John Haught and Why Ultimate Reality is a Personal God

John Haught

John Haught

One the leading scholars on Teilhard de Chardin is John Haught, Senior Research Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.  Haught has written numerous books on Christian evolutionary theology and the symbiotic relationship between faith and science including Science and Faith: A New Introduction, God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of EvolutionGod After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, and Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution. Haught has served as an expert witness on cases involving the teaching of evolution in schools, with Haught being critical of both “intelligent design” and scientific materialism. Haught’s writings have been very influential in my introduction to Teilhard de Chardin and my own personal journey back to Catholic faith.

I was recently reading an interview with John Haight by author Carter Phipps. While Cohen’s interview was generally favorable, Cohen could not understand Haight’s belief in a personal God. As Cohen described it, he “found it difficult to understand what could be gained by holding firm to what seemed like an outdated notion.”. Haight’s answer is a succinct yet powerful argument in favor of a personal God:

“We do tend to be anthropomorphic, and therefore there’s always a danger of emphasizing the personality of God to the point of idolatry, if you will, of diminishing the infinity, the transcendence, so as to make it somehow manageable,” he acknowledged, pausing for a moment of contemplation before continuing. “Now in our own ordinary experience of the world, the experiences that are most impressive, most challenging, most exciting are of another person, a ‘thou,’ a subject. So to me, the problem with denying the personality of ultimate reality is that if God is somehow impersonal, nonpersonal, if ultimate reality lacks ‘thou-ness,’ then it is somehow less intense in being than I am. And I wonder if I can surrender the completeness of my being to what I take to be impersonal or nonpersonal.

I do believe in the importance of neuter language about God, and this is why I follow theologians who refer to God as mystery. God is depth, the inexhaustible depth dimension. God is infinite beauty. God is infinite goodness. So when I use the term ‘personal,’ I’m not using it in the anthropomorphic sense of the one-planet deity that our scientific consciousness has outgrown. But if I subtract the mystery of subjectivity from being altogether, I’m left surrendering myself to something that lacks what I consider to be the most impressive type of experience that we can have in our worldly existence, and that’s the experience of another person. So God is at least personal. God is also more than personal. God is this infinite, inexhaustible depth dimension. And even if this depth expands to the multiverse, and even if I have a vision of reality that includes trillions and trillions of worlds, if at the core of that reality I don’t sense the pulse of personality, then in some sense that whole of totality is less intense in being than I am. And I don’t believe that.” (emphasis added).


About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog ( explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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7 Responses to John Haught and Why Ultimate Reality is a Personal God

  1. Lynda says:

    John Haught has also been influential in my introduction to Teilhard de Chardin. He is an amazing theologian who has the ability to record deep concepts in simple language that even I can understand!!

  2. opreach says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have one of Haught’s books, and now I must read it. Of course the problem is always that I have too many books!!

    • I can relate to the too many books. My bookshelves (both physical and e-book shelves) are so full I could not buy another book and still have a couple years of reading material 🙂

  3. gtrudelle says:

    “God is this infinite, inexhaustible depth dimension.”
    That has struck something in me. I’ll be thinking about that for a while.

  4. Pingback: 2013 Reflections on Blogging (Part II): Eight Favorite Posts | Teilhard de Chardin

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