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On holy ground? A creationist in Darwin’s home

What is the real message of Down House?


Published: 13 June 2017 (GMT+10)
By Onboleman at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0Down-house
Down House in the county of Kent

I recently decided to pay a visit to the family home of Charles Darwin. Down House lies nestled in the beautiful Kentish countryside of southern England. This fabulous residence housed the eminent naturalist, his wife and ten children for a period of forty years. It was here that he conducted much of his research and developed his theory of evolution by natural selection. It was in the study at Down House that he wrote his most influential work, On the Origin of Species. The house today is a museum run by English Heritage and still features many of the original decorations and furniture from his time, as well as a good selection of exhibitions and equipment relating to his scientific work.

Expectation versus reality

Right at the heart of the Down House museum we have a perfect example of the underlying issue in the Creation/Evolution controversy: the authority of the Word of God.

Of course, given that this was the home of Charles Darwin, I was prepared for the onslaught of evolutionary propaganda, which began as soon as I entered the house. Purchasing my ticket from the gift shop, I was left to peruse the large bookshelf of contemporary works on evolution by some of today’s most prominent atheistic scientists. The narration on the audio device used on the guided tour is by none other than naturalist extraordinaire, Sir David Attenborough. However, those looking for a display of scientific evidence to support Darwin’s theory will be disappointed, finding nothing more than a few musings from his personal journals and a taxidermy display of the oft-used ‘proof’, the Galápagos finches.

Who influenced Darwin?

Some of the most significant influences on the ideas of Charles Darwin were those of geologist Charles Lyell. This is clearly reflected at Down House. Hanging above the mantel in Darwin’s study is an engraved portrait of Lyell, testament to the profound impact he had on Darwin’s life. Elsewhere in the house is the first edition of Lyell’s book Principles of Geology which Darwin took with him on the Beagle voyage (1831–1836). Lyell promoted the view known as uniformitarianism, meaning he assumed that geological processes observed today had operated essentially in the same way and at the same rates in the past. Thus the slow erosion of river valleys seen today, or the gradual depositing of sediments, were understood to indicate that deep valleys and extensive sedimentary rock strata must have been formed slowly over millions of years. According to this view, the rocks provide a picture of Earth’s long history, and one of a slowly changing world, with fauna and flora appearing and disappearing over long periods of time. This provided the ‘bedrock’ upon which Darwin could build his theory of evolution, which posited natural selection as the mechanism by which new species arose. However, it is crucial to note that the Lyellian view of geology was not a theory derived solely from geological observation and scientific enquiry. Rather, there was an ideological bias involved too; as Lyell himself admitted, he wished to “free the science [of geology] from Moses” (see here).1

Darwinism versus Christianity?

Perhaps the most telling part of the museum displays is the section that addresses the subject of evolution and Christianity. It is here that the anti-Christian nature of the worldview of Darwinism becomes visible. In a prominent section of the museum, a large banner with the title ‘Darwinism versus Christianity?’ poses this question to museum visitors:

“It is possible to accept Darwin’s theory and to believe in a God or gods. Why then did some Christians reject it?”

This might seem like a conciliatory statement, until you read the answer on the banner just below:

“One reason is that it is not possible to see the Book of Genesis as the literal story of creation and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

In other words, it is possible to be a Christian and accept Darwin’s theory, but only if you are willing to reject the history found in the book of Genesis. It is pivotal that Christians understand this message: it is either Darwin or Genesis. Trying to have both means that Genesis must be reinterpreted. Those who tread this path have basically placed the words of Charles Darwin above the Word of God—there is simply no way of avoiding the charge of compromise. So, right at the heart of the Down House museum we have a perfect example of the underlying issue in the Creation/Evolution controversy: the authority of the Word of God.

Upon reflection

As I left the house I thought of all the thousands of people, including many children on school trips, who would read these signs and take this message as truth. Darwin is so revered in our culture and education system that many consider evolution as an almost sacred doctrine. The final banner I saw was a quote from Darwin:

“I’m sorry to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as divine revelation, and therefore not in Jesus as the son of God.”2

Make no mistake this is the message of Down House! This is why Christians need to be equipped to respond to the challenges of evolution and raise up a generation of Christians who will stand on the authority of the Word of God.

References and notes

  1. Lyell, C., letter to Scrope, 14 June 1830; in Lyell, K.M., Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, pp. 269–270, 2010. Return to text.
  2. Darwin, C., letter to Frederick McDermott, 24 November, 1880; darwinproject.ac.uk. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Robert N.
Yes that last banner summarises it all!

Once again promoting evolution is not about producing a compelling argument or real "proof", but about defying the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dominic Statham
So often this is the case, but we do acknowledge that it is possible to believe in Christ and be saved while at the same time believing in evolution--see here . However, such a view seriously compromises biblical authority and the gospel--see here .
Niels B.
If it wasn't to be Darwin, it would have been someone else. God chooses and I am sure Darwin got the message on his death-bed.
Philip Bell
The following article is recommended reading: Did Charles Darwin become a Christian before he died?
Pat F.
If only Darwin could have read 'Creation' magazine! So many people, including scientists, have had their eyes opened and come to faith in Jesus through reading it. They are so freed up when they realize that you CAN be a Bible believing scientist! So many Christians who felt weak and unable to defend their faith have received fresh courage from the ammunition of facts presented in this wonderful magazine.
Stephen B.
If death happened before the fall, then the whole of Scripture is a lie. And Jesus the Christ was ignorant when He said, "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female" (Mark 10:6).

If one believes Darwin's hypothesis, then the bible must be rejected.

And Jesus Christ died in vain.

And biblical Christianity is the greatest hoax foisted on mankind.

Darwin never even came close to answering the question of origins. He could not know what is known today about the immense complexity of the genome, much less the basic building blocks of living organisms.

The more we learn, the more Darwin's evolution becomes a fanciful fairy tale.

His life's work was a complete failure.

Evolution as a hypothesis will be relegated to the rubbish heap in my lifetime.
Bernard G.
Darwinists and Atheists don't believe in the Bible or any divine revelation, but in the next breath gladly accept these miracles happened:
1. Miracle of the Universe coming from nothing
2. Miracle of order coming from disorder (matter self-organizing into planets, gravitational bound solar systems and galaxies)
3. Miracle of life coming from non-living chemicals
4. Miracle of information (DNA) coming from blank oblivion
5. Miracle of conscious thought coming without faculty (human beings)
Philip Bell
Indeed. See this highly relevant article: five-atheist-miracles.
F. G.
"It is of course also entirely possible to be a Christian and accept the heliocentric model, but only if you are willing to reject the verses that seem to claim the earth does not move."

This is a classic example of how Bible critics don't do their homework. If you look up the verse about "the earth cannot be moved" in Strong's, you'll see that a more accurate translation would be "the earth cannot be taken off of its path."
William M.
Sadly, but appropriately named the Down House. That's exactly the direction it's message will take it's believer.
Eileen T.
As a Christian believer that end quote from Darwin cut into my heart - could anything be more ignorant, sad and tragic !
Hans T.
"... it is possible to be a Christian and accept Darwin’s theory, but only if you are willing to reject the history found in the book of Genesis."

It is of course also entirely possible to be a Christian and accept the heliocentric model, but only if you are willing to reject the verses that seem to claim the earth does not move.

It is possible to be a Christian and accept a round earth, but only if one decides that "circle" is the same as "sphere".

It is possible to be a Christian and accept the evidence God's creation provides us, but only if we are willing to accept that we may be misunderstanding God's intended word.
Dominic Statham
The Bible does not teach the geocentric view. See, for example, creation.com/joshuas-long-day. Nor does it teach that the earth is flat. See, for example, creation.com/isaiah-40-22-circle-sphere.

We understand God's intended word following the example of Christ and his disciples, i.e. that Genesis provides a true, historical account of creation and Earth history. See, for example, creation.com/jesus-genesis.

Eric G.
Many years ago when I lived in UK not too far from Down House, I visited the place. It came across then as merely a pleasant enough country house. It has clearly been developed into the museum and anti-God facility you have described. I also note that one now must pay for the privilege of receiving the evolutionary propaganda. I was not a subscriber to Creation magazine in those days but thanks to my godly parents in South East London, I was brought up to accept and believe in the absolute authority of God's. Please accept my gratitude for what you do . . . and don't stop doing it!!

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