This week’s problem hits on a familiar argument about God vs. science.
The Bible lacks any insights related to science that were not understood at the time and includes many of the then-current scientific misunderstandings…What should be troubling to a Christian is why this is so. Wouldn’t the maker of the universe have communicated some basic truths about the world, such as the germ theory of disease to alleviate a lot of needless suffering? The absence of new ideas about science in the Bible is evidence that it was written by men with no inspiration from a supernatural being.
Regarding the Bible’s apparent lack of scientific insight, J. Warner Wallace has a great answer to this challenge that is brought up often where the Gospels and Jesus are concerned.
What is the nature of the Gospel accounts?
In reading through the New Testament, you will find the authors repeatedly referring to themselves as eyewitnesses of what they were writing. The language they use to describe themselves presumes they actually saw something happen and in turn wrote it down. John and Peter identify themselves as eyewitnesses who directly observed Jesus, and were not inventing clever stories (1 John 1:1,3 and 2 Peter 1:16).
These eyewitness accounts record the life and teaching of Jesus in the context of the 1st Century. They record Jesus’ ministry to 1st Century followers. The gospels are not unhistorical volumes containing generic, familiar wisdom statements; they are specific eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ interaction with a specific group of people in history.
What was the nature of Jesus’ audience?
Sometimes it’s easy for us to approach the Gospels from our 21st Century perspective, rather than examining them from the perspective of those who lived in the 1st Century. Wallace illustrates this point:
Imagine yourself as Jesus. You’ve got three years to demonstrate your Divinity to those you live with in the 1st Century. Think about what approach you might take. You could reveal yet unknown scientific facts to your audience, but would this accomplish your goal? If you describe the role of DNA or the anatomy of the solar system, how would your 1st Century audience confirm your statements? Surely claims of this nature would be unimpressive to a world without the ability to assess their veracity. In fact, any combination of such claims with other demonstrations of Deity would only serve to dilute the power of your message.
If you were a deity, there would be many ways to establish that in front of a 1st Century audience, but obscure, unverifiable scientific claims are most likely the least effective approach.
The effectiveness of miraculous evidence
Since obscure scientific claims are out, Jesus chose instead to demonstrate His deity through miracles. In fact, Jesus said these miracles were intended to prove His deity so His audience would believe He was who He claimed to be (John 14:11 and John 10:37-38). Miracles of this nature were the perfect tool to reach observers in the 1st Century because they were immediately accessible and verifiable. Unlike obscure statements to be confirmed over the course of two thousand years, these miracles demonstrated the divine nature of Jesus in a variety of ways available to 1st Century and future audiences. Miracles, unlike antiquated wisdom statements, have the ability to validate the divinity of Jesus across time.
Wallace concludes by saying the gospels are an account of Jesus’ activity in the 1st Century. They record Jesus’ interaction with an ancient audience, as He provided them with the kind of evidence they would find persuasive. If Jesus performed the miracles recorded in the Gospels, this evidence is still powerful in the 21st Century. If Jesus actually rose from the dead, this reality alone ought to be enough to persuade us.