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19th century minister to colleague: Darwin will drag you down

Clergyman warns against compromise

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Published: 8 July 2014 (GMT+10)
J. Cameron 9570-charles-darwin
While many in the church warmed to Charles Darwin’s ideas, others spoke out against accepting his explanations of man’s origins.

Many think that creation-evolution is a side issue or that its effect on the church is overstated—or even that it’s only a ‘modern’ phenomenon.

So it’s instructive to understand there were strong, clear voices in the 19th century who recognised the problem.

One voice in England who spoke prophetically against compromise in the church was Rev. George Harrison.

In 1888, he challenged fellow minister Rev. Robert Bevan Hull’s acceptance of evolution and the path on which he was taking his fellowship.

Rev. Hull, the vicar of All Saints’ Church of England Northampton, Northamptonshire, gave an address about the ‘religious side of evolution’. Here, he praised the ‘wonderful speculations of Mr. Darwin’ while dismissing as legend the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, even though he said that was what was plainly written in the Bible.1

He appealed to Christians to set aside a straightforward understanding of Genesis as they would find that “a great deal of our belief and fancies about Paradise and the Fall of Man are not due to the Bible at all, but to Milton and those who preceded him”.2 He continued:

The Bible does not tell us that Adam and Eve were in a high state of holiness and purity, superior to our own. It represents them as being in a low state of purity. They wore no clothes, and had not learned to distinguish between right and wrong—a knowledge which came to them as it comes to many of us, by bitter and painful experience, as they learned the nature of sin, with its catalogue of suffering following in its train. This was what was really told of the origin of man in the Bible, if they would read it carefully.3

In response, Rev. Harrison, a Wesleyan Reformed4 minister, warned Rev. Hull in plain terms that he was setting All Saints’ church on a downward course by giving Darwin a place of honour.5

Rev. Harrison said that if the church accepted what Darwin said about human origins, it would have to give up the Creation account in Genesis. This included the fundamental teachings that man was made in God’s image and in ‘high moral and intellectual condition’; that God’s handiwork was ‘very good’; and, if there were no Fall, there was no need for Christ’s death. As well, God’s judgment on the world through Noah’s Flood did not happen; and ‘conversion’ must be entirely ignored.6 As the subsequent century and a half has shown time and again, compromising with Darwinism is a treacherous ‘slippery slope’—see e.g.:

Photo: John Cummings 9570-origin-species
The book that led many to question God’s Word. And understandably so—see Darwin’s real message: have you missed it? Thankfully, Reverend George Harrison in 1888 was one who spotted the danger. (See main text.) As did Samuel Wilberforce, whose timely penmanship and passion is magnificently evident in his 1860 review of Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The alarm bells were being rung loudly, for all in the church to hear.

Rev. Harrison wasn’t alone in his day in recognising the implications of trying to marry Darwin’s ideas with the Bible, particularly in Genesis.

We owe much to the Rev. Harrisons of the 19th century who stood up for biblical truth. And those who claim today that it’s only ‘modern young-earth creationists’ who see any problem with trying to harmonize evolution with Scripture, are wrong.

And because of the rapid upsurge in scientific knowledge (much of it built on the Christian worldview that there must be a rational Creator), the increasing number of Rev. Harrisons in the church today have more and more scientific information that speaks of the masterful design of the Master Designer, and the straightforward truth of His Word. The more than 8,000 unique articles on this website are a testament to that—please use them in your armoury as you warn others of the dangers of evolutionary teaching.

What a great example Rev. George Harrison has left for others to follow.

References and notes

  1. British Library Board, The golden age that is coming. The religious side of evolution, Northampton Mercury, 28 January 1888. Return to text.
  2. Ref. 1. Return to text.
  3. Ref. 1. Return to text.
  4. 1891 census record, Class: RG12; Piece: 1199; Folio: 110; Page: 22; GSU Roll: 6096309, ancestry.co.uk. Return to text.
  5. British Library Board, The down grade in theology, Northampton Mercury, 11 February 1888. Return to text.
  6. Ref. 1. Return to text.

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