So, I just finished reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. I enjoyed it.
At times it was informative, boring, exciting, illuminating, confusing, poetic and probably wrong. Don't misunderstand me, I think a lot of it is right. I mean I was a cautious progressive creationist before reading it and I would pick the theistic evolutionary theory before I would choose young earth creationism. Anyway, more on that in another blog post. I wanted to talk about a certain recurring thought in this book.
What really struck me as compelling was Darwin's choice of words when referring to the traditional idea of creationism and the ways that he describes his theory.
I think Darwin was a theistic evolutionist.
Now, there are a few things that we need to be consider first.
Was Darwin ever a Christian? Did he de-convert? Does he think that God could have been involved in creation?
So, I went looking for these answers.
WAS DARWIN EVER A CHRISTIAN?
Well I am sure that some people would like to exclude him from Christianity simply because of his views on the age of the earth and evolution. However, everyone knows that we aren't saved because of orthodox creation theories. The two are not mutually exclusive as much as some people like to claim.
I knew that he was a church going man. While this doesn't necessarily make him a Christian it is interesting enough to dig deeper. So I did.
I found out that he studied to become a clergyman. I'm not sure if I would do that if I wasn't a Christian. Instead of questioning other people's salvation I tend to take their word for it.
He had to modify his beliefs because he felt he had to choose.
Wikipedia says that Darwin experienced doubts about his faith. He questioned the evil acts in the world, the historicity of the Bible and other religious matters. Obviously studying science and the world caused his, as Greg Boyd would say, "house of cards theology" to collapse. It appears that he re-built, instead this time identifying as an agnostic. He even corrected people that wanted to include him in their atheism.
It is purely speculation but it is my belief that the religion in his day told him that his studies and his faith were at odds. He could not believe in the God that required a young earth and independent acts of creation, but, did still believe in God. He had to modify his beliefs because he felt he had to choose.
DID HE THINK GOD WAS INVOLVED?
Who knows, maybe. He certainly didn't write in The Origin of Species that God was or wasn't. I think his agnosticism came through a lot in the book. What struck me as odd is many times, when referring to creation, he seems to choose his words carefully. He calls it "independent acts of creation". What does he mean by that? Surely he could have said simply "act of creation" if he wanted to try to disprove all things God.
I think what he means is natural selection, leading to macro evolution, discredits certain aspects of young earth creationism or "independent creation". Obviously this leaves the door open to " dependent creation", whatever that means. I might define theistic evolution and possibly progressive creationism as dependent.
Darwin has been quoted as saying that God couldn't be associated with the evil that happens in the world, including creation/evolution. I have a hard time with that one too!
He very well could have been a closet Christian and believed in an old earth and macro evolution.
At the beginning of the book I thought that he might be a progressive creationist. When talking about the ancestors of particular varieties of species he mentions them coming from a common stock. If macro evolution were true wouldn't every variety, species, genus, family, order, and all life come from, ultimately, the same stock? It doesn't help that Darwin himself seems to conflate the ideas of adaptation and transmutation.
If it weren't for the independent acts of creation phrase he uses later I would assume that he thinks each species was created independently. It sure seemed that way, especially earlier in the book. Later in the book he shifts his focus away from explaining the evidence as it relates to natural selection to proving positive proof against "independent acts of creation.
WAS DARWIN A THEISTIC EVOLUTIONIST?
I really have no idea. He very well could have been a closet Christian and believed in an old earth and macro evolution. Then again, He may never have been a Christian or lost his faith. It's hard to say.
I only mean to bring up the idea for curiosity's sake. What do you think?
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