On Darwin’s Faith

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Depending on one’s perspective, Charles Darwin is a lightning rod and a foundation. Opposing sides in the theology-evolution issue use him in different ways. Whereas conservative Christians describe him as an immoral, hateful atheist who is a messenger from the devil, evolution supporters refer to him as a scholar, a brilliant thinker, and even an inspiration.

Interesting how the two views of one life differ based a perspective of a forced choice that some present. In terms of his religion, Darwin faith life was filled with struggle. Below are chronological moments in Charles Darwin’s religious life. Besides, February 12th is his 208th birthday.

1809: Charles Darwin is born into a family of a father who was a religious skeptic, a Unitarian mother, and 4 siblings (3 sisters and a brother) who attended church with their mother. His paternal grandfather was a deist, as was Darwin’s brother.

1817: Darwin’s mother died. Thereafter, his older sisters took him to an Anglican church where he remained and was educated. At the time, the Anglican church had a 6-day, young-earth creationist view of the world.

1828: After several years in medical school at the University of Edinburgh, Darwin enters Cambridge University to study theology. Studies introduce him to Paley’s Natural Theology, which influenced his beliefs in a God intervening in creation.

1831: Darwin graduates from Cambridge with a theology degree, but decided not to pursue being an ordained pastor. A geology field trip initiated the thought that the earth is very old, therefore developing a view of today’s old-earth creationists with an intervening God as the designer. Later that year he begins his 5-year journey on the HMS Beagle.

1831-1836: Through his many observations across the globe, Darwin is convinced God is present in nature and that God was the intervening designer.

1836-1839: After his journey, Darwin thought deeply about biology, geology, and theology, so he spend much time writing. He rejected origins based on Genesis 1 and eventually Christianity – but not God.

1839: Marries Emma (a Unitarian) in an Anglican ceremony. They would eventually have 10 children, two of which died in infancy.

1851: Annie, his second oldest child and the “apple of her proud father’s eye” dies after an illness of several years. This devastated Darwin, and some say this greatly impacted his view of suffering.

1856: Starts writing On the Origin of the Species.

1859: On the Origin of the Species is published. In it Darwin mentions god as the Creator on multiple occasions – signally his shift from a traditional theist to a non-traditional theist with God as the creator of the evolutionary process.

1860-1861: Reflecting on reactions people had about the book, Darwin writes to a Harvard botanist, “I had no intention to write atheistically … my views are not at all necessarily atheistical.” He also admits being troubled by the suffering that occurs in nature and in the world, but reinforces a belief in design by a Creator.

1871: The Descent of Man published. While acknowledging the “highly irreligious” will denounce his work, he supports his belief in a Creator at work in designing life. “The birth both of the species and of the individual are equally parts of that grand sequence of events, which our minds refuse to accept as the result of blind chance.”

1876: Because of his struggles with suffering, he continues to question God’s existence. In his biography Darwin explains his belief in God as an intelligent designed and states, “I deserve to be called a theist.” His writings point to one who believes in a god that is not assigned to one particular religion. Later he concludes, “The mystery of the beginning of all things is not solvable by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

1879: Although agnostic, Darwin writes this powerful sentence about evolution and theology in a letter: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man be an ardent theist and an evolutionists. …. In my extreme fluctuations, I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God …. I think that as I grow older, but not always, that an Agnostic would be a more correct description of my state of mind.”

1882: After a difficult 3 months with health issues, Charles Darwin dies – and never an atheist. Reports of him recanting his view of evolution and proclaiming Jesus Christ as savior lack evidence, therefore untrue. He is buried in London’s Westminster Abbey (Anglican).

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Flashbacks: On the Science-Religion Interchange

I became interested in the interchange between science and religion during my time as A Frank Angle. Here are a few of my favorite posts on the topic. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On Faith and Science

I find it interesting when hearing Christians say one has to choose between religion and evolution. Another spark of interest is when atheists and/or agnostic say that because one is a Christian, that person must take the Genesis account of creation literally.

To add to the fray, not long about I did this post about evolution without mentioning religion, yet numerous comments mentioned religion. Does all this imply or assume a natural conflict between religion and theology? – Especially because one relies on facts about the natural world and the other relies on an inward faith in something outside the natural world that science cannot prove or disprove.

Faith is a complex, yet bold and loving trust about God, God’s grace, and God’s creation that changes our heart, thoughts, and actions. Faith is not proof and does not require proof. It is through this gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), the unconditional trust of faith, that Christians place themselves into the hands of God for care, comfort, reassurance, strength, and protection. Faith is also the trust Christians place in God for the positive future when God reveals himself to us in eternal life. (1 Peter 1:3-5, John 11:26-27)

I appreciate this description of faith by Lutheran Theologian Dr. Ted Peters:

Faith responds to God’s Word. Faith recognizes that God is gracious. Faith believes. Faith trusts. Faith invites the risen Jesus Christ into one’s soul. Faith acts in love. Faith seeks understanding. “Atheist Stimulus and Faith Response”, Trinity Seminary Review, Summer/Fall 2009 (Vol. 30, Issue 2)

I describe science as a way of knowing, but not the only way. Although science and theology examine different realms of human life, integrating the two leads us to a newer and deeper perspective of nature. Using science, theology, philosophy, psychology, history, ethics, and other social sciences enhances our understanding as each provides a layer of information and perspective into a quest for meaning; however, science cannot detect or measure faith. Science cannot test a God is everywhere hypothesis. Besides, these statements are outside the boundaries of science. Again, from Dr. Peters (2009):

Believing faith is justified by appeal both to the story of Jesus we find in God’s Word and to reason as well. Reason supports faith, even if this support never completely expunges all doubt. Scientific reasoning provides helpful knowledge of the created world in which we live, to be sure; but its method restricts itself to looking for natural causes. Modern science is blind to transcendent reality. This blindness is not proof that no transcendent reality exists. People with strong Christian faith can work quite happily in scientific research.

The way science opens our eyes to nature, we can get a broad perspective of creation. As the United Church of Christ states, “We are seeing nature with new eyes, and what we see fills us with wonder and praise.”

Dr. John Haught (Georgetown University) describes how science and theology together enhances a two-dimensional Flatland into a multi-dimension view.

It is our own attachment to Flatland that leads us to an either/or rather than a both/and way of thinking about natural and divine creativity. Thus, we think we have to make a choice between explaining the diversity of life in terms of either natural selection or divine creation. (Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution, 2001)

Faith is a spirit. Faith is confidence. Faith is a power of hearing and understanding the word with the hope of living by the word. Faith is a belief in a presence of unconditional love, forgiveness, and eternal life. Faith is a confidence of God at work in our lives, including our ability to discover and understand the world through science. Faith is a trust to never let go.

Image from John Haught’s book Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution (Paulist Press)

On a Tough Wait

This evening we got the news that our friend (who is has been in the hospital most of November) has taken a drastic turn for the worse. I wonder if she will still be with us when I awaken in the morning.

I want to take a day away from my planned post for her and her family. I know she would suggest I press on, by hey, this is still a post.

No matter if one has faith or not, no matter the religion, and regardless of geography, human nature is to feel a sense of sadness during times like this.

So on this night and through the day tomorrow, I hope and pray for peace and strength for her and her wonderful family.

—-

Update 11:oo am EST Dec 1, 2011

We received word that our friend peacefully passed away at 8:15 am EST. I know no more pain and uncertainly, and in the spirit of the baptism that I believe, she is in a better place. I can’t imagine what her family is feeling after having their life turned upside down in a matter of 3 weeks. Please keep “the family of Frank’s friends” in your prayers. Thanks everyone for caring.

On Faith, Soul, and Science

Faith is a complex, yet bold and loving trust about God, God’s grace, and God’s creation that changes our heart, thoughts, and actions. Faith is not proof and does not require proof. It is through this gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), the unconditional trust of faith, that Christians place themselves into the hands of God for care, comfort, reassurance, strength, and protection. Faith is also the trust Christians place in God for the positive future when God reveals himself to us in eternal life. (1 Peter 1:3-5, John 11:26-27)

Lutheran Professor of Theology Dr. Ted Peters describes faith in this manner:

Faith responds to God’s Word. Faith recognizes that God is gracious. Faith believes. Faith trusts. Faith invites the risen Jesus Christ into one’s soul. Faith acts in love. Faith seeks understanding.

In a USA Today column titled “Science and Religion aren’t Friends”, evolutionary biology Dr. Jerry Coyne states, “Recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head. We now know that the universe did not require a creator.”

Dr. Coyne is right to say there is no scientific evidence for a soul for as the soul is one’s inner essence fueled by their faith – thus nothing to do with chemistry, physics, biology, or any other areas of science as the subject is outside the boundaries of science.

Modern technological tools are unable to detect the soul or discover the source of our faith. Faith is from the grace of God, and it is faith that allows us to affirm eternal life while realizing an eventually earthly death.

Yet, science gives us an understanding of the grandeur of His creation. Telescopes and other scientific tools show me hope, heart, awesomeness, and more – all because of my faith – which is something that science can’t address.

Enjoy the spectacular video on YouTube.

On Being at Peace

This is the final day in a 3-part post. For those seeing this for the first time, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.  In the story, it’s now Monday and I’m at the pulpit during my mother’s funeral.

I thank God for giving me the strength to write his and ask for continual strength in delivering a message to you in my mother’s memory.

The essence of the Christian religion lies in these very simple words: faith, hope, love, and suffering.

Love is special. Yet not easily defined in words, its meaning is shown through its presence and our actions. God expects us to demonstrate and show two basic loves: the love for him and the love for others. Guidelines for both come to us though numerous verses in the Holy Scriptures.

The love for others is the love we are to demonstrate to our fellow people. We must care for the sick, the homeless, the elderly, the oppressed, and for those full of sorrow. During this time of need for my family, the outpouring of love has been overwhelming. The way many cared for Mom by mail, phone, flowers, visits, and through prayers has been reassuring; but God also asks us to love our friends and neighbors who are full of well being.

In Romans 13: 8 & 10 St. Paul writes, “Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Love never does any wrong to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Mom is loved by many and she loved many – that’s why you’re here. She’s one full of kindness and carried very little malice toward anyone.

But a special lover that I wish to say is the love that our dad showed to Mom. He’s gone through much emotional pain, but God gave him tremendous love and strength to be there for her. We thank him and thank God for his gracious giving. Dad, may God’s strength continue to be with you in the days ahead.

Faith and hope serve as a concrete foundation for our beliefs. They are immaterial, yet ever so strong. All of us go through time when we question God or question his presence, but it’s faith that brings us back to him. Our faith in God guides us through our hope for eternal life.

The road to eternal life does have its share of bumps along the way, and each bump is accompanied by some suffering. Any suffering we have here on this earth is our own trip to Calvary.

In Mathew 16, Jesus tells the disciples that he is to go to Jerusalem and suffer, be put to death, and then rise from the dead. Since this is not what they want to hear, Peter stated, “Heaven preserve you, Lord. This must not happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Go away from me Satan! You are an obstacle in my path because the way you think is not God’s way, but man’s.”

Then Jesus turn to his disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mathew 16: 21-27

In Romans 8:18, Paul writes, “I consider the suffering of the present to be nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us.”

So how does all this relate to this moment, this situation? My love for Mom and God, along with the faith and hope provided by Christ kept me going. From the beginning I knew and accepted that liver cancer was terminal, but I never lost faith and hope through the battle. I continually prayed for increased strength for my parents; meanwhile, we were suffering. However, Dad tells us that she suffered more from chemos and radiation than she did in her final days.

The day before we lost her, I sat alone at her bedside praying. I asked God, “Why her? She never harmed anybody!” Within seconds I smiled and looked at the nearby cross and said to myself, “It’s because he suffered for us.” That thought has given me a great amount of reassurance.

I have no bitter feeling against God and none against cancer. God loves all of us regardless of sex, color, or nationality. Mom is most special to our family, but unfortunately that didn’t exclude her or us from a very painful journey.

Love, faith, and hope will carry me through the suffering today and tomorrow; that is the Christian way. Let this be a reminder to all who have faith in Christ and God.

She hasn’t died, but rather only left us temporarily as we will see her again. But let us remember that is she is now at peace – no suffering. She achieved the happiness of eternal life; the very goal we are pursuing. As St. Paul says in First Corinthians, “Death is swallowed up by victory” …. And my Mom won!

August 31, 1987

PS:

  • Happy Mother’s Day Mom. We miss you; we love you; and we’ve OK.
  • To everyone who’s mother has passed on, remember good thoughts today.
  • To everyone who’s mother is still here, do the right thing.

On a Message of Power

This is the second in a 3-part post. For those seeing this for the first time, here’s Part 1.

Let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help. Hebrews 4: 16

Other References

Prayer and the power of prayer are aspects of living religiously. Prayer is a trust in God and his ways. Through prayer we receive God’s grace, mercy, joy, freedom, guidance, and peace. Biblically, the gospels have many accounts of Jesus praying, and the apostle Paul always wrote to those who were in needs, thus encouraged power.

This story, one involving my prayers and faith, demonstrated how God acts through the power of prayer. Although 20+ years have passed, the message is timeless.

In January 1968 doctors diagnosed my mother with liver cancer. This was her second round with cancer as she had a mastectomy several years earlier. Through her battle she fought like I never imagined. She took all the treatments and all their side effects; she demonstrated an unbelievable courage.

Because of the physical distance between myself and my parents, I was removed from the struggle; therefore I didn’t understand the day-to-day problems. While I called, visited, encouraged, and prayed, I realized the terminal effect of liver cancer. Through my prayers I continually asked for strength for all of us.

My parents used Florida for its weather and medical facilities, and I knew her June 1987 trip back to Ohio would be her last. On August 20th at 4:30 a.m. I received a call from Dad saying they were off to the hospital. Knowing that she had been declining, I began a series of 2 ½-hour journeys to the hospital. With each trip I could see her declining condition. Prayers became more frequent and more intense; and I started feeling the effects of my efforts.

It was her seventh day in the hospital. As I left the hospital to return home, I realized the next time I would see her, she would be gone from us. The long drive home was filled with even deeper prayer as I asked for three things: continued strength, for no more suffering for her, and for her not to be taken from us while I was on the road. I left the hospital at 4:30 pm, arrived home at 7:00 pm, and received the call at 10:00 pm.

After discussions and some consoling with my wife, I began the necessary phone calls. In the one to my pastor I shared a personal thought I had through prayer while at her beside that day. He reassured me of that thought, and then I stated, “I might share that with others at the funeral.”

I obviously didn’t sleep much that night. Yes, I was also thinking of what I would say to those attending the funeral service. I had many glorious thoughts in my mind, but not on paper. A tremendous sermon was mentally created and never to be repeated again.

The Thursday trip to my hometown was also full of thoughts; thoughts of joy and sorrow that brought tears to my eyes. I kept thinking about what I was going to say and became preoccupied with my desires. Yes, continually praying for the right words to say and the strength to say them.

Friday I saw her in the casket for the first time and realized that speaking at the service was asking too much of myself. Through several long discussions with the local pastor I shared my stories and thoughts. While admitting to him that my expectations were probably too high, he reassured be that he would deliver my themes in his message.

Through prayer I didn’t give up hope of being able to accomplish my mission. Many of the long Saturday visitation hours were taken in deep thought by asking for strength from God through the beautiful flowers, the people visiting, and through Mom.

Sunday morning came a great revelation – Write out those words, thus if I couldn’t read them, the pastor would! Through the Sunday morning service, readings, and sermon I found new strength, and the pen moved quickly; especially considering I’m not very good with Bible references.

Nobody in my family knew of my desires. As my wife saw me writing, she realized I was up to something, so I told her what I was doing, my arrangement with the pastor, and asked her for her support and confidence.

Later in the day I shared the written message with others. The pastor said, “And you think you can read this?” My closest hometown friend who had recently and unexpectedly lost his father said I wouldn’t have the strength to do it. A cousin, also a pastor, read it and his only commented, “You won’t be able to do it.” I told each of these people that I realized that I probably couldn’t, but I had to try. Later that night, I asked Dad’s permission to speak at the funeral, and he granted without knowing anything about my message.

That night was one of little sleep as the mind couldn’t relax. I arose early and was never able to read through the message without crying. The final moments at the funeral home were difficult and my wife kept saying “Don’t do it” as I’m sure she didn’t want me to humiliate myself. I always responded by saying that I’ll make my decision right before my time in the service.

As the funeral service went on, I began to feel a new inner strength. I knew I was going to do it. At the stated time, I went to the pulpit and told the people that if I couldn’t continue, the pastor would deliver my message.

I continued to speak with an unbelievable calm that was filled with confidence. Not once did I shed a tear or stammer my words. I made it through every difficult passage. I felt unbelievably strong. At the end, I shook the pastor’s hand and said, “I did it” and then began to cry as I returned to my seat. God gave me great strength for a given situation, and then quickly pulled the plug on my adrenalin.

I soon regained my composure, and my wife simply smiled. I felt great, comfortable, and so at peace. The last part of the service, the ride to the cemetery, the graveside rites, and the time thereafter were easy. I had then, and still have today, such a great calm.

When I returned to work, many co-workers expressed their sorrow and concern. Without telling my story, I told them of my great peace, yet they looked perplexed.

Throughout my life I’ve prayed from many things: a lower heating bill, more time on task, a sports win, or something at work. All important at the time for some reason, but I never prayed for anything as I did on this occasion. My success this time had to be due to what I was praying for and my continual, deep-spiritual approach.

The following Bible passages support my experiences and beliefs.

What did I say at the funeral? Click here.