Tuesday, May 8, 2007

God vs. Gog

While procrastinating to write a paper, I amused myself by looking over some old writings from semesters gone by. I stumbled back upon this paper written in Spring of '05 for a science honor's tutorial. I felt like dusting it off and sharing the fun. Why? Because I CAN.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…” (I Corinthians 14:33)

Science versus religion, for many minds, has been an old rivalry. Ever since the Enlightenment brought about the Scientific Revolution there has been trials, debates, arguments, papers, books, essays, TV specials, movies, and virtually any other form of communication devoted to this issue. In the end, religion sees science as the enemy, and vice versa.
Don’t misunderstand. In some ways science needed to be “dusted off” of the religious hues it had been carrying around. As a matter of fact, some of the greatest thinking minds of the Scientific Revolution, such as Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, and Bacon (all of who were Christians), believed that religion had too often been the mandatory excuse for any new scientific discovery. Bacon, in his book the Novum Organum, puts it all in perspective with his famous quote, “…give to faith only that which is faith’s.”[i] Unfortunately for Bacon, it seems that such a statement has been used ad nauseum by anti-religious scientific proponents. Religion has no place in science; they are enemies after all.
What has spawned from all this is what has been called the “God of the Gaps” theory. The idea is that our scientific knowledge (at first) was limited and had “gaps” in its understanding. How were such gaps filled? Quite easily. Just insert “God did it!” into the blank and presto! You have your answer. But the problem with such thinking should have been obvious immediately. As our knowledge grew, the gaps thinned, and suddenly it seemed as though God did not do it, but instead thermodynamics or gravity or blood circulation or atoms or chemical reactions or whatever did it. Eventually, some gaps would close, and God would seem unnecessary. A God of the gaps was a God on shaky ground (if any ground at all!).
And so the mad cycle would continue. Knowledge would increase and it seemed as though God would decrease. Scientist laughed as the religious could only shout, “Stop diminishing my God!” Not a chance, dear friends. Enemies kill each other after all.
So, what is a Christian to do with “God of the Gaps”? Scientist would say that our idea about God is half-cocked at best. It may shock the religious to know that I agree with the scientist; it will, however, unnerve scientist that I don’t agree with them exactly as they think. They (indeed not all, but many) believe God is complete “hoo-hah”, but I beg to differ. I believe the religious have viewed God the wrong way. He is not a God of the gaps. He is something much more.
Some would think that to start such a debate that I would have to start with scientific grounds. Well I will not, at least not wholly. I may mention a law here or there, but it shall go no further. I am not a scientist or scholar, nor pretend to be. But I know more theology then I do all the plethora of “-ologies” in science, and it would be wise if not imperative for me to start with what I know better. After all, the issue here is God’s relation to science, not science’s relation to God (though I may get into the latter a bit).
This is why I headed this paper with part of a verse from Scripture: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…” I believe this verse to be central to my argument, and will proceed to show why. The two words of importance here are “confusion” and “peace”.
Now “confusion” actually has a different connotation than simply being dazed. In more modern versions of the Bible, and in the margins of older versions, the word “confusion” means “disorder”. Here is our verse in the New Revised Standard Version: “…for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” Of course, we need not belabor the point. One needs only look in a modern Thesaurus to see that “disorder” is a synonym for “confusion”. And “disorder”, when defined, is obviously understood as “a lack of order” 2, as common dictionaries put it rather redundantly. Calm, now, brothers; I shall no longer beat this dead horse.
Our second word, “peace”, will not need such elaborate redundancy. I will simply state the obvious. “Confusion” and “peace” are being used in our verse as words of contrast in describing God: God is one and not the other. Or to be Aristotelian about it, God is P and God is not C. If God is one and not the other, then we can conclude that they (the two contrasting words) are at opposite ends of the spectrum from each other, or “polar opposites” as one would say. Just as we say “manic” and “depressant” are two contrasts, “confusion” and “peace” are equally contrasted as things completely opposite of each other.
I hope that by now you can see where I am going. If “confusion” and “ peace” are complete opposites, then any word we know as their synonyms must be equally opposite. And if “confusion” means “disorder”, then obviously “peace” must mean “order”, the same kind of order that a judge cries in his courtroom. “Order, order!” goes his voice. What is he asking for? Peace in the courtroom, a return to calmness and tranquility, two words that are synonyms for peace.
Thus we have concluded my first point: “confusion” means disorder, while “peace” means order. Thus our verse could be read as “For God is not the author of disorder, but of order…” If my point has been made, I shall proceed.
“God of the Gaps” is a bit cumbersome to repeat. Thus I shall refer to the theory here on out with the biblical name of “Gog”, for both humorous reasons as well as ease of writing. Now, when one looks close, Gog makes a rather strange claim. That claim is that as mans knowledge of the universe grows, the need for God to “explain” what is going on diminishes. But is that really so?
What do they mean when they say that man’s knowledge has grown? It usually means that they have followed the standard scientific method: they hypothesized about something, experimented, observed the results, reached conclusions about the results, postulated a theory, and that theory stood the test of scrutiny from many scientist and other experiments, so much so that what started as a hypothesis and evolved into a theory has now become a scientific law. I believe this is what they (whoever “they” is) mean when they talk about man’s increased knowledge: the discovery of new scientific laws that govern the universe.
But if this were the case, then they (the infamous “they”) have a problem. Here’s what I mean. A law suggests some kind of order, does it not? Laws are boundaries, limits, fixed points to a certain pattern that those laws demand conformity. A law is what directs someone or thing to what is proper for it, at least according to John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government.[ii] Direction to properness suggest, as mentioned before, the conformity to a certain pattern or design, which implies order.
Here is where Gog loses its footing. When Gog claims that the expansion of human knowledge is making God unnecessary, he is, in effect, saying that the discovery of laws that govern the universe make God unnecessary. But how can this be so? Laws imply a standard, a pattern, order. And as proven earlier, the Scriptures say quite obviously that God is the author of said subject. You are, in truth, trying to use order as evidence against an orderly God, and that makes no sense.
In fact, the shoe is on the other foot. If all we are discovering is more and more order, then we are in actuality building up the case for God, not against Him. I wonder what the average naturalistic scientist would think if he found out that all his marvelous discoveries were actually supporting the very thing he was trying to disprove! This is worse than shooting yourself in the foot; this is blowing off the whole leg.
Of course, our conclusion only opens a further debate. We have established two things so far: (1) you cannot use order as evidence against an orderly God, and (2) discovery of order can only be evidence for an orderly God. The debate both conclusions open is focused on the whole of the “Science vs. Religion” idea itself. Gog was thought to be one of the unsung (or perhaps frequently sung!) heroes of this rivalry: God and science vying for dominance in men’s minds. But now that Gog has been put to bed, what of the rivalry? Perhaps they are not such hated enemies? Perhaps they are much more cordial gentlemen to one another. Or maybe they (horror of horrors!) are bedfellows?
First, I would like to dispel an illusion about God and miracles. It is not true that God only works in the miraculous. It is common theology that God has done miracles, but it is also common theology that He made this world, universe, and all the laws that govern it. Good Scripture for this, besides Genesis 1:1, can be found at John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:12-17. God does not just deal with the miraculous; He deals in all things.
Second, I would like to dispel a few illusions about science. Modern science, from its birth to today, has held several guidelines to the way it looks at the world, one of which is that science does not deal in the supernatural, metaphysical or ethical.[iii] So any such claims that science can “debunk” the miraculous has no grounds because the miraculous is by definition a part of the supernatural and therefore falls outside of science. That is one illusion dispelled.
Another illusion is what is science’s purpose. To disprove the supernatural has already been shown to be impossible for science. To understand the way things work is a better definition, but is actually shallow compared to what science was originally stated to do. To understand what was originally considered to be the purpose of science, I turn to words spoken by one of the founders of modern science, Sir Francis Bacon[iv], who said: “[All] depends on keeping the mind’s eye fixed on things themselves, so that their images are received exactly as they are. For God forbid that we should give out a dream of our imagination for a pattern of the world; but may He rather grant of His grace that we may write a revelation or true vision of the footsteps and imprint of the Creator upon created things.”[v]
Bacon’s statement seems to imply, if not bluntly state, his purposes behind science: to see the fingerprint of God upon creation. This is not contradictory on the grounds that science cannot deal in the supernatural. All that means now is that science cannot tell us anything about God, but it can tell us about the things He has done, i.e., the wonders of the natural world. In this way, science is not a weapon against God, but actually a tool to find Him. If irony is a quality of God, and I believe it is so, then we have just seen Him work again!
Gog has attempted to undermine God, but it cannot. A God of order cannot be injured by order. And if God is a God of order, then He would make orderly things. And if He made the world, then He made the world orderly, i.e., governed by laws that serve as fixed points to a set pattern. And if He made the world orderly, then discovering order can only show the trademark of the Creator. And if this be so, then science is not an enemy to religion, nor does it diminish God. In fact, science and religion are brothers, friends, and comrades in arms, both of which increase God by revealing to we mortals what great things He has done.
I started off talking about a rivalry; I finished with a friendship. It is the way all talks should end. Animosity turned to kinship. That theme is the essence to the story of the world. It is what Christ did for us[vi], and I find it a most fitting way of ending this paper.
END NOTES:

[i] Book I: Aphorism 65
[ii] Chapter VI, Section 57
[iii] There is no book than can claim itself as the original reference to said guidelines. It would be easier to go to the Internet and type “scientific method” into your search engine.
[iv] Some may object to my using Bacon now to support me when earlier I said his words had been used to support Gog. A little explanation will clear things. Gog proponents have taken Bacon’s phrase about faith out of context. Bacon was not an atheist; he was a devout Christian. But in his day (circa 1570 to 1600) unfeigned belief in the miraculous was being used as an excuse to do exactly what Gog does: if we don’t know how it works, then apply it to God. Bacon saw this as a stagnation to science and a misuse of his beliefs. Much of his writings were meant to combat this. In truth, one could say that Bacon, if he were alive today, would be one of the fiercest opponents against Gog.
[v] From Novum Organum, at the end of the chapter entitled “The Plan of the Work”.
[vi] Ephesians 2:12-22 and Colossians 1:20-22