The study of life’s origins is undoubtedly a lively (is that a pun?) as well as an exciting area of scientific research. However, no-one actually knows how the first life emerged. For instance, some have speculated how nucleotides, amino acids, and sugars were first formed and subsequently assembled into the form of DNA and RNA. These are life’s basic building blocks but how they acquired the necessary enzymes to fuel this process is still in the realms of speculation. This is not to deny that some interesting hypotheses have been proposed of the likes of the the deep sea vent theory, crystal or clay theory, and radioactive beach theory. Others have engaged in the more speculation by hypothesizing that life on Earth came from another planet. Of course that would only put the question of how life originated back a step. The overarching point being is that a persuasive a explanation of life originated on Earth has not yet emerged.
However, it isn’t uncommon for theist to assert, or imply, that God must have intervened to bring the first life into being. This is what critics have commonly referred to as a god-of-the-gaps explanation.
To put this into perspective would be to consider that scientific consensus believes that life first appeared on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago. However, any serious scientific study of life’s origins began no less than merely 60 years ago. This shows that our scientific knowledge is anything but exhaustive and it is therefore possible that a persuasive scientific explanation may come to fruition in the next few decades. This is not however to deny that God could have brought into being life via his direct intervention. Yet it would remain very presumptuous, and arguably unwarranted, to conclude that the origin of life is beyond scientific discovery just because we don’t have a current scientific explanation.
The Christian theist needn’t be threatened by this since he could argue that everything that exists within the physical universe owes its existence to God. Whatever begins to exist (i.e. the universe and all within it) is contingent upon a creator. One could probably point to the Apostle Paul (Col. 1:17) and the Gospel of John (1:3) for theological support of this position. However, one day having a naturalistic explanation of life’s origins doesn’t exclude God’s involvement in any way. To exclude God’s involvement would thus be a faith based assumption that the philosophical naturalist makes, and one he’d need to argue for rather than merely assume. I am also not suggesting that we should agree with the constraints that methodological naturalism puts on science, instead I suggest that we be open to the possibility that a natural explanation will come to fruition. An explanation, the Christian could say, deepens her awe of God.