The God of the Gaps vs. The Smoke Clouds


A thought on theology. And smoke clouds.

One of the biggest differences between the old days and now is how people react to weird disasters. Just now, we have a lot of smoke here in Regina from fires in the north. Less than it was, but still enough to make the sun kind of orangish.

A few hundred years ago, we would be wondering what we had done to make God angry. This might be tricky, because I for one can't think of anything noteworthy that has happened here for years. However, I am sure any number of theories would develop, and we could all argue over them. We might try some scheme to right some wrong or other. Or maybe even hold a witch hunt, although I think this is a bit out of the typical witch's power range. Any number of things could happen.

Now days, we just assume it has some natural cause (this time it's forest fires) and wait for it to go away.

You (or at least I) sometimes hear about a theory called "the God of the Gaps". The basic idea is that we start by assuming God just does everything, and, as we slowly work out how the world works, we keep reassigning bit to science. Eventually God ends up doing nothing and vanishes (I am not sure how this last bit works).

In truth, I normally hear people complaining that this theory is wrong. The objection is normally that increasing scientific know-how does not limit God. A common reason in that science only describes what happens if no one interferes, and anything God does counts as interference. I pretty sure the reasoning is good, but I suspect the conclusion does not. As such, I advance the following claim:

Scientific progress limits God's ability in influence the world. Not His perceived ability, but His actual ability. It does this by limiting the events that He can use to influence people's behavior. Not the stuff He can try, but the stuff that will work.

As an example, lets assume that, a week ago, Saskatchewan had just passed a really stupid referendum outlawing shoes (and other footwear). God is not happy about this, so He arranges for the province to get all smoky. A long time ago, people would have seen the sky, decided that God disapproved of their law, and reversed it. Nowadays, God can send all the smoke clouds He wants, and people will just decide we need more firefighters.

Now I am sure God can work around this problem. For example, He could send out a team of angels (with or without trumpets) to tell people. But the mere act of working around a limitation implies the limitation exists.

I don't really have a conclusion here; just a thought.

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