Loren Haarsma (
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 20:47:00 -0500 (EST)

In response to Allan, Keith wrote:
> I am intrigued by the charge that Johnson holds a 'God of the gaps' (GOG)
> viewpoint. Despite your earlier reticence to get back into that debate the
> fact that it has appeared twice now seems to me a little justification for
> challenging it.
> I do not read Johnson that way at all. And I wonder why we should.

I do try not to read Johnson that way, but I find it increasingly difficult
not to in view of quotes such as these (and others like them):

"The blind watchmaker thesis makes it possible to be an intellectually
fulfilled atheist by supplying the necessary creation story. It does
not make it obligatory to be an atheist, because one can imagine a
Creator who works through natural selection. Since the consensus of
contemporary evolutionary biologists is that evolution is purposeless
and unguided, however, it is doubtful that a Creator would have
anything to do. A Creator who merely sets a process in motion and
thereafter keeps hands off is easily ignored." (Reason in the Balance

"For example, perhaps God actively directs the evolutionary process but
(for some inscrutable reason) does so in a way that is empirically
imperceptible. No one can disprove that sort of possibility, but not
many people regard it as intellectually impressive either. That they
seem to rely on "faith" -- in the sense of belief without evidence --
is why theists are a marginalized minority in the academic world."
(RITB p.211)

Here is a quotation from Dembski which puts the issue even more sharply:
(From "What Every Theologian Should Know about Creation,
Evolution, and Design" by William Dembski.

[starting several paragraphs into the essay]
From all that I've just said, it's hard to imagine how design
theorists could be identified as narrow fundamentalists. There is
nothing in design theory that requires a narrow hermeneutic for
interpreting scripture. Indeed, design theory makes neither an
explicit nor an implicit appeal to scripture. Nonetheless, design
theorists are frequently accused of being, if not fundamentalists,
then crypto-fundamentalists. What lies behind this tendency to
lump them with fundamentalism as opposed to placing them squarely
within the mainstream of American evangelicalism? The answer to
this question is quite simple: Design theorists are no friends of
theistic evolution. As far as design theorists are concerned,
theistic evolution is American evangelicalism's ill-conceived
accommodation to Darwinism. What theistic evolution does is take
the Darwinian picture of the biological world and baptize it,
identifying this picture with the way God created life. When
boiled down to its scientific content, theistic evolution is no
different from atheistic evolution, accepting as it does only
purposeless, naturalistic, material processes for the origin and
development of life.

As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is an
oxymoron, something like "purposeful purposelessness." If God
purposely created life through the means proposed by Darwin, then
God's purpose was to make it seem as though life was created
without any purpose. According to the Darwinian picture, the
natural world provides no clue that a purposeful God created life.
For all we can tell, our appearance on planet earth is an
accident. If it were all to happen again, we wouldn't be here. No,
the heavens do not declare the glory of God, and no, God's
invisible attributes are not clearly seen from God's creation.
This is the upshot of theistic evolution as the design theorists
construe it.

Design theorists find the "theism" in theistic evolution
superfluous. Theistic evolution at best includes God as an
unnecessary rider in an otherwise purely naturalistic account of
life. As such, theistic evolution violates Occam's razor. Occam's
razor is a regulative principle for how scientists are supposed to
do their science. According to this principle, superfluous
entities are to be rigorously excised from science. Thus, since
God is an unnecessary rider in our understanding of the natural
world, theistic evolution ought to dispense with all talk of God
outright and get rid of the useless adjective "theistic."

If you were to substitute the word "evolution" in the above quotes with
any other physical processes (e.g. planetary motion, weather patterns),
biological processes (e.g. fetal development, disease pathology), or
physical historical process (e.g. stellar evolution, planetary formation,
geological history), I wonder if even their authors might consider those
quotes to be "God of the gaps."


> The second area where I have questions is this. What if there are real
> gaps? By that I do not mean gaps in our knowledge, but real gaps which are
> caused by God? There is a surely a difference between saying that God is,
> and that his existence makes it possible for real gaps to exist; and saying
> that we think we have a gap, therefore God exists. The latter approach is
> flawed and apologetically dangerous, but the former is somewhat different.
> If Johnson is being heard as adopting the former approach then that may
> need correcting. However, it is also the case that some Theistic
> Evolutionists are heard as wishing to avoid the possibility of gaps at all
> costs. Would you agree that the 'God of no gaps' Theology needs to be
> avoided also?

I've also read TE arguments which sounded like that. I agree it should be

Loren Haarsma