Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 8, 1966

Expanding Knowledge — Expanding Concepts


That the earth is flat was a truth so obvious to people in the year 1200 A.D. that no sane man could think otherwise. Common-sense, science, and the Bible were called upon to bear irrefutable witness to the fact --- or, they would have been called upon had any man been so stupid as to question the obvious.

But the steady advance of knowledge, the heaping of fact upon irrefutable fact, finally compelled all rational men to repudiate the "flat earth" concept, and to adjust their thinking and their ideas to a "round earth" world. This adjustment was no doubt fraught with many problems and misgivings. But this was all to the good. For a closer and more careful study of the Bible revealed to men that they had been mistaken in thinking the Bible taught a "flat earth" cosmology. And the proven fact of a round earth had served actually not to destroy the credibility of the Bible, but rather to enhance and enlarge their understanding of it.

As our understanding of the universe expands, and our appreciation of its immensity leaves us stupefied with amazement, we will tend either to reject the idea of God, or will come to realize that our previous concepts of him have been altogether too limited and too finite. Hipparchus, about a century and a half before Christ, gave the number of stars as 1,022; Ptolmey in the beginning of the second century A. D. set the number at 1,026. With our unaided eye on a clear night we can see only about 1,160, or if we could survey the whole celestial sphere, only about 3,000. But when the telescope came to be pointed into the heavens, less than three centuries ago, Galileo and his followers began for the first time to gain some idea of the immensity of space, A half century ago more than 400,000,000 stars had been counted and named. Since then vast other galaxies have been discovered --- and galaxies of galaxies. Our own sun is only a lesser light of some one hundred billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Men have taken the words of Jeremiah as poetic hyperbole, but now we realize he spoke literal truth when he said, "The host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured." (Jeremiah 33:22.)

If the unlimited immensity of space tends to awe us and make us feel insignificant and "lost" because of our smallness, we need but consider the electronic microscope which brings into our view a world infinitely small. Indeed, the comparative and relative distances between the circling electrons in a single atom of matter are quite as significant as the distances between the stars. If man is an infinitesimal speck in relation to the space of the heavens, he is an immense and awesome giant in relation to the world of the microscope. Probably he stands about mid-way between the infinitely great and the infinitely small.

No knowledgeable Christian need ever be apprehensive as to the discoveries of science. For if any demonstrated fact of the whole realm of science be in conflict with our understanding of some statement of Scripture, then without question we need to revise our concept of the Biblical statement. For the facts of nature and the facts of revelation are two halves of one complete whole

both of them reveal God. One is God's work; the other is God's word, His work is not contradictory of his word; neither is the word contradictory of the work. There is total harmony between the two. Any disharmony which may appear is because of man's misunderstanding of either the work or the word.

Let us, therefore, hail with gladness every new discovery, every certain fact that science brings us, making clear distinction between fact and theory, between demonstrated truth and wild and fanciful surmisings. For the facts we have only respect and acceptance; for the theories and guesses and wild speculations we with-hold judgment. Some of them may prove to be true; many of them will in time be discarded by reputable scientists as untenable and false. Meantime, the Bible, God's revelation of his Will must remain in our hearts and in our thinking as the ultimate expression of spiritual truth. We may need to revise our concepts now and then, and restudy the Biblical text; but let us waver not for a single moment in our certain conviction that God's word, like God himself, "shall not pass away."'

F. Y. T.