Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Youth Group Series, "F.A.Q." - Week 5 - Doesn't science disprove the Bible?

This week in our F.A.Q. series, we discussed whether science disproves the Bible.

Now, in the past I have done some detailed exegetical teaching on Genesis 1, in which we spent three weeks discussing the various interpretations. But I found that (due to the wide range of ages in youth group) such detail was a bit overwhelming for some of the group. Some loved it, others were bored to tears. So this time I decided to go more "high level"--instead of getting into the details of one particular part of the science-Bible debate, I decided to discuss scientific knowledge and theological knowledge in general, and whether science ever could disprove the Bible.

There were three main points I wanted everyone to remember, so for each point we had a sort of "hands-on" game/activity again.

Game 1:  Alien Science

In this game, three kids volunteered to be alien scientists. This group of alien scientists came and studied Earth briefly once a year every ten years (1900-2000). They were studying these "carriage" or "creature" cars that humans use to get around.

I had printed a photo of a car from each era, and then we had them discuss what they saw.

Scientist 1 read a sheet I gave her listing the Facts--that is, the things which all observers agreed on:

  • The cars got more complex over time
  • The cars originally had to be pulled by horses
  • All had the same basic design (four wheels, seats for humans, a means of moving forward)
  • Over time they became more efficient at their purpose (fuel use, aerodynamics)

Then we had the following two scientists each read a Theory to explain these facts:

Scientist 1 developed a theory of evolution--they all shared a basic body style because they came from the same car (the horse-drawn carriage); complexity and efficiency increased over time because nature "selected out" the underperforming creatures.

Scientist 2 developed a theory of intelligent design--they all shared a basic body style because they came from the same designers; complexity and efficiency increased over time to meet the design desires.

Key point:  there are facts and there are interpretations. Most of the time when people talk about "science vs. the Bible" they are not comparing "Nature fact" to "Bible fact" at all--they are comparing one set of interpretations against another.

(Credit: I got this idea from swordandspirit.com, thanks guys.)

I then pointed out that the Bible is the story of God's saving interaction with humankind--and so we can't be surprised that He didn't spend much time talking about quantum physics or complex chemistry in it! We have to evaluate the text literally--that is, what did it mean and why was it inspired. Instead, some people choose to rip verses out of context and try to pit those against the modern scientific theory of the day...in which case you compare one Bible interpretation against one science interpretation--rather than one nature Fact against one Bible Fact.

Game 2:  Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Next, we acted out Plato's allegory of the cave. For those not familiar, see my article on this, and how it can be helpful for Christians.

The youth group gathered staring at a wall, and we turned the light off. I shined a high powered flashlight from behind, to create shadows on the wall. I then held up shapes on the wall, in patterns (hexagon-square-circle-hexagon-square-?) and let them guess.

After a while, I pulled out one "escapee" and showed her part of an eaten pop-tart. I told her that she had to describe this to her fellow inmates, but couldn't use words they didn't know--all they knew was the shadows, they knew nothing of food or solids or smells, etc.

Needless to say, she was unable to explain this weird shape to them.

Key point:  Plato argued that what we saw was only a shadow of reality--that all men felt there was a spiritual world precisely because there was a spiritual world. What we see are just shadows of the true things--a true "Circle" is different from the crude approximations of circles we have here.

I pointed out that we as Christians believe precisely this: that there is much, much more to reality than what we see--and that science gets a VERY small view of the world (a few hundred years of data gathering in one tiny corner of the universe). So we need to avoid being like Plato's prisoners, and refusing to listen to other (non-science, i.e., theological) ideas just because they didn't show up on our shadow-wall.

Game 3:  Flatland

Then we went to the conference room and basically acted out the first chapter of my book, Rise of the Time Lords. You can read that sample chapter here, and know exactly what we did during this step.  (Also: buy the book!)

Key point:  even our best scientists see only a slice of reality. The words of John in Revelation, or Ezekiel in his visions, sound very similar to what our "Flatlander prophet" would have to say to try and describe our three-dimensional world to his two-dimensional friends. So we must take science with a big dose of humility, or we will foolishly go around like the scientists on Flatland, claiming that we have "proved" that a Pringles can can't exist--not because it is true, but because we so drastically narrowed the scope of what we considered 'scientific knowledge.'


In conclusion this week, I reminded everyone of the key points from the games and encouraged them, when they hear of a "science vs. the Bible" discussion, to go down to the base facts--does a nature Fact actually disagree with a Bible Fact, or are you instead comparing interpretations?

Overall it went well, but I to be honest came away feeling it wasn't my best work. I felt that maybe I went too far the other direction and stayed too philosophical/abstract. So whereas I felt all of the other weeks ranged from A- to A+, this was more of a C+/B-...solid, not bad, but not my best work. Can't win them all, I guess. But still--hopefully there is some good here that other youth group leaders can use for your youth group.

As always, check it out here for the powerpoint.