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Revelation isn’t only what the Bible contains. Revelation through nature is also a very important form through which we can know God. The objects of all sciences are given by God’s revelation in nature. God had revealed Himself in the origins and structure of the universe and also through the vegetal and animal nature. Nature is a revelation in no way inferior to the written Bible and revelation in nature can be better understood from the study of nature than from the biblical texts. Revelation in nature is a revelation written in the life of so many species of plants and animals and in the structure of the cosmos. Very importantly, God revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that is also a revelation in nature, but in human nature. God has revealed Himself in human history also, at a particular time and in a particular way. Besides the revelation in nature and history, God reveals Himself to us in our inner selves and sometimes through the Bible; not as directly as one would probably be inclined to believe, but through many layers of human interpretations by the authors and redactors of the texts.
In case of divergence, which has priority as a more valid revelation of God, Scriptures or nature? Both Scripture and nature are recognised as being the result of God’s revelation by the Bible. What happens if God reveals one thing through Scriptures and another thing through nature in the same matter? This is the essence of the debate between science and religion. How can we maintain that both Scriptures and nature are God’s revelation if they contradict each other in many of their aspects? Scripture and nature have to be in harmony if both have God as their source, but they aren’t.
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If one states that revelation through Scriptures has priority upon the revelation through nature, what is the biblical basis for such a claim? Nowhere in the Bible can be found the claim that Scripture is more authoritative than the revelation in nature but this is the presumption maintained by many religious commentators. Nevertheless, one can safely maintain that revelation through nature is a much older and direct source than any revelation through Scripture and, even more, nature goes back until the beginnings of all things, and keeps an unbroken continuity and perceptible traces from then until today. Nature as a revelation would have been much more difficult to alter than some texts written by man, because it is a story inserted in the structure of reality.
Many commentators of the Bible try to sanction the false idea that all nature has been corrupted following Adam and Eve’s sins, and that the disobedience of the first man and of the first woman had the power to drastically change God’s creation. God had created the universe in a certain way but following Adam and Eve’s transgression everything that He had built was overturned by the human beings’ faults. Initially God did everything very good but because of man it became very bad. Death, suffering, killings, illnesses, wars and others aren’t the effect of God’s creation but are caused by man’s disobedience to God. With this false idea those commentators want to demonstrate that nature cannot be trusted as source of knowledge about the origins of the universe and humankind, therefore the results of scientific studies also cannot be trusted.
According to those commentators, carnivorous animals had been created good and peaceful but they became bad and destructive because Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. Nothing is more absurd than that. All nature is exactly in the situation which had been created by God not in seven days but during billions of years, through evolution. A major transformation of nature following humankind’s disobedience would have meant a new creation, but God created nature once and not twice. According to the book of Genesis God created nature in seven days and He didn’t create it again in another period of time.
Nature speaks very precisely about how God is and tells us that He had accepted from the beginning death as an important tool for evolution. Without death, evolution wouldn’t have been possible because death permits something imperfect to be replaced by something better.
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God is a divinity of life and death and He does His own kind of selection for eternal life similar to nature, which also does a selection but for natural life. This is the revelation contained in nature and can be enriched with the amount of revelation contained by the Bible.
One form of revelation without the other is incomplete and that was not really well understood, in the history of Christianity. The revelation through the Bible was always emphasised and considered to be God’s main form of discovery because it was canonised and therefore easier to keep under institutional control. Being “unmovable”, the Bible was considered to confer more stability for the authority of religious institutions. Any new scientific discovery based on the study of nature was regarded, by the religious clergy, as a direct attack on the Bible and surely it wasn’t at all intended to be that. Starting with the recent past and caused by the development of the sciences, the emphasis had gradually been moving onto the revelation through nature from the revelation through the Bible, and that caused important debates.
Where can we find our priorities, in nature or in the Bible? Is God’s revelation more valid in some ancient texts or in nature? It seems that we have to choose between what allegedly is revealed through some ancient texts contained by the Bible, and what humankind can discover carefully researching nature. What they both say greatly contradict each other. All tentative attempts to correlate harmoniously the two of them, aren’t really convincing, and some of them are ridiculous. The Bible is considered to be scientifically accurate by some Christian commentators on a very thin base:
“The Bible is not a science book, yet it is scientifically accurate. We are not aware of any scientific evidence that contradicts the Bible. We have listed statements on this page that are consistent with known scientific facts. Many of them were listed in the Bible hundreds or even thousands of years before being recorded elsewhere. Many concepts and notes on this page are adapted from ideas and statements that appear in The DEFENDER’S Study Bible.”
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The author of the article isn’t aware of any scientific evidence that contradicts the Bible but there is much evidence which shows that the first 11 chapters from the book of Genesis are as far as possible from sciences. The arguments used by the author of the article in order to demonstrate the so-called scientific character of some biblical texts are very naïve. Here we have some of them:
“The Bible frequently refers to the great number of stars in the heavens. The Bible also says that each star is unique. The Bible describes the suspension of the Earth in space. The Bible describes the circulation of the atmosphere.”
The great number of stars can be seen by any man living on Earth. Nevertheless, when the Bible has compared the number of children of Israel with the number of the stars or the number of the grains of sand, it was a metaphor and didn’t have anything to do with science. Of course each star is unique by its size and shine but no divine intervention is needed to realise that and none was necessary in the past either. About the suspension of the earth in space the Bible says that it hangs on nothing, which is a very strange description of gravity and as a matter of fact the earth “hangs” on the sun, through the law of gravitation. Keeping the metaphor, it is wrong to maintain that the earth “hangs” on nothing. About the circulation of the atmosphere, the Bible presents an impossible situation from the creation until the Flood period in which there wouldn’t have been any rain on Earth according to its texts. We should remember that the rainbow would have appeared only after the Flood but in an atmosphere where it rains periodically rainbows would have been a usual phenomenon. The Bible is inconsistent in many ways with science, starting with the short periods of time allocated for the apparition and development of earthly history and up to the order of creation where the earth is said to have appeared before the apparition of the sun and disentangled from the rest of the cosmos.
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Basically, true revelation in order to be validated should not contradict direct observations, when referring to the origins of the universe. For example, if we all see the daylight coming from the sun, we shouldn’t be pushed by religion, under the threat of eternal hell, to believe otherwise. God cannot reasonably ask us to believe something contrary to our direct observations, contrary to what we see and is scientifically undisputable. In other words, God cannot ask us to believe things which are obviously contradicted by our direct experience of natural phenomena materialised in scientific thesis. If God would insist for us to take something which was meant to be a metaphor as having the value of a historic or scientific fact, that would equate with the unreasonable obligation of believing a lie.
In my opinion, God would never ask us to believe something contra-factuality, so it isn’t Him, but the organised religion which insists on a literal interpretation of the narratives from Genesis, chapters 1-11. Jesus has encouraged people to believe what they have seen and have heard:
“22 And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers* are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” (Luke 7; 22 NRSV)
Even God’s miracles presuppose the existence of valid senses and a healthy mind in order to be understood. One legitimately can doubt that Genesis, chapters 1-11, was inspired by God as a real description of the apparition of the universe, on the basis of the contradictions and inconsistencies that these texts contain. Through direct observations of reality anyone can understand that what the book of Genesis says about the creation of the universe cannot be but legend. One can believe in the existence of God but not necessarily in the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.
A loving God wouldn’t demand us to believe blindly all that religious systems maintain is inspired by Him, even if it is manifestly not the result of inspiration. If He would do it, which is not the case, all rational coordinators, indicators, or points of reference of reality are gone.
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In such a case, we would be obstructed from rationally leading our lives, and we would have to choose Him through constraints and not on the basis of personal convictions and rational arguments. In such a case men couldn’t approach reality in a thoughtful manner and couldn’t be asked to have rational behaviour.
If God would ask us to be irrational, how could society ask us to be otherwise? In other words, if God would ask us to be irrational, all rational fundament of our lives vanishes. The idea dissipated by organised religion that in order to be a good Christian one has to believe literally the entire Bible, is false and doesn’t serve the spiritual interests of the believers.
If the unreasonable obligation to take myths as facts was imposed on human beings in real life, none could be held responsible anymore for any irrational or inconsistent personal attitude. This is one point which reveals the dark side of any religion where freedom of consciousness is replaced with enforced authority. If one sincerely rejects the truthfulness of any religious proposition which is absurd or contradictory, what would be God’s rationale to punish him or her in an allegedly eternal hell, for lack of religious faith? Being thoughtful, and accepting the rational conclusions of sciences shouldn’t be seen as the ultimate sin even if one rejects a certain religious doctrine because of that. Probably the best work that a Christian can do at the moment is to disentangle the faith in the universal God from the boundaries of the biblical fables about creation and about the universal Flood.
Together with other myths of creation, the narratives from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis give us an intuitive hint about God’s existence. If there is any revelation in the book of Genesis, it is not historic or scientific information. No myths or parables should be taken literally. In the course of history God spoke through parables, through Jesus Christ. Why don’t the advocates of the biblical literalism interpret literally all Jesus’ words and cut their hands or pluck their eyes when they sin as He has said word for word? It is the same idea. A myth or a parable must be recognised as such and one should try to decipher its spiritual meaning. The myths of creation from the Bible can be interpreted as having some spiritual content in spite of their numerous contradictions but this doesn’t mean that they have been inspired by God. This kind of spirituality reflects the human need to understand the universe outside our world in connection with fundamental human concerns. The stories of creation can bring to our days some echoes coming from the most ancient times of human history.
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At the same time, trying to serve God but in the wrong direction, many commentators of the book of Genesis obtain the opposite outcome than the one intended by emphasising a literal interpretation of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis.
As a matter of fact, the beginning chapters from the book of Genesis don’t reveal anything about what happened before the moment of creation, before the beginning, meaning before the Big Bang and in that respect don’t add anything to what the sciences bring to human knowledge. The book of Genesis, in its beginning chapters, doesn’t contain any revelation at all, meaning that it doesn’t refer to an area to which the human mind cannot ascend. What happened before the Big Bang is an area for possible revelation but that space isn’t approached at all by the book of Genesis even in its outdated language. Of course, the stories of creation from the Bible don’t refer at all to an event as it was, the Big Bang, but it refers to a beginning. What would have been a true revelation, or true information, would be what happened before that beginning.
In a domain where revelation would be very useful, in the area of beginnings which extends before the apparition of the universe where human beings don’t have the possibility to investigate, in the proper area of revelation, the message coming from God is not there.
"In the beginning when God created* the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1; 1-2 NRSV)
Our universe has a beginning but an eternal existence cannot have such beginnings. God without space, time, energy and matter isn’t other than the absolute nonexistence, and from this nothingness absolutely nothing could have appeared. The vision of classical theism on God is the view on a non-reality which couldn’t have determined anything in any way. Nothing can be caused by absolute nonexistence which doesn’t contain anything and it cannot be said to exist. If God existed before the beginning of the universe as something totally different than the components of our world, we have to know what that is, but the Bible doesn’t give us any idea about that.
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The only so-called revelation from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis is nothing but a mythological explanation of the existence of our world.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth the earth was a formless void. That is what the Bible says happened in the beginning. What happened in the beginning is discovered by science, which explains how things happened in the first moments of the apparition of the universe. At the present time, there isn’t any need for a scriptural revelation for the beginning of the universe on; a revelation about what was before the beginning would be very important to have, but the Bible doesn’t offer it to us in any way. For this reason, the book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, cannot be considered to contain revealed information about the origins of the universe, and proves that their human authors didn’t know anything about this issue.
What happened technically in the moment of creation and immediately afterwards? The book of Genesis doesn’t give such information. The first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis don’t show us exactly how the plants and animals were made and why there is a common descent to all living beings. All plants and animals would have been created miraculously, in a supernatural way, according to Genesis, but in the world of nature everything functions according to natural laws. The main explanations regarding nature can be found in the way in which nature works, and unless one understands the dynamic of nature he or she cannot comprehend reality.
Why wouldn’t God have used the natural laws set in place by Him rather than having supernatural interventions? There isn’t any reason why God would have created the entirety of nature miraculously if on the other side He organised its functioning according to natural laws. At the heart of the knowable reality there are not miracles but rationally predictable laws.
We are led to believe, falsely I would say, by some interpreters of the book of Genesis, that human beings are somehow biologically different from other living beings, because they were made in a different manner, shaped by God out of the ground.
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“7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground,* and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2; 7 NRSV)
Such interpretation of the texts of the Bible isn’t right because these texts state that both man and animals had been formed out of the ground. Both man and animals had to receive the breath of life from God in order to become living beings.
“19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (Genesis 2; 19 NRSV)
Man and animals are made from the same material and have the same fate, a finite existence on Earth. What differentiates them is rationality, and if we take that from man he becomes an animal like all other animals. In a subtle way, many religions try to discourage a rational inquiry into their doctrines and dogmas. They boast about humankind being above any other earthly beings by using rationality, but on the other side they don’t like all the consequences of what a reasonable mind would generate about what they believe.
What happened before the Big Bang is an area of pure speculation and is a domain which cannot be analysed through scientific means such as direct observations, experiments, predictions about the phenomena and construction of scientific theories based on concrete data. Why can such thing not be done? If direct observations aren’t possible no experiments can verify hypotheses made for that area. Are we the prisoners of our universe? It may be that the future will prove we aren’t. We cannot go back to before the Big Bang but we can go forward in the immensity of the cosmos where other universes are born. String theory or M-theory endorses the idea that existence doesn’t come from absolute nothingness – existence is the norm, the rule.
Revelation should be a bridge which helps us in crossing the impassable darkness of a transcendental reality. Transcendentalism has to be understood in the sense of a reality which transcends finitude, not in the sense of something beyond existence. What really happened before the Big Bang isn’t the object for the sciences, at least at the moment, because it cannot be the object of a thorough, direct, and verifiable research, but only an unverifiable hypothesis. Humankind doesn’t have at its disposal the necessary instruments to access the reality before the Big Bang. At the same time, if God exists and He is above and before our universe what other way of communication than His revelation could be possible? God didn’t pass through the Big Bang, He was before it, He was unaffected by it, and He would be the only contact that we can get from previous stages of existence. God couldn’t have created the universe from inside of it therefore He has to be situated before the Big Bang as an eternal Reality.
If that is so, why do we have to continue to consider it an important revelation? The book of Genesis doesn’t reveal to us anything concrete about what the infinite existence is. From this point of view, the Bible could have brought about knowledge of the origins of our entire existence but it didn’t, its texts aren’t a revelation because they don’t reveal anything hidden which cannot be found through scientific research.
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