How should we interpret Scripture and what should we use to do it? Should we use science to help better understand the Bible or should theology help us better understand science?
I think it is necessary to start with a very important point. There is a difference between data and interpretations. God has revealed two “books” to us. He has given us the book of nature and the book of the Bible. The words of the Bible and the record of nature is the data. This data does not change. However, our interpretation of this data, which is theology and science, might change and may be wrong.
So I want to suggest that it is possible to reinterpret Scripture without changing the words of the Bible. Instead of reinterpretation changing the Bible, it is us correcting our theology and something we misunderstood about Scripture.
But isn’t science man’s knowledge and the Bible is God’s word? Doesn’t this mean that God’s word is always right and science is the one that is wrong?
It is common for people to raise objections to the record of nature and the words of the Bible being in agreement. They say that these two records are contradictory because at the surface we see two different messages. Two reasons are generally given as to why these two records seem to contradict. First is the fact that Genesis 3:17-19 and Romans 8:20-22 teach that the ground has been cursed. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, the world has been broken, groaning, and corrupted. The second reason is that man is fallen. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful and wicked. We also see in Ecclesiastes 7:20 that there is no righteous man who never sins and always does good. So, the argument is made that sinful, deceitful, and fallen men cannot correctly understand a broken world. The Bible is the uncorrupted, true, and eternal word of God. Therefore, the record of nature cannot compare to the perfect, inspired word of God.
3 Ways Science and Theology Relate
The first view called compartmentalism. This view teaches that science and theology are completely different areas of knowledge and that they need to stay separate.
A second view is called Biblicism. This view teaches that the only source of reliable knowledge is the Bible. This is usually argued for based on what I mentioned before about the world being broken and man being corrupt. In this view, we have to study the world through the lens of the Bible.
The third view is dual revelationsim. This view teaches that both God’s word and God’s world are consistent and complementary revelations when properly interpreted. These two revelations are also referred to as general and special revelation.
When we recognize that both nature and the Bible are revelations from God, then we need to understand that each one should be taken with equal weight. By equal I mean
that we have to recognize that the two revelations are different and that we have to understand each one the best that we can. Both revelations are used to understand God more because they are two different ways that God has revealed himself to us.
There are many things about nature that the Bible doesn’t speak about and there are theological issues that we could never discover in nature. We will never learn that Jesus is the Messiah or the doctrine of sanctification from nature. Also, the Bible doesn’t speak about other planets or scientific discoveries like atoms. God didn’t reveal everything to us in the Bible. Therefore, it is important to understand where each revelations is limited. So if general revelation gives us insight into special revelation, then it should be considered and inform our interpretation Scripture. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about how creation took place. So if we know things from general revelation that align with Scripture, then we should be able to us it to correct our interpretation.
Understand that we are not changing God’s word with general revelation but only our interpretation of God’s word. If fallen man can get correct interpretations of Scripture, then we should be able to get correct interpretations of nature.
Which view do you hold to when it comes to God’s revelations and our interpretations?
October 31, 2017 at 2:08 am
In the whole of your article you seem to suggest that general revelation and special revelation are the same or not much different. For certain without the Holy Spirit natural man i. e. fallen man will never know Christ or understand God’s Word (special revelation).
Now as far as God’s Creation and Science fallen man can and does find natural truth. In the right context all truth is God’s truth is correct. Yet to suggest that our viewing of the world and how we may perceive it actually can trump, change, or reinterpret God’s Word is false and misleading.
At the end of your writing you say confusingly (double speak) this:
“Understand that we are not changing God’s word with general revelation but only our interpretation of God’s word. If fallen man can get correct interpretations of Scripture, then we should be able to get correct interpretations of nature.”
It seems that you suggest that fallen man can fully understand or figure out special revelation by their observations of God’s Creation and thusly change the interpretation of and thereby the Holy inspired intended meaning of Scripture.
I believe one’s understanding of fallen (sinful) man and the effects of his inability to know God aright and to interpret God’s word is best expressed in Romans 1:18-32. Therein specifically in verse 21-22, even as we see the idea of man’s fallen distorted view of Nature.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Romans 1:21-23 KJV
I believe God’s view, His way, His Word. In so much as He is all wise not you nor I nor any created human yet fallen or picked back up into a reconciled relationship to God through Christ.
November 12, 2019 at 12:39 pm
Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to it sooner. Somehow it slipped through. As you said, I am not suggesting that general revelation and special revelation are the same or not much different. They are very different but do overlap on occasion. I fully agree that fallen man will never know Christ or understand God’s word apart from the Holy Spirit.
I am also not suggesting that fallen man can fully understand special revelation by their observation of God’s creation. We will never learn about the God-man, penal substitution, justification through faith alone, sanctification, or the death and resurrection of Jesus by looking at creation. These are truths that are only given in special revelation. In the same way, we will never learn about Saturn or particle physics by looking at the Bible. This special revelation doesn’t focus on these areas of nature. My comment is on the parts where general revelation and special revelation overlap. An example of this would be creation.
You said, “Yet to suggest that our viewing of the world and how we may perceive it actually can trump, change, or reinterpret God’s Word is false and misleading.” I am curious, and please don’t take this as demeaning, but do you think the sun is the center of the solar system? If not, how did you come to this conclusion from Scripture? The Bible seems to suggest the Earth is the center, and that is why believers held that position for many years. If you hold to the fact that the Sun is the center, then might I suggest you have allowed God’s creation (general revelation) to “reinterpret” or “trump” God’s word (special revelation)?
November 12, 2019 at 2:25 am
After reading both these pieces of personal interpretation of someone else’s interpretation of what a supposed God ment to say, I’m still left wondering does the Bible say it can be reinterpreted or not. Remember U can’t reinterperate it for ur general purpose here
November 12, 2019 at 12:29 pm
I’m not sure that I understand your question. The Bible is God’s revelation to us. We have to interpret that revelation and understand it the best possible way. This is the work of systematic theology. I don’t know if the Bible says it can be reinterpreted, but why would it? We only need to reinterpret something when we realize that our interpretation is false. We do see scripture talking about the importance of understanding God’s word since it is our guide.