A day to give thanks: 5-28-12
Surviving near Treblinka: 5-30-12

How to misunderstand God: 5-29-12

No doubt many of you know what is meant by the phrase "God of the gaps."

Dietrich_bonhoefferIt's a reference to the practice of attributing to God pretty much anything we don't understand about the world -- anything, that is, that science can't explain.

So as science explains more and more, there's less and less need for God if one uses God in a "God of the gaps" sort of way.

In doing a bit of reading recently about the famous German Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis just before the end of World War II, I was reminded of something of Bonhoeffer's I'd read years ago -- something that relates directly to the idea of the God of the gaps.

In a letter written from prison on this very date, May 29, in 1944, Bonhoeffer said this:

"...how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know."

As usual, Bonhoeffer has it right.

In fact, looking for God in what we do know as opposed to in what we don't know can cause us to be even more sensitive to the divine all around us. We're generally so bad at this that a Jewish prayer book with which I'm familiar says that "we walk sightless among miracles."

If there's one approach to trying to understand God that people of faith would do well to abandon, it's the God of the gaps.

(The photo of Bonhoeffer here today came from the dbonhoeffer.org site to which I linked you above.)

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Perhaps you read last week that the pope's butler was accused of spying and leaking documents in an internal Catholic scandal dubbed Vatileaks. Now, it's reported, the butler has agreed to cooperate with authorities, and there's all kinds of speculation about where this will lead. It's hard to imagine that any true enemy of the Catholic Church could have dreamed up more damaging scandals than the church itself has managed to fall into in recent years. It's stunning and terrible because the world needs a healthy Catholic Church.


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