Michael Horton Critiques the “God of the gaps” Apologetic

In The Christian Faith, Michael Horton unravels the real problem with resolving the tension between theism and and science via the “God of the gaps” apologetic approach.  This approach, for those unfamiliar with the terminology, is used by people who wish to respect the claims of science but also wish to retain a place for God to do something on his own that compliments science.  Thus when scientific claims can only be taken so far, the “God of the gaps” apologetic says “Ah – see, God’s activity is to be found in this stuff over here that science is unsure about.”

On the one hand, Horton notes that this approach must be in continual flux as scientific claims stake more and more of a claim on knowledge and (seemingly) leave less and less of a gap into which God can fit.  But on the other hand, Horton has a much more weighty critique:

The “God of the gaps” apologetic is not simply a weak strategy; it is based on a theological misunderstanding, assuming that God’s agency and creaturely agency occupy the same register.  Accordingly, to the extent that a certain state of affairs can be attributed to natural (human or nonhuman) causes, God is not involved.  Again we meet the troubling univocity of being, which fails to recognize the Creator-creature distinction and the analogical character of creation in its relationship to God.

Although God is always and everywhere at work in creation, he is not one agent among others vying for freedom, power, and control in the same ontological space.  Rather, God is mysteriously above, behind, and within the creation and the ordinary relations of cause and effect with which he has endowed it.  God is more involved in the world – yet less direct, immediate, and therefore evident in his agency – that the “God of the gaps” apologists imagine.  When the Word became incarnate, his neighbors – his own brothers – did not recognize his divinity.  Although the Spirit is at work in every atom, his agency even in raising those who are spiritually dead to eternal life remains largely hidden (Jn 3:8; 1 Co 2:14).

The Christian Faith, pg. 338. (Bold emphasis mine.)


2 thoughts on “Michael Horton Critiques the “God of the gaps” Apologetic”

  1. Apologetic arguments as practiced by folks with a basic understanding of science are not “God of the Gaps” arguments. God of the Gaps arguments say “we don’t know how this could have happened, therefore God did it!” Good apologetic arguments state that “We know how things like this happen, and the most likely reason for what we see is that an intelligent being decided to act.

    For instance, Stephen Meyer recently wrote a book called “Signature in the Cell” that explains what is known about the requirements for the beginning of life. He effectively shows that based on the best science currently available, there has not been enough time in the Universe for even the most basic form of life to begin. Now people may say that we are only looking at current science, and that future discoveries will show that we are wrong… but this is an Atheist of the Gaps argument. They need to posit that some future discovery will invalidate what science currently shows to be true, and this is an atheistic statement of faith.


  2. Good post Andrew. The whole universe is God’s. Why shouldn’t he be able to rule it and form it through the laws he created?

    Mark Noll compiled a bunch of B.B. Warfield’s writings on science, and he has similar things to say in it as well.


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