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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

26 October 2008

Science Fiction and Bible Facts

Q: I have been reading Luther, Augustine, Trexler, Chambers, Sproul and others to help me better understand the Bible. I just started reading Asimov’s Guide to the Bible and I would like to know what you think of the book. I’m very careful whenever I read someone’s interpretation of the Scripture, for they are just men, albeit learned — but men just the same.

Isaac AsimovA: Most people who’ve heard of Isaac Asimov know him for his science fiction. However, he also earned a PhD in biochemistry and was on the faculty of Boston University’s School of Medicine. His writing also covered “science-fact,” mysteries, and non-fiction works, particularly histories.

The 1300 page work you mention resembles his historical writings and his annotations of noted literature, such as Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. In the Guide to the Bible, we read the work of a man who had great respect for the Bible as literature and who appreciated its historical importance but who disbelieved the God it reveals and denied the miraculous accounts it contains.

Yet his challenges aren’t severe and you can read a number of pages before spotting him going against the accepted beliefs of orthodox Christianity. However, denials are certainly there. You’ll occasionally trip over a quiet doubt that Paul actually wrote the Pauline Epistles or find that he rejects conservative dating of Scriptural events, although he rarely comes right out and says so.

Asimov's Guide to the BibleWhat he does do is provide a fairly good study of the people of the Bible coupled with expositions on history and geography. The value of this book is that it’s well-written and easily understood by someone with average intelligence and education. In other words, it is a “popular” work in the best sense of the word.

However, as a humanist and a secular Jew, Isaac Asimov will not go very far in nurturing your faith. He doesn’t apply God’s Word correctly in all situations and circumstances and completely misses the centrality of the Christ to not only the New Testament but to the entire Bible. Thus, he never realized the truth of Jesus’ words, “The [Old Testament] Scriptures ... bear witness about me. (John 5:39)”

In summary, Asimov saw the Bible as one of the greatest literary works mankind ever produced. However, he never accepted its divine authorship nor its ultimate purpose of leading people to faith in Jesus. So if you continue reading it, use the Guide to study the people, places, and culture of the Scriptures but don’t let his skepticism lead you away from faith in your Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Newspaper column #566:1


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