An obvious question to ask is, if Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is correct, why isn't it in the Bible? Surely, God wouldn't deceive believers by saying the world was created one way and then doing it in a different way!
I think Christians can rest assured that God wasn't being deceptive. The way He could have created the world using the method described by Darwin, but describe it in the Bible in the way it is, is because of what is called "Accommodation Theory."
Accommodation theory is the idea that God, in all of His greatness, is extremely difficult for humans to comprehend. If He is to be understood and worshipped, then His creation needs to be described in a way that is understandable to ordinary people. Let me now show you why this makes sense, both from the perspective of the Reformed Church as well as the Roman Catholic Church. Let's start with the Reformed Church.
The Reformation was based upon three great doctrinal concepts: 1) sola fides (salvation by faith alone); 2) scriptura sola (the supremacy of the Bible); and 3) the priesthood of all believers. The Reformers believed that people were saved by faith alone, not by performing any type of "works". Further, the source of all authority was the Bible itself. Up until that time, the Roman Catholic Church maintained that Church traditions had equal authority with what the Bible said. Finally, the Reformers believed that all believers comprised a priesthood, meaning that individuals could have a direct relationship with God. It wasn't necessary to have that relationship "mediated" by a priest.
One of the logical conclusions of this was the need to have the Bible translated into common languages so ordinary people could either read the Bible directly, or if they were illiterate, to have someone read it to them, but solely for the purpose of letting the individual person draw his or her own conclusions. No trained priest was necessary. Needless to say, the Roman Catholic Church wasn't amused.
Assume for a moment that the Reformers were right, and that God did intend for ordinary people to be able to interact directly with the Bible and draw their own conclusions. This is a bedrock concept in the Reformed Church. Well if that's the case, the Bible certainly cannot be a scientific textbook. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection could never have been described therein. It would have been akin to taking a textbook on surgery, written in Chinese, then translating it into English, or whatever is the native language of the reader. Even when translated, the text would have made no sense to the reader. But if the Bible couldn't be comprehended by the ordinary reader, God's purpose would not have been met. As such, if God intended for ordinary people to read the Bible and understand His message, it could never have been designed to opine on matters of science.
Now let's consider the same issue, but from a Roman Catholic perspective. Let's assume that ordinary people were never intended by God to read the Bible and understand its mystery – that God always did intend for trained priests to serve as "intercesors", interpreting the message in ways that ordinary people could understand. Being firmly in the Reformed tradition, I don't personally subscribe to the idea, but let's assume for a minute that I am wrong. Well, if God intended for the Bible to serve as a science textbook, his trained interpreters – the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church – got the message wrong for 1500 years! After all, the trained experts were the ones who read about the Battle of Aijalon in Joshua 10 and were convinced that both the Sun stood still that day AND the Sun revolves around the Earth. They were so convinced of it that they put Galileo under house arrest of 9 years because he begged to differ.
My conclusion, therefore, is that accommodation theory makes good sense. Not only that, but Christian theologians, even as far back as Augustine, said we shouldn't treat the Bible as a scientific textbook. John Calvin said the same. Dennis Lamoroux, a Biblical scholars, noted that:
The structure and origin of the universe presented in the
Bible do not align with the scientific facts. Yet this fact
does not weaken our belief that Scripture is the Word
of God. It only indicates that the Holy Spirit graciously
descended to the level of the inspired authors and used
the science of their day as an incidental vessel to reveal
inerrant messages of faith.
So if accommodation theory is a good explanation of why Darwin and the Big Bang theory aren't described in the Bible, what then can we say about what IS in the Bible? We can rest assured, what is described is an "accommodated version" that, while it is true, is a simplified to our level of understanding. We'll discuss that in our next post.