The term “God of the gaps” is used to describe the theological proposal that gaps in scientific knowledge provide evidence for God’s existence. Simply put, things that cannot be explained scientifically can be explained by the existence of an active God. For example, when a person experiences healing against all medical odds, it can only be ascribed to God.
Naturalists, of course, reject this notion. They believe that, given sufficient time, science will eventually explain everything. They argue that, over the centuries, science has come to understand many things that people once considered evidence for divine action and suggest that only time is needed for what is left to be explained.
The God of the gaps theory is not as simple as it might initially sound but, for Christians, there is another sense in which God is a God of the gaps. Psalm 79 illustrates this reality. As Skye Jethani point out, “Psalm 79 forces us to wrestle with the gap between God and our assumptions about God.”
Psalm 79 was written as a lament following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. This event was worldview shattering for the Jews. They had believed that God was on their side and that Jerusalem was his chosen dwelling place. He had promised that there would always be a descendent of David sitting on the throne of Israel. Now, all those promises seemed to have fallen to the ground. Their every assumption about God appeared to be crumbling before their very eyes. How would they respond? They responded with Psalm 79.
The psalm begins with a colourful recitation of what happened during the siege (vv. 1–4). The language of dead bodies being consumed by birds and animals highlights the utter humiliation that God’s people faced. For a corpse to be desecrated in that way was the height of shame. Their neighbours, recognising this, mocked and derided them.
The psalmist then shifts focus in vv. 5–7 to plead with God to turn his anger against the nations rather than against his people. He pleads in vv. 8–10 for forgiveness and restoration and concludes with a commitment of praised despite the adverse circumstances (vv. 11–13).
Faithful Jews today still recite this psalm regularly at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. They still cling in hope to these words despite the fact that God seems to have abandoned them. “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise” (v. 13). The psalm was given to teach us that God is worthy of our praise even when we don’t have all the answers and even when doubt and despair flood our souls.
In recent years, it seems that a good many high-profile Christians, having come to wrestle with doubt, have been led to abandon Christianity completely. Unable to find satisfactory answers to the questions with which they are wrestling, they have decided that complete abandonment is preferable to praise despite uncertainty. The feeling is understandable. As Alisa Childers says, “Experiencing doubt can be incredibly scary—especially for Christians who grew up in an environment in which faith was understood to suggest absolute certainty.”
When our hearts and minds flood with doubt, we need to learn from Psalm 79. We need to remember that, even when life doesn’t make sense, God is worthy of our praise. We praise him because of his character, not because of our circumstances.
As you head into a new day, remember that, while there may be gaps between your theology and your experience, God is worthy of your praise. Praise him fervently in all you do.