The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


As Darwin turns 200

Lutherans can celebrate evolution and creation

In 1543, just three years prior to Martin Luther’s death, the father of modern astronomy, Nicholas Copernicus, published his major treatise. “Concerning the Revolutions of the Celestial Orbs” established the sun as the center of the planetary system.

Zoologist Jan Decher (left) and Ghana
Zoologist Jan Decher (left) and Ghana Wildlife Division staff James Oppong record small mammal data during an expedition.
Luther was still grounded in the Ptolemaic system where the earth was stationary and at the center of the universe. He responded: “That the earth is being moved and rotates is the smart idea of a fool who wants to invert the entire astronomical art.” He dismissed the new science with the passage from Joshua 10:12: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”

Luther was, perhaps, more of a biblical literalist than we would like to believe. I’m glad he applied Paul’s writings to the Romans quite literally to his search for a gracious God. But in this Old Testament interpretation, Luther was wrong. Copernicus was right.

Perhaps we can take cues from this incident.

How should we interpret Genesis in the light of evolutionary theory? This year commemorates the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, the book that started the ongoing debate between biblical literalism and the theory of evolution. In the U.S. — since the 1925 Scopes Trial, at least — the rift between biblical literalism and evolutionary thinking seems to have become unbridgeable.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

text size:

this page: email | print

February issue


Embracing diversity