The Post-Darwinian Controversies -- By: John C. Whitcomb

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 02:1 (Spring 1981)
Article: The Post-Darwinian Controversies
Author: John C. Whitcomb


The Post-Darwinian Controversies

John C. Whitcomb

The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870–1900, by James R. Moore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979. Pp. 502. $37.50.

With 350 pages of closely reasoned historical analysis and an impeccable style, bolstered by 986 bibliographically illuminating endnotes and a 58-page bibliography, James R. Moore of England seeks to demonstrate the “theological orthodoxy” of Darwinism and to explain all significant Protestant responses to Darwin in both Great Britain and America during the last three decades of the nineteenth century in the light of this thesis.

It is indeed a major undertaking, and the result is a masterpiece of historical erudition. It appears that no non-Catholic writer on either side of the Atlantic who interacted with Darwin’s theory of organic evolution escapes Moore’s attention (p. 11 and n. 18). All previous writers on the history of these controversies are criticized for their shallow or provincial approach in neglecting “the thousands of books and articles on evolution and religion that were published in the wake of The Origin of Species” (p. 7).

The author, who serves as Lecturer in the History of Science and Technology in The Open University (England), wrote a doctoral thesis on this subject at the University of Manchester in 1975 (pp. x,355 n. 23), and, with the aid of a generous grant, expanded his work into the present form early in 1978, using the large library collection at Princeton Theological Seminary as well as bibliographic resources available in England.

The basic thesis of the book is that a paradoxical harmony existed between true Darwinian evolutionism and Calvinistic/trinitarian orthodoxy (pp. 15-16,280,289-95,297-98,308,327,334-36,341,345,349,398 n. 110), even though Darwin himself never saw this and finally abandoned Christian theism by sinking into deism and finally agnosticism (pp. ix, 15-16,109,276,315,326-40,346-51).

In order to accomplish this incredible tour de force, Moore not only leaves no stone unturned in eliminating the idea of “warfare” and “militant conflict” between science and Christianity but, inevitably, redefines Christian “orthodoxy” to the total exclusion of all forms of “Biblical fundamentalism” with its “literalistic” hermeneutics. If Christianity could somehow be “transformed” and “rightly viewed” (pp. 1,16), there could be no conflict with Darwinism!

For “Fundamentalism” Moore has nothing but contempt. Because of their “deeply biased interpretations o...

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