Not all evangelicals or fundamentalists are against evolution
In the 1600s, an Irish Archbishop named James Ussher did a bunch of math. The Bible is full of numbers and genealogies. He sat down and calculated that, in his opinion, the Bible dated creation at 4004 BC. According to Ussher, that is when God created man. That number has really stuck around!
I gathered my small group together to explore the Adams Synchronological Chart. It is a 23-foot-long timeline of human history, beginning in 4004 BC and ending in 1900. There it was! The 4004 BC number! Which brings up an interesting question, right? What did Christians really believe about evolution just before it became a linchpin battle for fundamentalists?
Why did fundamentalists fight against evolution in the Scopes trial?
I turned to Edward Larson for answers. He’s a professor at Pepperdine University and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Summer for the Gods”. The book chronicles the Scopes “Monkey” trial that we’ll be covering in the next two episodes. But it also gives us a great introductory look at what Christians believed about evolution in the build-up to the trial.
It turns out that evangelical Christians and even fundamentalists were all over the place when it came to ideas of evolution. Many Christians, like William Jennings Bryan, believed in an old earth and even some forms of evolution. But they thought that it was God who caused that evolution. Charles Darwin, though, said that evolution was a matter of chance adaptations, thus cutting God out of the equation. Fundamentalists like Bryan were determined to stop the spread of Darwinian evolution for that very reason. They believed that if young people were taught that they were the result of grand mistakes then what reason did they have to treat each other with respect? To be good citizens?
- “Summer for the Gods” by Edward Larson
- “A Godly Hero” by Michael Kazin
- “The Birth of a Nation” on YouTube
- Article about James Ussher and his burial in Westminster Abbey
- Helpful article about Lamarck
- “The Evangelicals” by Francis Fitzgerald
- More about Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism
- An interesting article about “The Birth of a Nation”
- How did Cuvier and Lamarck differ in their ideas about evolution?
- Do you believe in a young or old earth?
- Do you believe in some evolution, macro-evolution, or no evolution at all?
- What is the best way to oppose an idea?
- When should we propose laws to combat ideas we don’t like and when should we allow others to believe what they like?
- Do you think the fundamentalists were right to combat teaching evolution in schools?
- Now that you know about Bryan’s failure to call out the KKK, what do you think of him?
- “Birth of a Nation” shaped American views about black people. Are there more modern films and series that have shaped society in similar ways? Or changed public opinion in other ways?