we learned the wobbles were caused
mainly by the gravitational pull of Uranus. Those Christians for whom the wobbles were evidence of God’s presence in
creation found themselves in an absurd
position. God and gravity were competitors. They had a decision to make. Either
find a better way to think about the relationship between God and creation, or
find another gap in which to place Him.
Unfortunately, many found another gap,
and the pattern repeats itself today.
There are serious theological, logical
and scientific problems with the God of
the gaps approach.
First, theology. The
historical fact is these
gaps close. Or perhaps
“shift” is a better word. As science progresses, old questions are answered and
new questions can be asked. If God really
does inhabit our gaps, then God’s home
is either shrinking or constantly moving.
And if God is only occasionally active in
the world, does that mean He is normally
inactive? Is that consistent with our Christian idea of God who creates and sustains
all things? Or is the God of the gaps approach more consistent with the idea of an
incompetent clockmaker God who wound
up the universe and left it, returning only
to fix the occasional unforeseen problem?
(“Oh, I’d better fix those wobbles!”)
Second, logic. It is simply bad reasoning
to say, “There is currently no scientific explanation for planetary wobbles. Therefore,
God must be doing it.” The only real conclusion to be drawn from a lack of current scientific explanation is . . . that there is a lack
of current scientific explanation. We certainly can’t expand from current ignorance
to all-time ignorance. In fact, with nearly
400 years of modern science to guide us,
we can see the pattern is one of growth in
scientific understanding. Current ignorance
almost always becomes past ignorance.
Third, science. We all have an inter-
est in the continued growth of scientific
understanding. Anyone who has had a
loved one treated successfully by the med-
ical community, for example, is certainly
glad for this progress. Sixteen years ago
our seven-month-old daughter woke from
a nap barely able to breathe. We rushed to
an emergency room, holding a limp and
wheezing baby girl. As it turned out this
was the first sign of undiagnosed asthma.
Thankfully, because of the hard work of sci-
entists in the years before this episode, we
were able to get her asthma under control.
She is now a very active young woman pre-
paring for a possible career in ballet.
All truth is
through the idea of “mystery.” I often hear
Christians worry the goal of science is to
remove mystery from the world, and that
a world without mystery will become a
world without wonder and delight, a
world unaware of the glory of God.
But there are two ways to understand
the mystery of creation – equate it with
ignorance or with never-ending learning. I
prefer the second, which is certainly what
we mean when we affirm the mystery of
the doctrine of the Trinity. We mean both
that we will never know fully and will
never stop learning.
Understood this way, science certainly
does not undermine the world’s mystery.
Indeed, science is one of the ways we
experience the world’s mystery, because science
is part of the never-ending learning that is
our worshipful response to God’s goodness.
Perhaps we can even redeem the un-
fortunate nickname, “God particle.”
The Higgs boson does not replace God,
of course. As we saw in the Newton ex-
ample, it is absurd to think of God and a
subatomic particle as competitors! But for
Christians the Higgs boson can point to God.
Its discovery can remind us of the generosity of a God who made us to be image bearers, calling us to join in the seeing,
knowing, loving, naming and delighting in
God’s good creation.
Because of this particle’s discovery, we
can now read a little bit more in God’s
Book of Creation. We are filled yet again
with awe and wonder because of the
mystery of Creation, about which we will
never stop learning. This of course renews
our awe and wonder for the Creator of this
infinitely interesting world.
The “God particle” can remind us
as the image-bearing priests of creation
that we are called to offer creation back
to the Creator – through science and art
and poetry, through stories, through acts
of love and mercy and stewardship – de-
lighting in it and saying with God, “Good!”
and “Very good!” FT
Paul Teel is a teacher at Pacific Christian
School in Victoria, a guest lecturer on
science and theology at Regent College
and an affiliated scholar in philosophy of
science at the University of Victoria.