Is the Scientific Method in the Bible?

The Scientific method

What exactly is the scientific method? This is quite possibly the question you may be pondering over right now as you read the title. In order to answer this question, let us first look at what the word science means. Science comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. The word science just simply means knowledge.
The modern dictionary definition of the word science you will find today defines science as:

A branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws

This then leads us to the scientific method. The scientific method is essentially what scientists use in order to do science; this method qualifies what is science and what isn’t. The oxford dictionary definition the scientific method as:

A method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses

So where did the scientific method come from? To be precise, the definition above does not state that the scientific method came about in the 17th century; it just says that it has characterized natural science since the 17th century. There isn’t a set time where any one man invented the entire method. Over time esteemed names such as Newton, Galileo and Francis Bacon have contributed to what we now hold to be the scientific method.

There isn’t any set time where one man invented the method, however in the Bible, what we surprisingly (or should I say unsurprisingly) see is that the entire scientific method that we recognize and use today is pretty much summed up and displayed in action with God and Satan right at the heart of the experiment in the Book of Job. To add the icing on the cake, the book of Job that we see this take place in, happens to be one of the earliest books in the Bible according to dating (even though it is hard to pinpoint an exact date). Many scholars date the Book of Job to as early as 1700-1900BCE, around the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), in others words roughly 4000 years ago, way before the Roman or Greek Era.

Where do we see the Scientific Method in the Book of Job?

We see this method take place straight away in Job chapter 1 and 2. God lays out the plan in the order of: hypothesis, theory, testing (repeating), and confirmed result.

Hypothesis – Job 1: 6 – 12:

Satan comes into heaven. God starts the conversation by asking Satan what he has been doing. Satan says that he has been all across the earth. God then asks Satan if he has considered the righteous and wealthy man Job (even though he already knows the answer since he knows everything). Satan then responds by saying, he has seen him but that Job only worships God because he has given him riches and wealth, if he were to lose all of his riches, he would curse God and stop loving him. God (knowing Jobs heart and extremely strong faith in him) then says to Satan that he can test out his hypothesis on Job by taking away all his riches and his family, but not to lay a finger on his body. Satan agrees and now his experiment begins.

Theory and repetition of theory – Job 1:13 – 22 till Job 2: 1 – 10 :

Satan Goes down and ruins everything that Job has attained, taking away of all his wealth and fortune firstly, and then soon after, killing all his sons and daughters off. At the end of all this, Job, childless and penniless makes this amazing remark, (Job 1:21) “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job still loves God and doesn’t blame him for anything!

Satan angrily goes back to God and basically asks if he can repeat his experiment but this time by taking it up a notch. Satan now asks if he can harm Job’s actual body, to which God says yes he can harm his body but he cannot kill him. So Satan leaps joyfully back down to earth, and causes all kinds of illnesses within Job’s body, the most notable one being boils and saws all of his body. Satan is convinced that Job will deny God, thus making his hypothesis a good theory and eventually a confirmed result.

Unfortunately for Satan things do not go according to plan. In Job 2:9, Jobs wife comes up to him and tells him to curse God and die because the struggle is and has been too much to bear. Job yet again replies with this astounding message, (Job 2:10) “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Throughout all this, Job stays true and loyal to God, brushing of his wife’s remarks, and utterly destroying Satan’s plans without even knowing it!

Confirmed result:

We have already seen the results of the original hypothesis, but just to reiterate, in Job 1:21 and Job 2:10 we see that Job acts contrary to what Satan wants and hypotheses. To confirm Job’s responses in chapters 1 and 2, by the end of the entire book, Job still trust’s God, and all that he has lost is returned to him in much larger multitude than he ever had before by God!

In all this we can clearly see the scientific method laid out completely, from Satan’s original hypothesis, to the theory (a hypothesis tested with some solid evidence to back it up), and then the repeated testing in which he and God are able to eventually finalize the results. This is exactly the method that scientist use this very day in order to work and discover truths about the world, and as we have just seen, God himself was using this 4000 years before anyone, basically instructing us on how it should be done.

It’s a shame that in today’s society, the Bible isn’t credited with being the source of the scientific method simply because we are in an era where God and his Word have supposedly been falsified and shown to be untrue. What’s funny however is that the very method people try to use to disprove the Bible is the very method that validates the Bible. We often hear that science disproves the Bible and yet these same scientists use the scientific method practically everyday in their research completely oblivious to the fact that they are essentially stealing from the Bible in order to argue against it. What a strange world we live in, but thank God for the scientific method!

Final Note on Morality and Theology of the Book

In terms of the moral and theological aspect of this book of Job, there are answers to all of the questions posed in this book, however I have not tackled those questions purposely in this article as the main aim here is to display to you the roots of the scientific method only.

Can we Really Trust the New Testament?

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The foundations of the Bible have been under increasing attack over the last few centuries. Many people now hold to the view that the Bible has been disproven through science, history and the ‘fact’ that there is no God. Whilst the average person can appreciate that Jesus was a good man with great teachings (much like Buddha, or Confucius), they cannot accept the idea that he was supposedly God in human form, and that he proved it by dying on the cross and then resurrecting three days later. (In fact, read ‘Mere Christianity‘ by C.S. Lewis and he will inform you of why it is illogical to call Jesus just another good human moral teacher)[1]

Believers in Christ do hold to the former and the latter, however it is surprising to note that not many Christians today can actually defend why they believe this without referring to personal experience or ‘it is what I was raised to believe.’ (whilst these approaches are not wrong in themselves – they are vital in fact – they do not ultimately offer any solid objective reason for why your faith should be prescribed to a non-believer. A Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu could use the exact same reasoning).

When we look at the stats in UK, the fact is that “In five decades, the number of people with no religion in Britain has grown from just 3 per cent of the population to nearly half…[2]

The biggest drop out age rage is from the teens to the 20s. By the time this age group have gone through the educational system, many of them leave the faith. This is a huge number! Something is not right here.

When many of these former Christians are interviewed, the most common answers they give are that, they left the faith because there were too many unanswered questionstheir science classes on evolution disproved the bible, and/or they just didn’t know why they believed what they believed anymore:

Mitch’s testimony 

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(Mitch’s Testimony about his faith being shaken and then coming back to Christ)

The first thing Christians need to realize is that there really is evidence for what we believe and the evidence doesn’t consist of historical scraps loitering around that have been pieced together. On the contrary, we is an overwhelming load of well-preserved evidence right from the beginning in Genesis persisting up until our current times today. In this article I am just going to focus on the New Testament (NT) and Jesus Christ, however a strong case can be made for both the Old and New Testament equally.

World renown atheist Historian and NT scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman talks us through how historic records are compiled and how we can trust their reliability:

What kinds of evidence do scholars look for when trying to establish probabilities in the past? Well, the best kind of evidence, of course, consists of contemporary accounts; people who were close to the time of the events themselves…To determine which things are the things that happened, you want contemporary accounts, things that are close to the time of the events themselves, and it helps if you have a lot of these accounts. The more the merrier! You want lots of contemporary accounts, and you want these accounts to be independent of one another.[3]


Now lets use this criteria in comparing two ancient historical documents (Plato’s earliest writing, and the New Testament). We should be able to see which of the two we must consider more reliable.

Historical evidence for the NT and Jesus Christ?

  • I’m sure most people have heard of a person called Plato. Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived and died at about 428 – 347 BC. No one in general would argue that Plato didn’t exist, or that his writings weren’t his own (I believe just as most do that they probably are accurate and that he did exist). But when we look at the actual historical evidence, we detect a varying picture. In terms of actual manuscript (MMS) copies of Plato’s first writings, in total we don’t have 1000 of them, we don’t have 100 of them, we don’t even have at least 50 copies. All we have are 7 manuscripts copies total regarding his earliest writings (Tetralogies).[4] This might not seem significant, and that is understandable. The reason for this is because we have not yet compared it against anything else in order for us to make a valid judgement on, so lets do just that. Lets take NT manuscript copies and contrast them with Plato’s manuscript copies. The NT doesn’t just have 7 manuscripts, or maybe 100, or even 1000. The NT has over 5000 Greek manuscripts alone available[5] that we can access currently (this number was also confirmed when I had to the opportunity to ask Dr Drake Williams III who is a NT Scholar in a FOCL session he held discussing the question, ‘Are we mistaken about Jesus?‘ – 05,10, 2016).[6] The issue escalades downhill for Plato when we find out that all of the copies of Plato’s earliest writings only arrive roughly 12-1300 years after his death.[7]  The problem with this huge gap is that essentially, nobody on earth knows if the documents we have, have been altered within that timespan or not. Again when we compare this with the NT, document manuscripts arrive merely 20 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Furthermore eyewitness accounts are found only 40 years (the book of Mark in the Bible) after Jesus’ ascension. 20-40 years compared to 12-1300 years is a big difference.

In saying all of this, my aim isn’t to disprove Plato’s writings (as I mentioned, I don’t doubt that his writings aren’t his own), but rather to show that from a logical standpoint, if someone is willing to believe in the reliability of Plato’s work based on the limited and delayed evidence we have of it, then there is not much excuse for not believing in the reliability of the NT. The evidence for the NT far outweighs the evidence for Plato’s dialogues.

 

Referencing:

[1] C. S. Lewis (2012) Mere Christianity, : Collins. [P52]

[2] R. Gledhill (2014) Exclusive: New figures reveal massive decline in religious affiliation, Available at: https://www.christiantoday.com/article/exclusive.new.figures.reveal.massive.decline.in.religious.affiliation/

[3] Dr. W.L. Craig (March 2006) Is there Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?, Available at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-there-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-craig-ehrman 

[4] Jeremy Norman (2017) The Oldest Surviving Manuscript of Plato’s Tetralogies, Available at: http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=1880

[5] [Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2001) p. 256.

[6] D. Williams (2016) Are we mistaken about Jesus? Examining other Gospels outside of the New Testament, Available at: https://www.anymeeting.com/WebConference/RecordingDefault.aspx?c_psrid=E954DE8784473E

[7] Bill Pratt (2012) HOW DO OTHER ANCIENT TEXTS COMPARE TO THE NEW TESTAMENT?, Available at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/tag/manuscripts/

Atheist Scholar Agrees that the New Testament is Reliable?

Greek NT Bible

If you haven’t heard of him, then you will have after reading this. New Testament Critic Professor Bart Ehrman has become an iconic figure in his field of work making a name for himself as one of the foremost critics of the New Testament (NT). Ehrman you could say he is the Richard Dawkins of Biblical Scholarship.

Ehrman was not always an atheist, however since becoming one, has devoted much of his time to writing intensively on the supposed issues (known as textual variants) within the NT. This is probably made most obvious in his popular best-selling book Misquoting Jesus in which he essentially argues that the NT cannot be accurately reconstructed, and therefore cannot be trusted as a historical document of truth, especially when it comes to the information about Jesus Christ.

Whilst I hugely respect Ehrman as a person and professor who clearly knows his stuff very well, I do not respect the deceitful work he has at play when we further investigate his true convictions about the accuracy of the NT.

Firstly let me point out the fact that the accuracy of the NT is almost completely undeniable. The bottom line is that we have at least 5000 Greek manuscripts, and a further 20,000 (at minimum) quotations from the early Church fathers. All of this combined together gives us a huge degree of certainty in what the NT document really does say. Most liberal and conservative scholars also would agree with these figures.

If you were to buy and read through Misquoting Jesus, the ‘evidence’ provided might very well convince you that Ehrman has successfully punched some huge holes in the accuracy of NT effectively disproving the whole thing. This façade however totally disappears once you read up on his academic works and also the appendix of the paperback edition of Misquoting Jesus.

In 2005, Ehreman helped Bruce Metzger update and revise the classic work on the topic – Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament.

Here is what Bruce Metzger and Ehrman agree on according to Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason. She says,

 

Ehrman and Metzger state in that book that we can have a high degree of confidence that we can reconstruct the original text of the New Testament, the text that is in the Bibles we use, because of the abundance of textual evidence we have to compare.  The variations are largely minor and don’t obscure our ability to construct an accurate text.  The 4th edition of this work was published in 2005 – the same year Ehrman published Misquoting Jesus, which relies on the same body of information and offers no new or different evidence to state the opposite conclusion.

 

Now here is what Ehrman himself says during an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p252):

 

Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions – he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not – we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.  The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

 

The only question we are left with now is why did he do this? One could speculate a few ideas. Maybe he did it in order to sell more books, the more controversial the book, the more sales, can always be a motivator; perhaps, he knew that he could fool the average layman who bought his book, however not any real NT scholar, and definitely not Metzger. In this regard he is forced to tell the truth when in presence of other NT scholars, but free to manipulate the truth in the presence of the average layman. Whatever the case is, it is interesting discover that even a prominent atheistic scholar cannot present satisfactory evidence that undermines the NT but rather we find that he himself believes in it’s accuracy!

The Contingency Argument – Reasonable Evidence for the Existence of God

 

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Why is there a universe? What caused it to come into being? Is the universe eternal? These are some of the most fundamental questions philosophers have been asking and attempting to solve for the last 2000 years. Many propositions and arguments have been put forward and I would like to focus on one that I have taken a particular liking to. This is known as the argument from contingency.

17th century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz asked the famous question, “why is there something rather than nothing?[1] Leibniz came to the conclusion that this explanation is rooted in God, but just how did he come to this?

Let’s look at this argument in terms of the premises and the conclusion.

The argument goes:

Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.

Premise 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

Premise 3: The universe exists.

Conclusion: Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

In order for the conclusion to be true, the premises all have to be true (this is known an as deductive inference).[2] Let’s look at premise 3 firstly. Premise 3 is certainly true; we can know for certain that the universe does exist and it is logically reasonable to conclude this, and so we have a solid answer here. How about premise 1? We run into what seems like a dilemma here when philosophers such as Bertrand Russell make the claim that “The universe is just there and that’s all.[3] Is this a reasonable assumption however? We will look at this later in more detail regarding the recent scientific evidence but for now let’s take a more philosophical and existential approach.

Human experience of life tells us that whenever we see an object or organism, we know that there must be an explanation for its existence, even if we never see that explanation with our own eyes. Size and chemical composition does not affect this law and so logically this concept of causation applies to the universe as well. If the universe does exist, then we need an explanation for its existence; an eternal universe is illogical.

We run into a supposed second issue at this point. Someone might ask the question, ‘If premise 1 is true, then does that not mean that God needs an explanation as well?’ If this were the case, then premise 1 would read, ‘Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence’. In phrasing the statement like this, it would be logical to ask the question of how God Himself came into existence since God is a thing, even if he is more abstract. At this point however, Leibniz makes a distinction between something existing contingently and something existing necessarily. These definitions are tied to the last part of premise 1, the section that reads, ‘either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.’  We must now define these two words before we can move on.

For something to exist contingently means that that thing has a cause for its existence; for example, the cause of a mobile phone’s existence is (initially) the thought of a human being followed by the action of the physical creation of the phone in the real world. For something to exist necessarily means that that thing exists by the necessity of its own nature, in other words, that thing exists independent of a cause.

Coming back to the claim made by Bertrand Russell. There is strong scientific evidence today which suggests that the universe certainly did have a beginning. For the most part of the last 2000 years almost everyone believed that the universe existed eternally. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and much more recent scientists such as Fred Hoyle took this position. This stance seemed logical until about 100 years ago when a series of discoveries by men such as George Lemaitre, and Edwin Hubble involving the redshift of star light provided strong evidence that the universe might in fact have had a beginning at the big bang.[4a] [4b] This proposition cannot be established with full certainly due the fact that all of physics as we know it breaks down beyond the point of the big bang (quantum physics takes over at this point and it hosts an entirely new set of laws). Most scientists and philosophers today however agree with the view that the universe most probably did have a beginning; as Stephen Hawkins puts it, Almost everyone believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning”.[5]

Thus, we can conclude to within large degree of certainty that the universe likely exists contingently.

Now that we have established the nature of the universe, we again need to ask the question, why does it exist at all? It would be logically incoherent to say that the universe caused the universe to exist, since something that is contingent cannot cause itself to come into existence and human experience confirms this. The only adequate explanation therefore is that the universe must rely on a non-contingent being for its existence. This non-contingent being would need to exist necessarily in order to be able to create something like the universe.

What about our second premise, premise 2? In theory, there could be a range of explanations that seem to negate God as the primary cause. Under careful examination however, every one of these explanations fail in some aspect. The reason – as hinted at above – is that every other explanation can be boiled down to either something contingent in the universe, or something abstract within the universe such as a law like gravity. The problem here is that it is impossible for a contingent object within the universe to create the universe itself from nothing as this is self-refuting from the start. Similarly, universal laws are not known to create anything, they are useful explanations of universal phenomena in such a way that the human mind can comprehend (also known as the rational intelligibility of the universe), but they are not adequate explanations for origins in themselves.

To understand this point regarding universal laws and their roles within the universe, let’s take a common law such as gravity. Gravity is a force which causes anything with mass (such as planets) or energy (such as light) to be brought towards each other, or bent (light bends, whereas objects attract). Notice however that gravity does not cause the initial creation of matter. Gravity has never been observed to create anything from scratch, it has only ever been observed to act on an already existing body or type of radiation (light). Similarly, the laws of mathematics do not have the capacity to create money from scratch however, we use it as a basis for physics and maths itself. Einstein puzzled with this concept as well; his thoughts were summed up in a statement when he asked, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?[6]

The only viable explanation for the cause of the universe would need to tick very specific boxes: It would have to exist necessarily, it would also need to be timeless, spaceless, immaterial and extremely powerful. These descriptions come together perfectly in the form of God, the only plausible explanation for the cause of the universe.

Although not all will agree with premise 2 and the conclusion, in my view the argument is sound. If one logically follow through the steps in accordance with the evidence presented, it becomes clear that the only reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe is God.

With this we can now close by answering Leibniz’s philosophical question, why is there something (a universe) rather than nothing? The answer is: because God created it.

Referencing:

[1] Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. (1714). The Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on Reason. 7

 

[2] Okasha, S. (2016). Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction (very Short Introductions). 2. Oxford University Press. [p16]

 

[3] Fr. Copleston vs. Bertrand Russell. January 28th, 1948. BBC Radio Debate on the Existence of God

 

[4a] Dr. William Lane Craig. (1992). The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. Available: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-existence-of-god-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe.

 

[4b] Clarification: I myself do not hold to the Big Bang as a valid origins explanation, however, for the purposes of this argument I am adopting this view as it is the consensus within current mainstream science. Also it defends my position regarding a necessary creator for universe.

 

[5] [Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. (1996). The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [p. 20.]

 

[6] Max Jammer. (1921). Einstein and Religion, Princeton University PressFirst blog post