Science is a guide to understanding scripture

Reader xdpaul makes the following observation in the comments to the article on pre-Adam hominids:

One of the problems with relying on surviving Christian texts only is that even the most learned of them were a) not native masters of Hebrew b) reliant in the primary on Greek translations of Hebrew and c) not typically focused on man’s origins.

Thus, if you only rely on the very occasional Christian theologian viewpoint on origins, you may very end up short of even the limits of Ussher.

I get emails and comments from people criticizing Schroeder’s interpretation of scripture by insisting that he does not faithfully follow a literal interpretation of scripture, and furthermore we shouldn’t bother trying to “shoehorn” science into scripture. What they mean is that Schroeder doesn’t follow their literal interpretation of scripture. These critics almost always assume that the particular interpretation they personally favor is the only legitimate one, and fail to realize (or acknowledge) that there are significant translation issues with even some of the most widely accepted interpretations.

In any attempt to understand Genesis, we have to account for the fact that it was translated from ancient Hebrew to seventeenth century English and then interpreted according to modern Western, English-speaking sensibilities. This modern, Western point of view not only misses important subtleties in the Hebrew language, but often neglects subtleties in scriptural and historical context. As xdpaul points out, the problem is that the English translators were not native masters of Hebrew, nor were they focused on the deeper scientific meaning of Genesis. Schroeder, however, is, and he relies heavily on commentaries from the three most highly-regarded Jewish scholars — Rashi, Nahmanides, and Maimonides — all of whom were masters in Hebrew and spent decades intensely studying the Torah to discover its meaning. In my opinion, it’s foolishness to disregard these commentaries.

Even then, armed with insights from deep scholarship about the Torah, how do we know we’re on the right track when interpreting Genesis? We can gain some assurance through God’s revelation in the natural world he created. We were given a written account of this creation, but along with that came the admonishment to look for evidence of God’s character within it (Psalm 19; Romans 1:20). For this reason, it bothers me deeply that many well-meaning Christians insist on pitting God’s written record against God’s record in nature. They are complementary, and we are told as much in scripture. These two records should agree; they must agree. And where there is ostensible disagreement, that is the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of both.


2 thoughts on “Science is a guide to understanding scripture

  1. In Dr. Schroeder’s book “Science of God” he purposes that time dilation ( caused by the expansion of the Universe ) is an exponential function as seen from our reference point. As you point out in your “The Six Days of Creation” time dilation is proven by observing the length of time Super Novas last in galaxies at different distances (time in the past) from earth. My question is this can this exponential relationship be proven by observing the length of time for a super nova to fade with respected to light years from earth? Will a plot of this result in a exponential curve?

  2. Yes, Richard. The observed time for a supernova to fade does exponentially increase with distance, although redshift is typically used instead of distance. See here.

    UCLA cosmologist Ned Wright has gathered some (older) references for this here.

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