Evolution And The Supernatural -- By: W. H. Griffith Thomas

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 079:314 (Apr 1922)
Article: Evolution And The Supernatural
Author: W. H. Griffith Thomas


Evolution And The Supernatural

W. H. Griffith Thomas

During the past fifty years no idea or word has been more in evidence than Evolution, for in almost every sphere of life it has been used with reference to the world and things animate and inanimate. And yet there is scarcely any term which needs more careful definition, because it is often misused.

I. The Meaning

The word comes from the Latin “evolvere,” to unroll, and in a perfectly right sense it is often used to indicate any process of “unrolling” or “development.” It is possible to speak of the “evolution” (meaning the development) of a plant or an animal or a bird, and when used in this way the term is natural and, perhaps, inevitable. There are those who hold that the record in the first chapter of Genesis reveals a system of development from the lowest form to the highest. Then, too, when our Lord spoke of “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear,” it is, of course, possible and legitimate to speak of this as “evolution.”

But the strict scientific meaning is quite different and calls for special attention. In this connection Evolution means a change wrought by internal force without external aid or volition. Among the many definitions of Evolution in its purely scientific aspect, perhaps the best is by Professor LeConte: “Continuous progressive change according to certain laws and by means of resident forces.” It would be decidedly satisfactory if this view could always be understood when the term is employed. In this scientific sense it is usual to divide the subject into sub-organic, organic, and super-organic. The first refers to the development of matter without life, and is applied to the evolution of the solar system from some cruder conditions of life. Organic Evolution is intended to describe

a process of derivation or development “by means of re-dent forces of vegetable and animal life.” Super-organic Evolution refers to the same principle in metaphysical and non-material spheres.

II. The History

The theory of evolutionary development can be traced back to the ages of Greek thinkers several centuries before Christ. As the mind seeks for fundamental and unifying principles, it was natural for the keen Greek mind to aim at discovering some principle which would account for the many and varied forms of inanimate and (especially) animate nature. But in modern times, while philosophers in the eighteenth century discussed the hypothesis of Evolution, it was not until the time of a Frenchman, Lamarck (1744–1829), that the question received thorough consideration in relation to life. Lamarck’s views were not widely accepted...

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