I went today to hear Archbishop George Carey speak at St Andrew’s, Cullompton. What struck me was not what he himself said, but an extract from a clip he showed of the Oxford mathematician John Lennox arguing for the Christian faith.
Dr Lennox’s point went something like this. Modern science has a fundamentally wrong view of God. They see God, if He exists, as the one who provides the explanation we cannot understand at the moment. Therefore, the more we discover about the universe, the less the need for God. As each new discovery is made, the space for God is reduced. God is fundamentally the god of the gaps, and as our gaps get smaller, so does God.
But that is completely the wrong way to understand scientific discovery. It is perfectly possible to see each new discovery not as undermining our faith in God but as a new and powerful insight in the way God works. To see the Higgs Boson particle as the God particle is to misunderstand God. Discovery of such a particle should increase, not diminish, our wonder at God the creator.
On the way back, I began to think more about this argument and wondered if, without realising it, we as Christians have bought into this idea of the God of the gaps more than we realise. Take the subject of prayer, for example. If something happens which is completely unexpected, then we see this as an answer to prayer. An anonymous donation, when we’re most in need, or a bank unexpectedly paying us compensation – that’s God at work. But getting a pay rise from the boss, or a promotion we’ve been waiting for, that’s just the way of the world.
Now I know there are some extremely prayerful people who see everything they receive as a gift from a rich and generous God, but in my experience they are the exception, rather the rule. But wouldn’t the church be so much more credible, if those who talked about faith and trust in God, treated all they had as blessings they had received, and saw answered prayer as the norm rather than the exception?