Cults, The Bible, and Science

Scripture is literally true in every respect. It is inerrant and therefore completely in harmony with science in all of it's forms. This includes astronomy, chemistry, physics, zoology and botany. If there are apparent contradictions between the Bible and science, these stem from a misunderstanding of science, scripture, or both. Is the previous statement accurate? Many believe this to be true. Lets take a look at just a few examples of why many (myself included) no longer think so.
To review from the last few articles, for a cult member, the groups "biblical model" is made up of anywhere from 3-4 dozen to 3-4 hundred verses which all good members know by heart. These verses become the group's signature teachings. They are taught over and over again in great detail to the point that knowing them, and often knowing exactly where they are located in the Bible, becomes second nature. When cult leaders say that the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and perfect what they really mean is that their groups "biblical model" is infallible, inerrant, and perfect.
It puzzled me for the longest time how fundamentalist groups could differ so much from one another; even groups who closely followed scripture. It took many years for me to accept the fact that in this case, the most obvious answer was the correct one. Fundamentalist "Bible-based" groups disagree with each other on many issues because the biblical authors in many cases taught different things about the same issue. In short, some groups today disagree with each other at least in part because different parts of the Bible disagree with each other.
I am aware that this idea may seem radical to many who might read this. The idea was unthinkable to me 15 years ago. As an ex-cult member and practicing believer I spent months and years poring over scripture attempting to find the "right" teachings on all kinds of controversial issues. The "end-times", speaking in tongues, gifts of the spirit for today or only in apostolic times, rapture or no rapture, can a Christian go to war in good conscience, will believers go through the tribulation, salvation through faith alone or do we need to work for it, among many others. My thought was that even though the cult my wife and I had left was wrong on many of these teachings, if I studied hard enough I would find the right theology and it would all make sense.
Over a span of about three years time I finally began to accept the fact that I might not be able to find the right biblical teachings on these issues. The reason was that the Bible itself in many cases does not agree on these issues. This idea was extremely hard for me to swallow because of my faith and because of years of being taught that the Bible was "perfect". Being taught for years that anyone who did not believe the Bible was "perfect" was likely to spend eternity in hell was an effective deterrent as well. Even after I did accept the idea it was months before I worked up the courage to tell my wife (who promptly threatened to leave me if I did not stop talking nonsense!). Needless to say, it took my wife a few years of study to embrace this as well and fortunately she did not leave me. She now believes as I do that the Bible was written with the best intentions. The books of the Bible were written by people of faith over a span of many thousands of years. While there is much agreement among the varying authors, there is also some disagreement just as you would expect with a collection of writings that cover such a large span of time.
In addition to the fact that the authors sometimes disagreed with one another, they also often strayed from what we now understand about science, the earth, and the universe around us. This too is totally understandable given the time in which these people wrote what they did.
Below are listed just a handful of the many verses that on the surface at least appear to contradict what we now know about science. These verses are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible.
The Earth

He will raise a signal for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isa 11:12

Under the whole heaven he lets it loose, and his lightning to the corners of the earth. Job 37:3

…For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them he has set the world. I Sam 2:8

These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination:
…the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. Lev 11:13-19
(We know now bat is not a bird)

All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you. Lev 11:20

But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. Lev 11:23
(We know now that all insects must have 6 jointed legs)

On the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon."
And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. Josh 10:12-13 (We know now that it is not the sun that is moving but that the earth is rotating around the sun)
In no way am I suggesting less than honorable intentions for people who claim that the Bible is scientifically accurate. Many people who hold to this position do so passionately and it was not that long ago that I held the same position. Neither am I suggesting that any of the biblical authors were intentionally misleading when they wrote the various texts that are now part of the Bible.
The people who years ago wrote these texts no doubt did so with the best of intentions. What they included in the text that pertained to science, nature, astronomy, etc. directly corresponded to what was commonly accepted as fact during that time. So the earth was not spoken of as round but rather an object with "corners". So the sun was said to have "stood still in the sky" as if it were moving across our sky instead of us moving around it. What would we expect people to write coming from a world view that included a flat earth and a sun that dipped below it for 10 or 12 hours each day? Also, who knew then that a bat is not in the bird family? They sure look and fly a lot like birds.
The fact is, we simply know more about both our planet and our solar system than we did in 1500bc. This is true just as it is likely that a few thousand years from now (if we are still here) we will know a lot more about the universe than we do today. Does that mean the things we know and write about today are somehow intentionally misleading? No! Like the writers of ancient times, we are recording what we believe to be true right now. The next generation will take what we know, build on it, and discover both things we did not know and things we were wrong about.
The previous paragraph described, in a very simplistic way, the scientific process of discovery. Basically, you go with what you know until you learn different. Then you adjust and go with what you now know. This method works great in almost all fields of study. Think about it! Who would suggest we go back to making cars like they did in the 1940's? Who would trade their current computer for a 10 year old apple2? How about the medical field? Anyone want to go back to the time prior to the discovery of antibiotics?
Where we do run into problems with this method though is in the realm of faith, at least in the realm of faith that expresses itself in fundamentalism. The problems arise here because in a fundamentalist system, truth is frozen in time. When you start with the premise that certain texts are not only just valuable but that they are perfect, inerrant, or flawless for all time you then have to reject any and all that contradicts it. This is especially hard because writings, even truly inspired writings, are put to paper by fallible men and women. These men and women are both influenced and limited by their surroundings, their culture, and the collective knowledge of their day. Would an author in our time be likely to attribute 4 corners to the earth? Hardly but it was only natural for them to do so in the context of that day.
It is not inconsistent to believe both in God and in the scientific process. Science methodically attempts to discover more and more about what our creator gave us both here on earth and out there in the universe. If you are currently part of an organization that strongly encourages you to ignore or minimize what science has to offer, I would urge you to think hard about the wisdom of that. For most of human history, the earth was believed to be flat and to have a sun that moved above and beneath it. It was not that long ago that those who claimed the earth was round and that it was not the center of the solar system faced inquisition and were threatened with death by the religious leaders of their day. Know why? Some of those leaders recognized that these new teachings about the earth and the sun conflicted with church teachings.
These people believed in God but they also questioned and used their critical thinking. Where would we be today without people like that then? Where will we be tomorrow without people like that today?