How do I know that the Bible is true?

These are stories, not historical records and objective biographies. They were told long ago by a large number of writers, nearly all unknown, as a way of talking about the...

As a Christian, how do I reconcile stories from the Bible with current scientific thought?

Stories really do matter. Novelist Ursula Le Guin has observed that there were ancient societies which didn’t use the wheel, but there were none that didn’t tell stories. People in all times and places and cultures have told stories about what matters most to them. In fact, there is a saying favored in many parts of the world which declares, "The shortest distance between human beings and the truth is a story." Theologian and storyteller Megan McKenna says that stories reveal what is central to the storytellers. They tell us who we are, from whence we have come, and what we believe. Stories also relate our failures, lacks, and losses and call us to take note of the ragged edges of our lives. Sometimes, McKenna says, we need "stories more than food to stay alive."


Which brings me to the gospel story [of the Transfiguration, Matthew17:1-8]. In my experience, contemporary Christians tend to get hung up on the details of this story. On one side are the more scientific types who are skeptical about the facticity of the story—Jesus transfigured into someone with a glowing face and dazzling clothes; Moses and Elijah, long dead, walking and talking with him; a voice from a cloud. The story, they say, simply cannot be factual, which means it cannot be true.

On the other side are the "walk by faith not by sight" folks who insist that the Bible is true and so the story’s details must be factual, however sensational they may seem to us. And maybe there’s a third side of folks who shift rather uneasily between the other two, having been raised both in a scientific culture and in the church, and who don’t know what to do with a story like this. So, what we often do with it is nothing at all.

What I suggest to us today is that when we struggle with the facts of a story, or ignore a story because we don’t know what to do with its purported facts, we are forgetting that the story is what matters. As my teacher Edward Thornton once reminded those of us in one of his seminary classes, some stories are told and re-told for generations because they touch a deep, spiritual place within us and, thus, have the power to transform us. As far as I’m concerned, that kind of power is what makes a story true rather than only factual.

The Rev. Dr. Mitzi Minor
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Perhaps a better way of phrasing this question is to ask whether the Bible intends to provide an accurate historical account of happenings in the universe. The Bible itself answers that question within the first two chapters of the first book. Genesis is an account of the origin of a people of God, and it begins with a story about the creation of all things, including the heavens and the earth, and humankind. Having created all things, God rested on the seventh day. However, immediately following the first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:3), the Bible relates a second story about the creation of humankind (Genesis 2:4-24).


The inclusion of both of these stories at the very beginning of the Bible shows us that the book is not meant to convey an historical reckoning of every event of creation. The Bible contains many stories that contradict each other, and that very fact tells us something important. Through the stories, the Bible provides us with ways of interpreting the actions of God and the continuous creative energy of God in the universe. Thus, the creation and other etymological stories are not meant to be taken as factual accounts of how things came about, but are meant to convey some interpretations of God's importance to the warp and woof of the fabric of creation.

The Bible teaches us that God is present in the world and yet is also the Lord over the ongoing creative process. The scientific method provides a way to obtain verifiable factual information about how nature works and the laws that govern natural phenomena. In a very real sense, science provides us with insights into the beauty and brilliant interconnectedness of physical, chemical, and biological events.

Modern scientific thought and stories from the Bible both tell us that there is freedom in the universe, and that things work within the confines of the laws of nature as best we currently understand them. Science helps us appreciate more and more that our understanding of the laws that govern matter and energy is provisional. That is because science empirically tests its understanding of those laws and revises them in accordance with new observations and discoveries.

There is not a disjunction or disagreement between Biblical stories and current scientific thought about the universe. They are paths that strive to seek Truth. Science works to inform us about the "how" of the creative process, and Bible stories and religion itself help us to interpret the purposefulness of the "what" and the "why" of creation to our lives. Science often employs deductive reasoning to solve its problems, whereas the Bible stories make us look into ourselves to a point where we 'feel' at both a cognitive and emotional level that we understand something fundamentally true.

A good example of this is the notion of love. Most people have at one time or another in their lives been in love. It is an emotion that is difficult to adequately describe, yet it is a profoundly true thing. It is something that cannot be proven in a rigorous scientific way, yet it is something that we cherish and are willing to fight and die for. Such truths can be stimulated and nurtured by Bible stories—for they have a way of stimulating our hearts and intuition like no other.

Over the past seventy years, scientific disciplines that were once thought to be entirely separate from one another have been shown to be very interdependent. It is impossible in cell biology, for example, to fully comprehend anything without weaving together strands of biochemistry, genetics, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The pieces of the scientific puzzle—each providing empirical information about aspects of nature—converge to yield new insights about life and the creative process itself. And that convergence provides the receptive mind and open heart with a deeper appreciation of the divine and the sanctity of creation.


—The Rev. Canon William Stroop, Ph.D.