]. In Isaiah 11:12, it speaks of the four corners of the earth. Well, people look at that and say, “The Bible teaches that the earth is flat and square. Well, it’s just too bad isn’t it that Isaiah didn’t write in English. He happened to write in Hebrew. The four corners of the earth is an English idiom. For example, I saw a sign asking fellows to join the Marines, and it said, “The United States Marines serve in the four corners of the earth,” serve the American government in the four corners of the earth. Well, I knew what they meant, just all over the earth. Well, that’s exactly what the Hebrew is. The Hebrew is kanaph, and it says that God is going to gather Judah from the, and kanaph refers to the extremities of the earth, God’s going to gather Israel from the extremities of the earth [Isaiah 11:11-12; Ezekiel 36:24], and you‘re seeing that right now. All you’ve got to do is go over there and look at them or read the paper. That’s what God’s Book says. That’s the Lord.
May we take the subject of physics? What wonderful things we have learned in physics, but God said it first! You’ll find it in the Bible. For example, there was a wonderful young fellow. He died when he was just in his twenties. His name was Evangelista Torricelli, an Italian. And he went to visit Galileo in Florence. And Galileo was so impressed with the young fellow, that he kept the young man for his amanuensis until Galileo died.
In 1643, this Torricelli discovered a barometer and learned that air has weight. The wind has weight. I don’t feel it, but there’s weight. There’s weight. Nobody in the earth ever dreamed of a thing like that until Torricelli in 1643; that is, unless you read the Bible. For in [Job 28:25], it says: “God makes the weight of the wind.” Just as it says here, and I don’t have time to mention it, but the finest statement of the atomic theory you’ll ever read in your life, and especially if you read it in Greek, is Hebrews 11:3: God made this out of things that are not seen. The things which are seen He made out of things which are not seen.
I haven’t got time to speak of Paul as being a cytologist. Isn’t that an amazing thing? In I Corinthians 15:39, he says: “All flesh is not the same flesh: there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, another of birds.” That’s an astonishing thing because the whole world used to think that all that blood looked alike and all that––the cellular structure of these things are alike. Then they began studying under all those ultra powerful microscopes, and every cell of every kind of a species has a different number of chromosomes. And all of those nuclei have their own separate structures. Paul would have been a tremendously fine cytologist. The protoplasm, the walls, the nuclei, all of those things are different just as he says in the Book.
“Well, pastor, why do you take time to speak of all of this? We don’t look on the Bible as book of, of chemistry—never occurred to us. We don’t look on the Bible as a book of astronomy, that would never enter our minds, nor do we look upon it as a book of anthropology or cosmogony or physics.” Well, the reason I did it is somehow there’s something on the inside of my heart that when I hear men or read men––I live in a world kind of sheltered, it’s mostly my reading, when I read men who scoff and attack the Word of God, saying it is full of monstrous absurdities and scientific errors and historical anachronisms, when I read that, it shakes my soul. Lord, Lord, I’m basing my life and my hope for heaven on that Book. And these men say that it’s written by idiots and by men without understanding and full of imaginative fantasies and impossibilities. It bothers me. So I just keep reading. And as I read and as I study, the more I read and the more I study––and I can read their writings, I know what they say, you can read their writings, you can know what they say––as I read and study, more and more do I come to the conviction that the truth of God is in that Book. As I said in the beginning, the same hand that wrote it up there in the sky is the same hand that writes here in the Holy Bible. And I can base my life on it and trust my soul to the truth of its revelation.
It’s like this; this is it. In these years past, in the little church I pastored, living way out in the backwoods was a sweet Christian girl. She was about seventeen years of age. She fell into a tragic illness. When I was a young preacher, did you know, I practically, I buried practically everyone that had a bad case of pneumonia, before penicillin? So the girl, dying, sent for me. And I went to see her. And she was in a coma at that time. But they were able to arouse her and said, “The young pastor has come.” So, aroused, she said to me, “Would you read to me out of God’s Book?” And I read to her the twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will not be afraid: for Thou art with me” [Psalm 23:4]. Then she said, “Would you sing me a song?” And I did the best I could. I sang, “In the Sweet By And By.” Then she said, “Would you pray?” And I knelt by the bed and prayed. And when I said “Amen,” she went back into that deep coma and died.
That’s what the Book is all about. Jesus said, “I am the truth, I am the way, and the life” [John 14:6]. And I don’t have to be fearful that these things of the academic world move me away from Him to whom I have committed my soul and my life. As this is true, and this is true, so this is true. And in that promise and in that blessed hope, we can commend our souls, live our lives, build our homes, rear our children, sing and rejoice in the abounding, self-revelation of God to us. It’s a great thing to trust, to commit, and God bless us as we do it.
Now may we stand together?
Our dear Lord in heaven, were we ever persuaded that we are alone in this universe, orphans in the vast immensity of immeasurable, illimitable space, O Lord, what a sad life and lot it would be for us. As Thy servant Paul said it: “If there is no hope in Christ and no resurrection of the dead, we are of all men most miserable” [1 Corinthians 15:13-19]. We’ve been preaching that Jesus lives [Revelation 1:18], that He is King of the earth [1 Timothy 6:15], that He saves the lost [Luke 19:10], that He saved us, whom He did not save if these testimonies are not true, if there’s not any heaven, there’s not any resurrection, and God’s servants were in error when they wrote the Holy Scriptures. But Lord, what a heavenly persuasion, to give our lives to the truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. We love Thee, Lord, and it is our purpose and commitment to serve Thee and learn of Thee all of the remainder of the days that we have breath.
And while our people pray in this silent moment, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, a family, a couple, or just you, “Today, pastor, I’m answering God’s call.” Some of us, putting our lives in this dear church, some of us confessing faith in Jesus as Lord, some of us wanting to be baptized, some of us coming by letter, as God shall press the appeal to your soul, say, “Yes.” Make the decision now, and in a moment when we sing, out of that balcony, into one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor.” Thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest and these who respond with their lives, in Thy dear name, amen. While our deacons are here and our ministers are here and the angels of God are here, answer, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come,” while we sing our appeal.