On Christianity vs Darwinism

Alister McGrath cautions us to get our history right.



Alister McGrath cautions us to get our history right.


If there is a tension between Christianity and Darwinism, that was not really seen at the time, in the 1850s, 1860s. It really emerged in the 1920s in North America, when the movement that we sometimes call Protestant Fundamentalism began to develop. And they saw this as a battle between the Bible and a secular culture.

If we go back to England in the 1860s we see a very different picture. The Church of England thought, look, this makes sense – we have people like, for example, Charles Kingsley at Westminster Abbey or indeed, Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, both saying, look, this makes sense. The science seems to resonate with the way in which we read our Bibles. And Frederick Temple, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, preached a very famous sermon in which he said that Darwin had simply helped us to see that God in effect enabled nature to make itself, in effect transferring a certain degree of autonomy to the created order.

So we’ve got to be very, very careful about retrojecting the concerns of the 1920s back into the 1860s.