I’ll say it once more: theology is the art of transforming scientific necessities into religious virtues. No one is more adept at this than John Haught, Roman Catholic theologian at Georgetown University. Haught has devoted much of his career to reconciling Catholicism (and the concept of a beneficent God) with the idea of evolution: he’s written at least five books on the topic, and several more on reconciling science in general with religion.
Haught’s schtick is to show that religious people should not be dismayed at the findings of science—especially the Big Bang and evolution—because in reality they are exactly what one would expect from God. Clearly, the Biblical literalists, or even anti-evolution evangelicals, got it wrong from the get-go. The God of Haught (about whose nature he has, of course, no doubt) wouldn’t have just created everything ex nihilo, or made the universe expand from a point without knowing that the critical species would evolve on one planet 14 billion years later. No, the real God is generous, creative, and loves the drama of watching his evolutionary scheme unfold. In other words, God loves a good show. Haught is always banging on about the “drama” and “surprise” of God’s evolutionary scheme, as if the deity were some voracious denizen of Broadway using his status to get a ticket to Tony Kushner’s new play.
Here are a few quotes from Haught’s latest book, Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life (2010), which goes after Dennett, Dawkins and me for being bad theologians who dismiss God’s role because we don’t really understand how He created through the evolutionary process, and that God’s really behind it all:
. . . since Darwin’s own time, many theologians have not considered it at all inconceivable that divine creativity, intentionality, and beneficence would be factors in bringing about the enabling cosmic conditions essential for natural selection to be effective in the transformation of life over an immense period of time. Actually, as I have argued in God after Darwin and elsewhere, and as I shall propose in this book once again, a properly Christian understanding of God even predicts the kind of life-world that evolutionary biology has discovered and described.
Without in any way rejecting evolutionary theory, theology may plausibly claim that biodiversity exists ultimately because of an extravagant divine generosity that provides the enabling conditions that invite the universe to become as interesting, various, and hence beautiful as possible.
Think of the Creator as bringing into being a world that can in turn give rise spontaneously to new life and lush diversity, and eventually to human beings. In that case, evolution is the unfolding of the world’s God-endowed resourcefulness. The divine maker of such a self-creative world is arguably much more impressive—hence worthier of human reverence and gratitude—than is a ‘designer”’ who molds and micromanages everything directly.
This is the best one:
However, Tillich states, “there is no creativity, divine or human, without the holy waste which comes out of the creative abundance of the heart and does not ask ‘What use is this?'” Our indictment of nature’s excess in evolution [JAC: he’s referring here to all those millions of seemingly unnecessary species], therefore, may stem as much from our lovelessness and rationalistic narrowness as from the allegedly lofty ethical heights we think we have reached. In the cross, however, Christian discover the image of a self-wasting God, and so we must not suppress in ourselves “the waste of self-surrender, the spirit who trespasses all reason.”
Perhaps it is with the same spiritual expectation of holy waste that Christians should look at the wildness of variation and diversity in Darwin’s disturbing picture of life.
Holy waste? Self-wasting God? The equating of Jesus with a flea or a tapeworm? How can anyone buy this except those whose need to accept both evolution and Jesus is so compelling that they can swallow such words without a trace of shame? Yes, yes, this is “sophisticated” theology. And it’s laughable.
What is clear from reading this man is that there is no conceivable discovery about nature that could ever contravene his idea of God. Whatever science finds, no matter how contradictory to religious scripture it might appear, can ultimately be forced into Haught’s procrustean bed of a loving, beneficent, and generous God. What a waste of a good brain, to spend one’s life grinding out this kind of theological sausagery.
And isn’t it curious that theologians didn’t come to the “properly Christian understanding of God” until after Darwin proposed evolution and natural selection in 1859?
All this shows that the so-called “dialogue” between science and faith is really a monologue in which science tells theology how to clean up its act. Theology contributes nothing to science, though Haught thinks otherwise (more on that another time).