God of the Gaps: Destructive Theology

I just watched a documentary this morning called Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus in which one of the men interviewed made a very profound statement.

Dr. Steve Case said:

The theology that these guys [i.e. ID advocates] are promoting is a really destructive theology, it’s a ‘God of the gaps’ theology, God lives in the gaps of our understanding and irreducible complexity is a beautiful example of that. They say that the universe is so complex that we cannot understand it. So the question the kid is gonna to ask is “well, why would we do science? If we’re not gonna get it anyway what a waste of time.” But, you know, the thing is for a child then to adopt that theology, that means the more you learn the smaller God gets, because he’s in where we don’t understand. Well that means we’re setting kids up to be anti-intellectual or have a crisis of faith where they reject their faith. 

The jury’s still out for me on evolution but I think there is much merit to his comments here and this can be applied to quite a few areas of modern theology. 



11 thoughts on “God of the Gaps: Destructive Theology

  1. interesting quote!

    i’m not an evolutionist and while that might seem anti-intellectual to some, so does believing in a resurrection and so does miracles, etc.

    i realize that some of those who are “well known” in the biblio-blogosphere love to bash those who hold to a creationist standpoint or those who just deny evolution but oh well…

    i also realize that one has to try to build their reputation in the blogospher and that sarcasm is often used as a cover-up to make others feel smaller, again, oh well…

    from my basic knowledge of scientific theory, i cannot accept evolutionary theory. from a theological point of view, I believe God created and yes, I believe He did it in 6 literal days.

    Perhaps i’ve just committed intellectual, blogosphere suicide, but to keep the cadence up, oh well…

    As Christian noted in his quote, debate needs to be open for discussion on this, it shouldn’t be two (or more) sides cutting one another down with saracstic witticisms. this is a serious topic for many and i, for one, think it needs to be taken seriously. less ridicule and more serious discussion needs to take place. after all, we know what happens when christian scholars try to monopolize issues, we end up with theories like “Q” and we get stuck with them.

    thanks for posting, even though now that I’ve responded to this i’m probably being deleted from a number of blogrolls right now!


  2. The problem with ID is that it is not science. It offers nothing that is usable or makes predictions. It simply points out some of the problems of evolutionary theory but offers nothing substantive in its place.

    BTW, ID is not new; the concept of design in biology was raised and rejected in the 19C even before Darwin. See McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism.

    The problem with evolutionary theory is that its proponents forget that its field is biology, not history.

    Michael, what’s your problem with “Q” theory in its basic form?

  3. Michael,

    What I appreciated about the quote above was the way in which fideism was attacked. The problem is with inserting ‘God’ where we simply ‘don’t know’ as if that’s the only solution — this leads to crises of faith because once we ‘do know’ then there seems to be no more need for ‘God.’ I would certainly view that as destructive theology but that can pertain to many more areas than the ID/Evolution debate alone.

    I personally don’t know enough about evolution to be able to rightly affirm or deny it — I need to learn a lot more! But as I understand the theory, it isn’t concerned with explaining the origins of life, rather it’s concern is explaining how life that already existed came to exist in its present state. Even if evolution is proven to be true beyond any shadow of a doubt, that doesn’t eliminate God from the equation. I see no reason to believe that God couldn’t have used evolution as the mechanism through which he created.

    I personally favor the Gap Theory for theological reasons, not scientific or historical reasons. That will probably get me removed from a few blogrolls! :-D But don’t worry, I think you’re safe… you’ll remain on mine (just stay active in posting, please!)

    BTW, I’m also highly skeptical of Q.


    My main beef with Q is that it is COMPLETELY hypothetical. I see no reason to posit that there must have been an additional (unknown) sayings source (oral or written) common to Matthew and Luke in order to explain the material that matches which is not included in Mark. In my mind the Farrer Hypothesis does a much better job of reconciling the ‘Synoptic Problem’. What’s really crazy is that right next to me on my desk I have a copy of Q! Imagine that!

  4. Sean,

    We’re getting of the initial topic here (by the way, I never suggested that an evolutionist cannot be a Christian, I was simply arguing that evolutionists who mock those that subscribe to another idea, are in error). Personally, I think that evolution and the gap theory are both wrong. However, I’m willing to discuss it. I don’t feel the need to mock you for it. That’s just my opinion. I digressed.

    My problem with Q is similar to Nick’s problem. From a very basic standpoint: 1. Why accept a doc. that no ancient work cites? 2. Why accept a doc. that is based on a fictituous community? 3. Why accept a doc. that nobody has ever seen or read but has only reconstructed hypothetically when we can place much more trust in what the Church Fathers said? 4. Why accept a doc. that does not explain the synoptic issue as good as the Greisbach (or Farrer) hypotheses. 5. Actually, why am I referring to it as a “doc.” when there is no proof that it ever existed?

    I could say more but I’ll refrain unless you want me to keep going.

  5. Regarding Q: I was just curious. I’m SysTheo not NT, so I don’t keep on top of these things.

    My whole point about ID was that it’s only a critique of evolutionary theory; it offers nothing (at least, not yet) positive or useful for biology from a practical standpoint. Likewise, I feel evolutionary biologists far overstep themselves when they try to be historians and claim that they can figure out what exactly happened X million of years ago. It’s not that good of a crystal ball IMO.

    No mockery there. Mockery is when I point & laugh at certain evolutionists who act like chicken littles when any alternatives are put forward. “Oh Noes!!! Those people don’t believe in evolution!!! The foundations of Western civilization are being overthrown!!! It’s back to the Dark Ages and the Spanish Inquisition!!!!!!111one!!!”

    That’s mockery. Nick can borrow CMP’s stick and whack me if thinks I’m turning the thread into a forum. ;)

  6. Hey guys,

    Like I said, the above comment didn’t appeal to me because of the evolution/ID point per se — it was more the ‘God of the Gaps’ thing. I just thought what the guy said was poignant. I think we can certainly have God in our lives and leave room to learn more rather than just substituting God for everything that is currently unknown to us.

    Having said that, I don’t care if we keep discussing ID/evolution or Q as long as we remain respectful — but I already know I don’t need to worry about that from you two.

    Michael, say as much or as little as you’d like to on the topic… I encourage discussion here.

    Sean, don’t worry — CMP’s stick is safe in his hands… ;)

    God bless guys!

  7. I think there is a difference between what the ID guys are arguing for and the “God in the gaps” theory. They are not saying, ‘look, there is complexity in the universe, and therefore God must be behind it!’ They are instead saying that the evidence we have actually points to a designer, or compels us to posit a designer hypothesis, in the same way that finding a Coke can causes us to posit some (heretical) designer behind it.

    Sean, if the ID hypothesis were in fact true, how exactly could someone propose in in a way that you would accept? “It makes no predictions.” How could it? It is not properly scientific. Okay, then what field would it fit into properly? History? Anthropology? I have a difficult time when I see the ID position swept aside so quickly because it doesn’t fit properly into our categories.

  8. Ryan,

    That’s exactly the problem–ID is not scientific. Scientific theories, among other things, can be used to make predictions. Some of its proponents are using it to say “No” to evolution, but scientifically, they offer nothing in its place. If evolution were vacated from school biology curriculum, there’d be a pretty big hole to fill. ID as science would only fill about 20 minutes of it.

    ID properly fits in, well, theology. It’s fairly good theology (when not reduced to “God of the gaps”), but not good science, just as evolution is fairly good science but not good history.

    I should probably say more as I’m sure I’m not making myself clear, but it’s late here. Good night all.

  9. Y’know, I’m not sold on the “intelligent design” movement as a movement, but from the title, the contempt and ridicule is overdone. What do they call those, “mockumentary” rather than “documentary.”

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