The Bible is Not a Scientific Textbook

Wearily to ward off a hackneyed, and at least with respect to me misdirected, accusation that I am using hoary myths as scientific veracities, I yet must elaborate this point somewhat more to make it clear that I do not. Sure, I have referred to Holy Writ time and time again as an ontological not to be undervalued metaphysical given in deliberations about the ultimate ground of being. A given that hence by modest instrumentalist science should be considered as information from a possible transcendental Bystander. However, only as such it has been introduced whenever I judged this necessary, but not as affirming anything more than the by its Maker proclaimed Earth-centeredness of His handiwork. A plain historical fact to be accepted in faith and “inside” the totality of perceptible being amply confirmed.

The Good Book appeals to mankind as a whole through all historical time, and in no way expressly endorses the scientific establishments’ theories of one or another quarter century. The most erudite up-to-date professors of astrophysics and the last, not with their ephemeral dicta embued Papuans – the Divine Word addresses them on equal terms. Every morning, when waking up and looking around, all men find themselves situated upon a solid, flat Earth around which the Heavens revolve. Whether or not they accept that this Earth is the kingpin of the Universe – standing on it they do neither feel it turning nor observe its curvature. They see the Sun rising and setting. Even the doughtiest defender of the modern a-centric view ever expresses it otherwise, unless he is asked to catechize the uninstructed on celestial kinematics. The fact that this-worldly oriented education urges us to discard such felicitous simplicity does not in any way change our first-hand collective representations. And it is to these representations that Scripture adapts itself. It speaks, so to say, in a phenomenal mood, leaving with regard to astronomy, as well as with regard to biology, geology, and all other branches of scientific investigation, any theoretical underpinning severely alone. To quote, as already said, with Luther Joshua’s “Sun, stand thou still” I consider therefore using the passage beyond its intended import. Genesis One and Two, and in the nature of things – no humans being there yet – unverifiable report by the God of Truth, I do not dare to doubt or theoretically to twist around. However, apart from that I shy away from any other “geocentric” text – well aware that on this point I part company with virtually all fundamentalists and orthodox Catholics. The Bible, as I see it, first and foremost presents us with a religious and ethical message, expressed on the level of the highest common factor of human comprehension. From the pristine awakening of consciousness in the Garden of Eden to our age in which science purports to be capable of superseding Divine revelation. Therefore I waive, apart from calling upon it in the context of the Armstrong Alert, any use of its supra-scientific message as evidence in my down-to-earth astronomical ratiocinations. Which message sublunar wisdom in any case refuses to accept, either wrongly as of no value for solving the fathomless riddle of life’s destiny, or with some justification as not applicable to investigative science. Logically even my main Genesis 1:1-19 argument can, of course, easily be turned against me – as this is done, above all, by my theistic and progressive evolutionist brethren in the faith. “Precisely”, it is retorted, “because these not yet in exact science engaged Adamites could in no way be expected to grasp Kepler’s laws, Newton’s gravitation, and Einstein’s mathematical generalizations, the Bible tells a non-factual, attractive tale. But now we have been allowed to know better, and should therefore be leery of ascribing to the opening verses of Genesis any strict descriptive value.”

I do not buy this specious argument. For behind it lurks, I hold, a conceit we should abhor. Even today less than one in a thousand humans has any clear understanding of the laws regulating the cosmic clockwork. Yet all of them, and the theologians of the International Council for Biblical Inerrancy to a man, believe just as firmly that the Earth goes around the Sun as their pre-Galilean ancestors were convinced of the opposite. If God had told – but He did not – the first men made in His image and after His likeness that He had used the creational procedure at the moment proclaimed to have been used, those men would have accepted this just as well as the world does this today… without bothering much about the brain-teasing intricacies of motions and forces. More important: the reasoning of these self-styled orthodox Christians, which I am attacking here, debases clear, intelligible divine words and exalts the A.D. 1988 believed-in human derivations from deaf and dumb phenomena. Derivations that in the ages past time after time were found just as fictitious as the present ones tomorrow or next year will turn out to be. I refuse to join such halting between two opinions, of which the one is founded on the certainty that the God of Truth speaks truth from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, and the other rests on the quicksand of ever-incomplete and never-final human theorizing.

However, to leave this rueful aside: rather give me the manful “either-or” of people who at bottom at least show true respect for the revelation they have decided to reject than the waffling of in-betweeners who run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Those who have done with all unobservable super-natural fancies will rightly remark that any report asserting to give us the story how the starry Heavens and the living Earth emerged into being can only be adjudicated in two ways. Either the Biblical one is factual Revelation given by an all-wise, all-knowing, Almighty Creator, and then he who tampers with it by means of human conjectures and refutations is a fool of fools, or else the Hexaemeron is the brainchild of self-styled visionaries, deserving to be complimented on it. For so much must be admitted: it gives “a portrayal of the creational events of a powerful and fundamental magnitude…, which by its level of thought and conceptual frame stands in the sharpest contrast with all other creation stories.”(94) And 20th century science, pursued by men come of age, has made the choice to which Copernicanism in the long run could not but drive it: the Great Designer of Genesis is a day-dreamer’s fiction.