Friday, May 27, 2011

May 21 and the God of the Gaps

May 21, 2011, has come and gone. Which means that Jesus didn't return bodily yet (though he is ever present by his Spirit). I feel bad for the people who staked their hopes, even their faith, in such a misguided interpretation of the Bible. Even Jesus himself said no one will know the date of the End--not even himself (Mark 10:32-37)! I hope these people, however many among them are sincere Christians, have not lost their confidence in Christ and in the Bible simply because their interpretation didn't pan out.

On the other hand, we know there are a lot of people mocking them. Every time someone makes a Doomsday prediction that fails to come true, they're left with egg on their face--a false prophet, if you will. Unfortunately, many will wield a faulty ad hominem argument against everything else they have to say: "They were wrong about X, so they must be misguided about everything."

This is one of the critical dangers of wholeheartedly embracing Intelligent Design. The problem with ID is that it doesn't use positive evidence, but rather relies on looking for holes or gaps in Evolutionary explanations. If a biological phenomenon is judged impossible by means of natural selective pressures favoring certain genetic traits, then it must have been due to a designer! An example of this is "irreducibly complex" features such as the blood clotting cascade, whose parts are so complicated and interdependent that it could not have arisen progressively over time. It must have therefore originated all at once, in an immediate, supernatural creative act.

While it's true that God is the providential Creator and Designer of all life, what happens when those "holes" get filled by further data and new explanations? As the body of scientific knowledge grows and viable explanations expand to fill the gaps so prized by ID, what will happen to claims for theism and for God's action in his world? I'm afraid that, at least in some respects, ID is only as strong as our present ignorance. (It's possible, however, that future gains might actually steer us away from Evolution toward ID, or perhaps toward another explanation altogether.) When legitimate, "natural" explanations arise for phenomena once deemed irreducibly complex or mathematically impossible, then the credible witness of Christianity in the sciences shrinks. We do need to study the Scriptures and stand upon our convictions, for whenever we betray our conscience, it is sin (Rom. 14:23). But we need to also know when to flex and when to give, in order to give God his place as the only Wise and Sovereign, and to give the Gospel more room to be heard in others' lives.

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