Monday, June 04, 2007

The God of the Gaps is not the God of the Christian

Many naturalistic philosophers argue that god is less and less needed to explain natural phenomena because science continues to explain more and more of it without him. Therefore, God is becoming less and less needed, and pointing to gaps in the scientific data to bolster belief in God is slowly being eradicated.

The problem with the “god of the gaps’ argument is that it is a question begging argument since it assumes from the outset that God is merely an explanation to unknown things and not an actual being. As the argument goes, since we now understand so much more than we did in previous generations, we have less need to create a god to answer our questions, and we can now live without this myth called god. This may be a good way for the naturalist to side step the issue of whether God really exists or not, but pulling premises from your conclusion in order to validate your conclusion never makes for a good argument.

God is not simply an explanation to holes in our knowledge. God is the one who created this world of order that we can actually explore scientifically. The truth is that it is not only the gaps in some of our knowledge that point to God, but also the very things we do understand and continue to figure out through scientific inquiry that attest to him. This is seen in scripture.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament sheweth his handywork”.

Notice that is does not say, the gaps in our understanding declare the glory of God, but instead, it is the heavens and the firmament that we do see and have some understanding of that declare His glory. For example, the fact that we know more of how a flower grows today than we did in years past, makes us wonder and glory in God even more, not less. If the god of the gaps theory were true, we would actually glory less the more we understand, but who can truly say that this amazing creation is less awe inspiring the more we figure out its causal relationships?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it this way, “How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.”

Finally, we need not let the naturalist poison the well of appealing to what is ultimately unexplainable by the naturalistic worldview. There are questions that cannot be answered by the naturalist that do in fact point to the existence of God. Questions like, why is there something instead of nothing? Many times the use of the “god of the gaps” argument is simply an attempt to silence the theist from appealing to many of the questions that the naturalist cannot answer. For example, since we have been discussing the fact that we can actually understand this world and its causal relationships, and that its order can leave us awe inspired, let us end with this classic example of argumentation from Stephen Charnock as he argues from the existence of order, to the existence of God.

“From all this it follows, if there be an order, and harmony, there must be an Orderer: one that 'made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion.' (Jer. 10:12). Order being the effect, cannot be the cause of itself: order is the disposition of things to and end, and is not intelligent, but implies an intelligent Orderer; and, therefore, it is as certain that there is a God, as it is certain there is order in the world.”

-Doug Eaton-

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At Monday, June 04, 2007 4:31:00 PM, Anonymous Les said...

It is also largely a "straw man" argument since no true Christian thinks of God in a "Gap-filling" sort of way. The well-worn and much belittled "Watchmaker" analogy is somewhat apt. If you can explain the workings of the watch, you don't need a watchmaker? We can conclude that the watch wasn't made?

At Monday, June 04, 2007 4:39:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Good point Les!!!

At Tuesday, June 05, 2007 10:05:00 PM, Blogger Exist~Dissolve said...

I'm not convinced that many anti-naturalistic explanations of phenomenological origins can rise above the "GOG" tack. After all, arguing from "design" and "order" is begging a lot of questions itself, for it presumes that one's determinations of these criterion have a basis in an objectively determinable reality--which reality is categorically impossible to substantiate from the subjectively-oriented state in which we find ourselves as participants in the universe for which we are attempting to find an answer.

I will agree that there are numerous philosophical questions that are beyond the scope of science...nonetheless, I also do not think that they constitute proof for the existence of God, nor are they meaningful apologetics against naturalism, for they are de facto non-naturalistic in application to begin with.

Therefore, it is imperative that we as Christians come up with a meaningful way of speaking about God and GOd's relationship to the universe that rises above the level of gross causality and which is far too often premised on the current lack of knowledge concerning an increasingly smaller range of naturalistic phenomenon.


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