Worshiping a God-of-the-Gaps

Worshiping a God-of-the-GapsIn ancient times, people created gods to explain what they did not understand. They were worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. When the volcano blew up with power and awesomeness that exceeded their understanding, they created a volcano god to explain it. When powerful weather systems impacted their world, they invented wind gods and rain gods to explain what they experienced. We smile at their ignorance, but their attempts to appease these created deities sometimes resulted in human sacrifice and a massive waste of resources.

In modem times, we have made similar arguments when trying to explain the power of the Sun, or the majesty of everything from the cosmos to life itself by saying, “God did it.” There have even been those who have explained tragic natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, cancer, leukemia, and manic depression by attributing them to “acts of God.” The first problem that this produces is that it makes God an evil, vindictive being deliberately bringing pain and tragedy to his creation. That is not the nature of God, and it is totally inconsistent with His image.

James 1:13-14 tells us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and desires.” If God caused the tornado that destroyed your home and killed your family, then your love for God and your trust in His care for you are going to be severely eroded. Atheists, and the media in general, tend to blame every natural disaster on God in one way or another. Then after creating a false concept of God, they reject the idea of worshiping a god-of-the-gaps based on the assumptions they made.

Humans or human stupidity cause most natural disasters. We are only beginning to understand how we bring disasters on ourselves. Cancer and leukemia are largely related to human-made carcinogens in the environment. Our injudicious use of the land surface and mismanagement of water resources are primary causes of floods. Even weather problems can be related to the way humans have used the land and what they have released into the atmosphere. Environmental extremists have caused many of us to resistant suggestions that we must address human mismanagement of resources. But there is an ever-increasing body of data that shows that many so-called “acts of God” are the products of human mismanagement. Even natural events like hurricanes and earthquakes which have beneficial effects are catastrophic because of human foolishness. Building tall structures where earthquakes are a regular event is a foolish enterprise, and constructing human habitats where hurricanes regularly strike, causes exaggerated damage.

Worshiping a god-of-the-gaps who caused all the bad things in life is going to be a worship of fear and dread. Trying to appease a god so that he will not zap people with tragedy is what caused human sacrifice and all kinds of pagan rituals in the past. In modern times, such a concept promotes fear and an exaggerated attempt to find a way to please the god for the wrong reasons. There can never be a loving father/child relationship that breeds confidence, peace, and love of life.

Atheists reading this discussion are likely to say that apologists attempting to argue for the existence of God based on design are also worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. If we point to a fantastic property of an animal that allows that animal to survive in a given environment, are we not making the same mistake? Will not someone in the future explain a natural way in which that attribute came about, thus debunking any claim that God designed it? That challenge is a good one, and in some cases, it might be valid. But the fact that we know how someone built a computer does not change the fact that it took intelligence to do it. I have frequently heard people define science as man’s attempt to figure out how God did something.

It is also important to realize that we can approach many design questions mathematically. If we can calculate the probability of an event accurately, then we can get an indication of whether chance is a valid mechanism to explain what we see. The question of design is part of a more general argument. Did the subject at hand have a beginning, or has it always been? If it had a beginning, was it caused or not caused? If it was caused, is chance a viable explanation for the cause, or is there evidence of intelligence? This logical series of choices is not worshiping a god-of-the-gaps, but following a series of logical steps leading to a reasonable conclusion.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Hurricanes and God’s Design

Hurricanes and God's Design
Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by the recent storms in Texas and Louisiana. Our family has members who were flooded and have sustained a terrible loss. The total damage to innocent humans is so massive it is hard to comprehend. Please do not interpret this discussion as being callous, unfeeling, or minimizing the loss that so many have suffered. However, we need to consider the cause of hurricanes and God’s design for life on Earth.

When something like this happens, we receive communications either blaming God or wanting to know why God has allowed it to happen. We would not pretend to have all the answers to the questions that a disaster like this raises. However, this is not a vindictive act of God or retaliation for some human sin. It is a natural product of the design of our planet.

The design is a very good. Spreading water around the Earth in such a way that all latitudes and longitudes have enough water for humans to survive is a difficult challenge. When the Sun is directly overhead at the Equator, it generates heat energy on the surface of the Earth at that locale. The heated air rises and cools. Moisture condenses, and precipitation occurs.

The now dry air moves north and south away from the tropical rain forests. Eventually, it falls back to the Earth at about 30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. That means there will be a desert at 30 degrees latitude. If you look at a globe, you will see that most of Earth’s deserts are at 30 degrees latitude. This effect is called “The Hadley Cell” and is well understood.

In the United States, 30 degrees north runs through Houston, the gulf coast, and northern Florida. Those areas would be deserts except for hurricanes and God’s design. Low-pressure cells generate over the South Atlantic and move toward the Gulf of Mexico. If these cells pick up enough water due to extra heat, a hurricane can result. Hurricanes bring large amounts of water to what would otherwise be parched, dry areas. When these areas go a long time with no significant water-bearing storms, drought is the result.

When I was a child in the middle of the twentieth century, hurricanes were a time for celebration. Hurricane parties were the rage, and people knew how to “batten down” for the “big blow.” The barrier islands were covered with mangroves which would break up the storm surge. Recharging the aquifers in the area was a good thing for everyone.

Since those days, people have cut down the mangroves and built resorts and beach houses on those barrier islands. Without the mangroves, the storm surges are massive. People have built huge housing developments on land poorly protected from the sea. Even farther inland, massive numbers of people have been put in harm’s way by the changes.

Hurricanes are not an evil, vindictive act of God. In this very incomplete and sketchy review of the cause of storm damage along the coast, we want to say that these storms have a positive effect. They are part of a system designed to make an area that otherwise would be a desert into a good place to live.

Like all the things God has given us, in the use of our land we need to apply wisdom. We have not had a good track record on stewardship of God’s gifts. We should think carefully about the future and use our knowledge and our ability to design and engineer things in a way that will minimize future catastrophes. Meanwhile, we need to join hands, clean up the mess, and help those in need.
–John N. Clayton © 2017