In truth, Darwinism was mostly well-received by Christian figures, both within theological and scientific circles. This was partially due to the fact that Darwin was not the first to propose universal common ancestry. Erasmus Darwin (grandfather to Charles), Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Robert Grant, Lorenz Oken, and Robert Chambers had all toyed with evolutionary ideas prior to Darwin. Darwin’s proposed mechanism was simply one more addition to an ongoing scientific conversation. Geologists like Charles Lyell had additionally established the antiquity of the earth without much religious discontent. Thus, assimilation of evolutionary (though not necessarily Darwinian) ideas along with the scientific presuppositions behind them progressed rapidly among Protestant circles.
Surprisingly, many clerical figures even argued that Darwinism was an ally of the church.Seth Hart, “Christianity’s War on Darwinism, or the War that Never Happened” at Capturing Christianity (October 5, 2021)
The same sorts of people said that about Marx, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. At first. It’s understandable. You’re hoping it’s not as bad as it sounds.
The future archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple, complimented the novel ideas of Darwin in a sermon at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1860 (the same year as the famed Huxley/Wilberforce debate). He would later go on to write against those who attempted to derive scientific claims from the Genesis text. Additionally, the Scottish naturalist Henry Drummond found in Darwin a “real and beautiful acquisition to natural theology” and stated that his theory was “perhaps the most important contribution to the literature of apologetics” in the 1800s. Evolution, he argued, aligned with the Christian view that God aims to perfect beings.
Additional names could easily be added to this list.Seth Hart, “Christianity’s War on Darwinism, or the War that Never Happened” at Capturing Christianity (October 5, 2021)
We don’t doubt that. By the time most Christian thinkers discovered what Darwinism really was (Social Darwinism undoubtedly helped them see… ), many were heavily compromised and it was too late to back out. They had to accommodate or face social ostracism from people who “got it” earlier than they did and were rapidly becoming a power in the land.
One… two… three… Biologos!
You may also wish to read: Why did the evangelical Christian world go nuts for Christian Darwinism a decade ago? Contra Trendy Christians: It makes sense that all humans would descend from a single couple. If you had to account for something like, say, human consciousness, isn’t it easier to address if we all belong to the same family of origin? Would you prefer to explain the development of human consciousness assuming that we come from multiple different ones? Darn good thing if someone can prove its true genetically.