Dialogue – B. B. Warfield

bb-warfield-1851-1921-grangerB. B. Warfield, so far as I know, did not have any direct conversation or exchange of letters with Charles Darwin.  Other people did engage the scientist on his views of God and Scripture. One of those was Asa Gray, the botanist. He exchanged letters trying to get Darwin to be open to the idea of God working in the world.  In the end Darwin died, by his own words, as an agnostic.

Warfield engaged in a dialogue with the written works of Darwin.  By Dialogue I mean an informed interchange of ideas.   A dialogue is not a screaming fit, nor is it a congratulatory slap on the back. It is a frank discussion.

When Paul was in Athens, as recorded in Acts 17, he engaged in dialogue.  He did not always preach, sometimes he got into the places where people meet and talk, and dialogued.

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 

        Can you see him, there in the market place and on the covered porticos of Athens talking with those who gathered to talk.  Presenting his view to challenge and engage their views.  This was a normal thing in Athens. For as we saw:

        21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

The 19th century version of this was to write in scientific or theological periodicals.  The Old Princetonians lived in a time where a scholar in one field could keep up with the general outlines of human knowledge by reading such articles.  They could keep up with the fields of geology and biology.  And as Darwin had made such a big splash in the world, they were able to keep up with the thinking of scientists at that time.  They especially wanted to engage in those places where science and faith meet.

Another passage comes from the book of I Peter 3:13-17

                13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

Full Sermon –   Dialogue   (corrected version)


Accommodation – James McCosh


I have written last time about the strategy of Opposition as shown in the example of Charles Hodge in his book, What is Darwinism?”

This post is about a position I call Accommodation.  This is the idea (to which Hodge also agreed to a lesser extent) that we have to accommodate our reading of scripture to incorporate what we learn from science. The basis of this is the idea that God is the Author both of Scripture and of Nature, and that in the end those two forms of revelation will not be in conflict.

One widely accepted example is that of Astronomy.  Though the Bible, like everyday language, reads as if the sun rises and sets, we know from science, that the earth is in motion around the sun, and the sun is also in motion in our galaxy, which itself is in motion.  We have accommodated our views to further evidence.

I have collected some interesting quotes by McCosh here. McCosh Quotes

From Christianity and Positivism, 1871, p. 6,7

“On the one hand, our scientific men are not, as scientific men, qualified to find out and to estimate the theological bearings of the laws which they have discovered.  For if there be a religious, there may also be an irreligious bias…The laws of the physical world are to be determined by scientific men, proceeding in the way of a careful induction of fasts; and, so far as they follow their method, I have the most implicit faith in them, and I have the most perfect confidence that the truth which they discover will not run counter to any other truth.  But then they pass beyond their own magic circle, they become weak as other men. I do not commit to them – I reserve for myself – the right of interpreting the religious bearings of those laws which they disclose to our wondering eyes.”

The message from the series is here: Accommodation

Opposition: Charles Hodge and Charles Darwin

Charles_Hodge _wts_1 DarwinThe Theologian of the Year series this year explores the strategies of Opposition, Accommodation and Dialogue.  We are looking at  three theologians from Princeton Seminary, a bastion of Evangelicalism from the mid 19th Century to 1929.

Here is the sermon on Hodge and his book “What is Darwinism?”  Opposition

And a quote, that seems to be quite relevant:

“It is very reasonable that scientific men… should feel themselves entitled to be heard with special deference on subjects belonging to their respective departments.  This deference no one is disposed to deny to men of science.  But it is to be remembered that no department of human knowledge is isolated.  One runs into and overlaps another.  We have abundant evidence that the devotees of natural science are not willing to confine themselves to the department of nature, in the common sense of that word.  They not only speculate, but dogmatize; on the highest questions of philosophy, morality and religion….other men have their rights.  They have the right to judge the consistency of the assertions of men of science and of the logic of their reasoning.  They have the right to set off the testimony of one or more experts against the testimony of others; and especially they have the right to reject all speculations, hypotheses and theories which come in conflict with well established truths.”  (p. 137)

Charles Hodge, What is Darwinism? and other writings on Science and Religion, Ed Mark A Noll and David N. Livingston, Baker, 1994.