Sunday, February 11, 2007


The First Evolution Sunday Sermon?

On April 30, 1882, less than two weeks after the death of Charles Darwin, the Rev. R. Heber Newton, delivered a sermon on "The Religious Aspect of Darwinism," at All Souls' Protestant Episcopal Church in New York City. The New York Times reported on the following day that the congregation entirely filled the church to listen to Rev. Newton's discourse.

These days it's often said that Darwin's theory of evolution is incompatible with religious faith. Back then, the Rev. R. Heber Newton told a different story.

According to the New York Times reporter, who got no byline for his story, Mr. Newton took for his text the words, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Last Wednesday, Newton told the congregation, "the doors of Westminster Abbey were opened to receive the remains of Charles Darwin, next to Sir Isaac Newton, whose dust also rests in the abbey."

"The name of Charles Darwin has been made a battle-cry," the minister continued, "as he had precipitated upon the world his peculiar theories of evolution which have led to the so-called conflict between science and religion."

Rev. Newton recalled that when he began his studies to become a minister, "Darwin had been looked upon as one who advanced theories making a direct attack upon revealed religion, but since then the Church has been driven from a ground it ought never to have taken, and to-day the highest dignitaries of the Church pay deserved tribute to the memory of the departed scientist."

"The result of the researches of science is that the old Christian faith holds still and the Church finds in evolution an ally instead of a foe. At first blush the whole doctrine of evolution would seem irreligious and in opposition to the theory of revelation. Investigation, however, shows that such is not the case. In the light of the progress of modern science the bible is clearly shown to be a history of the evolution of religion and not a miraculous book."

We were, it seems, so much wiser then, we're younger than that now.


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