Is God schizophrenic? I believe a lot of the debate about whether science conflicts with Scripture can be boiled down, from a Christian perspective, to this question.
Both nature, which is the scientists realm of exploration, and the Bible are God’s speech, God’s word. One is more general and the other more specific (special), but both nature and Scripture are God’s speech.
Scientists make reasonable guesses as to what the laws of nature are, try to determine the orderliness of the world around us. This is a very good endeavor, and only possible because there is order to be discovered and laws to be ascertained. But, as Vern Poythress reminds us, “The real laws, according to the Bible, are God’s speech” (Inerrancy and Worldview, pg. 190).
Consider Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and the breath of his mouth all their hosts.” Think also of Genesis 1 where God speaks, sends forth his word, and all that is comes into being. Or Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Or John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
So the wonderful work of science is the investigation of God’s word which lies behind all order in the universe.
So, can science conflict with the Bible? Is God’s word that upholds the universe a different, conflicting word than what he spoke through the prophets and apostles?
The same questions could be posed to the historian. Who guides history to its proper telos? Is there any stream of history that is outside the purview of God’s sovereign control?
It’s beyond the scope of this post to give a detailed account of all the aspects of history that God explicitly says he controls, but they include the casting of lots, the decisions of kings, the locations of all the peoples on the earth, the rising and falling of kingdoms, etc. In essence, the study of history is the study of God doing all he pleases – it reveals his wise plan for the cosmos. Consider Psalm 135:5-6:
For I know that the LORD is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
(The immediate context of this psalm goes on to speak of God’s sovereign control over nature in things like the sending of snow and ice AND his sovereign control over nations, delivering Israel from Egypt and bringing down many nations that surrounded Israel.)
So history is God’s self revelation (of his purposes and his will), and the Bible is God’s self revelation. Would God’s self revelation conflict with itself?
Without a doubt, this still leaves open the questions concerning how we understand what science is saying or what history is telling us, or what the Bible is communicating. Maybe history has misread the data and come to erroneous conclusions. Maybe science’s guesses regarding the laws of the universe and attempts at discerning order have been misguided. Maybe my understanding of Scripture is flawed. All could be true, but in the end, there can be no conflict between history or science properly understood and the Bible properly understood. After all, God is not schizophrenic.