« PreviousContinue »
sky; but every one knows that there is an expanse which bears these water treasures far up from the earth's surface. The word rendered "firmament,"* from the Yulgate firmamentum, really means "expanse," and most naturally and obviously refers to the atmosphere surrounding the earth, upon which the clouds are borne aloft, and carried to and fro. Taking into account the want of scientific knowledge of the structure of the earth in far past ages, and the representations inconsistent with facts which found currency, the true marvel is that the statements of Scripture so simply and naturally harmonize with discoveries not made till the sixteenth century of the Christian era. This is a marvel which will more deeply impress us the longer it is pondered.
If we extend our consideration to the cruder notions which found acceptance in the dark ages, such as that to which Bruno referred, that the earth is a flat surface, supported on pillars, the scriptural evidence pled in its favor appears grotesquely inadequate. The passages are these. First stands Hannah's
* R<uP<a, ^I0m J?P"J, *° spread out
outburst of devotional feeling on the occasion of presenting her son Samuel before the Lord. In magnifying the greatness of God, she says, "the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them." * Next come the utterances of Job, when enlarging on the power of the Almighty. In one of his replies to his irritating counsellors, when speaking of the works of Jehovah, he says, "which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble." f In another passage of similar construction, he says of God, "He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof." J There is no Bible reader who can readily fall into such an obvious mistake as to treat these highly figurative utterances, as if they were formal revelations concerning the structure of the universe. As well might we, in reading the words of Paul concerning the position and influence of prominent disciples in the early church, in which he says that James, Cephas, and John "seemed to be pillars," proceed to deduce from this statement the revelation that the spiritual kingdom is a
• I Samuel ii 8. f Jot «• 6. t Job 10, 1L
flat surface on which are based the pillars upholding the heavenly kingdom into which the Saviour has entered.
This short reference to the structure and relative position of the earth, will suffice to illustrate the fact that in dealing with the alleged conflicts between religion and science, it is needful to cast aside a number of manufactured difficulties, which do not arise from legitimate interpretation of Scripture. The particular criticism here introduced is adopted for a general purpose,—to lessen complications, and secure a proper understanding of the actual relation of the Bible to scientific research.
From a very early period in the history of scientific inquiry, it has been more or less clearly recognized that the Bible is not a science-revelation, but a revelation of religious truth and duty, discovering the true ideal and destiny of man in fellowship with God. Let us have it kept clear on both sides, that there is no divine revelation of scientific truth. Nature is its own revelation, and the only revelation, whose secrets must be laboriously sought out by successive generations of investigators, from all of whom is required patient, persevering research, with undeviating and single love of truth. Those early inquirers who found themselves in painful contact with the persecuting power of the Roman Church, such as Galileo, and Bruno, recognized to some extent that conflict with the Church and conflict with the Bible were not exactly identical. And those of us who are clearly and resolutely on the side of religious faith and religious life, have need to ponder this lesson of history, that those defending the Bible have not always been guided by its teaching in their defence, and have not always fully apprehended the Bible teaching on the subject with which their efforts were concerned.
But what we most need in these days to keep conspicuous is the true view of the Bible as a professed revelation from God. It does not profess to be a revelation of facts such as scientific appliances are adequate to ascertain, while it does profess to discover facts both as to the universe and as to man, which science can not approach. It is not a history of the earth, but it includes within it, historical records of events closely connected with man's moral and spiritual well-being. It does not train man "to regard himself as the principal object of the care of Nature "; * it does not even suggest thought in this direction, but it teaches that God cares for righteousness more than he cares for material things; that man as a being of flesh and blood is unspeakably insignificant, his life being " even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away ";f that his spiritual life, in the love of God and in fellowship with him, is immeasurably great, the purpose of the Bible concerning man, as revealed by Jesus Christ, God's Son, being this, that man shall be like to God in moral purity.
From these few statements it may readily appear what is the attitude of the Bible towards science. It leaves man to his own research for the structure of science in all its divisions; it proffers no help in such work; but has a range of application quite beyond the area traversed by science.
In this way we find the natural interpretation of inevitable conflicts in the past, which have been roughly and often inaccurately described as conflicts between religion and sci
* Conflict between Religion and Science, p. 172.