I was once invited to apply for a research program led by a Christian engineer. The goal was to make a finite element model of Noah’s ark based on the dimensions and materials given in the Genesis record. This finite element model would then be used to determine the natural frequencies of the structure. The Christian engineer who had conceived this project was confident that the results would demonstrate that the ark was structurally sound, thus validating the Genesis account.
I think this line of reasoning is seriously flawed, and I believe one story from the book of Joshua will demonstrate why:
Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.
On a visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, I saw complex geological models giving natural explanations for how a global flood could have occurred. Furthermore, the scientists who had developed these models seemed confident that this event could be confirmed through empirical evidence. All of this was presented as proof for the validity of Scripture. (The tagline for the museum is “Prepare to Believe.”)
However, consider taking this approach with the story in Joshua. The earth has a rotational velocity of about 0.26 radians per hour, giving a linear velocity at the equator of about 1,038 miles per hour. If the earth suddenly stopped rotating, and Newton’s laws of motion were still in play, very bad things would happen! All human life would certainly be annihilated.
Attempting to prove Joshua 10:12-14 from empirical evidence would be a laughably hopeless endeavor. Must we then conclude that the story is false?
Not if you believe in the supernatural.
Here is the simple fact of the matter: if you believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, then you have room in your philosophy to believe any of the fantastic stories in the Old Testament. A dead man waking up is every bit as impossible as the sun standing still.
Of course, the resurrection alone does not prove that the Old Testament stories are historical. It certainly remains possible that these stories fall into some literary genre like “parable.” However, the resurrection does open up the possibility that these fantastic accounts are history. If one believes in the resurrection, it is no longer necessary to relegate the Old Testament to the realm of myth.
More importantly, if we condition our faith in the Bible upon empirical evidence, then our faith will only be as strong as the latest scientific model, only as thorough as the available archaeological data, and only as permanent as the prevailing academic consensus.
But if Jesus believed the Old Testament, and if Jesus rose from the dead, then the Old Testament is true, regardless of the existence or non-existence of empirical evidence.