Saturday, May 2, 2009

God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, by John F. Haught

244 pages, Westviewpress.

After all the tension and sometime mud-slinging between certain Christians and certain scientists, finally someone has reflected more creatively about science and religion. John Haught is positively riveted theologically by the insights of science. While he does admit, though, that theology must change in order to deal with the vast and revolutionary storehouse of scientific knowledge, he also warns that the arrogance of many scientists is blocking science-religious dialogue:

“If we listen to Dawkins and Dennett [two extreme anti-religion scientists], we are led to believe that Darwin's scientific legacy provides so total an account of life that it removes any need for appeal to theological explanation at any level of understanding. Religious faith's intuition that a mysterious but infinitely intelligent creativity underlies biological process is now considered unacceptable, not so much because can prove it is not there, but because science has apparently shown it to be superfluous.”

Despite science's great challenge to traditional religious beliefs, the author requires a demanding theology that faithfully adheres to basic Christian teaching about God's intimate relationship to the world rather than one that bows down to science. He rejects the deist idea that God started the universe and then left the world to run on its own:

Christian faith's image of a suffering God's eternal restraint, which allows for the world's self-creation, suggests to theology a notion of ultimate reality much more intimately involved with and powerfully effective in the world than a forcefully directive divine agency would be. God acts powerfully in the world by offering to it a virtually limitless range of new possibilities within which it can become something relatively autonomous and distinct from its creator.”

Interestingly, these above words have modern, cutting-edge science in mind while advancing humility, a very traditional Christian belief about God.

Haught takes an almost 'Don't worry, be happy' approach to science's challenge to theology because he avoids being overly ambitious with this one book, and decides instead to leave the biggest work to following generations:

By collapsing the sacred hierarchy, modern evolutionary materialism gives every appearance of having pulverized the cultural, ethical, and religious formations around which human life on this planet has been organized for many thousands of years. It is impossible to exaggerate the enormity of this great drama of dissolutions.”

The author does not mince his words about the importance of theology's dialogue with science. He adopts the position of a Muslim scholar of religion and science, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who believes that science's leveling of everything and atomizing of life has led to the ecological disaster that is now upon us. Contemporary science is nihilistic and indifferent to life because it denies the hierarchical outlook that roots all life in something mysterious and sacred. Nasr is calling for a science that is open to the sacred and therefore once again to some form of hierarchy.

God After Darwin does its intended job of setting a basic groundwork for future theologians.

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