The Bible and the Fine-Tuning Argument

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The Bible is not a science text. It speaks spiritual truths, provides a moral compass, recounts the history of God’s people and offers a plan of salvation. But this does not mean that the Bible and science need to be in conflict. It’s just that they speak different languages and have different purposes: scientific and theological.

In this light, what might the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God have to do with biblical teaching? The fine-tuning argument relies heavily on science, mathematics, cosmology and even chemistry and biology. It is based on the idea that the universe is so finely tuned in terms of its laws, structures and operations, that it points to a Designer.

The Bible does not portray God as a mere mathematician or geometer. Rather, the God of the Bible is a personal and loving God who cares about the Earth and its inhabitants: all of life including humanity. Nevertheless, there are passages in the Bible that speak of God creating the world with measure, weight, proportion and number. The language in these passages is often heavily metaphorical, but it does resonate with the fine-tuning argument.

And that is the point. The scientific fine-tuning argument is modern and based on recent developments in an array of scientific fields. One doesn’t find this sort of thing in the Bible, but what one can find is language that is compatible with the fine-tuning and design arguments for the existence of God. We don’t find mathematical proofs for the existence of God in the Bible. What we do find is consilience — to borrow a scientific term — a convergence of the metaphorical language of the Bible and the mathematical language of science.

Here we speak in general terms. The practice of the sciences, like the interpretation of the Scriptures, is a human endeavour and thus subject to fallibilities. Ultimately, the consilience is between the Word and the World.

The order and harmony of the created world is set out in the very structure of the Creation account of Genesis 1: Days 1-3 are parallel to Days 4-6. A realm of light (Day 1) is created before the lights of the heavens (Day 4). Trees and grass (Day 3) are created before land animals and humans (Day 6).

The language of Isaiah 40 — deep and lofty as it is provides a spectacular starting point for a consideration of biblical language of God as a Creator who uses order, balance and number. The Prophet asks:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Isaiah 40:12 ESV

Here we see God depicted as using a measurement (the span of a hand) and weighing scales in the creation of the heavens, Earth and mountains. Verse 15 continues this theme:

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

Isaiah 40:15 ESV

Another metaphor is used in verse 22: God looking at the horizon around the Earth as he stretches out the sky like a tent-maker:

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in…

Isiah 40:22 ESV

Another theme is introduced in verse 26, that of numbering:

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.

Isaiah 40:26 ESV

The Prophet here confirms that God knows the number of the host of heaven (the planets and stars). This isn’t quite mathematics, but there is again the sense of order. Men and women on Earth can look to the heavens (as in Psalm 19:1-3) and conclude that its greatness, order and beauty befit a Creator who designed with wisdom and forethought.
The poetry of the Book of Job uses similar language.

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven–what can you do? Deeper than Sheol–what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.

Job 11:7-9 ESV

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.

Job 26:10 ESV

“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure

Job 28:23-25 ESV

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7 ESV

Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?

Job 38:36-38 ESV

In language that is reminiscent of Isaiah 40:26, the writer of Psalm 147 also affirms that God knows the number of the stars:

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Psalm 147:4-5 ESV

The Book of Proverbs rounds out our consideration of this theme. Proverbs 8 speaks of God using wisdom (personified as a woman Wisdom) when creating the world:

Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always…

Proverbs 8:25-30 ESV

God’s Creation is measured and balanced and follows his laws. Science shows us that this is the way the Earth and the entire universe is. Although modern science focuses on describing the world as it is and does not nowadays speak directly of God (although many scientists are believers in God), one can find harmony between the world as science portrays it and how the Bible says God created it.

This is not, however, a deductive argument as in logic or mathematics. Instead, the believer requires faith. As the writer to the Hebrews said:

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. … And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:3,6 ESV


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