Big Bang Theory; Literal Interpretation and more

A close friend of mine recently asked my opinion on the Big Bang Theory, and my view on a Literal Interpretation of the Bible. Below are some of my thoughts as well some thoughts of others who have helped me work through this in my own head.

It is hard not to see the evidence for the Big Bang as a stunning example of where science and theology intersect. Astrophysicist Dr. Robert Jastrow phrased it this way in his book God and the Astronomers (New York, W.W. Norton, 1978, p. 116): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” Why? Because, as Jastrow explained in a subsequent interview, “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. . . .That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact” (“A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths: Interview with Robert Jastrow,” Christianity Today, August 6, 1982, pp. 15, 18).

If Christians are to have objections to the Big Bang theory, it should only be in the atheistic presuppositions that often go along with the theory. The idea itself, that the universe came into existence due to an explosion, is not necessarily incompatible with the biblical creation account. As one Christian theologian has stated, "I am not necessarily opposed to the Big Bang theory. Rather, I know who banged it."

Now, pertaining to a literal interpretation of scripture. The short answer to the question of whether we at Netcast believe in a literal interpretation is “Yes”. But, it isn't that simple.

Interpretation occurs when someone reads the Bible in a language they can understand and determines the meaning of the verses they read by the enablement of God the Holy Spirit who also inspired the writing of Scripture. Each text of the Bible has only one true interpretation and so we must be careful to read the truth out of the Bible rather than reading our beliefs and desires into it. A common question arises at this point: is the Bible to be interpreted literally? The answer is yes....but let me explain. There are plain-literal and figurative-literal portions of the Bible. We begin by assuming the plain-literal meaning and if that seems absurd then we go with a figurative- literal interpretation. A figurative-literal Scripture teaches a truth in a poetic way and often uses the words “like” or “as” to tip us off that figurative language is being used. But even when figurative language is being used, it is still communicating a literal truth.

For example, in the poetic Song of Songs, the man says to his beloved, “your eyes are doves” (1:15). In this figurative language, the man is communicating a very literal truth. He likens her eyes to doves, which come in pairs, and when their tail-feathers flutter they appear like eyelashes. Doves have just one faithful mate throughout their lives, possibly indicating that her eyes are focused on him alone. The dove is also a symbol of peace and purity, alluding to her virginity. Similar figurative thoughts can accompany the creation story and many areas in the bible.

For me personally and Netcast as a church; our official stance would be that we accept the Bible as the written Word of God. The Bible is an essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure to mankind. It leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Being given by God the Scriptures are both fully and verbally inspired by God. Therefore, as originally given, the Bible is free of error in all it teaches. Each book is to be interpreted according to its context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through it in living power. All believers are exhorted to study the Scriptures and diligently apply them to their lives. The Scriptures are the authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice and doctrine. They are totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or even worldly wisdom and science. Every doctrinal formulation, confession or theology must be put to the test of the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture.

In the end, I struggle with what these type of conversations produce. I have really been challenged in recent years about what Paul tells Timothy about this.

2 Timothy 14-26 
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene.…... 

23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Pertaining to our hope in life, joy on earth and love for each other; these conversations rarely produce anything significant to our lives. If the conversation is about proving a point, taking a side, winning an argument or debate, or just trying to convince myself of how bright I am; I have no real desire to engage in the conversation. However, if my joy is at stake and conversations are heartfelt with the intentions of growing in my love for Jesus...I love those discussions.


Paul Shomo said...

Great post, thanks! I would like to say that anything yet to be discovered and understood by science is by definition supernatural, and not an implication of a deity. Robert Jastrow was simply stating that we don't yet, and may never, fully understand the forces behind the initiation of the Big Bang.

God is real to us for very personal reasons; reasons that rarely intersect with science.

Believers (such as myself) should keep these verses from 2 Timothy Ch 2 at heart when approaching these discussions (ones which we all know can't prove anything, but merely entrench and divide us in our existing beliefs). Thanks again for the dialog! :)

DASH said...

As a Messianic Jew, and a physicist, it is incredibly refreshing to hear this coming from a Christian pastor.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible said...

Thank you Matt for bringing out the topic of our universe evolution. Our philosophers says that universe is nothing but a vibration. Everything else is a vibration + matter. Different scriptures says it differently but all point to the one source - God, unseen, indestructible, and super consciousness.

Brano Willis