Apologies to Darwin|
In a recent article (Sept. 2008) entitled “Good Religion Needs Good Science,” the Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England issued an apology to Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution. Dr. Malcolm Brown wrote his essay in anticipation of the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth in 1809, saying that now is a good time “to think again about Darwin’s impact on religious thinking.” Brown’s article defends Darwin as a good scientist and declares that “church people” were mistaken for rejecting Darwin’s theory in the 1860s. He also blames others, not Darwin, for what is termed as “Social Darwinism,” which is the notion of “survival of the fittest” within human society that has led to racism, segregation, discrimination, and even genocide. Instead, Brown says that Darwin’s pure scientific theories are consistent with the Christian principles of love and self-sacrifice. Brown concludes his discourse with this apology: “Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.”
Let us briefly consider the history between Charles Darwin and the Church of England. Darwin was “baptized” (sprinkled, not immersed) into the Church of England as an infant, and later he was sent to school to study for the Anglican priesthood. By the 1830s, Darwin began to lose his faith, which he described in his own words:
“I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete.”
His faith was completely lost when his daughter Anne died in 1851, and he later described himself as an agnostic. When Darwin published On Origin of Species in 1859, reaction from the Church of England was mostly negative, although some liberal theologians were receptive. A series of public debates were held on the subject of evolution (Darwin was unable to attend due to illness), but no other official action was taken by the Anglican Church.
After considering Dr. Brown’s article and the history between Darwin and the Church of England, this question arises: Why does the Church of England owe Darwin an apology? First of all, Darwin is dead, so an apology cannot benefit him. Secondly, the Church of England did not do anything to Darwin that requires an apology. For the most part, the Anglican Church refuted Darwin’s theories, but there was no persecution, excommunication, or even censure against Darwin. In fact, Darwin was honored in 1877 with an honorary degree from Cambridge University, where he had studied Anglican theology in his youth, and with a burial at Westminster Abbey in 1882. Comparisons have been made between the Catholic Church’s treatment of Galileo and the Anglican Church’s treatment of Darwin, but there is no comparison. To this day, Darwin’s theories have not been proven (unlike many of Galileo’s), and opposition to evolution is just as valid now as it ever was.
In truth, Dr. Brown’s call for an apology to Darwin is another attempt to combine Christianity and Darwinism. Any apology would be designed to appease evolutionists and gain their respect while influencing believers in God to compromise their belief in God’s creation. It would also give further credence to Darwin’s theories and cast him in a sympathetic light as a misunderstood and persecuted scientist. Altogether, the effort would further the cause of evolution and its ungodly influence over the world.
Make no mistake about it – Darwin was an unbeliever and evolution stands in contradiction to the Bible’s account of creation. Brown attempts to justify Darwin by saying that Jesus “invited people to observe the world around them and to reason from what they saw to an understanding of the nature of God” (citing Matt. 6:25-33), but he fails to acknowledge that Jesus believed in creation (Matt. 19:4). Brown tries to justify Darwin’s theories by saying that Jesus “warned his disciples that there was more that he could say to them and that the Spirit of Truth would lead them into truth” (citing John 16: 12–13). Brown implies that Jesus knew about evolution but was not willing to tell His disciples about it until later. This is a bogus implication, for the Spirit of Truth had already revealed the origin of man through Moses in Genesis chapter 1. The truth is that Darwin and his theories are indefensible from a biblical standpoint.
Therefore, let us not be influenced by this or any other attempt to elevate the wisdom of man above the word of God. While we should not be surprised that such rhetoric would come from the Church of England, we still must be on guard against all forms of false persuasion that would turn us away from the truth of God. “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). If the Darwinists are offended by Christians’ stubborn refusal to follow their false teachings, then so be it. No apology should be issued by anyone for believing in his Creator.
Stacey E. Durham
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