Misrepresenting Darwin?

from Aug 25, 2010 Category: Events

Dr. Albert Mohler has responded to critics claiming he misrepresented Charles Darwin’s views as he set sail on the Beagle

In his open letter to BioLogos vice-president Dr. Karl Giberson, Dr. Mohler stands by his message at the recent Ligonier National Conference and argues that it appears to be the agenda of some theistic evolutionists to misrepresent Darwin.

And if a misrepresentation of Charles Darwin is the central issue, I must insist that it is you who offers the truly dangerous misrepresentation. In Saving Darwin, you attempt at great lengths to present Charles Darwin as a rather conventional and orthodox Christian, prior to his later loss of faith. You state that he was ‘born to a well-to-do British family who, despite having some unorthodox characters listed in the family Bible, raised him in the Anglican Church, educated him in an Anglican school, and put him on the train to Edinburgh to study medicine.’

This hardly seems adequate or straightforward. The ‘some unorthodox characters listed in the family Bible’ included both his father and his paternal grandfather. His mother’s family was Unitarian in belief, rejecting the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. Even as Charles Darwin was nominally involved in the Anglican Church, largely through the influence of his sister and brother-in-law after the death of his mother, his involvement and exposure appears to me largely incidental to his life. He later married a woman of Unitarian convictions as well.”

Then, Dr. Mohler frames what is truly at stake in the argument over origins as promulgated by Dr. Giberson in his book Saving Darwin:

Of far greater concern is your tendency to appear to agree with some of Darwin’s complaints against biblical Christianity. You claim that he “boarded the Beagle with his childhood Christian faith intact,” but then add, “although he had begun to wonder about the historicity of the more fanciful Old Testament stories, like the Tower of Babel.” This is insignificant? Are we to understand that you, too, see that biblical account as “fanciful”? You explain that Darwin, “like most thoughtful believers,” began to distance himself from the doctrine of hell — a doctrine you describe as “a secondary doctrine that even many conservatives reject.”
If your intention in Saving Darwin is to show “how to be a Christian and believe in evolution,” what you have actually succeeded in doing is to show how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender in order to accommodate itself to evolution. In doing this, you and your colleagues at BioLogos are actually doing us all a great service. You are showing us what the acceptance of evolution actually costs, in terms of theological concessions.
I stand by my address in full, and only wish I had been able to address these issues at even greater length in that context. I plan to do that over the next few months. I greatly regret that you have committed yourself to a cause that I can see as incompatible with the Scripture and destructive to the Christian faith.

Of far greater concern is your tendency to appear to agree with some of Darwin’s complaints against biblical Christianity. You claim that he ‘boarded the Beagle with his childhood Christian faith intact,’ but then add, “although he had begun to wonder about the historicity of the more fanciful Old Testament stories, like the Tower of Babel.’ This is insignificant? Are we to understand that you, too, see that biblical account as ‘fanciful’? You explain that Darwin, ‘like most thoughtful believers,’ began to distance himself from the doctrine of hell — a doctrine you describe as ‘a secondary doctrine that even many conservatives reject.’

If your intention in Saving Darwin is to show ‘how to be a Christian and believe in evolution,’ what you have actually succeeded in doing is to show how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender in order to accommodate itself to evolution. In doing this, you and your colleagues at BioLogos are actually doing us all a great service. You are showing us what the acceptance of evolution actually costs, in terms of theological concessions.

I stand by my address in full, and only wish I had been able to address these issues at even greater length in that context. I plan to do that over the next few months. I greatly regret that you have committed yourself to a cause that I can see as incompatible with the Scripture and destructive to the Christian faith.”

Watch the video from Dr. Mohler’s message at Ligonier’s National Conference.