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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines broad transformations in Christian thought that came to pass over the course of the nineteenth century through exposure to new developments in the life sciences. Taking William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802) as a starting point, it shows how a conception of an unchanging God that could be demonstrated through rational proof was affected by the new emphasis on change in the biological sciences, especially in the aftermath of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859. Rather than suggesting that these new themes weakened Christian faith, however, a close examination of Christian thought in the latter half of the nineteenth century shows that encounters with science energized Christian theology, philosophy, and practice. This trajectory culminated with the development of the psychology of religion, as exhibited by the American pragmatists William James and Charles S. Peirce. George Eliot’s Middlemarch serves as a guide to the complexity of these transformations.

Keywords: George Eliot, natural theology, Charles Darwin, evolutionary biology, geology, psychology, pragmatism, Frances Julia Wedgwood, Henry Ward Beecher, William James

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