God of the Gaps

Recently, one of my good brothers in the faith posted a video clip of Jason Lisle explaning, in short, the Presuppositional defense of the Christian faith. His book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation was a major catalyst for my conversion to this apologetic method, and his book Understanding Genesis is one of the best reads on Biblical interpretation that any lay person could possibly get their hands on. However, someone took to the video and accused it of being a “God of the Gaps” argument.

The God of the gaps argument, in short, is when a person simply inserts God as the cause of something, since there is no known explanation. The skeptic is quick to point out that just because we don’t know something (a gap in knowledge) doesn’t mean we get to insert God there. The classic example has always been lightning. The typical secular lecture sounds like this:

“People once didn’t know what caused lightning.

They had a scientific gap in knowledge. Thus, the inserted Zeus, and claimed that in his anger he hurled bolts the the sky, and when he cries, it causes the rain. Now we know the scientific explanations for rain and lightning, therefore, we no longer need Zeus.”



Presuppositionalism is Not God of the Gaps

There is a vast difference between the presuppositionalist claims and those characterized by the God of the gaps arguments. The claim is not that, “God is the best explanation for the uniformity of nature, laws of logic, reasoning, knowledge, truth, and ethics (i.e. the preconditions for ineligibility).” The claim is that the God the Bible is demonstrably the only possible consistent justification for the preconditions of intelligibility, He has revealed this absolutely, objectively, and with clarity, and no other worldview could possibly be presented which can account for these things. 

The argument is too sound, too positive, and too objective to be characterized as a gap-filler.

Naturalistic Presuppositions   

The way in which the “God of the Gaps” assault is hurled today actually presupposes the truth of natural evolution prior to the argument. That’s a logical fallacy (begging the question).

When the unbeliever makes this accusation, they are actually first presupposing the necessity of a natural explanation for all things, apart from God, before it can be used.

In other words, they first assume that all things must have a natural explanation that cannot be attributed to God’s sovereignty over nature, and that we must in fact wait to find this mandatory explanation, and any talk of God prior to that point is simply filling the gap in knowledge. In other words, there may not actually be a gap, but since the unbeliever presupposes that God doesn’t exist a priori, they are in fact left with one. 

To sum it up, the God of the Gaps only works if there is a gap, and that gap is almost always a gaping whole, a catastrophic chasm, left by the unbelieving worldview. 

Imagine an argument in the first century:

Faithful Jew: “This man named Jesus just raised from the dead! He truly is the long awaited Messiah, the incarnate one, Emmanuel, God Himself!”

Unbelieving Jew: “God of the Gaps! There is a perfectly acceptable explanation for this man’s appearing to resurrect. You simply don’t know it yet, so you fill in your ignorant lack of knowledge with a God figure. Just wait, this gap will be explained with a scientific explanation in no time.” 

Unfortunately, the unbelieving Jew would be still spinning his thumbs in his own grave. 

Evolution of the Gaps

The irony of it all is that the way the God of the gaps objection is used is actually a perfect description of how naturalistic assumptions are smuggled in. To assume that God is the answer when we don’t know the naturalistic answer is the same process undergone when the naturalist assumes there is a naturalistic answer while they don’t find God convincing. Thus, evolution or Naturalism is thrown into a gap with the same ease that God is. Naturalism is assumed by the secularist just as much as the Christian may be assuming God.

The Need For Scientific Inquiry

The idea that God is a sufficient and reasonable answer to questions also cannot be used to destroy scientific inquiry. This objection is often leveled against the Christian. For example, Christopher Hitchens said this during his debate with Pastor Douglas Wilson:

We wouldn’t have discovered any of these things (scientific advances in astronomy). We would have said, ‘we know enough already. God made this, God wants it this way.’ What’s the need for inquiry? We already have all the information we need. 

This ignores an important point that Christians have always recognized: the difference between primary and secondary causes. God being the primary cause of something does not mean He doesn’t use secondary means to accomplish His purposes; and that’s what we inquire about.

God is constantly sustaining the universe by His power (the reason why the Christian worldview can account for Science; we can make sense of predictable natural laws and induction). However, this doesn’t mean we can’t investigate and learn the secondary means He usually uses. 

Secondary and primary means are actually important theologically for the Christian as well as for Science. Take the Bible for instance; who wrote the Bible? Did man write the Bible, or did God? The answer is YES. 

God is the ultimate cause of Scripture, while man is the secondary cause, the means, He used to bring it to about. The fact that God is the ultimate cause and justification for the Scriptures never stopped Christians from investigating manuscript evidences, historical evidences about biblical authors, times, places, contexts, audiences, etc. In the same way, Christian scientists for all of history have explored the wonderful and awesome ways God upholds His universe. 

Look at salvation. If you, O Christian, are saved, why are you saved? Is it because you heard the Gospel and believed it as Paul says in Ephesians 1? Or is it because before the foundations of the earth God predestined you to be in Christ, as Paul also says in Ephesians 1? God used the secondary means of your acceptance of the Gospel to bring about the salvation He planned. 

Joseph understood primary and secondary causes. If you would have asked Joseph the question, “why were you sold into slavery?” Was it because God meant for and planned it, or because your brothers were evil and sold you? Joseph’s answer is found in Genesis 50: 20,

As for [my brothers], [they] meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Again, Joseph says both. The primary cause for his slavery (and his dominion) is the intentions of God. The secondary cause was his brothers evil intentions  and selling him into slavery. 

Perhaps no better example is spelled out to us than the crucifixion itself. Was Jesus’ crucifixion man’s doing? Yes it was.
Acts 2: 23

[Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

The emphasis I added. The Scriptures do teach that Jesus was crucified because unbelieving Jews made the evil decision to hand Jesus over to godless men who put Him to death by nailing Him on a cross. However, notice the very same verse with a different emphasis,

[Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

Peter says this again later on in Acts 4: 27-28

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

Thus, God also planned Jesus’ death.
Jesus was killed because

the Father decided it to be so. Isaiah says in the 53rd chapter of his prophecy, the famous prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion, in verse 10 that the “Lord was pleased to crush Him…”. The Father crushed Jesus, the Romans killed Jesus, the Jews Killed Jesus. These are all true, but they are different kinds of causes.





Miracles and Secondary Causes:

Christians struggle to find harmony over minor nuances of the definition of a miracle. Perhaps a sufficient working definition of a miracle is when God acts in history without using secondary causes. In other words, while God uses secondary means, He doesn’t have to. And when He does that, it’s called a miracle. 

Miracles are rare and serve a specific purpose, and there is no naturalistic explanation for them; no secondary causes were used. 

Although I don’t use this argument myself (for it even presupposes and needs the Christian worldview), this is the heart and soul of the “cosmological argument” and the debate around it. The Universe had a beginning, and something doesn’t come from nothing. Therefore, God caused it. The naturalist calls this “a gap”. He assumes there is a natural explanation yet to be found, and that we should just wait. The problem is that I can’t hold my breath that long. 

What are the odds that the Red Sea would naturally part for
for our crossing, then randomly collapse at the exact moment
our enemies tried crossing too?!

There is no explanation for the resurrection of a Man dead for three days. There is no naturalistic explanation for feeding 5,000 people with a five loaves of bread and a couple fish. There is no explanation for seas parting, or bread coming from the sky. There is no explanation, outside of “God did this”, for a virgin giving birth just as past Old Testament Scriptures promised. It’s here that  the “God of the gaps” is employed. The naturalist smuggles in the presupposition of mandatory natural explanations, while the fact remains that God is a sufficient answer; not an ignorant filling of a gap. There is no gap when the answer has been revealed. Not liking an answer is not the same thing as a gap.

Conclusion:

Presuppositionalism is not ‘God of the gaps’. As a matter of fact, the only “gaps” that exist, Naturalism put there. Those gaps are the gaping holes left over when one tries to tear God out of the picture.

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