Can a Scientist Believe in God? While studying astronomy at the University of British Columbia, Hugh Ross asked himself that question. For two years he tested the Bible’s scientific statements with modern scientific discoveries and principles. The results were amazing, and convinced the young astrophysicist that science and faith are not contradictions. Since then, Hugh Ross has given hundreds of lectures and seminars worldwide.
Dr. Ross is president of Reasons to Believe, an institute that researches new cosmological discoveries and shows how modern astronomy points to God. Addressing a college crowd in California, Dr. Ross presents his life story of how he, as a scientist, can believe in God. Here is Dr. Hugh Ross:
It is indeed a privilege to share with you my spiritual quest. Now, I was born and raised in Canada, and the spiritual environment in Canada is different than what it is here, as you will soon discover. And really my spiritual quest begins with the story of my father.
He was born and raised in Calvary, Alberta. He was a fine student, in fact in the tenth grade he was the province’s top math student. But he dropped out of high school. His father had died of war wounds in the first world war –and there was financial stress– so he dropped out in the tenth grade. In fact he worked as a cowboy for a couple of years, on the plains of Alberta. But after he got up a little bit of money he left the province for Montreal, Quebec, where he taught himself engineering and founded a hydraulics engineering business, which did very well during the war as you can understand, and even after the war the company continued to grow.
But at the height of the success of the company, my father’s financial partner ran off with all of the financial resources of the corporation. And my father had the very unpleasant task of laying off all of his employees, and it was hardest laying off all of the engineers he had grown to love. And, with the few hundred dollars he had left, he pulled up stakes and left the province of Quebec with three very small children (I was only four years old at the time).
We went to the other side of Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia, to start life over. And since we had so little money left over –literally none– we were forced to settle in the poorest part of Vancouver. I didn’t know it was the slums, but I later found out that it was. But it wasn’t your typical slum. It was a place where refugees from all over the world were settling and starting over. And so our family fit right in. We were starting over too. And my father looks back on it on this day and he can see that it was a blessing in disguise. Here he had a lot of money in Montreal, but we were faced with an education system that was far from the best. And we moved out to Vancouver, where we had no money, but probably the best education system in the country, at least at that time.
The best from my perspective because it was an environment where the parents were very eager that their children get a quality education –and they insisted on it. I can remember, even as a small child, parent-teacher meetings in which these parents really leaned on the teachers and said, “Look, this is what we had. We lost it all, but this is what we want for our children.”
As a result, I went to a school where in the second grade, the teachers, in their own spare time, introduced all of us children to the best libraries in the city. They taught us how to get there by bus, they got us library cards, and then left us to our own resources.
There is another special blessing about growing up in Vancouver: it rains. It rains a lot. And you can’t go outside and play like you can here in southern California, at least not very often. Summer is the few days when the sun comes out. As a result, spending all day Saturday in the library was one of the few options we had. And we did that. I remember every Saturday we’d get up real early and a whole bus load of us would head off to one of the libraries.
Now, some say that scientists are born. I think I was kind of in that category. I remember asking my mother when I was seven years old,
“Mom, are the stars hot?”
She said, “Yes,”
I said, “Why are they hot?”
She said, “Go to the library.”
So I went to the library and found out why the stars are hot. And I was so fascinated with what I read that, at the age of eight, I made a decision that I was going to become an astrophysicist. And I immediately read all the physics and astronomy books in the children’s section of the library, and they gave me an adult pass.
Now, I was not unusual. There were many of my fellow pupils who were doing the same thing. Eight, nine, ten years old settling on an advanced science type career, and then pursuing that with all diligence from that point onward. Now, I remember sharing this with my father when I was eight I came home from the library and I said,
“Dad, when I grow up I want to be an astrophysicist.”
He said, “Son, do you realize how little money astronomers make?”
I said, “Yes, last year they averaged $6,050.” (That was a few years ago).
He said, “Well, if you know that, you have my blessing.”
And he was true to his word.
My father and I had an intimate relationship. He really supported me in my studies and my research, and got me involved in some amateur astronomy studying. He would build telescopes for me. In fact, my mother and my sisters even helped me make the observations on a certain class of variable stars I was studying. So I really had the support of my family.
School was a little different. They were worried that I was over-specialized. And not just me, but these other children (I had a friend who decided that he was going to be a mycologist). And the schoolteacher said, “You know, you pupils are really getting too over-specialized at too early an age, and we want to broaden your education.”
Now I thought that meant I was going to learn something about chemistry and biology and geology –that’s what I thought “broadening my education” was all about. They had a different idea –art and music– and that went over like a lead balloon. To this day I do not have a lot of skills in those areas. But they settled on the social sciences, and so I wound up getting a lot of extra-curricular projects in the social sciences.
And that really was the start of my spiritual quest. Because unlike many of you, I was raised in an environment where I didn’t know any Christians –not in my family, not at the school– in fact the first Christian that I had as a friend was when I was 27 years old. So it was really different. But I had the blessing of being raised in a moral environment. If you go back a few generations in my family there were people who believed the Bible. So there was that heritage. And both my mother and father really stressed moral education.
I remember my dad when I was six years old giving me a course on how to handle money. And in particular his emphasis was that money is not the answer to life’s problems. And by his own example, he really taught that. He took a relatively low-paying job and stayed out of business. And so by his own example and the way he lived and what he taught, I learned a lot about handling money.
And my mother (same year –six years old) she was saying, “Son, you need to know how to pick out a wife.” And I thought this was a little young, and protested a bit, saying, “I’m not quite ready for that.” She said, “Yes, when you’re 18 you’re not going to listen.” And so she taught me, starting at six years old, and kept that up for a number of years. And I praise God for her –I didn’t get married until I was 32, thanks mainly to her instruction and training. And God used her to protect me in those dangerous college years, so I had that as a blessing.
And I had as a blessing that extra-curricular studying in the social sciences. And it really didn’t bear fruit until I was 17 years old in my last year of high school. In one of these studies I was looking at the 30 Year War, and I couldn’t fathom why Protestants and Catholics would shed that much blood and waste that many resources over what were trivial doctrinal issues –at least from my perspective. I couldn’t fathom it at all. I posed a lot of very tough questions to my teacher, and he ducked them in his usual way and said, “Go to the library, here are some books you can read on comparative religions.”
So I did that, and quickly discovered that all the major religions in the world are based on holy books, so-called scriptures or writings that are from God to man. I was a skeptic. I mean, I had a belief in God to some extent, I mean, even at that time in the sixties the astronomers had already discovered that the universe begins with some kind of “Big Bang”. And that means that there’s a beginning and a beginner. But like the astronomers of that time, I agreed with them that the Beginner, that the Creator, is distant and impersonal, and that we human beings were too trivial for His consideration and thought. So, I was convinced that all these holy books were frauds –simply products of man’s imaginations about the Creator. In my youthful pride I set out to prove that, and the yardstick that I used were facts of history and the facts of nature.
So I went after these holy books and began to compare them with the established facts of nature and history. Now, my big problem was to find facts for statements, about nature and history in these books. That would take me a while. Because what I had discovered was that these books are written in an esoteric poetry by and large. Very difficult reading, kind of reminded me of reading James Joyce –four hidden levels of meaning, and you have to get all of them to figure out what the author is trying to say. And that disturbed me to some extent, because I felt, you know, that’s not the Creator that I see in science and nature. Things are simple, elegant, and beautiful as we look at the scientific record, and they’re consistent.
So I was disturbed to some extent by this, but after some searching, things began to make sense. Like in going through the Hindu Vedas I discovered that those scriptures speak about human-type civilizations on the back side of the moon. Now this was just before NASA had actually sent men there to actually check it out. But even before NASA went there to look we knew that it was an absurd hypothesis that there were cities and civilizations on the back side of the moon. No atmosphere there. But I can’t blame the Hindus of 3,000 years ago –they had no way of knowing. Neither did they have any way of knowing that the surface of the sun is hot, because that’s another place they said where there were human civilizations and cities and so forth –on the surface of the sun. Now, of course, we know that it’s a little uncomfortably warm for that kind of development.
And after picking up a couple of dozen such absurdities, scientific and historic, I was able to throw the Hindu Vedas to the side and say, “That’s a human product”. I felt secure in doing that because my experience with science is that the scientific record is totally consistent and free of contradictions. God created the natural world; therefore we see this consistency and this freedom of contradiction so I felt that if this same God was communicating to us through a written message then it must be likewise just as consistent and just as free of contradictions, and just as simple and elegant. And I didn’t find that in Hindu Vedas, so I put that aside.
Then I went through the Buddhist writings and the Qur’an, and through the different religions of the world, Baha’i, etc., seeing what they had to say. And in each case, after several hours of study, I was able to collect enough scientific misstatements and historical misstatements to convince me that this is of human origin, not of divine. I mean, even our best textbooks have human errors in them, so the searching for human errors I felt was a good way to sift out the divine from the human.
Now, I did have one contact with Christians when I was growing up. I never talked to them, but they came into our school –they were the Gideons. I remember the closing day of my sixth grade. They came in and gave each one of us one of these little New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs. So I took it home. It stayed on the shelf for five years. After I had been through these major religions and was looking at some of the more minor religions, I took this book off the shelf.
Having read this book for two years, I knew that God wanted control of my life. And that meant that He wanted me to go public with what I’d been doing (Because I tell you that those two years of research was all done in secret). Nobody knew what I was doing. Not a soul. I closed my door. My family had no idea –they thought I was studying my physics textbooks. I was studying the Bible. So I kept it a secret from everybody.
But I knew that if I gave control of my life to the God who was responsible for this book I couldn’t do that any more. He wanted me to go public. And where I was studying at that time, the University of British Columbia, I had a fair idea of the ridicule I would suffer if I were to do that. Or even from my own family.
So I didn’t do what was rational; I did what was irrational. I believed in the second law and trusted it but I did not put my faith and trust in the Bible, or in Jesus Christ. And for three months I witnessed something in my life that I had never witnessed before –my grades going downhill. I mean, I barely made it through the first grade; I was right at the bottom of the class, mainly because I wasn’t talking. I could read but I couldn’t talk. My teacher finally discovered that I could read and she pushed me into the second grade. By the end of the second grade I was number ten in the class. Then in third grade I was at the top of the class. And I had taken great pride in my academic excellence, from that point onward. But at nineteen years of age, I saw my grades go downhill.
I said, “No problem, I’ll work harder,” Hard work did not produce the results I desired. The grades still continued to slip. Then I discovered something in reading John 3 in Romans 1: “When a man rejects what he understands to be true about God, his mind becomes darkened and confused.” And suddenly I realized that I was suffering the darkening of my mind, because I was rejecting the truth — the things I’d convinced myself were true about God.
I made a commitment, on a certain Friday night, I would talk to God. I didn’t know much about prayer; I just decided I’d talk to God and ask Him to make me a Christian. So when it came that night, I started at 7:00 PM, and I was looking through this book and talking to God, saying, “God, I can’t do it. You’re going to have to do it for me. Make me into a Christian.”
And nothing happened. There was no peace in my heart. I kept struggling with this. “God, I want to be a Christian. Please make me into a Christian.” And as I continued to read through the New Testament, I discovered that I was asking God to do something counter to His nature. I was asking Him to FORCE me to become a Christian and I was telling Him that I had no power to do what He asked me to do. And both things were not true.
Jesus Christ is a gentleman. You see that in the gospels –He never forced Himself on anyone. And moreover, He emphasized our responsibility to respond to His truth. It’s up to us. So I realized that God wasn’t going to act unless I acted first. He wanted me to humble myself, and I was resisting that point of humility.
Finally at 1:07 in the morning, though, I did turn control of my life over to Jesus Christ. My shirt was all sweaty, but the battle was over. And I knew in my heart that I had offended God, that I wasn’t perfect. I knew that because of my conscience. Whenever I violate God’s code of law, that’s in this book –in fact in every religion in the world that’s one thing in common– all the religions of the world have the elements of the Ten Commandments. That’s not surprising, since it’s written on our hearts. When we violate that code of law, we experience guilt. And not just 10% of the time, or 90% of the time, but 100% of the time.
I realized that even when I think something counter to God’s law, there is guilt. That convinced me that God demands perfection. And I knew I didn’t have that, and I knew nobody else had it either. But thanks to what this book told me I realized that God had sent His Son Jesus Christ and He lived a perfect life. And in His perfect state He decided to pay the penalty for my offenses against God and others –by dying on the cross and shedding His blood.
And so I accepted the pardon that was made available through God’s sacrifice on the cross, through His Son Jesus Christ. And I gave Him control of my life. And I told God that even if that means I got to share it with my lab partner tomorrow, I’ll do it. But the funny thing is after I made that commitment to God, my tune changed –I was eagerly looking forward to meeting my lab partner the next day.
I got up early and went to the campus early. And I was surprised to discover that my lab partner was there early too. I learned a great truth that day: that God’s in the business of making it easy. Because I walked up to my lab partner, and he spoke first. And I had it all figured out what I was going to say to him, how I was going to get the conversation going. He said, “Hugh, I’ve been going through problems in my life. I need to talk to somebody. I need to talk to somebody about God. Do you know anybody on this campus that knows anything about God?” So we talked.
We had several talks. And over the years I’ve had many talks, with my fellow students and with professors, in physics and astronomy and geophysics (he was a geophysicist). Many talks. But…I was making a grave error. I was assuming that the battle between Man and Christ was similar to my battle. And I witnessed that in the lives of other scientists. It doesn’t take that much to convince them that the Bible is true –sometimes only an hour or two is enough. Where the struggle comes is with the will, the need to submit our lives to Him. That took at least two years. One person it was six years, with one it was ten. One it was three, but in no case was it less than two.
When I got to Caltech … actually, that was a blessing too because I was headed for Europe, which was even more spiritually destitute than Canada. But God changed things –I got an offer from Caltech that I couldn’t refuse, so I went to Caltech. And I was shocked to see the number of Christians that were operating here in southern California. You can’t believe what an encouragement that was to discover.
There were even bumper stickers here. I mean, I’d never seen Christian bumper stickers before. And there was a professor at Caltech in the astronomy department who was a Christian. And he shared something with me soon after I got to Caltech.
He said, “Hugh, scientists struggle with the will, not the mind. But almost everybody else is the reverse –they struggle with the mind, not the will. They don’t know that this is true. They are willing to submit to God but they don’t know who He is.
“They can’t find the truth. I want to encourage you to talk to these people. You’ve spent the last ten years talking to scientists. Why don’t you talk to non-scientists?”
His name was Dave. I said, “Dave, where do you find these people?”
He said, “Go off the Caltech campus, you’ll find a few.”
I was a bachelor at the time and really just kind of spent my whole life there. But I did that. I went to the community of Dilarty and just started knocking on people’s doors. If they didn’t want to listen, that’s fine; I’d go to the next door. Jesus was a gentleman, after all –that was my approach.
But I only got half-way down one block. On that first day I talked to five people, I spent four hours talking to five people. Three of them prayed to receive Christ right there on their doorsteps. And I’ll never forget one man. After ten minutes of giving him the evidence –some of which I just shared with you– he said “Stop, I don’t want to hear any more.”
I said, “No problem, I’ll go talk to your neighbor.”
He said, “No, I don’t want you to leave. I’m telling you I’ve heard enough. You need to tell me what I need to do with my life.” And he prayed to receive Christ.
I discovered again that God is in the business of making it easy. He makes it easy for those that are committed to follow Him. And that’s something that’s proven to be more and more true as I get older and older. I mean, I left Caltech after a few years, because I discovered I was having a whole lot more fun talking to people about Jesus Christ than discovering quasars at the edge of the universe.
For I realized that we are a privileged generation. Since 1984, astronomers have measured the universe –that’s only true of our generation. The universe has been measured. And if you can measure the universe, in some respects you’re going to measure the Creator. And it’s now those measurements prove that we’re interacting with the God of the Bible, and prove that the gods of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. no longer square with the facts of science.
And I think God’s doing this on purpose. This is a prideful generation, and God is giving us special tools to break through that pride. Because God’s in the business of bringing as many people as possible into a knowledge of and a faith in the promises and the blessings he has for us.
Now I want to give you an opportunity –because that’s one thing my friend Dave said: Once the mind has been convinced, we need to give the will an opportunity to respond. I’m simply going to close in prayer, and if you can agree with my prayer, you pray with me. If you’re not ready, that’s okay. But if you’re prepared, I want you to pray with me. Let’s just take a moment to pray.
Father in heaven, we want to thank you for giving us so much evidence, especially to this generation. Thank you that we can know for sure that you do desire to communicate with us, and that what you’ve communicated to us through your book, the Bible, is in perfect agreement with what you’ve communicated to us through your Creation. Thank you for that confirmation. And thank you that you didn’t leave us in a hopeless situation, unable to live up to your standards, and that you’ve sent your Son, Jesus Christ, and he lived up to those standards. He was perfect. But He chose to take our penalty, for all of our sins and offenses against you. And He died in our stead, and shed His blood in our stead. Thank you for the pardon that’s been made available to us through His sacrifice. And right now we receive of that pardon.
And we also realize that we’re not fit to run our own lives, because we don’t know what’s best. We’re imperfect. But you are perfect; you know what’s best. And so we give you control of our lives and we trust you to direct our lives as you see fit, whatever that means. And we realize, too, that there are many that need to understand these truths, and we commit ourselves to be part of your work to bring this truth to others. Equip us, we pray, and help us to encourage one another to be effective sharers of your truth. And we ask this is Jesus’ name, Amen.
Well, thank you for listening to my life story. If you just prayed with me to commit your life to Jesus Christ, I would just like to take a few moments to share with you how you can continue on your spiritual journey. First of all, I would encourage you to begin to read the Bible on a regular basis. Read God’s Word. If you have not really begun that in a serious manner I would suggest that you begin with the Gospel of John, that’s the fourth book in the New Testament, which really gives an overview of the evidence from John’s perspective that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Creator-God of the universe. The same author wrote First John (1 John), that’s toward the end of the Bible. It’s a small book, and it’s a little letter as an introduction to the Christian faith for new believers. It’s an excellent little book that describes for you how God relates with believers. So I would suggest that you begin there, and then follow that with a straight-through reading of the entire New Testament. And it’s not that big of a job, if you read three chapters a night you’ll get through it in about two months.
The second thing that I would recommend is that you find a group of people that believe like you do, that the Bible is the error-free Word of God. That God has indeed died on the cross to save you from your sins. Find a church, or some kind of group of people who believe that way and begin to spend some time with them on a regular basis. I’ve discovered in my own life that spending time with believers on a regular basis is a tremendous stimulus to the growth of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
The next thing I would suggest is to begin to talk to God, to listen to what He has to say –to have quiet moments during the day when you can just pause and listen in your spirit to what He may be saying to you and to begin to talk back to Him. And talk to Him just like you would to anyone else. That communication that you establish with God through prayer is a very important way of finding out what would God have for you in your life. Telling others about your decision to follow Christ, telling others about the Bible, about the truth, life and love that God has made available to you is an excellent way to strengthen your relationship with God. He tells us in the New Testament that’s the way we build hope and righteousness. And it’s also a great source of joy as you introduce others to this new life.
If you’ve got questions, the organization I’m with, Reasons to Believe, we maintain a daily hotline. We also respond to letters, so if you got questions or you need more evidence, information about the Christian faith and its relationship to history or science or whatever, we will be available to help you in that way.
You know I might be an astronomer, an astrophysicist, and as I shared with you it’s great fun being an astronomer and an astrophysicist, but the top priority in my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ. The things I talked to you about today are important, I want you to know that God really cares for you and me and our spiritual walk. Please call today, and may God bless you on your spiritual journey.
To contact Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe, call 1-626-335-1480 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now we were taught a little bit about the Bible, just in the history classes in the Canadian public schools. And I had a gut feeling that this book would be the most difficult challenge to face, and so I purposely saved it for the last. But I did pick it up. And looking at this, I realized the Old Testament was missing, and we did have a Bible in our home so I looked at that. And I checked out some at the library as well. And on page one I saw an account of the Creation.
Now by this time I had been exposed to over a hundred different creation myths from the different religions of the world, and I was expecting something similar. But I was very much surprised by what I found. The first thing that shocked me was to see that it follows the scientific method. I found this in no other account of the Creation. Now, from hindsight it’s obvious that the scientific method was derived from the Bible. I didn’t know that at the time.
And here we have in the Creation account –the scientific method: A statement first of the point of view, then the initial conditions, then the sequence of events, and a concluding statement. That, in a nutshell, is the scientific method. And the Bible follows that whenever it describes a sequence of physical events. And that’s how people discovered the scientific method.
So, taking that scientific method, establishing the point of view first, then the initial conditions, then interpreting the sequence of events, I discovered that here in the Bible we have 11 creation events, and even from the perspective of 1960’s science, I readily realized that all eleven events were correctly stated and in the correct order. And I was trained in probability theory in the high schools (Canadian education does do that for you), and so I was able to calculate the probability that Moses could have put the right events in the right order, assuming he was given the right information in random order. Less than one chance in six billion that he could have put those eleven events in the right order and the three initial conditions.
So I said, “That’s interesting,” less than one chance in six billion that this could have been done by humans from the perspective of knowledge at that time. But the most amazing thing of all was that Moses had correctly described ALL of the events of Creation –the eleven events that are mentioned there.
Now, I looked at what the Babylonians had done, their account of Creation ranks second, in terms of accuracy, with that of the Bible. In the vast majority, everything’s wrong and everything’s mixed up. The Babylonian account you have 13 creation events, two are correctly described and in the correct order. The other eleven are wrong. So it scores two out of thirteen, which isn’t bad. That’s far ahead of what the other accounts had. But the Bible scores eleven-for-eleven on the sequence of events and three-for-three in the initial conditions.
That caught my attention, and I began to go through the book and look for scientific statements. Statements that were true and statements that were false. And, having gotten past those first two chapters I realized something about the Bible: it is direct and it is specific. In all these other books there is an attempt to hide and a veneer of intellectual pride that only if you were one of the “enlightened ones” can you understand what this book is saying.
The Bible was different. Clear, direct prose. And when you do have poetry, likewise it is clear and direct. Moreover, it is unique in that it says things in such specific language, giving names, dates, and places. My struggle with these other books was to find things to test. I’d read pages and pages and pages before I’d find anything specific about history or nature that could be put to the test. But with the Bible every page has several things that could be tested. And the Bible is unique in that it gives names, dates, and places and states things in very precise language.
And that encouraged me, because again I didn’t see this attempt to hide in the scientific record; rather things were clear, direct, and simple. And I saw the same characteristics in this book. But I’ll tell you, after two years of going through the Bible, spending an hour or two a night, studying it and reading it, one notebook became very full, the other notebook remained empty. I had a notebook reserved for established errors in the Bible. After two years that book remained empty.
But I’ll tell you this –I’ll admit this– I found lots of problems in the Bible. The Bible is filled with problems, unsolved problems. Things that I couldn’t understand, still can’t understand to this day. But that didn’t bother me. Because that’s exactly what we see in the scientific record: lots of things we don’t understand. Plenty of unsolved problems. But what we do understand is consistent, free of contradictions, and no errors. And that’s what I found in going through the Bible. Lots of unsolved problems, but no inconsistencies, no errors (with respect to the established facts), and no contradictions.
Now, if you want to read about the account of the Creation I have a little booklet available on Genesis one. This is from my research when I was 17 years old. One that’s free we’re making available is “Biblical Forecasts of Scientific Discoveries.” And I could just go through some of these….how the Bible states that the earth is spherical, when for 2,000 years scientists were saying that the earth was flat. You see, the Bible went against the science of its time. It talks about the stars exceeding the billions when astronomers were saying that there are only 6,000. The Bible correctly describes the laws of physics –you won’t find that in any other holy book.
It talks about which star clusters are gravitationally bound. That really impressed me –just how up-to-date the Bible was. I mean, not until 20 years ago did we know whether or not the Pleiades star cluster was bound. The book of Job –4,000 years ago– Job wrote of Pleiades and said, “The stars are bound to one another” and I remember reading in the Astronomical Journal about how astronomers discovered that those stars are bound to one another. I said, “Hey, here we are discovering something the Bible had mentioned over 4,000 years ago.” So this book was relevant; it wasn’t some dusty old tomb. That’s why wasn’t impressed with all these other holy books — they were out-of-date. But the Bible was up-to-date.
And I found the same thing to be true about its statements about history. It was up-to-date. Now in these other books I saw a claim for supernaturality –that’s one thing in common with all these holy books is that they all try to predict the future. Future science and future history, but especially future history. But the Bible does it to a degree that’s unique. You know in the Qur’an you might find maybe a dozen such statements that attempt to predict the future. The Bible, about 3,500. So the Bible has these statements in great abundance. Moreover, they are very specific –not spoken of in generalities. (You know like “I’m going to cross water in the next year”). But very specific things, naming people by name –sometimes even before they were born. I mean that takes guts to name somebody by name before they’re even born –80 years before they’re born, 300 years before they’re born. The Bible does that. And it gives names, dates, and places.
I remember reading three times in the Bible where God says, “Put me to the test, and I’ll prove it to you.” I didn’t find that in any other holy book. But the Bible challenges us to put it to the test. I said “That’s consistent with the Creator of the universe.” He wants us to investigate, and He wants us to challenge.
I also came across a verse in Deuteronomy 18, that a man is a prophet of God if he predicts the future and is never wrong. 100% accuracy is a requirement; anything less than that is a false prophet. We are not to listen to him. And that again rang true with my starting presuppositions of consistency and total freedom of contradiction. So I began to take up this challenge that I found in the Bible and to put it to the test.
I was amazed to discover that the Bible alone predicted people by name before they were born. One example: King Cyrus. The prophet Isaiah, 80 years before Cyrus was born, predicted what he would do by name. He said there will be a king, his name will be Cyrus, and he will be a king of the Medes and the Persians. And after you have been taken captive by the Babylonians, he will set you free, deliver you from slavery and give you money to rebuild your kingdom, and your temple, and your system of worship. Jeremiah added the detail that it would take place in the 70th year of the Babylonian captivity. And these predictions were made 150 years before the event, 80 years before Cyrus was born, before Babylon was a power to be reckoned with. Or the Medes and the Persians. You see at that time the Assyrians were in force; the Babylonians were nothing, the Medes and the Persians were even less. And yet all this happened.
I said, “I wonder what the odds are of that happening by chance?” What are the odds that Isaiah and Jeremiah could make these statements simply by chance and be right by chance? Well, we have another handout for you that’s free called “Fulfilled Prophesy: Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible.” And we show you how to make these calculations, how to calculate the probabilities, so you can do it for yourself.
Just to give you an example, how many names is it possible for a human being to have? Well, take the number one and divide it by that large number. That’s the odds of picking out the right name before somebody is born. What are the odds of getting the right year? Well, how many years of human history have there been? Divide one by that number. Multiply the two numbers together, and you’re on your way to calculating the probability of all these statements from Isaiah and Jeremiah coming true by chance. The biggest number I was able to calculate was one chance in ten trillion. The probability is less than one chance in ten trillion that that’s an accident.
Now, in this particular handout we give you thirteen such examples. There are 3,500 predictions in the Bible, here are just thirteen. And we take you through them one at a time. The Bible predicts the year in which the Messiah will begin His ministry, and the place, and the manner. One chance in 100,000 that that was simply an accident, that prediction. The chances of the Bible being right on that, and on King Sirus, is one chance in 100,000 times one chance in ten trillion, that’s one chance in a million trillion. And as you go through the other eleven, you wind up with a large number.
The Bible predicts that King Josiah: a man by the name of Josiah will be king of the southern kingdom of Judah, and that he will come and burn to lime the bones of over 400 false prophets, on a particular altar. That prediction was given 300 years before the event. And, a man by the name of Josiah indeed was king of Judah, and he went north to the northern kingdom of Israel and the amazing thing was that the altar was still there. You know, Jewish altars are just twelve rocks thrown on top of one another. Just rough hewn rocks, no cement. 300 years later, the altar is still there. 300 years later, the bones of those false prophets are still there. He dug them up, and burned them to lime on that altar. And then an associate said to Josiah, “This was written of you, years ago.” So he fulfilled it not knowing what was written. The same thing was true of King Cyrus, he fulfilled it not knowing what was written.
And just like with the science, there is an up-to-date nature about these predictions. As I went through the Bible, I found over 200 predictions about the second return of the Jews to the land of Israel to rebuild their nation. First after the Babylonians and now again in our generation. And I wasn’t around to read the newspapers in `47 and `48 (I mean I was born but just barely), so I collected all these things I found in the Bible and went to the library and found microfiche of the London Times and the Jerusalem Post and the San Francisco Chronicler and I began to go through those old newspapers to see whether or not these things in the Bible were really true. And to my amazement I found that they were all true.
Ezekiel speaks about the vision of a valley of dry bones. How there would come a day when the nations of the world will see huge valleys, filled with the skeletons of Jewish people. And when they see those valleys, they will say that the Jews as a nation are finished forever. They will never rise to be a nation again. And Ezekiel says that when the unbelieving gentile nations say that, then the nation Israel will be reborn.
I read through those newspapers and was amazed. Photographs of Auschwitz, of a million and a half Jewish skeletons in one valley. And other sites as evidence of the Jewish extermination by the Nazis and by the Stalinists. And again, there were the newspaper headlines, “The Zionist Movement is Finished.” Why? Because Zionism was rooted in East Europe, and they were all wiped out. Many –most of them– were wiped out. And so the newspapers were saying Zionism is finished, there will be no nation Israel. One year later it happened.
Also, in the Psalms, King David 3,000 years ago said that the nation, when it is reformed for the second time, will be reformed in a great struggle for independence – it means 10 Arab nations, there will be a raid against these Jews in the founding of their nation. And it says…King David…in the Psalms…the key battles will be fought by those who escaped the sentence of death.
And that happened. In 1948, the key battles that opened up the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, absolutely essential for the new nation Israel, were fought by those who had escaped Hitler’s death camps. They still had the numbers on their wrists. They took the greatest toll, in terms of wounded and killed in all these battles of the war for independence.
That’s just an example. If you want to read up on it some more, here, again, it’s free –“Modern Fullfillment of Prophecy.” We give you the scriptures that I pulled out at the age of eighteen, and it’s all categorized and you can check it out for yourself. Go to the library, if you wish, and dig out those old newspapers –you can see for yourself. And what we have as a bottom line on this “Fullfilled Prophecy: Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible,” taking just thirteen predictions in the Bible, there is less than one chance in 10 to the 138th that this is a human accident and not divine.
Now, when I saw that number, at the age of nineteen, it shocked me. Because I realized that that number was beyond the possibility that certain laws of physics will work. The second Law of Thermodynamics there’s one chance in 10 to the 80 that it will go the opposite way the law says. That law says that heat flows from hot bodies to cold bodies. There’s one chance in 10 to the 80 that it will go the other way. And if it goes the other way it’s not good for us. Think about what that means. If heat begins to reverse its flow, we’re not going to be able to live.
Let me give you one example of that. You know this auditorium is filled with air molecules, but they’re not all the same temperature. Their average temperature is probably 68°F, but some of those molecules are much colder than that and some are much warmer. And there’s a finite possibility that all the cold ones will wander over to your seat, right where you’re sitting, and freeze you solid. That could happen. They could enter your bloodstream and turn your blood to ice.
Think about that. While you’re sitting there listening to me there’s one chance in 10 to the 80th that you’ll die on the spot –as a result of the reversal of the second law. What I had discovered at age 19 is that just based on these thirteen predictions the Bible is 10 to the 58 times more reliable. Now I realized that I gambled my life second by second on that law of thermodynamics, and yet I was unwilling to gamble my life on the message in this book. Because of fear.
Can Science Prove There’s a God?
At age 8, Hugh Ross wanted to become an astro physicist. Later, he graduated from the University of British Columbia with a doctorate in astronomy and for several years conducted research at the California Institute of Technology on quasars and galaxies. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Fingerprint of God.” Can a scientist believe in a Creator? In this tape, hear how Dr. Ross spent two years testing the Bible’s scientific statements and how that research changed his life.
Find out more about Dr. Hugh Ross’ science-faith think tank ministry, Reasons to Believe.