Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Evidence that the Bible and Christianity Are Not Scientific

When you read the title of this piece, you might think that I believe the Bible isn't scientific.  I do believe it is. However, evidence shows that it isn't.  When I say "evidence," I mean "evidence," in quotes.  If the world were looking for evidence that the Bible isn't scientific, professing Christians will gladly give that to them, so we are where we are today.  How many Christians are doing this?  I don't have a percentage or a number, but I believe it is "most," well over 50% now.  The most well-known leaders have surrendered.  They don't think the Bible is scientific either.  What am I talking about and how did it happen?

When we are talking about science, if we are really talking about science, then we are talking about certainty.  Someone steps off a cliff and he goes down, not up.  Gravity.  If he steps off the cliff, will he go down?  Yes.  We are certain about that.  I understand that not all that even calls itself science is scientific, but when we use the term, science, we're talking about something we're sure about.  It has been tested and holds true again and again.  Manufacturing plants all over the country, producing dangerous chemicals, know there are no exceptions. If you look at a fingerprint, you know that one person has that print.  You are certain of that.  That is science.

Scripture doesn't hold scientific level certainty for people, and not only does it not have to have that kind of certainty anymore, but many Christian leaders think it is far better that it doesn't.  They think an uncertain brand of Christianity is much better.  They've not just settled at uncertain, but they also promote it.

The world long ago put the Bible, religion, Christianity on the art side of the campus.  When I say they put it over there with art, away from engineering and math, I mean that the world sees it as a matter of personal taste.  You study it, but you don't view it as certain.  Not at all.  If the world had its way, it would put religion, the Bible, Christianity in fiction, maybe very inventive and very creative fiction, but still fiction.

As a brief aside, I don't think art itself is uncertain.  I don't believe art is subjective, that is, just a matter of taste.  People separate art from science, saying something like, "It's more an art than a science." That's not true either.  The world has said that, and Christians went along with that before the world moved everything in Christianity over with art.  At one time, Christians said beauty was objective too.  We have what we have today with aesthetics, art, music, because we capitulated there already, long ago.  The truth will never survive where beauty or goodness are already casualties.  A church doctrinal statement, kept intact for decades, is already forsaken with the abandonment of meaning and ordinate affections.  That has made a huge difference, has a gigantic influence, and will leave Christianity hopeless too, but I write this only as a digression.

Before I expound further, I want to explain briefly what happened, why this happened, in order better to understand the theme of this post.  In 19th century America, organizations turned liberal.  This has been termed, "modernism."  Modernism says everything is a machine and all that can be trusted arrives through human reason.  Modernists denied miracles.  For credibility and inclusion, you could present and discuss only on modernist terms.  Non-modernists kept the terms for the sake of dialogue, engagement that they said could help the modernists, and to save Christianity from its own embarrassing self-destruction.  They went along with the transport of Christianity to the art side of the campus.  This ceded the reliability of scripture.

Everyone would grant the influence of the Bible on the history of the world, but progressives would see its decline as the marking of progress, an important step in the growth of humanity.  However, to them when someone talks about the Bible, he shouldn't speak as though it were absolute truth. Absolute truth ends at science.  The Bible has not diminished to the equal of Moby Dick or The Grapes of Wrath, but now is very close.  It is literature.  Those books haven't had the historical impact.  Moses is still carved into stone on the Supreme Court building.  Modernism though began treating the Bible like any other book, applying the same rules to scripture as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.  New-evangelicals acceded to those terms.

Most professing Christians don't see the Bible now as absolute. It is easy to see that it has lost its authority in our culture.  They do not consider the Bible as certain as scientific law.  Breaking a moral law ordained in the Bible isn't the same as violating a scientific one.  You can take the Bible a number of different ways, assign it various meanings, and the worst way you could go wrong is to separate over one of the teachings.  It's just not worth it.  You can't be sure about it.  You should just go ahead and accept the idea that very little of it is absolutely sure.

Like new-evangelicalism acquiesced to modernist rules of engagement, the Bible was shifted to the art department.  It's natural now.  You don't have to believe only one thing.  Variation is the fancy. Anyone who says "one acceptable meaning" is totally anachronistic, an artifact for a museum from a former age.  Nobody does that.  Everyone allows for latitude.  We're now negotiating on the absolute minimum.  How low can you go?  You know you are going low when you are talking about the nature of God Himself, what is the minimum acceptability as to His identity.

Many reading know what I'm writing is true.  I expect some denial, especially on some of the cause.

One major contributor toward uncertainty about scripture relates to preservation of scripture.  The history of the doctrine of preservation is the account of certainty, belief on a scientific level that every word was preserved and available.  Modern scientists then pursued all of their varied endeavors: looking for ancient cities, unearthing ancient texts, and outdoing one another with the latest find.  It's akin to even more modern psychological research and its requirement of the latest and the greatest discovery, only to be replaced by something different next year.  Religion or theology accepted this blueprint with the pursuit of manuscript evidence, producing one different edition after another, consenting to a popular notion that certainty was no longer reasonable.

Evangelical textual critics argue that the Bible has more textual attestation than any ancient book.  It's true, contrary to those who lie about that, like the atheist Bart Ehrman.  You step off the cliff, you fall. Scientific certainty -- the evangelical textual critics don't proffer that.  The doctrine of preservation itself becomes malleable, the meaning of preservation texts adjusted to fit the new reality. Truth is preserved, albeit not the level of truth like gravity, rather something of a higher percentage of reliability.  Enjoy that.  It's never going to be science, but you should just be happy.  It's a better risk than the alternative, which you shouldn't even try to imagine.

Pretty good isn't scientific.  The present picture of Christianity is more an art than a science. Modern Christian teachers are not giving the solid basis, a scientific kind of one, that would merit transferring Christianity from the art side of campus.  In many ways, Christianity has become risk assessment for its leaders.   They don't want to lose it all, which they speculate they will by offering too much certainty.  They've got to provide an acceptable gray.

As I explain everything in this post, am I fine with what's happening?  I'm not. However, I don't think too many are going to join me. Often they've already surrendered, their slippery slope so steep, it has an emergency truck ramp. Even if they don't believe like I do, they don't think anyone can or should be as certain as I am.  I am too certain, way too certain, enough to be radioactive to them.  I violate their virtue of nuance.  A little less certain than I is also too certain.  Acceptable certainty is at an all time low.  If you are too certain, you must be scorched, burned, forsaken, excluded.

"Several possible options" works better.  That's not how science functions, but it's the modern (and postmodern) reality of Christianity.   People like their flexibility, so if Christian leaders start behaving like we know too much, they'll lose their constituency.  Missionaries can't cobble together enough support.  The coalitions will shrink.  Book sales will dry up. Twitter followers will wither.  Budgets will be slashed. Vacation homes might be lost.  Loans will not be repaid.  Bankruptcy will ensue.  (But the just shall live by faith.)

Scripture doesn't speak like Christianity now speaks.  Scripture speaks in complete certainty.  The only unity of scripture is complete unity, because the Bible is plain, that even a child can know it. Again and again, we hear the term, "know."  Paul wrote, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded" (2 Tim 1:12).  The hope we have is "sure and steadfast" (Heb 6:19).  We have this surety, this certainty, this persuasion, because our God does not lie.

We're depending on the Bible for our plan of salvation.  If the Bible is not plain enough to agree on almost anything, how can we trust it?  Almost no one expects agreement anymore, except to disagree. You are free to disagree on the Bible, and there is where the new unity lies.  It isn't on the certainty of scripture, but on the surety of its uncertainty.  Mind you, this isn't how I see the Bible or function, but it is the majority of professing Christians today.

Nobody should see the Bible or Christianity as scientific if Christians themselves deny that.  Yet, we're trusting this for our eternal destiny.  Our lives are turned upside down by these teachings. Still, they're not quite as trustworthy as gravity, not like fingerprints, and you should just know it.  It's all a matter of acceptable risk.  It isn't, but that is what we're really being left with here.

The world is very glad to present a binary choice, faith or science, either-or, the one contradicting the other.  Christians have accommodated, relenting to the "Kierkegaardian" "leap in the dark."  It is no wonder that a world prefers its own Disneyland of the flesh.  Good instinct, natural law, common sense, and a virtuous mind all reject a leap in the dark.  Biblical Christianity requires sacrifice implausible to a wager, a calculated gamble.

The future isn't bright for the world.  It's very dark.  It's not twilight-ish.  It's dark.  Things are bright for us, however.  They are not a cloudy, powdery slate.  They are bright.  Like the sun.  The sun is real, like the truth of scripture.


Anonymous said...

You mentioned the doctrinal statement, and I think it is often where the styrene-butadiene meets the road.

I have noticed that the covenant, constitution, and statement of faith (CCSF) is becoming meaningless. Most CCSFs state something like, "by becoming a member I am in FULL agreement with the CCSF" and "I do most joyfully and solemnly enter into covenant..."

2 things:
1, I have never heard anyone asked, before a vote on him becoming a member, "Are you if full agreement with the CCSF?"
2, I have never, that I can remember, seen anyone "joyfully" and "solemnly" enter into a COVENANT. Isn't a covenant a big deal?

The CCSF has strong wording, lengthy doctrinal statements, and a real covenant, but it becomes meaningless by the way people are popped into membership. It is almost making liars out of new members, by making them enter into an oath that they neither understand nor fully believe.

The words of the CCSF are becoming a kind of church poetry, meant to convey the feeling of a kind of church, but not the actual doctrine and practice.

But, hey, we only have the CCSF as a legal protection and to get rid of troublemakers anyway, right?

a.k.a. Titus

Kent Brandenburg said...


It's true that church's don't take the doctrinal statement too serious either, and I think that is often because they, like everything else, have reduced the church to more of a social club. Individual doctrines don't matter in the "relationship" people have with God or even who God is. Very often it is mystical.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

There was a day when theology was the queen of the sciences and ruled over them. But we've been enlightened since then!


Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Jeff.