Paley to Darwin: Natural Theology versus Science in Victorian Sermons

Keith A. Francis

in The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199583591
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Paley to Darwin: Natural Theology versus Science in Victorian Sermons

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This article examines the fate of William Paley’s “theory” of natural theology in the years following the publication of Natural Theology. The sermon—what preachers said, to whom they said it, and how often—is used to highlight the development of this area of theology. It considers the new science of the nineteenth century, particularly the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin. The article also assesses the extent of the impact of Darwin’s ideas on the development of natural theology. It asks: do the sermons preached after 1859 suggest that their authors were influenced by the discussions about On the Origin of Species and other contemporaneous formative works of science when they preached about nature and God’s connection to it?

Keywords: William Paley; natural theology; sermons; Charles Darwin; On the Origin of the Species

Article.  9260 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Religion and Science

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