There are common “hard” questions I get asked, as a pastor, and maybe you have wondered about them as well… So now here is Hard Question #5 – ”Is everything in the Bible accurate?” Oh boy. I already know somebody will probably get angry over this one… Take a deep breath and let’s try to understand one another… Here we go.
First, have you ever heard the term “Christian Apologetics?” Apologetics is a branch of Christianity that seeks to defend our faith against any and all verbal attacks – and in doing so, hoping to win the opposing side over to our beliefs. There are several passages which Christian Apologists will point to – Acts 22:1, 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 10:5-6; Philippians 1:7; 2 Timothy 4:16 – and then of course, the prize verse: 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” and from Peter’s words – a movement was born.
The reason I mention apologetics is because generally the question, “Is everything in the Bible accurate?,” will get you a response from apologists as an emphatic “YES! YES! YES! IT IS THE ACCURATE, INFALLIBLE, AND INERRANT WORD OF GOD AND TO QUESTION OR DOUBT IT IS BLASPHEMY, APOSTASY AND HERESY!!” That might even be an understatement of some responses to that question. (There are actually apologists who are even more extreme and are polemic – defending our Faith by attacking all other faiths… yeah… it’s not something I would encourage.) Ultimately, while I do believe that God’s Word is accurate, infallible, inerrant and His direct communication to us, I think that giving a response like the one in bold caps up there is only going to be convincing to other believers. Someone who is questioning whether God is real or not, or maybe someone who has already decided that God is imaginary, is certainly not going to be swayed by that response. They also are not going to be swayed by an apologist who tries to somehow prove a Bible-timeline based theory.
Man – I can tell I am going to be all over the place trying to answer this question. It opens a whole can of worms the more I think about it. So let me break this down into 3 different overall areas of accuracy about the Bible… Historical-Accuracy; Scientific-Accuracy; and Faith.
So first, is the Bible historically accurate? Yes, it is. The Bible from a historical perspective is widely considered a dependable, authenticated work for the “non-miraculous” portions, ie places, historical figures, battles, etc. The Bible is looked at and studied by scholars separate of any faith. It’s not to say there aren’t arguments about historical accuracy of specific events in Scripture but it is a document that a great deal of the time can be historically verified through the study of other historical documents – making it reliable from a historical perspective.
The second is scientific accuracy… this one gets especially touchy. As Christians, we read Scripture and believe it to be God’s Divine Word. But if you are someone who doesn’t believe in God, then me claiming the divine nature of God’s Word is meaningless to you and that causes an immediately obvious disagreement on how to move forward in our conversation. For me to talk to a non-believer and say that “because the Bible is the Word of God it is more accurate than even the most delicately sensitive scientific measurements” is going to go over like a lead balloon. Why on earth would they agree with me about that? For an atheist or agnostic that statement would carry no more weight for them than if I said, “unicorns are real and I know they are because I saw one in my kid’s coloring book.” It wouldn’t be a productive conversation to say the least.
When it comes down to scientific accuracy is scripture, some apologists would say, among other things:
1. The Earth is around 6,000 years old.
2. Creation was a literal 6 days.
3. Dinosaurs walked along side man.
4. There is no such thing as evolution.
There has literally been countless man hours, and probably multi-billions of dollars, spent on trying to “prove” these claims to people. There is even a museum in Kentucky that is dedicated to laying out the case that all of these statements are fact.
Well here’s the thing… All of this debate over Scientific Accuracy of a Biblical timeline or Biblical events? The debate is pointless because whoever is right – it doesn’t matter. You know how I know it doesn’t matter? Because Jesus didn’t spend His time talking about this stuff! I think if proving scientific accuracy of scripture was important, Jesus would have at least mentioned it. (Breathe… don’t throw your laptop in anger yet…) One passage I already know someone will tell me to go read is John 5:45-47 where Jesus asks if you don’t believe what Moses wrote how will you believe in Me?
Well – let me ask you to consider an example real quickly… Imagine 6,000 years ago – trying to explain something like DNA to someone. How could they possibly have understood what DNA was? Yet DNA existed then just like it does now. Their lack of knowledge and understanding of it did not mean it wasn’t just as real of a thing is now. I have a pretty general, basic understanding of DNA. I can give a general idea that will be correct but not scientifically specific. To get an even better understanding of how to explain it, I could go to a DNA scientist and have them explain DNA to me – he or she would probably realize several sentences in that I had a glassy eyed stare and they hopefully would dumb it down to a level I could understand. It’s called filtering. A scientist would recognize I just needed a basic understanding because I’m not looking to become a DNA scientist. Why is it so hard for us to believe that God wouldn’t do the same for us? Did people of antiquity need to understand molecular level intricacies of the human body to understand these words in Psalm 139:13, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”? Of course not…
That’s how we can believe what Moses and every other author of Scripture wrote but also know that the Bible wasn’t written to be a scientific text book. So what am I saying? Is the Bible scientifically accurate or not? Well I don’t think that question can or should be answered with just a yes or no… In the first place, I don’t think God intended for us to use it as a scientific text but It doesn’t mean that it isn’t true either though. Ultimately, if someone goes to their death bed believing the Earth is only 6,000 years old or believing its billions of years old – I have a hard time believing it will be the first thing God wants to set straight with them. I can’t believe that it is in any way a salvation issue… I can’t believe that it’s worth spending so much time and money trying to prove the world is 6,000 years old when there are people starving. I can’t believe that God is pleased with Believers fighting amongst themselves over the age of dinosaurs when widows and orphans are hurting and alone. I can’t believe that the legacy of Jesus Christ that we are instructed in 1 John 2:6 to follow is to brow beat those missing from God in to believing new earth dogma.
And so finally – Faith. And that is where we should all be focused. No one can prove anything about whether God created everything in 144 hours nor can we prove the divine nature of Jesus. It comes down to faith! Think about it for a second… If God was dependent on us believing through proof of His existence or proof of how He created or how His Son performed miracles He would show up in the middle of Times Square today with a white board and markers and draw it all on live television for us!
For me… faith is enough. I for one am convinced that Jesus was and is the Son of God. Not because of science or history – but because of conviction. Any efforts to argue someone into faith will be futile at best and pointless the majority of the time. People need to see us live a life mirroring Jesus’ and just like in Acts 2:42-47 – they will want to know Him as well. So what of 1 Peter 3:15? I am convinced that Peter’s words, in ALL of his writings, are all about Jesus and in the context of encouraging believers… That everything we do, everything we say, every way we live – must be in love and be consistent with the life of our Savior. But words are not enough. They will never be enough!! Apologetics as a war of words, a battle of ideals will never be won… when it is all an intellectual process. Jesus is best defended by showing people your heart. God’s Word is best defended by giving your heart to others and letting them experience God’s love – through you.
Now if you made it all the way through… and didn’t give up in reading this… Know that I believe God created all, everything… don’t put any words in my mouth or try to read between lines. If you are a new earth believer or an old earth believer I’m good with it – and we will all know one day and I’m sure that then, we won’t even care! I only care that you believe that He gave His Son to us so that we could experience a life with Him forever. I also believe the Bible is the absolute best thing you will ever read and is life changing if you apply it to your daily walk. Just keep apologetics as a hobby and keep Jesus as your model and He will be who everyone wants to meet. And remember that the best defense of your faith is a life lived in Him. Hebrews 3:13 and 1 John 2:6 are great reminders for your daily walk.
Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.