Should We Follow Science or the Bible?

by | Nov 21, 2022 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 9 comments

Science or the Bible: How can you tell what's true?
Merchandise is Here!

When it comes to judging marriage advice, how do we figure out what’s right?

I’ve been following Robin on Twitter for a while now, blown away by her really insightful threads. She has a great substack where she writes thoughtful articles, and she’s recently done some podcast series looking at both I Kissed Dating Good-bye and Love & Respect.

She thinks in a similar way to me, but not the same, and while we often get to similar conclusions (though not always the same), she often gets there through a different route, which is why I love reading her. She makes me think.

I wanted to introduce you all to her, and asked her to write something that summarizes what she’s been thinking as she goes through Love & Respect. I hope you enjoy it–and remember to subscribe to her substack

Sheila Wray Gregoire

There is often a perceived conflict between religion and science.

Fans of science often promote the idea that science is superior to religion because scientific evidence is concrete and therefore not subject to interpretation the way scripture is. Nothing could possibly be further from the truth, which is exactly why scientists themselves developed something called the scientific method. Wikipedia defines the scientific method like this:

The scientific method is an empirical method for acquiring knowledge that…involves careful observation [and] applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given that cognitive assumptions can distort how one interprets the observation.

Wikipedia

The steps of the scientific method look something like this:

  1. Make an observation and develop a question about it that you want to attempt to answer
  2. Research the topic area
  3. Form a hypothesis (a “now-educated guess” about why something happens)
  4. Devise and perform an experiment to test your hypothesis
  5. Analyze the data
  6. Report your conclusions

Conducting scientific research still does not make your conclusions set in stone. Once conclusions have been reported, they are still subject to peer review, which is also true of Biblical scholarship. Even religious scholars acknowledge that humans are subject to interpreting scripture according to our own cognitive biases, which is why they use two different words to define how we approach scripture.

  • Exegesis means to approach a text free of any preconceived notions or ideas about what it means. It involves doing a thorough deep-dive into both the historical and cultural context of certain passages to try and gain as full a perspective as possible into what the author’s (or God’s) true intention may have been. Legitimate interpretation of scripture involves approaching it similarly to how an archeologist or sociologist might approach their work.
  • Eisegesis means to approach scripture with a preconceived notion. It can also mean approaching scripture with a biased cultural lens. One example of this is to read scripture as if Paul and Jesus were both white, male Americans, writing/ speaking to white churches in modern-day America.

Which method did the book Love & Respect use?

In the book Love & Respect, Emerson Eggerichs detailed how he came across a scripture, spent some time thinking about it, drew a conclusion and then went out and found a single scientific study to support it. A study from Shaunti Feldhahn that Sheila and Rebecca have also shown to have a number of flaws.

Not only did Eggerichs use poor theological methodology to reach his conclusion, but he also used poor scientific methodology to support it as well. The Bible actually tells us there is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death (Prov 14:12).

Love AND Respect Banner Ad
Love AND Respect Banner Ad

Eggerichs wrote an entire book based on his own estimation of what seemed right to him, as well as to a number of people he shared it with.

I suspect it has also resulted in the death of a number of marriages as well, largely because numerous people have shown that it neither aligns with scripture as a whole or with larger and more rigorous works of scientific research. What he also claimed, however, was that it was God that ultimately led him to his conclusions.

How can we know if that is true or not?

Well, if something is true, it is true because it is true.

Things are not true simply because they can be found in the Bible but rather, they are in the Bible because they are true.

The Bible is also subject to interpretation, so that does not mean everyone’s interpretations of the Bible are actually true or correct. The Bible has existed in essentially its current form for hundreds of years, however, and in various bits and pieces for thousands of years. It has been embraced by cultures around the world because again and again it proves to be true–when evaluated on its own and not through the lens of someone else’s interpretation of it.

When determining whether something is true or not, I use a method I like to call “triangulation.”

The purpose of studying scripture is not to determine the “right” answers to all of life’s questions but rather as a type of compass to help you navigate through life. You can use the Bible as a North Star of sorts, but you still need other stars to navigate by. These other stars can be science and nature (Romans 1), philosophy and pursuit of knowledge, even history.

When something is true, you will generally find it echoed in a number of different ways from a number of different sources. For instance, the Bible says “a man reaps what he sows”, or as another translation says: “you will always harvest what you plant” (Gal 6:7). Although the Bible is not actually referring to food here, we know this to be a truism in the physical world as well. If you plant pumpkin seeds, then you shouldn’t expect a crop of watermelons to come popping out of the ground. If you want to grow tomatoes, you have to plant tomato seeds.

In physics, Newton’s Third Law of Motion tells us that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

All of these sources are saying roughly the same thing, which is that actions have consequences and your specific actions determine your specific consequences. Therefore, we can use the Bible as our North Star and find the same premise stated in different ways from a number of other sources.

Can truth be found outside the Bible?

Just because people are not using the Bible to draw certain conclusions does not mean those conclusions are “un-Biblical”, but it also does not mean that when someone can find a single verse to support a premise that it actually aligns with the overarching message of the Bible.

John and Julie Gottman are widely considered to be some of America’s foremost experts on marriage because they actually take a scientific approach to studying relationships. That being said, they can also show how their research aligns with Biblical teachings.

Just because a book is being promoted by Christian organizations doesn’t mean it actually aligns with Biblical teachings; but just because a book is being promoted in the secular world also doesn’t mean it doesn’t align with Biblical teachings.

When in doubt, I think it is always important to remember that Jesus said the whole of the law can be summed up in two commandments: to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). And what does that look like?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I think if we can even just use these two teachings as our North Star in all of our relationships, we will do just fine.

Robin Thinks

Author at Bare Marriage

Robin Black spent ten years as a missionary in a Christian theater ministry, working as an actor, director and producer; as well as studying inter-relationships and power dynamics. She has performed in thousands of churches of all denominations throughout the US and Canada. She has a degree in Writing & Directing for TV & Film and has worked in radio, television, theater and film for more than three decades. Today, she is an author, blogger and podcaster, helping people deconstruct and reconstruct their faith and belief systems. Find her LinkTree at https://linktree.com/robinthinks

Related Posts

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

9 Comments

  1. Becky

    At the academic level, the study of Scripture should be done in a similar way as the scientific method. I’m a PhD student in New Testament, and we’ve just done our two first research papers. The drafts are subject to peer review and then we have to revise. And as I work on my dissertation proposal with my advisor, I suggest a hypothesis and he sends me back to the text to see if there is evidence for it. My proposal will then be examined by a diverse group of scholars. I know not every Christian author can do a master’s degree let alone a PhD, but it frustrates me how lacking popular Christian books are in robust research, review, and oversight.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely agree! Rebecca and I were talking about this last night–how especially best-selling authors in popular evangelicalism don’t have the credentials to write on most of what they write about. We should do better than this!

      Reply
      • Stefanie

        I think the reason for that is that we have this idea that the Bible is true, and what that means is that any uneducated person can just open it up, read it and apply it and it’ll ”work.”

        Reply
  2. Emily

    Sound research back by methodology is so important! As much as I didn’t LOVE my research class for grad school and don’t plan on having it be a big part of my career, it helped me be a better consumer of research. These authors are essentially inserting themselves into the social sciences but minimizing the science part – or ignoring it altogether.

    Reply
  3. A2bbethany

    I think evangelicals get a little bit intimidated and maybe afraid when it comes to science and the Bible. Because there’s a gap in the approach and beliefs. I firmly believe that God created the world in 7 days about 6k ish yrs ago. Many in science don’t, and if you don’t, or even suggest a possible difference, you risk your career. (Not going to argue it, just that’s how Evan.s see the science community.)
    So when you talk about having peer reviewed studies ECT ….that’s when the feelings of issue come in. Who’s a peer when your biggest science belief, has isolated you? I’ve heard that some creationist ministries are trying to peer review each other and it’s….odd. Im not obsessed with the topic, or wealthy enough to donate. I think it’s all online and from little I’ve seen, gotten more hung on financial dealings than the science.

    Ultimately I believe that, when the full truth is revealed science and the Bible perfectly blend, and are saying the same thing! Both glorifying God!
    (I’ve been gone a little bit, cause my baby was sick and then other life.)

    Reply
  4. Laura

    Jesus said the whole of the law can be summed up in two commandments: to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). And what does that look like?

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    1 Corinthians 13:4-7
    I think if we can even just use these two teachings as our North Star in all of our relationships, we will do just fine.

    100% agree with these verses as guidelines to how we should treat others. The problem with “Christian” marriage teachings is that the authors or pastors prefer to focus only on the 4 or 5 marriage verses found in the Bible.

    There was absolutely nothing scientific or biblical about L & R. I think that book was based on an ego-driven narcissist who wanted to dictate that men should be in control of their wives because that’s what he believed God said. I am so glad I threw that book in the trash. It was given to me and my ex-fiance as a gift several years ago. We never got around to reading that book and I had read parts of that book years ago, so I knew how sexist and misogynistic it was. Later, I talked to him about it and he told me throwing that book in the trash was the right thing to do. We’re still friends to this day and he never believed in the hierarchy of marriage.

    Reply
  5. Em

    This is brilliant, thank you! I will definitely check out Robin’s work.

    Reply
  6. Luke Jalbert

    This post was very timely. I was telling someone the other day about my two favorite podcasts, this one, and Darkhorse podcast that is hosted by two evolutionary biology professors that are staunchly agnostic. They looked at me like I was crazy that I would flip between the two. What has surprised me again and again is how often the two podcasts either come to the same conclusions or shed light on the other. In a recent Darkhorse podcast they talked about how biology forces women to invest heavily in there children, but men have always had two reproductive strategies available to them. The one they stress is the Good male strategy they call “Stay and Pay” meaning a committed long term relationship to the mother and child, where the man puts their interests before his.. The men acting badly strategy is the “Sew and Go” where all you care about is the sex. It struck me how the recent series on this podcast around sexual recovery shows where the system has been jacked with so men can look like they are doing the “stay and Pay” but get the “sex is all for me” benefits of the sew and go strategy. To me this explains why men can operate in the bedroom in a good or bad way, where women really can’t separate the sex and the emotions.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s really insightful! I like that.

      I think another way of looking at it is that the evangelical church has Christianized the pornified view of sex. We’ve anointed it and called it good. And I’m reminded of Jeremiah’s constant refrain–“Woe to those who call good, evil, and evil, good.”

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.