Nov01 2010

Filling in the Gaps

Earlier this year I needed several repairs done around the house, so I hired a guy to do the work because I knew that he had the skills to do a great job and get it done much more quickly than I could.  Upon completion, he took me outside to point out a concern that he had regarding the new lighting fixture that he had just installed on the exterior.  Apparently, some wasps had managed to squeeze through a gap between the old fixture and the stucco on the wall and had built a small nest in there.  He suggested that a bead of caulking around the new fixture would fill in the gap, preventing this from happening again- and he was right.

Filling in the gaps is always a good idea when it comes to construction.  What isn’t such a good idea is when we try to use God as a “gap-filler”.  Unfortunately, that’s what many Christians are doing today.  That is, they are trying to use God like a tube of caulking to “fill in the gaps” when it comes to knowledge.  In other words, any time they come across something that they don’t understand, rather than trying to understand more about it through careful investigation, they just fill in the unknown by saying, “God did it.”  If you were to ask them where the universe came from, they would say, “God did it,” without offering any further details.  How did life begin?  God did it.  How did biological systems come about?  God did it.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  In principle, I wholeheartedly agree with them that God did it.  My concern in offering such a simplistic answer is really two-fold.  For one thing, such an answer perpetuates the myth that faith is a “blind leap into the dark” that needs no justification behind it.  (That, by the way, is not a Biblical view of faith).  Secondly, I’m concerned that most people who say that God did it are not saying this as a result of careful, critical thinking.  Rather, they say it out of convenience because they really don’t know what else to say, nor do they feel that it’s worth their time or effort to investigate the issue more fully.

Sad to say, it is this lack of intellectual rigor and discipline on the part of many Christians that draws so much fire from some of the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins.  On more than one occasion, Dawkins has expressed a real disgust for Christians who simply reply in a dismissive sort of way that God did it.  This is one of the reasons that Dawkins and others have arrived at the false conclusion that ALL Christians are content with such shallow answers.  They assume that Christians have no desire to pursue the sciences in order to gain more of an understanding of such issues through careful study and through the discipline of hard, mental work.

Recently, I was having a discussion with a guy who described himself as a “skeptic”.  In an attempt to understand my view a little better, he asked me if I was one of “those people” who tries to use God as a way of explaining something that I don’t understand.  I assured him that I’m not taking that approach at all.  I went on to explain that the reason I’m offering God as an explanation is because the evidence we see around us points directly to God as the best explanation.  Out of all of the competing explanations, God is the most plausible explanation for the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, the information content of DNA, the irreducible complexity of biological systems, and so on.

I mentioned earlier that Dawkins and other well-known atheists abhor anyone who uses the “God of the gaps” to explain that which they don’t understand.  The irony in all of this is that for all of their ridicule, Dawkins and others like him often rely on a “gap-filler” of their own, namely evolution.  If you were to ask Dawkins how the universe came to be, he would say (in effect), “Evolution did it.”  How did life begin?  Dawkins would say, “We’re not sure- but we are sure that evolution did it!”  Where did consciousness come from?  Evolution did it.  How do we explain love?  Evolution did it.  Where did morality come from?  Evolution did it.  So, whether he wants to admit it or not, it seems that Dawkins has a “god of the gaps” of his own-  except in this case, Dawkins’ “god” turns out to be time and chance.

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