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Old 06-12-2017, 07:50 AM
Laurel Laurel is offline
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Default Prisoners of Geography

Just reading this. Whilst it doesn't have an explicit spiritual theme, it is incredibly interesting and mind expanding.

It covers different countries and nations, one at a time. For each it discusses their geography (neighbours, seas, mountains, rivers etc) and explains how this has shaped them and their foreign policy.

It amazed me how little I new about other cultures and ethnic groups. We tend to have such a narrow view of the world, one which is completely shaped by our own native culture. This book really helped me to realise that my own worldview is not the only one. It may not even be the most significant or widespread one.

I'm fascinated by the question of how God Consciousness develops in different ways and different flavours all around the world.
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Old 09-06-2017, 05:38 PM
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lastingfaith lastingfaith is online now
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Default Darwin and God

I am painfully aware that any title with the word "Darwin" in it is likely to provoke a range of emotions. However, I have just read this book (for the second time) and thought I would just share some of its content with you. A huge amount of literature has been written about Darwin over the last 150 years, but perhaps surprisingly, very little has bee written about his relationship with God. This book sets out to rectify that omission, and at the same time clears up some of the myths surrounding his life. There is much mis-information out there about Darwin, and this book goes a long way towards redressing the balance. Although this is quite a slim volume (140 pages), it is meticulously researched and referenced. The author, Nick Spencer, is the Director of Studies at Theos, the public theology think-tank. The book sets out to trace Darwin's spiritual journey, and the author identifies three distinct phases in that process:-

Phase 1: From his birth in 1809 up to the end of his voyage on the Beagle in 1836. During this period, Darwin had a Christian faith, but it was a faith of a particular kind, based on assent to a set of ideas and principles, rather than a personal living experience of Jesus Christ. In later life, Darwin described himself as a "sort of a Christian" during that period. It was a faith based on the comfortable Anglicanism of the period, and did not require any excess of personal spirituality.

Phase 2: The period from 1836 till the death of his daughter Annie in 1851. This was the time when he increasingly questioned the basis of the Christian faith. A number of intellectual doubts came together to kill what faith he had, and in particular it was the problem of suffering which overwhelmed him. He was now developing his theory of evolution by natural selection, and that theory requires nature to be exceedingly wasteful, and to create much suffering. During this period he moved from Christianity to a loosely defined Theism, although in time he came to believe that God could not be directly involved in anyone's day to day life, so perhaps it should be more accurately described as Deism.

Phase 3: In 1851, Darwin suffered the shattering experience of the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie (probably from Tuberculosis, although this was not recognised at the time). Darwin was never the same man again after this experience. What it had done was to take the theoretical problem of suffering, and make it painfully real and personal. It is interesting that what finally destroyed Darwin's faith was the same problem that has troubled Christians and non-Christians alike throughout the ages - the problem of suffering. As he lived out the final 30 years of his life (he died in 1882), he began to doubt the existence of a creator God, and concluded that the question of the origins of life was too hard to fathom. He thus descended into a confused and agonised agnosticism during this latter part of his life.

So, that is a brief synopsis of what this book has to say about Darwin's journey. Now let's take a look at some of the myths which often surround his name:-

Myth No 1: Darwin was an Atheist. As outlined above, Darwin during his lifetime moved from a nominal Christian faith, to theism/deism, and finally to a confused, and almost bewildered agnosticism. He was never an Atheist.

Myth No2: Darwin courted controversy. Nothing could be further from the truth. By nature and temperament, he was a quiet, hesitant, respectful individual, and avoided religious controversy as far as he was able. He delayed the publication of Origins for many years because he knew it would stir up controversy, and was only finally bounced into publishing when he discovered that Alfred Russell Wallace had come t almost identical conclusions following his researches in the Far East, and was ready to publish. Much of the supposed aggression sometimes attributed to Darwin came actually from his friend and supporter, T. H. Huxley, who was of a quite different temperament, and has sometimes been described as "Darwin's Rottweiler".

Myth No 3: Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection destroyed his Christian faith. [/B] This is only a half-truth. As explained above, the evolutionary theory noted the wastefulness of nature and its attendant suffering, but it was the agony of his personal suffering through the death of Annie (one of 3 children the Darwins lost in infancy), that finally destroyed his belief in a beneficent God.

Myth No 4: Darwin was a resolute opponent of the Christian Church. Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgwood in 1839, and shortly afterwards they moved from London to the village of Downe in Kent. Emma was a devout Christian in the Unitarian tradition, and remained so all her life. The marriage was a happy one, and Darwin stands out as a devoted and loving husband and father. Emma and the children attended Downe parish church, and Darwin enjoyed a life-long friendship with the vicar the Revd J. Brodie Innes - one of a number of prominent Christians with whom Darwin had a close and respectful friendship throughout his adult life. He was a member of the Parish Council, and at one time became an honorary member of the South American Missionary Society. He supported the Parish Church and Sunday School with donations, helped to set up a temperance reading room, and on one occasion when a local Evangelist, James Fegan, asked permission to use the room for a Revival Meeting, Darwin not only gave permission but afterwards congratulated Fegan on his work and told him "Your services have done more for the village in a few months than all our efforts for many years..." Darwin could not bring himself to accept the Christian faith, but it would be quite wrong to assume that he actively opposed it.

I hope that in my brief resume of this book I have been able to show that Charles Darwin was not the pariah of common misunderstanding, but rather an immensely complex and many-layered man. He was a man who had a faith of sorts, lost it, but never lost contact with spiritual thinking. I heartily recommend a reading of this book to anyone who is at all interested in this subject.

Darwin and God is published in the UK by SPCK.
I'm Brian, Husband of Rita, Dad to Jonathan and Jennifer, and Granddad to Jessica and Grace.
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