David M. Skjaerlund
The Bible, passed down through many generations of recorded history, is the basis of Christianity and contains God’s instructions for man. The Bible also describes the origin of life on earth. Many have questioned whether a book written thousands of years ago could still be found accurate when scrutinized by modern science. But each time man thought that science contradicted the Bible, later scientific discoveries proved it to be true – while proving the previous scientific theories to be false.
Many of the greatest scientific discoveries occurred during the Reformation period. A thousand years of almost no scientific discovery passed in the period known as the Dark Ages. During this time the Bible was not in the hands of the people or even available in their own language. Biblical knowledge was restricted during this period. But with the onset of the Reformation, when the Bible was translated and put into the hands of many more people, something happened. Major scientific discoveries were made by men whose minds were illumined by the Scriptures. The psalmist’s revelation aptly describes this advancement of scientific knowledge: “The entrance of Thy Word gives light” (Psalm 119:130).
Many scientific principles were recorded in the Bible thousands of years before scientists actually discovered them. Throughout history, popular scientific opinion was typically against what the Bible suggested regarding a certain idea – until new scientific discoveries supported the idea put forth by God’s Word.
Limitless Stars and a Globe Hanging on Nothing
Consider the field of astronomy. Before the invention of the telescope, man actually believed that the stars could be numbered. The great Ptolemy gave the number as 1,056. Tycho Brahe cataloged 777 and Kepler counted 1,006. The astronomers of those days were certain that they could count the number of stars. Since the invention of the telescope by Galileo in 1608, we now know that the number of stars are limitless. Today, astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy with an additional 20-100 billion galaxies in the universe!
But long before the telescope was invented, the Bible had put forth the notion that the stars are countless in number. God spoke to Abraham that his descendants would be “as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the grains of sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). Jeremiah 33:22 states: “The host of heaven cannot be numbered.” Thousands of years later we see the confirmation of the Bible by modern astronomers.
Men also speculated on the earth’s foundation and how it was supported in space. At one point, it was believed that space was filled with a hypothetical substance like ether. Today, gravity is used to explain certain phenomena, but the world still appears to be hung on nothing, as is evident from our space travels. Again, this concept is not new from the viewpoint of the Bible. Job 26:7 mentions that God “hangs the earth upon nothing.”
For ages, scientists believed in a geocentric view of the universe. The differences between night and day were believed to be caused by the sun revolving around the earth. Today, we know that the earth’s rotation on its axis is responsible for the sun’s rising and setting. But 4,000 or more years ago, it was written, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place? It is changed (turned) like clay under the seal” (Job 38:12, 14). The picture here is of a vessel of clay being turned or rotated upon the potter’s wheel – an accurate analogy of the earth’s rotation.
For centuries, man believed that the earth was flat. Christopher Columbus was criticized for his proposition that he could reach the Indies by sailing west. When he sailed out of the harbor, many expected Columbus to sail off the edge of the earth. But few of us realize that Columbus received his inspiration and motivation from the Bible.
He once wrote in his diary: “It was the Lord who put it into my mind – I could feel his hand upon me – the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies … All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me … There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures… For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.”
The Bible is the first source to mention that the earth is spherical. The prophet, speaking in Isaiah 40:22, mentions that God “sits above the circle on the face of the deep.” The word circle in Hebrew, khug, is best translated in terms of sphericity or roundness. The Bible had refuted the flat earth theory long before scientists actually disproved it.
The Bible has also accurately described the water cycle, which includes precipitation, subsequent evaporation, and transpiration followed by condensation in the clouds (see Job 36:27-29). Science later documented the direction of wind currents and wind paths. This was unknown in previous centuries, but Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:6, “The wind blows to the south and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits with wind returns.”
Solomon also mentions about the movement of water in verse 7: “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.” Matthew Maury (1806-1873), who is known as “the Pathfinder of the Seas,” was the founder of modern oceanography and hydrography. Maury firmly believed in and was inspired by Psalm 8:8, which mentions “whatever passes along the paths of the sea.” Maury believed that if the Bible wrote about “paths in the seas” then there must truly be paths in the sea. He dedicated his life to find and document these paths God had mentioned. Maury spent part of his career with the U.S. Navy charting the winds and currents of the Atlantic which were not known before his documentation.
Great Scientists Who Knew the Creator
Most of the great scientists in history were men who believed in the Bible as the inspired Word of God and did not see a contradiction between science and the Bible. In fact, many of the great scientific discoveries were actually inspired by the Word of God. Sir Isaac Newton is famous for his discovery of the law of gravity, the development of calculus into a comprehensive branch of mathematics, and the construction of the first reflecting telescope. He believed that the Bible was God’s Word and said: “We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”
William Thompson, known as Lord Kelvin, was a physical scientist of the same stature as Newton. He held the chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow for 54 years. Kelvin established the scale of absolute temperatures so that such temperatures are today given in so many “degrees Kelvin.” He also established thermodynamics as a formal scientific discipline and formulated the first and second laws in precise terminology. Despite his 21 honorary doctorates, Kelvin remained a humble Christian, firmly believing the Bible. In a famous testimony given in 1903, Lord Kelvin stated that, “with regard to the origin of life, science positively affirms creative power.”
Samuel Morse is famous for his invention of the telegraph. The first message he ever sent over the wire was “What God hath wrought!” (Numbers 23:23). Morse, who graduated from Yale in 1810, wrote these words four years before he died: “The nearer I approach the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible. The grandeur and sublimity of God’s remedy for fallen man are more appreciated and the future is illuminated with hope and joy.”
Werner von Braun, who was primarily responsible for America’s guided missile and space flight program, was the Director of NASA’s Space Flight Center. Dr. von Braun was an active Christian and gave this testimony: “Manned space flight is an amazing achievement, but is has opened for mankind thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. An outlook through this peep hole at the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe.”
Dr. James Simpson, born in 1811, was responsible for the discovery of chloroform’s anesthetic qualities. His discovery and use of chloroform eliminated pain, and it was produced on a large scale worldwide for use as a medical anesthetic. He also laid a solid foundation for gynecology and predicted the discovery of the X-Ray. Dr. Simpson was president of the Royal Medical Society and was appointed Royal Physician to the Queen, the highest medical position of his day. He once stated, “Christianity works because it is supremely true and therefore supremely livable. There is nothing incompatible between religion and science.”
All of science points to the Omnipotent Creator of the universe. As we have seen throughout history, science has time and time again bowed its knees to the Author of the laws of the universe. As Owen Barfield said, “There will be a revival of Christianity when it becomes impossible to write a popular manual of science without referring to the incarnation of the Word.”
When asked what his greatest discovery was, Dr. Simpson replied: “It was not chloroform. It was to know I am a sinner and that I could be saved by the grace of God. A man has missed the whole meaning of life if he has not entered into an active, living relationship with God through Christ.” The greatest discovery in history has not been the law of gravity, calculus, telescopes or the telegraph. The greatest discovery an individual could ever make is finding Jesus Christ and making Him both Lord and Savior.