ERRORS OF ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN JOHN HAUGHT

Below are some snippets from: "The atheist delusion: Theologian John Haught explains why science and God are not at odds, why Mike Huckabee worries him, and why Richard Dawkins and other "new atheists" are ignorant about religion," by Steve Paulson. salon.com. December 18, 2007.

We've interspersed some comments to stimulate and elevate the conversation.

Paulson: What do you say to the atheists who demand evidence or proof of the existence of a transcendent reality?

Haught: The hidden assumption behind such a statement is often that faith is belief without evidence. Therefore, since there's no scientific evidence for the divine, we should not believe in God. But that statement itself — that evidence is necessary — holds a further hidden premise that all evidence worth examining has to be scientific evidence. And beneath that assumption, there's the deeper worldview — it's a kind of dogma — that science is the only reliable way to truth. But that itself is a faith statement. It's a deep faith commitment because there's no way you can set up a series of scientific experiments to prove that science is the only reliable guide to truth. It's a creed.

Paulson: Are you're saying scientists are themselves practicing a kind of religion?

Haught: The new atheists have made science the only road to truth. They have a belief, which I call "scientific naturalism," that there's nothing beyond nature — no transcendent dimension — that every cause has to be a natural cause, that there's no purpose in the universe, and that scientific explanations, especially in their Darwinian forms, can account for everything living. But the idea that science alone can lead us to truth is questionable. There's no scientific proof for that. Those are commitments that I would place in the category of faith. So the proposal by the new atheists that we should eliminate faith in all its forms would also apply to scientific naturalism. But they don't want to go that far. So there's a self-contradiction there.

"...the idea that science alone can lead us to truth is questionable." That's a gross understatement for a real Christian.

It isn't questionable. It's a fact. The spiritual nature of God is true. Science cannot get there on its own. God cannot be tested. Test God, and God does not. God insists upon faith and rightly so. He demands credit and rightly so. Everyone who deserves credit ought to have it. To withhold rightful credit is to commit a great and harmful error in the end. It is a logical error that spirals down into Hell.

This only just scratches the surface.

Paulson: You have carved out an interesting position in the debate over science and religion. You are critical of atheists like Dawkins and Dennett, who believe evolutionary theory leads to atheism. Yet you testified at the 2005 Dover trial against intelligent design. What's wrong with intelligent design?

Haught: I testified against it because, first of all, teaching it in public schools is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. There is something irremediably religious about the idea. Try to deny it though they might, advocates of intelligent design are really proposing a kind of watered-down version of natural theology. That's the attempt to explain what's going on in nature's order and design by appealing to a nonnatural source. So it's not science. I agree with all the scientists who say intelligent design should not be made part of science. It's not a valid scientific alternative to Darwinian ideas. It should not be taught in classrooms and public schools. It's also extremely poor theology. What intelligent design tries to do — and the great theologians have always resisted this idea — is to place the divine, the Creator, within the continuum of natural causes. And this amounts to an extreme demotion of the transcendence of God, by making God just one cause in a series of natural causes.

"... teaching it in public schools is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment."

That is completely incorrect. If it is taught within the context of teaching about religious beliefs in general, it is definitely not establishing a state religion. Of course, it is not science. He's quite right about that.

"It's also extremely poor theology. What intelligent design tries to do — and the great theologians have always resisted this idea — is to place the divine, the Creator, within the continuum of natural causes. And this amounts to an extreme demotion of the transcendence of God, by making God just one cause in a series of natural causes."

This is a complete misunderstanding of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design (the correct version) does not limit God to the material at all. It does not make "God just one cause in a series of natural causes." How did Haught came to this incorrect conclusion? He doesn't believe in the Creator, the Word.

Intelligent Design has been around since the beginning. People have seen God reflected in creation since time immemorial.

As we have stated before, God designed evolution. God design the equation E=MC2. Einstein only discovered God's design. There's nothing wrong with that.

This debate is still very unrefined.

Paulson: What do you make of the miracles in the Bible — most importantly, the Resurrection? Do you think that happened in the literal sense?

Haught: I don't think theology is being responsible if it ever takes anything with completely literal understanding. What we have in the New Testament is a story that's trying to awaken us to trust that our lives make sense, that in the end, everything works out for the best. In a pre-scientific age, this is done in a way in which unlettered and scientifically illiterate people can be challenged by this Resurrection. But if you ask me whether a scientific experiment could verify the Resurrection, I would say such an event is entirely too important to be subjected to a method which is devoid of all religious meaning.

Paulson: So if a camera was at the Resurrection, it would have recorded nothing?

Haught: If you had a camera in the upper room when the disciples came together after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we would not see it. I'm not the only one to say this. Even conservative Catholic theologians say that. Faith means taking the risk of being vulnerable and opening your heart to that which is most important. We trivialize the whole meaning of the Resurrection when we start asking, Is it scientifically verifiable? Science is simply not equipped to deal with the dimensions of purposefulness, love, compassion, forgiveness — all the feelings and experiences that accompanied the early community's belief that Jesus is still alive. Science is simply not equipped to deal with that. We have to learn to read the universe at different levels. That means we have to overcome literalism not just in the Christian or Jewish or Islamic interpretations of scripture but also in the scientific exploration of the universe. There are levels of depth in the cosmos that science simply cannot reach by itself.

The miracles occurred where there was faith and no doubt or testing. If the idea behind the camera is to see if miracles happen where there is doubt, it's a waste of time and shows huge misunderstanding and ignorance of the faith system. It is every bit as ignorant as many are ignorant of the scientific method.

Haught doubts all the miracles. Yet, he calls himself a Christian theologian. This is ridiculous. If there were never any of the literal miracles stated in the Gospels, if there was never any healing by faith, then there is no salvation and Jesus didn't exist as Jesus of the Gospels and there is nothing but savage, material, immoral "might makes right" afterall.

What Haught is missing are personal experiences that are a result of faith. Since he doubts the miracles, he surely hasn't experienced them or recognized them when they happened or has forgotten them or deliberately shunned them for fear of the fuller implications requiring him to do as Jesus commanded here and now.

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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