Thursday, February 12, 2009


I'm intrigued by intersections and coincidences, and today has a doozy: Today is the 200th natal anniversary (read: birthday) of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Most people can say nothing bad about Lincoln and an enormous number of Christians seem to be able to say nothing good about Darwin.

I'm a fan of Lincoln's: I'm not a groupie or anything like that -- although I have a good number of books that collect his writings, that analyze his rhetoric (e.g., Gary Wills' wonderful, Lincoln at Gettysburg), that look at his leadership. I think it undeniable that he is much more sophisticated that we are often led to believe and that he stands as one of the supreme American rhetoriticians. As convoluted as my thinking about the Civil War is, I have no doubt that the Gettysburg Address is dang near a perfect work of art.

I know less of Darwin, although the theological journal, Word and World, published by Luther Sem, has a nice set of essays on the significance and/or problems Darwin has for the Church's teaching. I personally have not been able to perceive any conflict between at least a humble form of natural selection and the teachings of Genesis 1. In fact, Leon Kass, I think it is, has a really nice essay in The Beginning of Wisdom, on the congruity of the Genesis accounts of the creation of the animal world and the finds of evolution scientists.

Both men had a hand in re-shaping the world, though obviously in different ways and on different stages. I wonder whether there are any lessons to be drawn or proposed on the coincidences of their birth: issues of faith, or of making one's way though uncharted waters with wide-open eyes and awe before God, or ... .

In any event, it's worth raising a glass to the two of them.

1 comment:

Lora said...

Did you happen to see the Louis Gates program on TPT last night? It was called "Searching for Lincoln" or something like that. Pretty interesting, especially in how it talked about how African Americans are struggling with what they'd always been taught about Lincoln versus what more contemporary historians are saying about how reluctantly Lincoln came to emancipation, and how tentatively and reluctantly he endorced equality.