Nothing New Under the Sun!
It has been suggested by some people that Christians reacted poorly to the threat posed by Darwin’s book The Origin of Species. Such criticisms miss the point. Influential English society had already abandoned an orthodox Christian faith and they were more than ready for Darwin’s ideas. The situation was similar in the United States. There were no arguments which could have changed these hearers’ minds. They heard what they wanted to hear and ignored what they did not like.
Naturally the first to speak out were prominent clerics. One of the most famous defenders of the faith was Samuel Wilberforce (1805-1873) Bishop of Oxford and son of the famous William Wilberforce who campaigned so long for the emancipation of the slaves in the British Empire. The Wilberforce family was known for their devout faith. Thus in a review of Darwin’s book, Bishop Wilberforce wrote:
“Man’s derived supremacy over the earth; man’s power of articulate speech; man’s gift of reason; man’s free will and responsibility; man’s fall and man’s redemption; the incarnation of the Eternal Son; the indwelling of the Eternal Spirit all are equally and utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God, and redeemed by the Eternal Son assuming to himself His nature.” What the bishop was saying, was that if mankind descended from apes, then Christ’s human body was similarly descended from apes. This was certainly heresy in the bishop’s mind.
It is however the evangelicals who are considered by most observers to have led the fight against evolution. This however is not exactly the case. There were mixed opinions, as in most denominations. Prominent evangelical theologian Bernard Ramm (1916-1992) for example, was a bitter opponent of the creationists whom he called hyperorthodox. In his 1954 book The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Eerdmans), he declared that the hyperorthodox are inept but unfortunately still around (p. 27). Of these people he further declared that their pronouncements “lacked the measured control of cultured men.” (p. 27) He further insisted that “Sad has been the history of the evil that good Christian men have done in regard to science.”” (p. 27) And he therefore declared that the hyperorthodox position is “impossible of credible defense.” (p. 28)
Having thus disposed of the Biblical literalists, Bernard Ramm then undertook to reinterpret Scripture. The original creation was not as good as we might suppose: “God did not say that creation was perfect, but that it was good. In Scripture it is heaven which stands for perfection. The earth is the scene of man’s probationary existence, and it is good but not heavenly perfect.” (p. 93) It is not surprising therefore that Dr. Ramm believed that “there was death, disease and bloodshed in Nature long before man sinned.” (p. 334) It is evident that such people as Dr. Ramm believed what they wanted, whatever Scripture declared.
This situation continues today. The objective of prominent organizations like BioLogos is to convince Christians that God used evolution to bring about His Creation. Christians however are to critically evaluate what they hear, just like the people of Berea in Acts 17. The choices are what Scripture tells us or what prominent theistic evolutionist supporters such as Dr. Timothy Keller and Dr. Francis Collins declare. Both of these men have been connected at one time or another with BioLogos. There are many more such individuals too. The issue has not disappeared whatever theistic evolutionists past and present may hope.
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