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The Predicament of Evolution

by George McCready Price (1870-1963)
This was 1925 by Southern Publishing Assoc.


Chapter One: The Problem


THERE are a great many people who constantly wonder why we are having all this fuss about the theory of evolution. Many think it a shame that professing Christians should engage in such an unseemly quarrel as is now going on between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists. These lovers of peace are ready to become indignant at both parties. They inquire, Is not the present controversy worse than useless and quite contrary to the spirit of Christian harmony and good will? This war in the churches seems to them of the same order as the late war among the nations, and almost as disgraceful to our modern civilization.

But there are genuine reasons for the present situation. And the reader's attention is invited to a brief study of these reasons throughout the following pages.

The common notion that the crux of the whole difference between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists lies in their opposite attitudes toward the theory of organic evolution is not wrong. But the general public is wrong on two very important points.

1. It is wrong in supposing that this difference of attitude toward the theory of evolution is concerned chiefly with the theory of man's origin from the lower animals by natural development. This is partly true; but such a statement of the problem really evades or covers up the chief point at issue after all.

The religious problem connected with evolution is primarily the problem of sin, which has been and always will be the greatest problem confronting mankind. The fact of sin cannot be denied; as G. K. Chesterton remarks, it is a fact as practical as potatoes. It is as undeniable as the dirt on one's face or the rent in one's coat. The problem arises when we attempt to account for it, or when we try to find a remedy for it.


The Real Differences

Evolution professes to account for sin; but it has no proper remedy for it. Christianity accounts for sin, and also guarantees a remedy for it, a remedy both for the individual instance of sin in the person of the sinner, and also for the sin of the world as a whole. And it is because the evolutionary account of sin and the Christian account of sin are opposed to each other that we are having all this present controversy. Also the two methods of dealing with sin and of forecasting its outcome, are radically different.

Sin is here with us. How did it start? Christianity says that sin is the result of the abuse of freedom or free choice on the part of a being made originally in the likeness of his Creator; suffering and death are only the natural or inevitable consequences of this primal sin and its subsequent repetitions.

Evolution says that sin, suffering, and death are inevitable, a part of the very nature of things, something inherent in matter itself, a sad entail which we have inherited from the star-mist and the long trail of our brute ancestors. As for any further explanation than that, evolution has none; though two suggestions are offered. Either matter is eternal, and contains within itself an inherent element of conflict or resistance to moral and spiritual good; or, if God made matter, He must have endowed it with this troublesome element of physical and moral evil, because of some wise purpose that we do not understand.

Limiting God

This idea of the past eternity of matter has given rise to the doctrine of a finite or limited God, who is doing the best He can under the circumstances, and needs our co-operation in fighting against the evil tendencies of the stuff of which the universe is composed. This doctrine, which is alike dishonoring to God and disgraceful to the people who teach it, has been advocated by J. S. Mill, William James, and other philosophers, and has been parroted by such modern writers as H. G. Wells.

As for a remedy for sin, Christianity has a well-known one, attested by its great cloud of witnesses, its millions of twice-born men and women, and also attested by the transformations it has effected in communities and nations wherever it has been tried. It also has a very definite program for the future, whenever the rebellion against God that is now in progress will have been finally disposed of by the Eternal One. In contrast with this positive promise of Christianity, evolution tries to encourage us with the hazy hope that at some far-off time the world will, as Mr. Mauro expresses it, become "a more comfortable place for the man of the future to sin and die in." There is no point of comparison between these two programs; it is all contrast.

Such are some of the major points in dispute that cluster around the theory of organic evolution, as contrasted with the Bible doctrine of a real creation.

But there are some immediate reasons why we are just now witnessing a renewed and very active discussion of the question of evolution. Ten years ago probably as many people believed in the theory of evolution as now believe in it; but there was little or no discussion of the question. What has made the difference?

The difference is due to the fact that today we are witnessing a widespread revolt against the theory; the opponents of evolution have now banded together and have become militant. This change of attitude on their part, from meek, or at least comparatively passive submission, to militant revolt, can in its turn be traced to certain scientific developments that have taken place within recent years. The study of these scientific developments will be our chief concern in the following pages. They must be important; for a knowledge of them has become the chief dynamic that has within only a year or two sent forth thousands of crusaders against a system of teaching that many people had come to regard as settled for all time.

This brings us to the second point on which the general public is wrong.

Theory at the Mercy of Facts


2. It is wrong in supposing that the theory of evolution is in as favorable a condition as it was a decade or two ago. And in saying this I do not refer merely to Darwinism, but to the evolution theory as a whole.

The theory of evolution is based on scientific evidence; and whenever new discoveries arise which throw discredit upon the theories based upon our previous knowledge, the theories always have to be revised, or sometimes even thrown away entirely. Facts must always have the right of way over theories, no matter how venerable with age these theories are. Every scientific theory held today is at the mercy of the facts that may be discovered tomorrow. As evolution is primarily a scientific theory, its tenure of life is just as precarious as that of any other theory. And it is primarily because many thousands of people have become convinced that the theory of evolution is scientifically unsound and impossible, that we are witnessing the present widespread agitation of these questions.

But certain limitations of our discussion must be made; for evolution as a world-philosophy of universal range is clearly beyond the scope of our present purpose. As a universal philosophy, evolution starts with the star-mist; it deals with the long-past history of our globe and its plants and animals; and it has come to be applied to all matters of history, sociology, and ethics. The present writer has devoted other works to the discussion of various parts of this general subject. Here it is planned to consider briefly some of the more recent discoveries which have a bearing upon the problem of organic evolution. The alleged fact of man's development from animal ancestors stands or falls with the thesis of organic evolution, as an explanation of the origin of plants and animals in general. Accordingly, this will be the problem considered in this book.

Evolutionists Disagree on Evolution

That this phase of the general subject is not by any means as definitely settled as some people have long supposed it to be, will appear from the following statement made by Dr. Wm. Emerson Ritter, professor of zoology in the University of California:

"If one scans a bit thoughtfully the landscape of human life for the last few decades, he can hardly fail to see signs that the whole battle ground of evolution will have to be fought over again; this time not so much between scientists and theologians, as among scientists themselves."Science, April 4, 1922, p. 398.

I believe that this statement very accurately represents the present situation from the point of view of the believers in organic evolution. They feel that the old proofs on which they have been relying are now failing them; they must begin again to lay other foundations for their theory, if they wish to have a theory of organic development that is strictly up to date and fit to be classed as scientific.


Not all scientists are reactionaries or standpatters; the really big ones are progressives, and are willing to follow wherever the real facts lead them. Such men as J. P. Lotsy, of Holland, William Bateson of England, and Thomas Hunt Morgan of this country, are very far from being satisfied with the evidences hitherto relied upon to prove the methods or even the fact of organic evolution. The botanists especially are discarding most of the older views regarding the methods of organic development; among them may be mentioned Dukinfield Henry Scott, H. B. Guppy, John C. Willis, and A. G. Tansley, all leaders among the scientists of England. But some of the zoologists are not far behind, as for instance, Arthur Willey, J. T. Cunning-ham, and E. W. MacBride. All of these men still profess to believe in the general doctrine of organic development; but they are in hopeless disagreement among themselves as to how this development has come about; and almost every one of them has openly repudiated those subsidiary theories that were taught by Charles Darwin and on which the latter made the general doctrine of organic evolution "a going concern," as J. Arthur Thomson puts it.

But if the science of biology is today hopelessly entangled in disagreements regarding the value of natural selection or the inheritance of acquired characters, or regarding the facts of genetics and of embryology as supports for organic evolution, the science of geology has ceased to be the strong supporting foundation on which Darwin constructed his theory. The New Geology is no longer evolutionary at all; it has become the New Catastrophism; and it is safe to say that this collapse of the evolutionary form of geology is one of the chief reasons for the present predicament of the general doctrine of organic evolution.



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