Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

I would be remiss not to honor Charles Darwin, whom I believe to be a truly great man, on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

I among those who have actually read On the Origin of Species, his ground-breaking—and breath-taking—work on origins, creation, and evolution. It is simply astounding in its breadth of knowledge, depth of insight, and heights of honesty and humility.

Oh, that more Christians would write with the same honesty!

The Origin of Species 

It is obvious that most people who try to answer Charles Darwin have not read Origin. They assume that he got his ideas from fossils and rocks.

Au contraire, it was his job as a naturalist to catalogue and categorize living things.

The difficulty of that job led to his theory concerning the origin of species.

His book begins by describing his difficult task. He explains that following his training, he would categorize pigeons into three genera and eight distinct species. The problem was, he and everyone else knew that all the domestic pigeons in England were descended from one species, the Rock Pigeon. Nonetheless, pigeons, bred over 2,500 years, differed in such important physical features as even number of vertebrae.

He goes on to explain the difficulty of trying to decide whether a type of pine tree belongs to a different genus, species, subspecies or variety than others.

Varieties were supposed to be related to each other by descent. Seperate species were supposed to have been created separately by God. He had immense difficulty even categorizing these living things, much less deciding which were separately created!

Nonetheless, creationists today try to argue against Darwin by saying–in gross ignorance–that creatures around us categorize easily into species.

They do not!

Darwin Began Thinking . . .

. . . If all those doves descended from the rock pigeon, as was known, then what if the rock pigeon and the birds nearest it descended from a common ancestor. If that could be proven, where would the stopping point be?

You and I would answer, “Who knows?”

You and I are not Charles Darwin.

Darwin was amazing. As I read his book, I wondered if he knew every creature on the earth from the smallest single-celled organism to the largest elephant or giraffe. He knew creatures from the sea, he knew plants, he knew fungi, and he knew the animal kingdom. He could pull examples from any of them.

Every example of evolution that Darwin gave was from living creatures. He didn’t rely on the fossil record. He found the evolution of lungs, the eye, and a crab’s claw in nature; in things currently alive. He found those evolutionary lineages step-by-gradual-step, making it quite clear how a swim bladder could become a lung and a set of light-sensitive cells could become an eye.

He was even able to offer an explanation of the evolution of instinct and behavior.

Believe it or not, I’m a Christian, and . . .

I’m a creationist. I believe God created the earth and man through evolution. I see the hand of God in the largest stars, which use an attribute of iron to result in supernovas that spread carbon-based molecules across the sky.

Every supernova does that.

Carbon-based molecules.

They’re called organic molecules because they’re the dust of life. You and I, we’re made of stardust.

I believe the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament his handiwork. They don’t lie. They proclaim his power and greatness.

Did Darwin Recant on His Deathbed

On the authority of Answers in Genesis–an anti-evolution, pro-creation organization–he did not.

They write:

It therefore appears that Darwin did not recant, and it is a pity that to this day the Lady Hope story occasionally appears in tracts published and given out by well-meaning people.

There was a story, published in his day that a “Lady Hope” had visited him and talked to him about God. That story seems unlikely to be true, and even if it was, she never said that he recanted; only that she talked to him. Darwin’s whole family denied the story, a lot of facts in the story don’t fit, and Darwin’s wife–who was always distressed that he was agnostic–would have been glad to verify the story had it been true.

It didn’t happen.

And if it did, Darwin would have been wrong.

A Little Honesty

I’ve been asked why I don’t take Genesis literally.

Because I’ve studied it. If you studied it, you wouldn’t take it literally, either.

Sorry, but you already don’t believe what it says.

You believe that there are galaxies spread across the universe, filled with hundreds of millions of stars each, millions of light years away.

Genesis says that the sky is a hard dome holding up water and having the sun, moon, and stars in it.

Read it. Look up raqiya (firmament) some time. People deny it, but it means something hard.

The Bible mentions the earth being set on pillars (1 Sam. 2:8; Job 9:6; 26:11; Ps. 75:3; . It says that the sky is as hard as a brass mirror (Job 37:18).

We can talk about why the Bible isn’t literal on scientific things, but we are going to have to face the fact that it isn’t literal on scientific things.

Sometime you should read through the writings of the early Christians and get a taste of the way they were always looking for the spiritual meaning God put in the Bible. That’s certainly how they found the prophecy of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14. Read through Isaiah 7, and you will find that Emmanuel had to be a child, born in Judah during the reign of king Ahaz as a sign to him that the kings of Israel and Syria would be overthrown by a certain time.

God never meant for Isaiah 7:14 to just be one prophecy. He always meant for it to be two, and he knew that Matthew would reveal the spiritual meaning of Isaiah 7:14 to the world in his Gospel.

We don’t need to fear for or defend God. God can defend himself. In fact, he can defend us as well. If we will leave off defending God and begin to obey him, we may find that we need him to defend us.

As long as we’re fighting for a literal Genesis while ignoring Jesus’ prayers and Paul’s commands for an obedient people, fully united in love, we won’t have to worry about God defending us. The world will leave us alone. It is the obedient and the loving who are persecuted.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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3 Responses to Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin

  1. Becky Milam says:

    That’s good Shammah! I grew up being taught that Charles Darwin was a crazy, trouble-maker that led millions of people astray by introducing the evolutionary line of thinking. However, something in me always thought that it was ridiculous to think that things don’t evolve. Thanks for enlightening me on Darwin. I have a new respect for him even if he was an atheist.

  2. Micah says:

    I’m a creationist but do not adhear to evolutionary theory. I respect your views Shammah though I disagree somewhat on Darwin’s accuracy. It is nevertheless a topic I enjoy discussing. Perhaps someday I’ll have the pleasure to speak with you on this topic. I do most emphatically agree with your concern for unity in the body of Christ. Scientific theory aside, may we be one in Christ.

  3. Good to see someone willing to be honest. I am one of those people who have not read Origin, though I do not take the Genesis account literally. You make me wan tot read it.

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