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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines the impact of evolutionary theory on religious thinking in Victorian Britain. Four cultural shifts are identified that were associated with Darwin’s scientific achievement and its implications. One was the deepening of divisions concerning how scientific knowledge and religious beliefs were best related. Another was a difficult adjustment to the continuity between animals and humans that Darwin’s theory of “descent with modification” enshrined. A third was the eventual elimination from technical scientific literature of references to a Creator, and a fourth was the attenuation of apologetic literature that purported to harmonise biblical exegesis with the latest science. Specific theological issues are then examined in greater depth. These include the doctrines of imago dei and of the ‘fall’, the problem of suffering, and revisions to traditional conceptions of the deity. Contrary to popular accounts of the Darwinian debates, the diversity of the religious response is emphasised.

Keywords: biblical exegesis, chance, design, evolution, morality, naturalism, spiritualism, suffering, teleology

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