Note: Below is a rather long statement which is not exactly a question.
After this paragraph is the response.

I first thought to examine the history of Charles Darwin’s religious
developement a few years ago when I walked over his grave in Westminster
Abbey. I thought “how’d this happen?” I assumed like most Americans that
Darwin was a total antagonist of christianity. Though he did receive an
Anglican education at Cambridge and supported his local parish (the Downe
Parish), with money as well as his time and energy until his health
failed, he did repeatedly speak of his doubts about christianity, i.e. the
lack of supportive empirical evidence, the immorality of christian
leadership thoughout history etc,. As you may know, after the death of his
9 year old daughter Annie he suffered a serious loss of faith as did C.S.
Lewis after the death of his wife. Despite the fact that our Pat
Robertson’s (Orrin Hatches, John Ashcroft’s etc) of today use Darwin’s
focus on our physical, biological origins, to demonize his findings, I
don’t understand why there’s a conflict. Does belief in a loving God mean
presuppose the need to believe this God just snapped his fingers or waved
a wand and made the universe? King David mused that he was wonderfully and
fearfully made. To me the study of evolution and genetics illuminates that
sentiment rather than weakens it. At any rate, the real movers and shakers
in the scientific world aren’t too worried about what we think. Between
the enormous fossil record and contemporary molecular biology evolution is
too readily observable to be called hypothesis or theory. But why upset
the masses by needing to call it fact? I even knew discliples in San Diego
who argued that dinosaur bones were a hoax. It’s this rejection of
anything that doesn’t immediately jive with religious notions regardless
of how irrefutable, how blatantly obvious they are that makes me struggle
and possibly made Darwin struggle as well. In the midst of his agnostic
oratory it’s not hard to find quotes like “I may say that the
impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with
our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument
for the existence of God;” His sister said the claims of his death bed
conversion are false because he never stopped believing. And at his
funeral many religious leaders gathered and proclaimed him to be a true
christian because of the example of his life. I’m not saying he was a
disciple by ICOC standards but then were there any? What happens to the
many millions who have only ever heard Oral Robert’s Christian message, or
have only the example of luke warm mainstream christianity? Do they go to
hell if they speak their minds about the hypocrisy they see as Darwin did?

I really enjoyed your little letter here. Of course I agree that both
sides use and abuse Darwin as they like. Like I said in my letter to you,
Darwin was relatively quiet about his convictions. It is interesting to
note that our founding fathers were deists/universalists, not necessarily
Christians. That would include Franklin, Jefferson, Washington and so
forth. Deists define God as the creator, but are not usually tied down to
any single concept of God. If Darwin was a believer at all, the evidence,
to me, says that he was at most a deist, but not a Christian. He was a
skeptic with regard to the Bible, and I would assume he also was a skeptic
about Jesus being the son of God as well as with regard to him
resurrecting from the dead. I understand that most considered him a very
good person, and am not surprised that at his death some religious people
expressed a profound respect of Darwin. I believe his life warranted that
kind of respect.

Having said that, unless I am wildly mistaken, Darwin was not a Christian
by any definition which could be made to align with the Bible. Christian
implies faith in the divinity of Jesus and a number of other things which
are associated with that. By coincidence, just today in my Science 110
class, I read a quote from Darwin very similar to the one you use below.
Darwin freely acknowledged the beauty and order in nature and often made
comments which could be described as deistic. Let us not abuse Darwin, but
give a reasonable honest interpretation of him, which is to say that he
was probably somewhere between the position of an agnostic or a deist. He
was definitely not a Christian, at least in the last 30 years or so of his
life. Those at his funeral could proclaim him a “good Christian,” but in
so doing, they did not make it true.

Of course, I agree with you that the religion of Darwin is not really all
that relevant to anything, except possibly his eternal destiny, which is
not any of my business anyway.

Of course, I too find the reactionary position of many believers in Christ
to be very disturbing. Creationism (by that I mean young earth
creationism) is outrageously bad science. It makes Christianity look
foolish when it is presented as being “Christian” science. Believe me,
being an apologist, and haven written books on the subject, I face rabid
creationists on a regular basis. Such people are irrational in their
defense of the literal interpretation of certain passages. Oops, there I
go and say something a bit ungracious.

On evolution, as I teach my students it is one of the most elegant and
useful theories created by science. To say that evolution is a fact is to
make a big mistake, as all scientists who understand the philosophy of
science correctly hold, all theories are taken as tentative, although
consistent models. The best we can do is to create models which work. I
would say that in general evolution is a model which works very powerfully
to answer a number of questions. That evolution occurs is a fact. To say
that evolution in the big sense is a fact is a clear error. It will
forever be impossible to prove all the implications of evolution to be
true. For scientists who are also Christians to deny any validity to the
theory of evolution is downright irrational and violates the basic rules
about how scientists work. On the other hand, to question certain claims
of evolution is not only acceptable; I believe it is required by the
evidence. There are many unresolved questions, such as the Cambrian
explosion, the problem of positive mutations in advanced species, etc…..
If you want my personal opinion, I believe that God created evolution in
his mind and put it into effect. I also believe that God’s “finger” is in
there prodding, moving, perhaps even downright creating. Such are things
that atheists will never accept, even if the evidence cries out that they
are true.

And thus the problem. On the right, we have radical, angry, closed-minded
young earth creationists. On the left, we have radical, angry,
closed-minded atheistic evolutionists. Hopefully, reasonable people can
find some ground in the middle. It would appear that you are somewhere in

John Oakes, PhD

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