Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America

By Gail Kennedy | Go to book overview

Religion had been forced to share its traditional authority with science, and American thought had been greatly secularized. Evolution had made its way into the churches themselves, and there remained not a single figure of outstanding proportions in Protestant theology who still ventured to dispute it. But evolution had been translated into divine purpose, and in the hands of skillful preachers religion was livened and refreshed by the infusion of an authoritative idea from the field of science. The ranks of the old foes soon could hardly be distinguished as they merged in common hostility to pessimism or skepticism about the promise of American life. The specter of atheism was no longer a menace, and surveys of the colleges where one would most expect to discover infidelity revealed how little there was. With little exaggeration a minister could say that American infidelity had not produced "a single champion of cosmopolitan or even of national reputation.""The spirit," explained Phillips Brooks, "that cries 'Credo quia impossibile,' the heroic spirit of faith, is too deep in human nature for any one century to eradicate it." For was it not true, as Beecher told his Plymouth Church congregation, that "the moral structure of the human mind is such that it must have religion"? He continued:

It must have superstition, or it must have intelligent religion. It is just as necessary to men as reason is, as imagination is, as hope and desire are. Religious yearning is part and parcel of the human composition. And when you have taken down any theologic structure--if you should take down the Roman Church and scatter its materials; if then one by one you should dissect all Protestant theologies and scatter them--man would still be a religious animal, would need and be obliged to go about and construct some religious system for himself.

To these sentiments of its leading di vine, the Gilded Age gave unanimous consent.

Henry Ward Beecher:


THE TWO REVELATIONS
"All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made."-- John i:3.

THAT the whole world and the universe were the creation of God is the testimony of the whole Bible, both Jewish and Christian; but how he made them-whether by the direct force of a creative will or indirectly through a long series of gradual changes-the Scriptures do not declare. The grand truth is that this world was not a chance, a creative fermentation, a self-development, but that it was the product of an Intelligent Being, that the divine will in the continuance of this world manifests itself under the form of what are called natural laws, and that the operations of normal and legitimate laws are the results of divine will.

There are two records of God's creative energy. One is the record of the unfolding of man and of the race under the inspiration of God's nature: this is a mere sketch; of the ancient periods of man there is almost nothing known. The other of these records or revelations--if you choose to call them so--pertains to the physical globe, and reveals the divine

From Evolution and Religion ( New York: Fords, Howard, and Hulbert, 1885), pp. 44-55.

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Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • The Clash of Issues xiv
  • The Christian Epic 1
  • The Coming of Darwinism 3
  • The Two Revelations 14
  • A Diary of Evolution 21
  • A Reply to Mr. Bryan in The Name of Religion 30
  • The Scopes Trial 35
  • Four Dialogues 52
  • The New Orthodoxy 70
  • The Truth in Myths 82
  • The New Failure of Nerve 88
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading 97
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