We Know in Part: James McCosh on Evolution and Christian Faith
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James McCosh (1811–1894), president of Princeton College from 1868 to 1888, played a significant role in the American reception of evolution in the late 1800s – he was one of the more prominent clergyman to assuage the public’s fears of evolution while incorporating evolution into a conservative Christian worldview. McCosh was a prolific writer, whose books document his intellectual journey from hostility to acceptance of evolution. Three things will stand out in this overview that have not been emphasized in detail in other works: (1) James McCosh’s perspective on evolution dramatically changed over time; (2) McCosh’s motivations for engaging in the evolution-religion debate serve to clear up confusion regarding McCosh’s final position on evolution; and (3) the theological and philosophical basis for McCosh’s acceptance of evolution was established while McCosh was still hostile to evolution. His theological background therefore ‘pre-adapted’ him for evolution, and he was able to preach theology and evolution without substantially altering his theology.
KeywordsEvolution Typology Suffering Presbyterianism Darwinism Princeton Scottish philosophy
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This paper is indebted to those who gave me the time and motivation to write this paper. Special thanks go to S. Rogers and J. Fox. The author held a Vanier Canadian Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada during the writing of this paper.
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