Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Conference #2

Dr A. Ross gave a paper on The Response of the Churches to the Challenges of Evolution in the 19th Century. It focussed largely on Scotland but also with reference to relevant matters in the rest of the UK and across in the USA.

He showed how the origins of the controversy lay in the debates over old earth geology. Some such as Charles Hodge encouraged old earth geology but then attacked Darwinism as atheism for denying design in nature. Old earth geology arose from Moderate ministers in the Church of Scotland and elsewhere but there were also secular enthusiasts such as James Hutton who was a deist.

There were various uniformitarian and catastrophic theories. Thomas Chalmers had the gap theory and did not change his views once converted. Darwin acknowledged a debt to Hugh Miller who advanced the day-age theory with the fifth and sixth day being geological ages. The Sabbath, Miller argued was an immensely protracted period ignoring the natural meaning of the language of Scripture. There was no protest within the Free Church at these views  A secular newspaper commented with the question could there be a more unfaithful reader of the Scriptures and noted that falsehood was being applauded in the Free Church. Such theories were now being taught in the Free Church colleges. Robert Rainey gave his inaugural lectures on theology and evolution.

Those who sought to respond were few. The english minister Rev George Bugg advanced "Scriptural Geology".  Among presbyterians, Robert Watts in Belfast successfully countered Evolution for at least a generation.

Why was there such capitulation? There was fear of denying a scientific advance such as the Copernican revolution but as Bugg pointed out the Copernicus theory was never a "heresy" against the Bible itself. The reality was that there was implicit trust of scientific academia. A problem that continues to this day.