C. S. Lewis on Creation/Evolution by Walter R. Hearn

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 69, Summer 1996 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

Dr. Hearn has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rice University and a Ph. D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois. He has served on the biochemistry faculties of the medical schools of Yale and Baylor Universities and then of lowa State University. He now lives in Berkeley, California, and is on the editorial board of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. His new book On Being Christian in Science (a working title) has been accepted for publication by IVP (InterVarsityPress).

EIGHT EXCERPTS from previously unpublished letters of C. S. Lewis to Bernard Acworth have recently been published by Gary Ferngren and Ronald Numbers.1 Acworth was a retired naval captain, journalist, and one of the founders in the mid-1930s of the Evolution Protest Movement. The excerpts (September 1944 to March 1960) contain Lewis’s comments to Acworth on science.

Though Captain Acworth’s letters to Lewis were not available and may no longer exist, the two historians presume that Acworth, by then convinced that evolution was incompatible with Christian faith, pressed Lewis for his views and tried to enlist his endorsement of an anti-evolutionary creationism. From these excerpts and from Lewis’s published writings referenced by Ferngren and Numbers, it is evident that Lewis made a clear distinction between evolution as a scientific theory and what might better be called “evolutionism,” a creation myth rivaling the biblical account. Writing in the late 1940s, Chad Walsh described Lewis as:

not anti-scientific in a Fundamentalist sense. He is not troubled by the “conflict between science and religion” for the reason that theology does not conflict with anything that science has so far discovered or is ever likely to discover. One cannot imagine him voting to prohibit the teaching of evolution in the schools of Britain.2

Nevertheless, during the last years of his life C. S. Lewis may have grown “increasingly uncomfortable with the claims being made for organic evolution.” In a letter to Acworth of September 13, 1951, Lewis wrote:

What inclines me now to think that you might be right in regarding it [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders.3

Lewis’s growing skepticism toward evolutionary theory itself is echoed in recent works by University of California law professor Phillip Johnson.4 Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, in which the paper by Ferngren and Numbers appears, is the quarterly journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a 55-year-old fellowship of Christians in scientific work.5