The God of the gaps refers to a view of God deriving from a theistic position in which anything that can be explained by human knowledge is not in the domain of God, so the role of God is therefore confined to the 'gaps' in scientific explanations of nature. The concept involves an interaction of religious explanations of nature with those derived from science. Within the traditional theistic view of God as existing in a realm "beyond nature," as science progresses to explain more and more, the perceived scope of the role of God tends to shrink as a result.I have known a lot of Christians who felt painted into a corner over this. Yet, science, per se, is not an enemy to faith.
I argue that an authentically Catholic approach must reject such a "God of the gaps" argument. Why? Because it isn't Catholic. God is not a God beyond nature. God is a God of nature, of Creation. After all, it was the very Catholic articulation of the balance between faith and reason that inspired some of the greatest scientific contributions in western civilization, many made by Catholic priests. Mendel and genetics, Clavius and the calendar, Grimaldi and optics, LeMaître and the Big Bang, Copernicus and heliocentrism, and yes, even Galileo. We love science - honest science - and the scientific method.
Contrary to the notion of a stop-gap God, for whom there remains little or no room, the Catholic holds up the exact opposite: the Creator who upholds the universe. For the believer, our comprehension of science only further demonstrates His existence because creation is imbued with intelligibility. The universe is rational. It is reasonable, spoken into existence by the very Word of our Creator. And reason, balanced with faith, is a gift that has been given to us.
Pope Benedict XVI recently said of Galileo:
The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of the language of mathematics. He was convinced that God has given us two books: the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of nature. And the language of nature – this was his conviction – is mathematics, so it is a language of God, a language of the Creator.In his book, Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P. summarizes it thusly in the chapter titled, He upholds the universe by his word of power (Heb. 1:3):
A great deal that was previously incomprehensible in natural processes, because we did not know how to explain it, can be explained today through scientific research and has thereby become comprehensible... The more that is explained, the less there remains that is inexplicable. Is the "room" for God becoming steadily "smaller"? It is no wonder that Der Spiegel closes the article ["God versus Darwin: a religious war over evolution"] with the words, "It's becoming cramped for the creator."Indeed, that is the question we should be asking. And this is why it is false to assert that only science and reason alone are enough or sufficient for man or for civilization. After all, science can also be used to justify extraordinary horrors and offenses against the dignity of the human person.
Yet belief in the Creator does not begin at the point where we do not yet know something, but precisely where we do know very well. The proper approach is to look at what we already know today. That, thank God, is a great deal. We are not looking where there is still something unexplained to see if there is still room for God, but looking at what we know and asking, "What is this based on?"