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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Fundamentalism and evolution: history

A relatively brief, but authoritative, article on the history of the attitude of fundamentalists toward evolution and related topics has been published. The article is by Edward B. (Ted) Davis, an expert in the history of conservative Christianity in the US.

If you are really interested, you should read the article, but I'll summarize it this way: the attitude of fundamentalist Christians has, well, evolved since the rise of fundamentalism. As Davis puts it:

"Ironically, many of the most influential and outspoken antievolutionists of the last century—people such as [William Jennings] Bryan, [William Bell] Riley, [C. I.] Scofield, [Harry] Rimmer, and [R. A.] Torrey—would not be allowed to teach at . . ." institutions such as Liberty University, Bob Jones University, or Cedarville University, because they were not dogmatic enough about the age of the earth. He went on to say that "Fundamentalist views about science have evolved since the 1920s."


The evolution in position has led some current fundamentalists to reject the idea that the revelation of God through nature, as detailed in scientific findings, is significant, when compared to revelation through the Bible. It has also led them to adopt a particular interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, which, many Christian scholars believe, is not necessarily the interpretation meant by the original author, or by God. The founders of fundamentalism mostly believed that God does speak to us through scientific findings, and these, and scripture, if interpreted properly, do not conflict. Most of them were open to the possibility that the earth was more than a few thousand years old, and to the possibility that some evolution occurred in the past.

It is true that God reveals Himself in many ways, and that some are more important than others, but rejecting His revelation through nature, or downplaying it unduly, is not wise.

The current position of fundamentalists on origins means that some people have, and will, reject the claims of Christ. That position is that the Bible definitely teaches, and Christians must believe, that the earth is only a few thousand years old. There are Bible-believing, God-fearing Christians, who believe that that is not the case. But the fundamentalist position, if it's the only one heard, may lead non-believers who are considering the claims of the gospel to think like this: "If the Bible really teaches that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and the geologic evidence contradicts that, why should I believe what the Bible says about sin and Christ?"

Thanks for reading. You may want to also see "Thoughts on Creation."

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