The God of the Gaps or the God Who Makes the Grass Grow?

The God of the Gaps or the God Who Makes the Grass Grow?

We think that as modern people we don’t believe anymore in a God who makes the snow to fall or the grass to grow. But in fact our very sophisticated modern perspective on nature depends on that very thing. God’s decree is why there are natural laws that we can discover through science. What’s more, the fact that natural laws proceed from the mind of God explains why these laws are comprehensible to our minds. This Christian understanding of a universe ruled by the decree of a rational mind lies at the origin of science, and this understanding of the universe still stands behind all our science today whether we recognize it or not. 

In the Bible, God is presented as being directly responsable for all kinds of natural phenomena. Consider the praise the psalmist gives him in Psalm 147 for the way he takes care of his creation:

He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. […] He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. -Psalm 147:8-9, 15-18

God himself claims similar things in Job 38-39, and Jesus also affirms that his Father is the one who feeds the birds and clothes the grass (Mt 5:26, 30). The biblical God is one who is constantly involved in maintaining and taking care of the world he has created.

But in the 21st century, we don’t believe that God does that anymore.

Armed with modern science, we are inclined to think that we know that rain and snow are a function of humidity and temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, that grass grows because of nutrients in the soil and the light of the sun, and that birds don’t need feeding because they feed themselves. Once upon a time we put the label “God” on all these mysteries because we didn’t know how things work. Now that we do know, we can safely dispense with primitive ideas about God making rain or causing the sun to rise. That is to say, God is a God of the gaps, the explanation we appeal to when we don’t have a natural one. And as science continuously closes the gaps, the place for God gets ever smaller.

Of course none of that is true.

God is not the God of the gaps. And science, rather than explaining away God, has opened a marvelous window for us to see in ever greater detail what it is that God does every day to govern and take care of his creation. Consider the example of gravity. All of us are familiar with gravity as being responsable for keeping planets in their orbits and bringing apples down on the heads of pondering physicists.

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