Original Research - Special Collection: Johan Buitendag Festschrift

Natural theology after Darwin

John F. Haught
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 2 | a8481 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i2.8481 | © 2023 John F. Haught | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 January 2023 | Published: 15 May 2023

About the author(s)

John F. Haught, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., United States; and, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Has Darwinian science made natural theology obsolete, as many Christian scholars now believe? In this article, the author assumes that natural theology does not take place in a religious vacuum but instead borrows its sense of god from this or that specific faith tradition. Its task is not to arrive at an understanding of the divine mystery different from that of systematic or doctrinal theology. As the author shall argue here, however, the empirical grounding essential to natural theology must be considerably more comprehensive and more profound than that provided by the natural sciences, mainly because the latter usually leave out any mention of the most striking of all natural phenomena – the human mind and its mysterious operations.

The author maintains that an exclusively Darwinian narrative cannot fully explain why your mind is restless for truth or why you should trust your mind. The point of natural theology is to ask whether nature as a whole is intelligible apart from the reality of God. The author’s point is that an empirical survey of nature that restricts itself to following the modern scientific method’s habitual exclusion of thought from its survey of nature cannot succeed in making nature intelligible.

Contribution: This article argues that evolutionary explanations alone are not enough to account for all that is happening in human understanding and knowing. In the light of evolutionary biology, we must note that even human intelligence, which formerly seemed to elevate our species to a perch above nature, now appears to be an unexceptional product of chance, deep time and natural selection. ‘Thought’, the name we may give to the most splendid of all evolutionary outcomes, is taken to be a product of impersonal natural selection and so also are our moral instincts.


evolution; Darwin; Einstein; Lonergan; natural theology; intelligent subjectivity; human thought; wider empiricism.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 15: Life on land


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