Friday, February 13, 2009

Darwin and the Work of God

Darwin, plus one.

Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution revolutionized our understanding of biology, and changed how we think about the world.

Among Christians, there have been objections from the beginning, from those who see Darwin’s theory as a contradiction of the Genesis account of creation. On that point, I always want to give a shout out to the people who put together the Elohim narrative in Genesis one, that has the basic evolutionary order correct a few thousand years before Darwin. But Darwin contradicts Genesis two, which has human beings created first, and his theory contradicts the literal “days” of Genesis one. Oddly, the folks who are upset by Darwin are untroubled by the contradictions between the first and second accounts, which come from the Elohim and Yahweh narratives, respectively.

But among Christian theologians and biblical scholars, the reaction was largely positive from the beginning. When they heard Darwin’s theory, their reaction was, “We knew that God created the world. Now we know how.” And the on-going nature of evolutionary change reminded them that God was still at work.

When they saw the biological world evolving, it reminded them that social relationships also needed to evolve. Progress, seen in nature, must be replicated in society. For the Social Gospel preachers, theologians, and activists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, progress was not just natural, it was divine. This did not mean it was inevitable; it meant that working toward a more just and humane world was what God was calling them to do.


  1. I've never had trouble with God and science. If nothing else, the more I learn about the complexity and beauty of the natural world (and the huge amount of it we still don't understand), the stronger my faith becomes that someone much more powerful than we could ever grasp is behind it.

  2. The relationship between Genesis and Darwin is as magical as it is complicated. There seems to be support for each theory or belief. I am not confident enough in my knowledge of the scriptures to quote it, but the understanding I have of the creation of the universe is God provided everything we need to have an abundance in our lives. That we can grow in all ways using what has been provided. And we will always change, adapt and question as a species till the end of time. All elements will follow these laws of nature to some degree if inspected closely. Our only obligations are to love one another and serve Him to the best of our ability