Darwin rescued rebellious Western man from Christianity’s theology of moral transgression and its doctrine of eternal doom–Dr. Gary North


An Economic Commentary on the Bible: Genesis to Revelation (31 volumes PDF)—Dr. Gary North

[End notes at end]

SOVEREIGNTY AND DOMINION– C. 2. Making the Universe Bigger–The Darwinian Revolution–Dr. Gary North from his 31 volumes–Economic Commentary on the Bible

  1. The Darwinian Revolution. What the Copernican revolution did for man’s sense of autonomy and monopoly of power within the spatial dimension, Darwin’s revolution did for man’s sense of temporal autonomy. An analogous error in the textbook accounts of the history of science and the history of modern thought is that Darwin made man the descendant of apes (or preapes).29 This supposedly debased man’s view of himself and his importance in history. The opposite is the case. What Darwin did was to rescue rebellious Western man from Christianity’s theology of moral transgression and its doctrine of eternal doom.

A valuable analysis of the impact Darwinian thought had on late nineteenth-century religious thought was presented by Rev. James Maurice Wilson, Canon of Worcester, in a 1925 essay, “The Religious Effect of the Idea of Evolution.” Man became the focal point of religion, for “it is only in the study of man’s nature that we can hope to find a clue to God’s Purpose in Creation.” Herein lies, as I think, the great service that the idea of evolution is rendering to theology.30 Darwin freed man from the biblical God, concluded Rev. Wilson, and so did his contemporaries. The evolution of man from lower forms of life was in itself a new and startling fact, and one that broke up the old theology. I and my contemporaries, however, accepted it as fact. The first and obvious result of this acceptance was that we were compelled to regard the Biblical story of the Fall as not historic, as it had long been believed to be. We were compelled to regard that story as a primitive attempt to account for the presence of sin and evil in the world. . . . But now, in the light of the fact of evolution, the Fall, as a historic event, already questioned on other grounds, was excluded and denied by science.31

Understandably, the rejection of the doctrine of the ethical rebellion of man against God, at a particular point in human history, necessarily transformed that generation’s interpretation of Christianity.

The abandonment of the belief in a historic “Fall” of a primeval pair of human beings has removed one of the great obstacles to the acceptance by our generation of the Christian Faith which had required that belief. Yet taken by itself it certainly tends to create, as well as to remove, a difficulty. For if there was no historic Fall, what becomes of the Redemption, the Salvation through Christ, which the universal experience of Christendom proves incontestably to be fact? How does Jesus save His people from their sins? He makes men better. 32

Man now becomes a co-worker with a vague, undefinable God who does not judge.

It is the sins of the world and our sins that He who died on the Cross is taking away, by making us better. Salvation is not then thought of as an escape from hell; but as a lifting us all out from living lives unworthy of us. Religion so conceived is not the art of winning heaven, but the effort to become better and to work with God.”33 Man now becomes part of God, who in turn is part of the universe. There is a continuity of life through evolution. There is therefore a continuity of being. Wilson concluded: The idea of evolution affects Christology because it assumes and implies continuity along with advance in creation. And it is this idea and fact of continuity, impressed on us from all quarters, that is now determining what men are able to believe concerning Divine action in every sphere. The evidence for continuity everywhere is overwhelming. The implicit or explicit recognition of it among educated people, and a general sense of it, are becoming universal and axiomatic. . . What a chain it is! Begin anywhere: with your own intelligence as you read, or mine as I write. First go down the chain. Intelligence is not confined to those who can read and write. It is shared by every human being. It is shared by animals. It is not limited to animals. Plants cannot be denied a share of it. It is found in roots and leaves and flowers. Go down farther still; and farther. You cannot find the end of the chain. And then go up. . . . To us intelligence, mind, spirit, is now seen as one long continuous chain, of which we see neither beginning nor end. We are perhaps at least as far from the top of it as we are from the bottom.34

This is a modern version of the ancient religion known as pantheism. It is certainly one reasonable extension of Darwinism. This is another reason why a generation of public school graduates in the late 1960s could turn to pantheism and then to forms of animism. The best-selling book, The Secret Life of Plants (1974), was essentially a defense of the animist cosmology, where sprites and personal “forces” inhabit plants and special regions of the earth.

This doctrine of the continuity of being was basic to ancient paganism, most notably in Egypt’s theology of the divine Pharaoh and his divine state. It is the oldest heresy of all, tempting man “to be as god (Gen. 3:5). Rev. Wilson was being too modest. Man is not only closer to the top of the chain than to the bottom, he actually is the top. Dobzhansky made this point inescapably clear. He knew how erroneous the textbook account is; he knew that Darwin elevated mankind by making him the product of ape-like beings, which in turn were products of impersonal random forces governed only by the law of natural selection. He wrote:

It has become almost a commonplace that Darwin’s discovery of biological evolution completed the downgrading and estrangement of man begun by Copernicus and Galileo. I can scarcely imagine a judgment more mistaken. Perhaps the central point to be argued in this book is that the opposite is true. Evolution is a source of hope for man. To be sure, modern evolution has not restored the earth to the position of the center of the universe. However, while the universe is surely not geocentric, it may conceivably be anthropocentric. Man, this mysterious product of the world’s evolution, may also be its protagonist, and eventually its pilot. In any case, the world is not fixed, not finished, and not unchangeable. Everything in it is engaged in evolutionary flow and development.35

A changing, evolving world is at last free from the providence of God.

Since the world is evolving it may in time become different from what it is. And if so, man may help to channel the changes in a direction which he deems desirable and good. . . . In particular, it is not true that human nature does not change; this “nature” is not a status but a process. The potentialities of man’s development are far from exhausted, either biologically or culturally. Man must develop as the bearer of spirit and of ultimate concern. Together with Nietzsche we must say: “Man is something that must be overcome.”36

Man, in short, must transcend himself. He must evolve into the pilot of the universe. He can do this because he alone is fully self-conscious, fully self-aware. Self-awareness is, then, one of the fundamental, possibly the most fundamental, characteristic of the human species. This characteristic is an evolutionary novelty. . . . The evolutionary adaptive significance of self-awareness lies in that it serves to organize and to integrate man’s physical and mental capacities by means of which man controls his environment.”37 Man must take control of man and the environment.

Understandably, Dobzhansky despised Protestant fundamentalism. Above all, he had to reject the idea of creationism. To accept such a creed would be to knock man from his pedestal, to drag him away from the pilot’s wheel. In fact, scholarly fundamentalists enraged him.

There are still many people who are happy and comfortable adhering to fundamentalist creeds. This should cause no surprise, since a large majority of these believers are as unfamiliar with scientific findings as were people who lived centuries ago. The really extraordinary phenomenon is the continued existence of a small minority of scientifically educated fundamentalists who know that their beliefs are in utter, flagrant, glaring contradiction with firmly established scientific findings. . . . Discussions and debates with such persons is [sic] a waste of time; I suspect that they are unhappy people, envious of those who are helped to hold similar views by plain ignorance.38

What is the heart of the evolutionist’s religion? Dobzhansky made his humanism clear: “One can study facts without bothering to inquire about their meaning. But there is one stupendous fact with which people were confronted at all stages of their factual enlightenment, the meaning of which they have ceaselessly tried to discover. This fact is Man.”39 This is the link among all of man’s religions, he said. Man with a capital “M” is the heart of man’s religions; so, on these terms, evolutionism must certainly be the humanistic world’s foremost religion. It is not surprising that Dobzhansky’s book was published as one of a series, edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen: “Perspectives in Humanism.”

You need to understand from the beginning that evolutionism’s cosmology involves an intellectual sleight-of-hand operation. It appears initially to denigrate man’s position in a universe of infinite (or almost infinite) space and time, only subsequently to place man on the pinnacle of this non-created realm. Man becomes content to be a child of the meaningless slime, in order that he might claim his rightful sovereignty in the place once occupied by God. By default—the disappearance of God the Creatorman achieves his evolving divinity.


  1. Predictably, some overly sensitive evolutionist, upon reading this reference to man’s ancestors, the apes, will be horrified. “Darwin never said that man descended from apes!” On this point, let me quote George Gaylord Simpson, Harvard’s prestigious paleontologist: “No one doubts that man is a member of the order Primates along with lemurs, tarsiers, monkeys and apes. Few doubt that his closest living relatives are apes. On this subject, by the way, there has been too much pussyfooting. Apologists emphasize that man cannot be a descendant of any living ape-a statement that is obvious to the verge of imbecility—and go on to state or imply that man is not really descended from an ape or monkey at all, but from an earlier common ancestor. In fact, that common ancestor would certainly be called an ape or monkey in popular speech by anyone who saw it. Since the terms ape and monkey are defined by popular usage, man’s ancestors were apes or monkeys (or successively both). It is pusillanimous if not dishonest for an informed investigator to say otherwise.” Simpson, This View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964), p. 12.
  2. James Maurice Wilson, “The Religious Effect of the Idea of Evolution,” in Evolution in the Light of Modern Knowledge: A Collective work (London: Blackie & Son, 1925), p. 492.
  3. Ibid., pp. 497–98.
  4. Ibid. pp. 498–99. 33. Ibid., p. 501. 34. Ibid., pp. 501–2.
  5. Ibid., p. 501.
  6. Ibid., pp. 501–2.
  7. Dobzhansky, Biology of Ultimate Concern, p. 7. 36. Ibid., pp. 8–9.
  8. Ibid., pp. 8–9.
  9. Ibid., pp. 68–69. 38. Ibid., pp. 95–96. 39. Ibid. p. 96.
  10. Ibid., pp. 95–96. 39. Ibid. p. 96.
  11. Ibid. p. 96.


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