The Proof Is in the Pudding: Jesus Approves the Scientific Method

It is a basic premise of the scientific method that you need to prove what you believe.

When Albert Einstein suggested that massive objects can exert enough gravitational pull to bend space, he had to prove it. The way he did that was by waiting for a total eclipse, then looking for a star that was known to be behind the sun. Despite the fact that it was behind the sun, the star could be seen in the darkness of the eclipse next to the sun.

That was possible because space around the sun is bent by the sun’s gravitational pull. Light bends with it, so the light from that star curves slightly as it passes the sun, making it visible to Einstein when he looked for it.

We can learn from Einstein.

Unproven Christian Theories

Today, everyone fancies themselves a Bible interpreter. A little reading, a little revelation from the Holy Spirit, and, bing!, they’re ready to teach the rest of us what’s true.

We could learn something from science. It’s high time for those who say their Bible interpretations are true to prove they’re true.

Is that not what Jesus taught?

Beware of false prophets … You shall know them by their fruit … Every healthy tree brings forth good fruit, but a rotten tree brings forth evil fruit. A healthy tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor can a rotten tree bring forth good fruit … Therefore, by their fruit you will know them. (Matt. 7:15-20)

Today we think that true and false prophets (or teachers) are known by our agreement or disagreement with their Bible interpretation.

Not according to Jesus. According to Jesus, they are known by their results.

Do their teachings produce believing people full of grace (Eph. 2:8-9) that produce good works (Eph. 2:10), a zealousness for good works (Tit. 2:14; 3:8), and love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5)? This should be the fruit of a good teacher, not Bible interpretations that you agree with.

Who are you, and why should your interpretation of a Bible passage be significant to any teacher, to God, or even to you yourself?

Testing what you think

Today I read an article about friction. We all understand friction. My foot slides on ice, and it does not slide on my carpet. That’s because ice provides little friction while my carpet provides much friction, as any rug-burned child can testify.

It turns out, however, that we don’t know what causes friction. We think rough surfaces provide friction and smooth surfaces don’t, but scientists have been able to prove that isn’t true. (Compare flat rubber with roughed-up ice, for example.)

One scientist came up with a brilliant idea. He speculated that electrons moving across the surface of the two materials cause drag (friction).

The article’s response to this speculation is worth noting:

It was an exciting idea, but was it right? Krim had just the tool to test this hypothesis: a quartz microbalance.

Oh, that we Christians would respond the same way! “That’s an exciting Bible interpretation, but is it right?”

I read a similar article about viral videos.

In this case, the author of the article was asked to find out what causes a video to go viral (i.e., to become wildly popular by word of mouth). However, the author’s bosses were not going to simply take his word for it. He had to prove he understood it by making a viral video himself!

These non-Christians understand what Jesus said: The proof is in the pudding.

Christian Examples

I’ll give an example. I’ve been listening to a brilliant teaching about Christian leadership for nearly 30 years. This teaching says that Christian leaders should be “among” the flock rather than lording over it. It emphasizes the fact that Jesus said we have only one Master—the Lord himself—and that we are all brothers.

This teaching, on the surface, is obviously true. It’s not a Bible interpretation; it’s practically a Bible quote. It pulls from 1 Peter 5:2 and Matt. 23:8 almost verbatim.

Great, no problem there. We are definitely allowed to quote the Bible.

The problem is that those who taught me those things applied it by opposing all authoritative leadership. They encouraged leaders to let the people of God be “connected directly to the head” and be led by Jesus Christ wherever he would lead them.

We have now left quoting the Bible, and we are teaching an application based on Bible interpretation. At that point, we need to ask, “Is this true?,” which is the equivalent of asking, “Does this work?”

Since I am not speaking hypothetically, I will answer that question for you. It is not true, and it does not work.

This form of leadership is espoused by Gene Edwards and Frank Viola throughout their very popular books. I have watched many house churches apply their leadership advice for around 25 years now.

To this day I do not know of one house church that has grown and prospered with that sort of leadership. In fact, I do not know of one movement in the history of Christianity that has experienced growth in size, spirituality, or power except based on the strong, authoritative leadership of one or more men.

The teaching that shepherds ought to let their flock simply be led by Christ is false. It does not work. It’s fruit is awful … as far as I know, 100% awful. And if the fruit is bad, then the tree is rotten.

Interpreting the Bible Jesus’ Way: By the Scientific Method

We don’t throw out the Bible for “whatever works.” However, when something doesn’t work for anyone at any time and flies in the face of the testimony of church history, then we can be absolutely confident that teaching is false.

The Bible says that leaders should be among the flock. It says that they shouldn’t take the title of “Master,” “Rabbi,” or “Teacher.” It says that leaders should be among the flock, not lording it over them.

This is true. Those are Biblical commands, one from our Lord himself and one from an apostle. We should obey those commands.

The apostle Paul did not lord it over the flock of God. The apostle Paul did not take titles that he should not have had. The apostle Paul was among the flock, not over it.

The apostle Paul was also an authoritative leader who said, “Let him who thinks he is spiritual acknowledge that the things I write are the commands of Christ” (1 Cor. 14:37). He wrote letters in advance to the Corinthian church just so that he would not have to show up and use his “authority, which the Lord has given us for building up and not for your destruction” (2 Cor. 10:8).

Insightful Bible Interpretation?

Is this teaching insightful Bible interpretation on my part?

Not at all! It leaps out at those who are paying attention, as Jesus commanded, to what works. Those people will listen to the right teachers, and they will put the right Scriptures together into the right teaching.

And it will be proven by the results.

A good understanding have all those who do his commandments. (Ps. 111:10)

About paulfpavao

I am a church historian and pastor, but I do occasionally play APBA baseball for fun.
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1 Response to The Proof Is in the Pudding: Jesus Approves the Scientific Method

  1. John Michael says:

    Thanks for your endless hours and long days of work and short nights of sleep to build us up in the truth, Shammah. For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of living in community with this brother, I want to give you more good reasons to listen to him than you yet know. He lives the life of a servant, building up those around him in truth and love. His wife and children are among the best you could possibly hope for, as far as being godly and loving (and beyond words incredible). In addition to the research and writing that goes into all these writings, he tirelessly runs a large business that gives in too many ways to write in a small space, leads about a third of the people here, always encouraging, teaching, loving, and sometimes correcting, He somehow finds the time to go out and travel to build God’s kingdom. His wife brags on him for taking care of her in even the little things with a loving attitude, He boasts in his weakness for our sake, is always open to God’s correction, loves the truth, is dedicated to being a loving and helpful brother to us all, and isn’t stingy with hugs. Funny thing is that he probably hates this bragging, but will also probably bear with it so that you might be built up in the truth. Just a man, but one I’m honored to get to live with and call brother.

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