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Kingdom of Priests

My Beliefnet colleague and friend Rod Dreher notes the return to Christianity of A.N. Wilson, a writer I’ve long admired greatly. He’s a novelist, biographer, and literary editor. Rod is glad and I am too but I’m more interested in the seeming side note, given in Wilson’s interview with the New Stateman, that he’s also come out as a bit of a Darwin doubter, or at least a skeptic.

More than a few people in prestige circles are bold enough to call themselves believers in God, whether as a Christian or a Jew. Far fewer are bold enough to go where Wilson goes when the interviewer asks, “Can you love God and agree with Darwin?”

I think you can love God and agree with the author of The Voyage of the Beagle, the Earth Worm, and most of the Origin of Species.

The Descent of Man, with its talk of savages, its belief that black people are more primitive than white people, and much nonsense besides, is an offence to the intelligence — and is obviously incompatible with Christianity.

I think the jury is out about whether the theory of natural selection as defined by neo-Darwinians is true, and whether serious scientific doubts, as expressed in a new book Why Us? by James Le Fanu, deserve to be taken seriously. For example, does the discovery of the complex structure of DNA and the growth in knowledge in genetics require a rethink of Darwinian “gradualism”? But these are scientific rather than religious questions.

Why does it matter so much to me?


There are two poles or stakes that lift, sustain and ground Biblical faith, and they are both alluded to in the sanctification over wine (Kiddush) that Jews recite weekly on the Sabbath Eve. We say it standing up because witnesses in Jewish law testify while standing on their feet. These are basic ideas. They are a) that God created the world and all the life in it, and never mind the details for now; and b) that He brought the Jews out of Egyptian slavery. In simplest terms, these ideas encapsulate the basics of theism: that God is involved intimately in both natural history and human experience, guiding and directing each.

That’s why I always find it newsworthy when a prominent person, Jewish or not, who previously seemed to be on the other side, or who you would assume was on the other side, turns out be a sympathizer with one of those twin pillars of Biblical religion.

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