In 1859 appeared Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. It has been called the most significant book of the nineteenth century. If so, it was not because it set forth the theory of organic evolution—this had been done before. Its importance was in Darwin’s explanation of the “how” of organic evolution—natural selection. As we shall note in the next article, evolution has well survived into the middle of the twentieth century, but Darwin’s explanation of it has been largely rejected by modern evolutionists. In other words, the feature of the Origin of Species most significant in 1859 (natural selection) seems to be least significant in 1959; while the feature least significant in 1859 (organic evolution) seems to be most significant in 1959.
The elements of Darwin’s system are the following. He posited God as the Creator of matter and of the original germs or “gemmules” from which other forms have evolved. The actual evolutionary process includes the following steps: overproduction, struggle for existence, survival of the fittest, inheritance and propagation. The entire process is under the direction of the principle of natural selection.
What was the reaction of the church to this new doctrine? A. D. White (A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, p. 70) wrote: “Darwin’s Origin of the Species has come into the theological world like a plough into an anthill. Everywhere those thus rudely awakened from their old comfort and repose had swarmed forth angry and confused. Reviews, sermons, books, light and heavy, came flying at the new thinker from all sides.” But there was another part to the picture and it is brought out in the ...1
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