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 get their hands on. However, a commenter on the video claimed accused the argument 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, they 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.
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 into the debate. 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. God is the foundation of scientific laws. This does not mean that the laws themselves cannot be studied, tested, and applied. Christian scientists for all of history have explored the wonderful and awesome ways God upholds His created universe.
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 use them. And when He does that, it’s called a miracle; otherwise, it is God’s providence. Miracles are rare and serve a specific purpose, and there is no naturalistic explanation for them; no secondary causes were used.
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. There is no possible natural explanation for the resurrection of a man dead for three days. There is no possible natural naturalistic explanation for feeding 5,000 people with a five loaves of bread and a couple fish. There is no natural explanation for seas parting, or bread coming from the sky. There is no explanation, outside of “God did this,” for a virgin giving birth as ancient Scriptures promised. Yet, 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.
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 lacunas left when one tries to tear God out of the picture.