Prayer, Healing, and the God of the Gaps

Christians will assert that the “God of the gaps” epistemology doesn’t adequately describe their knowledge about God and his activity, since God is not just known in the gaps of our knowledge. But consider how science has filled in the gaps when it comes to prayer and healing.

When ancient people prayed for their “daily bread,” they did so because crops could sometimes fail in their local area, or a hunter may fail to bag a deer. Such disasters as these things could produce hunger, and possible starvation. Do Christians today have the same fervor when they pray for their “daily bread” as ancient Christians did? Many Christians in the industrialized West don't even pray before every meal, especially when they eat at a McDonald's. Many if not most all of the Christians in the industrialized West, take their food pretty much for granted.

When Christians are very sick, they will take a prescribed pill from the doctor and be confident they'll get better, even if they do pray. But in the ancient times when someone got very sick they could die. Christians in the ancient past had no choice but to depend almost completely upon God's help here. Are Christians saying they wrestle with God over sickness in prayer like the Christian people of old did? Or is their confidence more in the results of science and medicine, than in God? I know the answer. They just haven't admitted it yet.

As science helps Christians with their daily meals and with healing, they believe in prayer and in God’s help less and less, and they believe in science more and more. Say it isn’t so!


Victor Reppert said...

But everyone, at some point or another, faces an illness that cannot be dealt with by modern medical science. Then what?

Anonymous said...

Then some live and some die. The live ones go on to tell how their prayers must have been answered by god and the dead ones are dead.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I agree with you. Many contemporary Christians have adopted a thoroughly pagan mindset if they think that only things science doesn't explain are under God's control. This was the primary difference between the prophetic message and the Canaanite view it was seeking to combat in Israel.

It's interesting that there's a direct parallel to all this in the ancient Greek world, long before Christianity or Judaism had really become known there. The Hippocratics sought to find natural causes for diseases like epilepsy. Epicureans sought physical causes for anomalies like bulls being born with one horn in order to eliminate the possibility of seeing it as an omen or a fulfillment of a divine prophecy.

Yet there was a view even within these discussions more like the biblical view. Some of the Hippocratics complained that people would see epilepsy as divinely caused because they didn't understand it but then would see other things as naturally caused. You could go in the Epicurean direction as contemporary naturalists do, removing the whole notion of divine explanation. On the other hand, some of the Hippocratics and some of the neo-Platonists later on made a point of saying that such arguments do not in any way undermine the notion of divine causation. It just removes the divine explanation in terms of an efficient cause. That doesn't mean there was no final cause explanation for why some divinity would have ensured that natural causes would come out the way they did.

This is in fact the Christian view. Everything is under God's control, including every naturally occurring event. Finding efficient causes for them just tells you how it happened. It doesn't explain why. Naturalists want to remove the why, but simply finding efficient causes doesn't mean there is no why. This is why the notion of praying for things that are fully naturally caused can still make sense.

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Anonymous said...

"As science helps Christians with their daily meals and with healing, they believe in prayer and in God’s help less and less, and they believe in science more and more. Say it isn’t so!"
I'd like to say it isn't so, however John you make a good point. The fact is that with science and medicine making such incredible advances today, the western world for the most part will, by cultural default, rely less on God to heal and more on available medicines, sadly. However you don't have to be Einstein to observe that people have many different giftings and some of these are in the area of science and medicine, depending on the individual. I see that as different as each snow flake is, as unique as each fingerprint is and as unique as each amino acid structure is, so it is the individual's giftings and all from God the giver of these gifts. In essence, as we rely on science more we also take part in what I see as God's natural provision. However there is time and there comes a time when we need to step out in our faith and ask God the impossible where its needed. I've done that and by God's grace He's answered me in the midst of my circumstances and for that I'm eternally grateful. Cheers John.