Jesus shock: How Church scrambled to prove God’s existence after theory of evolution

Charles Darwin’s views on religion have long been the subject of intense interest given that his theory of evolution challenged the idea of God as creator. Intending to become a clergyman, his interests turned to the natural world and its history while studying at university.

It was during his voyage of the Beagle that his views started to shift from God as creator to species as being unfixed things, that is, liable to change through some sort of biological advancement – evolution.

He eventually published his compelling theory of evolution in 1859 in the book ‘On the Origin of Species’.

By the 1870s, most of the scientific community had accepted the theory, but it was met with great opposition by both church and religious figures.

Even in the 20th century was the theory challenged by religious fundamentalists in the US.

In many schools it was banned outright from the syllabus.

Such was the desperation from religious leaders they began to scramble for tangible, material evidence that might trump Darwin and his scientific discourse.

Religious leaders turned to archaeology, using artefacts to prove the legitimacy of their beliefs.

Even before Darwin had the church attempted to use history as proof of the Bible.

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During BBC Radio 4’s ‘Beyond Belief: Archaeology and Religion’ episode, bible scholar Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou explained the extent to which this occurred.

The programme’s host, Ernie Rea, asked:“In a sense, post-Darwin, when the Christian church felt very much under threat, they (religious leaders) looked to archaeology to confirm the authenticity of the bible.”

Prof Stavrakopoulou replied: “Absolutely, and they did so in a way that was not just wanting to approve the historical reliability of the biblical tradition, but also to promote it.

“What’s particularly important in terms of biblical archaeology is that it’s built on the back of a much longer tradition over hundreds and hundreds of years on the collection of relics.


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“So, the body parts and fragments of religious people, religious saints, martyrs, and religious sites.

“Already, biblical archaeology even before Darwin and before the Enlightenment was already invested in the recovery of material fragments.”

The Church of England’s response was mixed.

Much of the liberal clergy attempted to use the theory as a means of explaining how natural selection was an instrument of God.

Others were less compromising, with several Anglican theologians in the 1860 ‘Essays and Reviews’ condemning Darwin’s work as heresy.

Although many of Darwin’s closest friends were religious and prominent figures in the church, they nonetheless offered their support.

Darwinism soon became a worldwide movement.

The Origin of Species was translated into many languages, becoming a staple scientific text.

His theory is considered the gold standard in understanding the biology of humans and the machinations of the animal kingdom.

No other scientific theory has come close to nudging it off its perch.

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