Are Concordists Reading Science Into Scripture?

William Lane Craig, in a lecture in his “Defenders” class gave this response in answer to a question. He responded by saying.

“I am very loathe, very reluctant, to try to read modern science into the Bible and in particularly into Genesis 1. I think that is what’s called eisegesis – that is, you are reading into the text, you are reading between the lines – rather than exegesis, which is allowing the text to speak to us in the way that an ancient Hebrew writer would have thought and read about these things. So I respectfully disagree with my friend Hugh Ross, who would quote verses like that one, or Isaiah when it says, “He spread out the heavens,” and interpret this as a biblical prediction of the expansion of the universe. I think that rather, in its original context, what this ancient Hebrew writer was thinking of was of the heavens on the analogy of a tent that God has constructed, and you see the lights in the firmament, or in the expanse. But that is purely a phenomenal description; that is, it is a way things appear to us. We should not think that he is trying to give some sophisticated, astronomical theory.”

Now, normally I agree with over 90% of what Dr. Craig says but I think he’s mistaken on this one. I agree with Ross that all those verses in the old testament which talk about God “stretching out the heavens” are probably referring to the expansion of the universe. A Facebook Friend of mine brought Dr. Craig’s complaint to Dr. Ross to see what he had to say about it. Ross responded to my FB friend by saying: 

You may be right, Richard. If you're not a scientist, the scientific connections would not leap off the page to you as it does for someone who is. It makes sense to me that a philosopher or a psychologist or a historian takes notice of things relevant to their areas of expertise that others miss. That's part of the joy of bringing together various people's perspectives on the Scriptures. Dr. Craig implies that there is no more meaning in the text than the historical context allows. He also implies that scientific concordism is my hermeneutical approach. I would disagree with both notions. My view is that the text, which the Holy Spirit inspired, may convey more meaning than the original writer was aware of, including meanings discovered by later generations. See, for example, 1 Peter 1:10-12.— On the web site, I offer a written critique of the position espoused by Walton, Miller, and Soden as well as a defense of what I refer to as "soft concordism."

From what I understand, Ross’ position is that the Hebrew writers were probably writing about something far more profound than they were aware of. A meaning that would not be fully known until the 20th century when science uncovered the expansion of the universe. It’s similar to how the Old Testament writers wrote about Jesus and The Holy Spirit even though they had no concept of God as a Trinity or as God as a man or anything like that. Nevertheless, we know, thanks do additional revelation known as the New Testament that God IS a trinity and that The Holy Spirit IS a person of the trinity unlike the conception prior to Christ’s coming in which everyone thought (and as some Jews today still think) that The Holy Spirit is just some impersonal force, that is to say; God’s power emanating from Him. In the Old Testament, when it talked about “The spirit of God” coming upon a person (e.g Samson, David, etc.), they would interpret that as God’s power filling them rather than God sending an actual person.

And in the same way, the Old Testament writers were probably writing about the aspects of Big Bang cosmology (i.e The Beginning, The Expansion, The 2nd law of thermodynamics and the end of the universe) unbeknownst to them. Just as The New Testament shed light on some concealed secrets in the Old Testament, so science can unveil some mysteries of the Old Testament.

I might also add that just because the scriptures align with modern science does not mean that modern science is being read into the text. If there is science in the Bible, Doctor Craig might be on the hook for missing it because he is afraid of reading science into the text. Now certainly the repeated claim “The Bible is not a science book” is true to a certain extent. The Bible and Science do often occupy different realms. But unlike the NOMA principle would suggest, that Science and theology are completely separate and NEVER overlap, The Bible and Science do overlap in certain areas. When we look at statements like “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) or “The Earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep.” (Genesis 1:2), these are descriptions of the origin and some of the history of the universe. These things can be falsified or verified through scientific evidence. And in fact as I have pointed out in blog posts in the past and as Hugh Ross has pointed out in books such as “The Genesis Question”, The Bible has confirmed these 2 verses as being accurate. Big Bang cosmology confirms, at the very least, the first verse in The Bible; that the universe has a beginning. Geology has confirmed that the planet Earth was a complete and desolate wasteland, completely devoid of life, and completely lacking in mountains and landmasses. It was just a planet completely covered in water prior to the 3rd day of creation in which God causes the landmasses to form. Geologists used to think that the planet had landmasses when it first formed but further evidence changed their minds. What scientists said that originally disagreed with The Bible eventually turned into agreeing with The Bible.

So certainly scripture and science do overlap in certain areas, especially the area of origins. There are areas where they overlap and there are areas where they are completely separate. I agree with much of what Dr. Craig says in his writings and in his lectures. I also agree with much of what Hugh Ross says. On this issue though, I say that I side with Ross. I think The Big Bang is taught in scripture. When you compare the teachings of science with the teachings of scripture, you’ll find that there are striking similarities in what they describe.

1.   The universe has a beginning (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews. 1:10, Hebrews 11:3).

2.   Time has a beginning (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20).

3.   God is “stretching out the heavens” like a tent (Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5; Jeremiah 10:12; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1)

4.   Is governed by a "law of decay" (Romans 8) 

5.   Someday this universe will come to an end and be replaced by a “new heavens and a new earth” (Psalm 102:26, Isaiah 34:4; Hebrews 1:10-12; 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1).

1: The universe began in a hot origin event dubbed by Fred Hoyle as "The Big Bang". Our whole universe suddenly appeared and was in a hot dense state during the first few seconds of it's history. 

2: Time had a beginning at The Big Bang. 

3: The universe has been expanding since its origin and will continue to expand in the future.

4: The universe is governed by a law dubbed "The second law of thermodynamics". This law brings things in the universe toward decay and disorder.

5:  Eventually, the universe won't be able to sustain life; the universe may collapse, or at the very least it will run out of energy (as the second law of thermodynamics predicts).

Obvious parallels emerge from these descriptions, both biblical and scientific. Although it is certain the bible writers didn’t specifically have the big bang in mind when they wrote those words, it’s at least possible that God inspired these particular descriptions because He knew that they reflected an accurate account of what scientists would discover millennia later. So I don't think either I or Hugh Ross are reading these things into the text at all. I do realize some concordists go too far and try to find science in the scripture that isn't there, but that doesn't mean there isn't any scientific content in scripture at all. Certainly there is some, at least with regards to the origin, structure and history of the universe.

*Addendum: The author of this post has moved away from Concordism. This article should be used for research purposes only.