What is the God of the gaps argument?
Question: "What is the God of the gaps argument?"
Answer: The “God-of-the-gaps” argument refers to a perception of the universe in which anything that currently can be explained by our knowledge of natural phenomena is considered outside the realm of divine interaction, and thus the concept of “God” is invoked to explain what science is, as yet, incapable of explaining. In other words, only the “gaps” in scientific knowledge are explained by the work of God, hence the name “God of the gaps.”
The idea is that as scientific research progresses, and an increasing number of phenomena are explained naturalistically, the role of God diminishes accordingly. The major criticism commonly states that invoking supernatural explanations should decrease in plausibility over time, as the domain of knowledge previously explained by God is decreasing.
However, with modern advances in science and technology, the tables have been literally turned. With the advent of electron scanning microscopes, we have been able to observe the intricate workings of the cell for the first time. What had originally and simplistically been thought to be nothing more than a “blob” of protoplasm is now seen to be far more complex and information-packed than had ever been conceived of previously.
Much of what had once been filed away as “solved” in the early twentieth century is now found to be inadequately explained by naturalism. Twenty-first century technology is increasingly revealing gaping holes in conventional evolutionary theory. The information-rich content of the “simple” has only recently been understood at any real level and found to be anything but simple. Information can now be understood to be inherently non-material. Therefore, materialistic processes cannot qualify as sources of information.
In reality, a belief in God can be derived by means of an objective assessment, rather than the subjective conjecture that may have been the case millennia ago. But many people simply deny what is obvious to them. The Bible addresses those very people: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20). The God-of-the-gaps argument is an example of “suppressing the truth” because it relegates God to a “backup” explanation for those things which cannot yet be explained by natural phenomena. This leads some to the faulty conclusion that God is not the omnipotent, omnipresent, absolute Being of whom Scripture testifies.
There is much for which the natural sciences simply cannot provide an explanation, such as the origin of the time/space/matter continuum and the fine-tuning thereof; the origin and subsequent development of life itself; and the origin of the complex and specified information systems inherent in all living things, which cannot (nor ever will be) explained by natural means. Thus one cannot rationally divorce the supernatural from the observed universe, proving once again that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
Recommended Resources: Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution, and the Bible by John MacArthur and Logos Bible Software.
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What is the God of the gaps argument?