Science and the Bible – Are They Compatible?
Over the years at The John Ankerberg Show we have invited numerous skeptics and critics of the Bible to appear on TV and thus have had to read widely in the skeptical literature. Neither from the guests on our TV shows nor from our reading of the literature have we ever found a legitimate argument against the Bible that would stand the weight of critical scrutiny.
Skeptics generally don’t believe the Bible simply because they don’t want to believe it. How do we know this? Because, historically, thousands of former skeptics have become Christians on the basis of the evidence for the truth of Christianity. If that evidence didn’t exist and weren’t persuasive, such individuals would never have become Christians. No amount of evidence will convince someone against his will. But for the open-minded person, the evidence is more than sufficient to establish the truth of Christianity.
Two areas in particular that may interest open-minded agnostics or skeptics are the scientific prevision found in the Bible and the mathematical probability factors in favor of its divine inspiration as seen through messianic prophecy.
Concerning the scientific prevision of the Bible, this is unique in the history of literature. In The Creator Beyond Time and Space, medical doctor Mark Eastman and Chuck Missler, a computer specialist, provide many examples showing how the Bible, scientifically speaking, was thousands of years ahead of its time. They point out that “there are dozens of passages in the Bible which demonstrate tremendous scientific foreknowledge.” In fact,
- …when the biblical text is carefully examined the reader will quickly discover an uncanny scientific accuracy unparalleled by any document of antiquity.… The Bible does not use scientific jargon nor is it a scientific text per se. However, as we will see, the Bible does describe scientific phenomena in common terminology with unmistakable clarity…. In virtually all ancient religious documents it is common to find scientifically inaccurate myths about the nature of the universe and the life forms on planet Earth. Any cursory review of ancient mythology will readily confirm this statement. However, the Bible is unique because of the conspicuous absence of such myths. In fact, throughout the Bible we find scientifically accurate concepts about the physical universe that were not ‘discovered’ by modern scientists until very recent times.
They provide examples from physics, astronomy, oceanography, the earth’s hydrologic cycle, meteorology, medicine, geology, and biology. Further, in The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Baker, 1984), scientist Dr. Henry M. Morris offers a 500-page text supplying a large number of additional examples of scientific foreknowledge or allusions in the Bible.
For skeptics to successfully argue that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God, they must explain how the Bible contains statements like this which were often disharmonious with the accepted knowledge of the time in which they were written and yet are completely accurate in light of today’s known scientific facts. In essence, to argue that the evidences for biblical inspiration are the result of a huge number of lucky guesses requires an enormous amount of faith because we know that it is impossible for people to write science and history in advance apart from divine inspiration.
Biblical prophecy and mathematical probability
When we examine biblical prophecy and mathematical probability, we find further evidence that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. In the Bible, God Himself teaches that His perfect knowledge of the future is proof that He alone is the Lord. No other god or religious scripture has consistently (or even sparingly) told of things to come and also had them come true just as forecast (see Isa. 41:20-29). Indeed, one reason God says that He has clearly predicted the future is “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other” (1 Kings 8:60 NIV; cf. vv. 1-59).
God Himself says that He accurately predicts the future and that He has done so in order that people may know that He alone is the one true God. His prophets are “recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if [their] prediction comes true” (Jer. 28:9 NIV). God promises, “Whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezek. 12:28 NIV).
In light of the above, consider the following facts: 62 of the 66 books of the Bible contain prophetic material, and if we add the total number of predictive verses in the Bible, we find that their number is amazing: Of 31,124 verses, 8,352 are prophetic! This is 27 percent of the entire Bible! Ponder this for a moment. For God to have promised that His predictions are accurate and then offered 8,352 predictive verses in the Bible, including 1,817 total predictions with 737 separate matters predicted, consider how incredibly easy it would be to prove that the Bible is not the Word of God by finding just one false prediction. But, in fact, no false prediction has ever been proven.
Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, Peter Stoner, has calculated the probability of one man fulfilling the major prophecies made concerning the Messiah. The estimates were worked out by 12 different classes of 600 college students.
The students carefully weighed all the factors, discussed each prophecy at length, and examined the various circumstances which might indicate that men had conspired together to fulfill a particular prophecy. They made their estimates conservative enough so that there was finally unanimous agreement even among the most skeptical students.
But then Professor Stoner took their estimates and made them even more conservative. He also encouraged other skeptics or scientists to make their own estimates to see if his conclusions were more than fair. Finally, he submitted his figures for review to a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation. Upon examination, they verified that his calculations were dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented.
Stoner’s calculations concerned only eight different prophecies, but the conservatively estimated chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was 1 in 1017. In another calculation, Stoner used 48 prophecies and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 10157.
Anyone who ponders the size of a number like 10157 will prove to himself what experts in probability theory have always maintained: An event whose odds are only 1 chance in 10157 will never occur naturalistically. Mathematical facts, then, force us to invoke divine power to explain biblical prophecy.
All of this means that it is impossible for these 48 prophecies of Stoner’s to be fulfilled by chance alone. But then, what of several hundred other prophecies? All this is proof that there must be a God who supernaturally gave this information and that this God is the God of the Bible. He alone is the one true God who created us. But if so, then how important it is for us to come to know Him personally!
Our eternal destiny depends on whether or not we believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior (Matt. 20:28; 25:46; 26:28; John 3:16-18, 36; 5:24). Jesus Himself emphasized, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24 NIV).
- Mark Eastman and Chuck Missler, The Creator Beyond Time and Space (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 1996), p. 23.
- Ibid., p. 87.
- Ibid., p. 101.
- See J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, pp. 13, 681.
- Peter W. Stoner, Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 4.
- Ibid., p. 109.
- Emile Borel, Probabilities and Life, chs. 1,3