The scientific method is the systematic approach scientists take to acquire knowledge and understanding about the natural world. It involves making observations, forming hypotheses, designing experiments to test those hypotheses, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and refining hypotheses as new evidence emerges. Though the Bible does not explicitly describe or mandate the scientific method per se, several principles and approaches aligned with the scientific method can be found in Scripture.
Observing and Studying God’s Creation
The Bible encourages the careful observation and study of God’s creation. Psalms 19:1 states that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Romans 1:20 also says that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God invites people to appreciate, marvel at, and learn from what He has made.
As early as the Garden of Eden, God tasked Adam with cultivating and keeping the garden (Genesis 2:15), requiring Adam to observe and understand God’s creation. Later, God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle after the pattern He had shown him (Exodus 25:9, 40), again requiring careful observation of God’s detailed instructions. Solomon studied and described many aspects of the natural world in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The emphasis on creation appreciation, study, and stewardship aligns with the observation and inquiry aspects of the scientific method.
Asking Questions and Forming Hypotheses
In numerous instances throughout Scripture, godly men and women asked questions in order to gain understanding and discern God’s will. Moses asked God various questions to clarify His instructions and desires for leading Israel (Exodus 3-4). The Psalms repeatedly ask questions of God, both rhetorical and sincere. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:13 that “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Asking relevant questions demonstrates wisdom and aligns with forming hypotheses in the scientific method.
In addition to asking questions, biblical figures also formed theories or hypotheses about how God was leading them. After being sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph proposed to Pharaoh’s cupbearer that his dream foretold the cupbearer’s restoration (Genesis 40:12-13). Paul hypothesized that God had allowed the shipwreck he endured to spare those aboard (Acts 27:21-26). Jesus’ disciples theorized about the meaning of His teachings and parables (Matthew 15:15, Mark 4:10). This spirit of inquiry and theorizing aligns well with the hypothesis formulation aspect of the scientific method.
Designing Tests and Collecting Evidence
While the Bible does not describe controlled scientific experiments, it does provide examples of people testing hypotheses and collecting evidence to gain understanding. Gideon twice requested signs from God to confirm God’s promise of victory over the Midianites (Judges 6:36-40). Elijah proposed a test to the prophets of Baal to prove whether Baal or the Lord was the true God (1 Kings 18:20-40). Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples to report back to him what they saw and heard from Jesus’ ministry as evidence that He was the Messiah (Luke 7:20-22). The Biblical emphasis on not blindly accepting claims but testing them aligns with the experimentation process of the scientific method.
The Bible prescribes careful verification of facts and eyewitness testimony in legal cases (Deuteronomy 19:15-18). Solomon wrote frequently about the diligent person verifying claims rather than naively accepting them (Proverbs 14:15, 18:13, 25:2). Paul also emphasized examining everything carefully and holding fast to what is good and true (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). The emphasis on carefully verifying truth claims aligns with the data analysis aspect of the scientific method.
Drawing Evidence-Based Conclusions
Biblical figures drew conclusions about God’s leading based on the evidence they gathered. After testing God with the fleece, Gideon concluded God would give Israel victory over the Midianites as He had promised (Judges 7:15). Elijah concluded based on the results of his contest with the prophets of Baal that the Lord was the one true God (1 Kings 18:39). Paul concluded after examining the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:3). This aligns with the conclusion-drawing phase of the scientific method.
However, biblical figures were also willing to change their conclusions based on new evidence. After originally refusing to help the Canaanite woman, Jesus healed her daughter when she demonstrated great faith, leading Jesus to praise her (Matthew 15:22-28). Peter initially thought the gospel was only for the Jews until his encounter with Cornelius, causing him to realize God accepts those from every nation who fear Him (Acts 10). Scientific conclusions are likewise subject to modification with new evidence.
Limitations and Cautions
While the general principles of systematic observation, inquiry, hypothesis testing, and evidence-based conclusions align with the scientific method, the Bible also offers limitations and cautions regarding human knowledge and reasoning:
- Human understanding is limited compared to God’s infinite knowledge (Psalm 147:5, Isaiah 55:8-9).
- Human pride can lead to arrogant or flawed conclusions (Proverbs 3:5-7, Romans 1:22).
- Apparent contradictions between scientific findings and Scripture are mistakes in human understanding, not flaws in God’s Word (John 3:12).
- All conclusions must be interpreted through the lens of Scripture, not the reverse (1 Corinthians 2:13-16).
Therefore, while not prohibiting systematic scientific inquiry, the Bible offers principles to keep it grounded in humility and subject to the authority of God’s revelation.
Approaching Science Biblically
Though the Bible does not mandate the formal scientific method, it does advocate thoughtful observation, asking questions, testing claims, and drawing careful conclusions – key aspects of the scientific method. However, Scripture says to approach science and knowledge within certain biblical parameters:
- With the right motives – seeking to know and glorify the Creator (Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 Corinthians 10:31)
- With humility – recognizing the limits of human understanding compared to God (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7)
- With wisdom – not promoting theories that clearly contradict God’s Word (1 Timothy 6:20-21)
- With integrity – honestly seeking and reporting truth (Exodus 20:16, Psalm 15:2)
- With stewardship – wisely using science to manage creation (Genesis 1:28)
Science that stays within these biblical boundaries can reveal the wonders of how God works in the natural world He made. Approached biblically, science is a worthy endeavor that honors the Creator.