Before studying theology, I worked as an engineer in the aerospace industry. As I was filling out the exit paperwork on my last day, one of the managers seemed rather upset. She expressed surprise that I was leaving science, where one deals in fact, to study theology, where one deals in something much more subjective.
I think her statement reflects a popular view: science is where we go for facts; the Bible is where we go for feelings. Thus whenever there is a purported conflict between science and the Bible, we should always side with science.
On the other hand, some Christians seem to feel that whenever there is a purported conflict between science and the Bible, we should always side with the Bible. The idea seems to be that if Christians back down to the claims of science, we are compromising our faith in the reliability of God’s Word.
I think both views are incorrect. As monotheists, Christians believe that there is one God who is the source of all truth. Therefore, if the Bible is God’s revelation and the universe is God’s handiwork, then the truths ascertained through Scripture cannot be in conflict with the truths ascertained through science.
When we speak of a conflict between science and the Bible, Christians are really referring to a conflict between our interpretation of science and our interpretation of the Bible. This is an important distinction to make. If we frame the conflict as existing between the secular sciences and the holy scriptures, it seems very pious to always side with the Bible. However, if we acknowledge that the real conflict is between our interpretation of science and our interpretation of the Bible, the choice is no longer quite so simple. It is one thing to insist that the Bible is always right; it is quite another thing to insist that our interpretation of the Bible is always right.
Therefore, I think we have to evaluate the purported science/Bible conflicts on a case-by-case basis. We are not asking this question:
Do I have more confidence in science, or do I have more confidence in the Bible?
Instead, we are asking this question:
In this particular instance, do I have more confidence in my interpretation of science, or do I have more confidence in my interpretation of the Bible?