Essay On Theistic Evolution

By this doctrine of evolution he does not mean the Darwinian hypothesis, although he accepts and includes this, looking upon natural selection as playing an important though not an unlimited part.He would be an evolutionist with Mivart and Owen and Argyll, even if he had not the I would wish to state distinctly that I do not at present see any evidence for believing in a gradual development of man from the lower animals by ordinary natural laws; that is, without some special interference, or, if it be preferred, some exceptional conditions which have thereby separated him from all other creatures, and placed him decidedly in advance of them all.In coupling with it a chapter of the second volume of Dr.Hodge’s ‘Systematic Theology (Part II, Anthropology),’ we call attention to a recent essay, by an able and veteran writer, on the other side of the question.As the two fairly enough represent the extremes of Christian thought upon the subject, it is convenient to review them in connection.Theologians have a short and easy, if not wholly satisfactory, way of refuting scientific doctrines which they object to, by pitting the authority or opinion of one may enjoy the same advantage at the expense of the divines– we mean, of course, on the scientific arena; for the mutual refutation of conflicting theologians on their own ground is no novelty.George Henslow’s recent volume on ‘The Theory of Evolution of Living Things.’ This treatise is on the side of evolution, ‘considered as illustrative of the wisdom and beneficence of the Almighty.’ It was submitted for and received one of the Actonian prizes recently awarded by the Royal Institution of Great Britain.We gather that the staple of a part of it is worked up anew from some earlier discourses of the author upon ‘Genesis and Geology,’ ‘Science and Scripture not antagonistic,’ etc.

And indeed, in the present transition period, until some one goes much deeper into the heart of the subject, as respects the relations of modern science to the foundations of religious belief, than either of these writers has done, it is as well that the weight of opinion should be distributed, even if only according to prepossessions, rather than that the whole stress should bear upon a single point, and that perhaps the authority of an interpretation of Scripture. Hodge’s ground, for instance (although better guarded than that of Dr.Hodge’s exposition of ‘theories of the universe’ and kindred topics–and in no captious spirit– that whether right or wrong on particular points, he is not often right or wrong in the way of a man of science.Probably from the lack of familiarity with prevalent ideas and their history, the theologians are apt to suppose that scientific men of the present day are taking up theories of evolution in pure wantonness or mere superfluity of naughtiness; that it would have been quite possible, as well as more proper, to leave all such matters alone.Although he admits ‘that there is a theistic and an atheistic form of the nebular hypothesis as to the origin of the universe, so there may be a theistic interpretation of the Darwinian theory,’ yet he contends that ‘the system is thoroughly atheistic,’ notwithstanding that the author ‘expressly acknowledges the existence of God.’ Curiously enough, the atheistic form of evolutionary hypotheses, or what he takes for such, is the only one which Dr. Even the ‘Reign of Law’ theory, Owen’s ‘purposive route of development and chance . The gist of the matter lies in the answer that should be rendered to the questions–1.Do order and useful-working collocation, pervading a system throughout all its parts, prove design? Is such evidence negatived or invalidated by the probability that these particular collocations belong to lineal series of such in time, and diversified in the course of Nature–grown up, so to say, step by step?Whether the succession of living forms on the earth is or is not among the facts and laws of Nature, is the very matter in controversy. Hodge, it has been conceded that in this matter ‘proofs, in the proper sense of the word, are not to be had; we are beyond the region of demonstration, and have only probabilities to consider.’ Wherefore ‘Christians have a right to protest against the arraying of against the clear teachings of Scripture.’ The word is italicized, as if to intimate that probabilities have no claims which a theologian is bound to respect.As to arraying them against Scripture, there is nothing whatever in the essay referred to that justifies the statement.On the other hand, he has the advantage of being a naturalist, and the son of a naturalist, as well as a clergyman: consequently he feels the full force of an array of facts in nature, and of the natural inferences from them, which the theological professor, from his Biblical standpoint, and on his implicit assumption that the Old Testament must needs teach true science, can hardly be expected to appreciate.Accordingly, a naturalist would be apt to say of Dr.Hodge allows may possibly be held in a theistic sense, and which, as we suppose, is so held or viewed by a great proportion of the naturalists of our day, Mr.Henslow maintains is fully compatible with dogmatic as well as natural theology; that it explains moral anomalies, and accounts for the mixture of good and evil in the world, as well as for the merely relative perfection of things; and, finally, that ‘the whole scheme which God has framed for man’s existence, from the first that was created to all eternity, collapses if the great law of evolution be suppressed.’ The second part of his book is occupied with a development of this line of argument.

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