Last night, best-selling Christian author Ken Ham and Emmy Award-winning educator Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) debated evolution and creationism. Before the debate, BuzzFeed writer Matt Stopera asked 22 self-identifying creationists at the event to write a message, question or note to the other side. What they said made my Christ-loving heart sink and my empiricism-loving head hurt.
Folks, listen. It’s time to let go of the God of the gaps.
The Southern Baptist congregations that helped raise me in Alabama prioritized faith and relationship over critical thinking and scholarship. When my mother couldn’t scrounge up money for Christmas presents or church camp, the church was there. When she needed a last-minute babysitter, the church was there. But when I and my petulant teenage friends had questions about some of the seeming inconsistencies in the way the Bible had been taught to us, the church was not really there for us.
However, when I got to my Baptist college, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, I took a class that I may credit with my ongoing faith. It was called Biblical Perspectives, and it was taught by Scott McGinnis. I’d gone to church literally twice a week for as long as I could remember, but it was he who taught me, for the first time, about the people who most likely actually wrote the Bible. He taught us the scholarship behind the texts, how the books came together. He was the first fervent Christian I’d met who was eager for the challenge of critical thinking and hard questions.
One lesson we learned in that class that I’ll never forget is to let go of the “God of the Gaps.” It appears the syllabus recommends this text. I’ll try to summarize. Throughout history, everyone from superstitious pagans to religious leaders have looked at natural phenomena which they could not explain, and decided that it was God at work. There’s evidence to suggest that mis-attributing random events as supernatural is adaptive. Given this predilection, religious leaders have found it effective to use unexplained natural phenomena to “prove” God exists. Who else causes the sun to rise and set?
However, the problem with a God of the gaps is that, inevitably, the gaps close. We know what causes the sun to rise and set, and it doesn’t require the supernatural. And as these gaps narrow, so too does that God.
And when they’re found? No God?
When we find out, will you then stop believing?
“Proving” the existence of God is a fool’s errand. Actually, nothing can be proven or disproven. The best we can do is observe and report phenomena, and compare our findings with that of others. But God is, by definition, supernatural. What that means is that individual’s experience with the “phenomena” of God at work can only be described to others. No one can show anyone else God at work. God only exists and moves in the realm of that which is beyond measurement or observation by others.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. Something caused the people in my churches to be there for my family when we were, by all measures a drain on their resources. I will never be able to prove to anyone else that it was God. I don’t even know myself. But the best any of the people in the photographs can do to convince others of the existence of a divine creator is to show his love to them.
The great chasms of what we cannot explain about the world around us have narrowed into gaps. They are narrowing further now. Instead of looking for God in those crevices, we must as Christians give people the chance to experience what might be God by showering those who do not yet know him with his love.
This post was originally published at The Federalist.
Actually, it is possible to disprove the existence of God if one accepts as a premise that a thing which contradicts itself cannot describe reality and define “God” as both omniscient and omnipotent. This is a textbook example of contradiction.
The first picture may not be as bad as the “Get a Brain, Morans” guy, but confusing “their” with “there” is pretty lame, even without the creepy stare.
Mark Read Pickens
Some of us who try to understand the nature of God try to put human form in place of the power of the intelligence that created all the universes. For me the Gnostic Gospels explain the nature of God best. “Split a wooden stick and I am there and lift a stone and you shall find me. … is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone.” The things we know about the Universe are described to us so that we begin to understand the power of the physics. The gospels are not intended as a cudgel. We are witnesses not the author or even interpreter agents who would claim authority over anyone. It is enough for me to witness life and to know how to proceed in life. The notion, the belief in a humanized God is not necessary or law giver.
I posted the following comment on your article as it appeared originally in ‘The Federalist’.
“As someone who is not religious by choice, I have no quarrel with those who are. Their beliefs are their choices. They may worship as they please.
Unless they attempt to impose their religious beliefs at gun point, that is, use government and the virulent force it wields to impose their particular religion on those who follow other faiths or on those are not religious. Islam, which I oppose utterly, is a scourge on humanity and a perfect example.
The founding fathers were wise to separate church and state. In every country in which the government can side with a particular religion, the Middle East, Northern Ireland and, as they observed, most countries in Europe prior to America’s founding, the continuous religious warfare, persecutions, torture, and atrocities, are what inevitably happens when government is used to enforce religion.
And yes, I oppose using public money, money taken in taxes, to put the ten commandments on the side of a public building. If you want the ten commandments displayed, use your own money and as far as I am concerned, put them up on a privately funded basis where ever you like. If necessary, I’ll help defend your right to do so under freedom of speech.”
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