It may be worth noting that Darwin's theory of evolution
by natural selection encountered vehement opposition among scientists
as well, but for different reasons.
There are many thoughtful discussions of the dialogue between
Darwinism and Christianity; for example, David C. Lindberg and
Ronald L. Numbers (eds.), God and Nature (University of California
Press, Berkeley, 1986), chs. 13-16.
Charles Hodge (1793-1878), an influential Protestant theologian,
published in 1874 What is Darwinism?, one of the most articulate
attacks against evolutionism. Hodge perceived Darwin's theory
as "the most thoroughly naturalistic that can be imagined
and far more atheistic than that of his predecessor Lamarck".
He concluded that "the denial of design in nature is actually
the denial of God". However, a principle of solution was
seen by other Protestant theologians in the notion that God operates
through intermediate causes.
The origin and motion of the planets can be explained by the
law of gravity and other natural processes without denying God's
creation and providence. Similarly, evolution could be seen as
the natural process through which God brought living beings into
existence. Thus, A.H. Strong, president of Rochester Theological
Seminary, wrote in his Systematic Theology: "We grant
the principle of evolution, but we regard it as only the method
of divine intelligence". The brute ancestry of man was not
incompatible with his excelled status as a creature in the image
of God. Strong drew an analogy with Christ's miraculous conversion
of water into wine: "The wine in the miracle was not water
because water had been used in the making of it, nor is man a
brute because the brute has made some contributions to its creation".
Arguments for and against Darwin's theory came from Catholic
theologians as well. Gradually, well into the 20th century, evolution
by natural selection came to be accepted by the enlightened majority
of Christian writers. Pius XII accepted in his encyclical Humani
Generis (1950) that biological evolution was compatible with
the Christian faith, although he argued that God's intervention
was necessary for the creation of the human soul. In 1981, Pope
John Paul II addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
"The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe
and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific
treatise but in order to state the correct relationship of man
with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply
to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to
teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology
in use at the time of the writer ... Any other teaching about
the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions
of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how the heavens were
made but how one goes to heaven."
The Pope's argument is that it is a blunder to mistake the
Bible for an elementary book of astronomy, geology and biology.
The argument goes clearly against the Biblical literalism of Fundamentalists
and shares with most Protestant theologians a view of Christian
belief that is not incompatible with evolution and, more generally,
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