Pope, Darwin, and “God is not Dead”

While researching my response to Hitchen’s God is Dead task for my themes class, I came across a quote from theologian and apologist Alister McGrath.  In his book Christian Theology, he writes, “theology is…thought of as a human response to God’s self-disclosure, rather than the human quest for God” (5th ed, p203).  I quite like the idea of God letting us people know more and more about Him over the span of human existence.  Seems very scriptural this idea of God letting Himself be known to a complete unbeliever, like I dunno, Abram.  I quite like the thought of God saying to Jesus’s disciples, “You think this sin and death thing is all over? Well it is now!” as He rolls back the stone that was covering Jesus’s tomb.

There is defo sommat amazing, surprising and revelatory about God.

Then I read something about the Pope and about Darwin and about God not being a magician.


I gather that these comments have upset some folks.  They hear the Pope say Darwin may have been on to something and maybe we should reasonably consider what Darwin said, and they cry, “Heresy!”  Even now…nearly two hundred years since the Beagle sailed and Darwin subsequently heard similar cries directed at him.

What exactly was Darwin’s heretical crime? He questioned.  He saw scientific discoveries and questioned what he had been told to believe.  He read about archeological discoveries.  Discoveries of other cultures and religions as people traveled the globe. His little Britain became even smaller when looked through the lens of increasing global awareness. Surely questioning would be a normal response?  Yet those not on his journey couldn’t understand and did not have the patience to try.

So Darwin left the faith he had grown up with. (To be fair, the faith left him no real choice.)

The Pope’s announcement isn’t a compromise of faith as some are saying. It’s what should have been said years ago. It’s what the Roman Catholic church has said for awhile.  A righting of a great wrong. A wrong that split science and religion…two things that had co-existed fine for centuries until Darwin’s mistreatment.

Besides the best bit of what the Pope said isn’t even about Darwin.  I say, thank God, that God is not a magician!  Magicians have secret circles where all the hidden tricks are kept.  God however finds an interested punter and lets ’em in on a secret or two.

“Abram, guess what?  I’m God, and I’m going to do something amazing with your kids’ kids.”

“Moses, mate, I’m the I AM, the I WILL BE, and we are going to completely rock the Isrealites world with freedom.”

“Saul, I know you’re trying to defend me and all, but I wanna let you in on a little secret. All them people you’re hurting, that’s me.”

The Israelites did not confuse God with the magicians of Pharoah.  Darwin didn’t think God was a magician either. God reveals.  God need not be associated with cheap theatrical tricks.

I hear that as Darwin sailed, he prayed.  As he sailed and discovered, I wonder if he ever once thought God just might be revealing a bit of Himself as He revealed things about His creation? We may never know. The rift between science and religion was formed, like the curtain in the temple.  There was no going back.

Or is there?  Is there a possibility of a reconciliation between people of faith and the people of science?  Pope seems to think so.  So do I.  Quite a few Christian scientists do as well!  And yet, people are still crying out “heresy!”

I don’t believe God asks people to choose between Him and science. Between following Him or working to find the cure for Ebola or cancer.  It’s important to remember that the ripped temple curtain was about welcoming people into God’s secret space, not finding new ways to keep them out.

Nothing the Pope says or Darwin theorized (and it is just a theory), in my opinion, questions Genesis 1-2.  God still speaks and creation responds.  God still breathes life into people.  God still wants us to know Him, look after creation and each other.  None of that has changed because of Darwin or Pope Francis.

What challenges the meaning of Genesis 1-2 most is when we talk and act like God is dead, like God is powerless to speak into our lives, like it doesn’t matter how we treat each other.

Because, you see, God is not dead.


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