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Natural science ideas had an impact on philosophy and religion. Progress in science undermined the static view of nature held by both Christians and deists. The methods of science extended the study of man and society. The belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible had been under attack for more than a century prior to Darwin's ORIGIN OF SPECIES. The response of Christianity to evolutionary biology, comparative religion, and biblical scholarship was varied. In the Protestant world there is no central authority. Lyman Abbott contended the sacred authors apprehended truth gradually and imperfectly.
In the 18th and 19th century there was a general decline in theology. Revelation according to John Baillie is not a body of supernaturally-communicated propositions but a series of events of God's disclosing. Inspiration is the divine illumination. In Darwin's time natural theology was in high vogue. In William Paley's NATURAL THEOLOGY (1802) there was a conviction of the permanence and wise design of the world. At the same time, paleontology and geology were giving rise to the view of perpetual change. Darwin's belief in God as the creator slipped slowly away from him. Henry Ward Beecher was confident evolutionary science would provide a basis for natural theology.
Karl Barth rejected natural theology and evolutionary modernism. Paul Tillich erased the distinction between revealed and natural theology. Etienne Gilson claimed that science describes what natural things are. Catholic thought distinguished between scientific theories and philosophical views. To Henri Bergson and William James the universe was a dynamic flux. To Alfred North Whitehead ideas of organism served to correct ideas of mechanism when considering universal processes.Read more ›