Tuesday, July 01, 2014

How Should Christians React when Archaeological Finds Disprove the Bible?

Anybody up for a little academia? On last Friday's Quick Takes, I mentioned I was struggling with the question of how Christians should handle archaeological finds that dispute the claims of the Bible. I'm not just sitting around mulling over deep questions of life (usually--my IRL friends just shush). I've been taking a couple of Bible classes this summer and this was one of my assignments. Since a few of you asked about my conclusions I thought more of you may be curious. So today I'm posting my response. Here ya go, people. Knock yourselves out.

Before we panic about a discovery that “disproves” the Bible we need to consider the nature of archaeology. “Archaeology is . . . an art and science, meaning it is directed by certain fundamental scientific principles universally accepted by archaeologists; and its evaluations draw upon human interpretation . . .” [1] It may be difficult for a 21st century scientist to understand the 1st century use of a particular artifact so one offers an idea. But is this interpretation truth? How might personal backgrounds and bias creep into the analysis and search? Is it possible to be completely objective when weighing evidence? People often find what they’re looking for to make their own case. For instance, numbers can be skewed in different ways to better represent a specific position. It seems very convincing that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend Crest toothpaste, but if we think of that as a percentage, 80% doesn’t sound quite as impressive. “The historian is rarely presented with the luxury of possessing a complete, detailed account of past events or viewpoints.” [2] Blanks are filled in with human supposition, often to support a definite point of view.

Should humans be able to explain and confirm all of Scripture? If we can, what does this say about our God? Is He truly beyond our understanding if we, as humans, can prove everything within the pages of His Word? Even science cannot boast such a claim for there is much that remains unknown. Though advancements and progress are made, we still have no cure for cancer or AIDS. No one can predict the weather with 100% accuracy. It takes as much faith to believe the Big Bang Theory as it does to believe Creation. Why are scientists afforded the luxury of not having all the answers, yet taunt Christianity to prove its every dot and tittle? “There will be some mysteries . . . that will have to wait for clarification; this is how all other disciplines (for example, science) must operate.” [3]

We must remember God does not work within the framework of time. Though discoveries may not be known to us for another fifty years, God knows them now. Our knowledge of them doesn’t change the truth. When developmental hypothesis rose in popularity in the 19th century, God knew the theories would be severely challenged a hundred years later when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. At one time liberals believed writing was not practiced in the Mosaic period and reasoned therefore that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch. Yet later discoveries such as the Gezer Calendar, the Ugaritic Tablets, and the inscriptions in the mines of Serabit el-Khadim proved writing was indeed employed during Moses’ time. [4] What now has been suggested to discredit the truth of the Bible may be proven wrong by a another discovery hundreds of years in the future. Truth remains truth regardless of whether it is known.

We can draw comfort from God’s Word which reminds us, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us . . .” (Deuteronomy 29:29) God is fully capable of defending Himself. When our faith is challenged by archaeological “proof” we are only accountable to what we know—His Word, His complete trustworthiness, and His indisputable presence in our lives. We remember the Bible, though written over a 1500 year period by over 40 authors, retains a theme of agreement and we trust it. [5] We can and should point to archaeological evidence to support our position, of which there is a multitude, but ultimately our trust must be in Him.

One might ask why God doesn’t just make it all clear now and silence the provocation of the enemy. I suggest it is to develop our faith. Strength comes from training, from working out and facing challenges. If God made everything easy to understand, would we seek Him as hard? Would we become complacent in having all the answers? Perhaps He is sparing us from the plight of the Israelites described in Hosea 13:6, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” With opposition, He’s giving our faith room to grow. We can take heart that a “time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.” (Matthew 10:26) When we don’t understand and can’t explain it, we are forced to trust and sink deep into His promises.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Proverbs 3:5-6


     [1] Norman Geisler and Joseph, The Popular Handbook of Archaelogy and the Bible, (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2013), 178.

     [2] Ibid, 179.

     [3] Ibid, 78.

     [4] Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007), 141-2.

     [5] Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett, Is the Bible True . . . Really?, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 68.

Okay, now it's your turn. Thoughts?

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