God is Not a Watchmaker

Some people have a hard time believing in any form of providence. They may acknowledge a creator or designer, but one who is now no longer directly involved in the creation. They don’t see a gigantic hand reaching down from the clouds, or they believe that most of what happens in life can be traced to natural cause and effect. God may be a watchmaker who produced an impressive machine, but now those gears and springs are clicking through their motions on their own. Science yields real knowledge, while theology and spirituality only offer sentiment. One page of the calendar flips to the next and the events of our days are just the random collisions of our lives with each other, a timeline of the collection and loss of goods.

This belief yields a religion that seems sensible and nicely under our control. God is in the far corner of the universe, he’s done what he does best, and now we get to be the center of the action. We are left, like children whose parents have gone away on a permanent vacation, with a few moral guidelines and a lot of latitude.

But the biblical testimony allows no such benign view of God. It shows God to be enthusiastically involved in protecting and guiding those he has made. Why would he be a watchmaker? How would that in any way be consistent with a character of active love and intense, creative interest? The watchmaker analogy only works for those who have decided that it is easier to understand the world if it is no more than moving parts, a piece with pieces, and that’s that. But can you take a walk in the woods or camp alongside the ocean or fly over the countryside or watch a meteor shower and think of the universe as a watch?

The biblical vision is that we live with expectancy and confidence through faith in his ever-close activity. Providence is the basis for hope for the future, the reason we can go from dark December through the festival of light and life marking the birth of Jesus and on through the doorway to a new year in January. Providence says that a year isn’t just one loop around the sun, it is a forward journey along a timeline over which God stands at the start and simultaneously stands at the end, and at every point in between.

from Putting the Pieces Back Together

1 thought on “God is Not a Watchmaker”

  1. Perhaps people opt for the watchmaker because it lets God off the hook for evil.. If God is everywhere, always involved with everyone intimately, then He must be at the controls of evil events like natural disasters and terrorist attacks as well as good things like protection and blessings. While I am convinced there are many ways God intervenes in my life for good, such as people praying or helping, or by angelic protection, nonetheless I have a hard time imagining God at a joystick driving a tornado or a flying a plane into a building. So maybe it’s easier to consider those evil things to be symptoms of a broken machine.

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